Dear 14- year old Kat, 

What a wonderful time in your life, coming into an age of discovering who you are and what you want to be doing in life, forming friendships, and learning about the world surrounding you. It’s a magical time of abundance and new ventures. Each day is spent outdoors, collecting plants, talking to animals and being entirely consumed by nature in its wondrous ways. Nature felt like more of a home to you than home did. You were that child that spent every minute talking to trees, in the library learning about everything that walked, and sharks were always your favourite.  You dreamt of living a life dedicated to saving nature, being a voice for those that had none among the humans, and being an example of love and compassion. 

Living at home was abundant with painful memories, domestic violence and a family that did not support your wildness and dreams of being an earth child. It was a constant battle to maintain some self-confidence and hope for your future. Being an only child, it was expected to grow up “normal”, get a real job and earn enough money to hold your own in life, but you never got this. Seeing people around you having jobs and lifestyles that didn’t align with who they really were and what they were passionate about never made sense. Why were people ok being in a job they hated, slaving away, day after day for a small amount of money, only to have a home and items that held no real value? There had to be more than this. You knew that this was never meant to be your path in your heart.

You grew up with someone you cherished as your hero. This person is who you turned to most times when things were hard and for courage. They taught you about compassion for all living things, being brave, and chasing your dreams, and this gave you a shining light of hope to continue fighting and keep moving forward in pursuing your dreams. Then, on an unexpected day, there was news of his passing. And it destroyed you.

 Of course, no one would ever understand how someone you have never met could have such a profound meaning in your life. He was your way out of darkness and domestic abuse while also being a vision of all you wanted to become. He had fueled your conservation dream, and now he was gone. It felt like the world had fallen from your feet, and you had nothing left to hold onto. After the severity of his loss, you were left with an emptiness that felt endless, leaving you uncertain and not knowing where next to turn. 

With this loss came the loss of your dreams of being a conservationist. You became certain that the doubts of your friends and family were valid, that you could never be your true self and live out your professional life amongst nature. With all this loss, you saw your future career path disappear ahead of you, leaving you with the harrowing doubt of what your life would become. Over eight years had passed, and from 14 and in a transition of change to now a new person I was becoming, the ideals of life were the same: every partner, friend, and family member, pushing and pulling you to get a ‘job’. Finally, with a stroke of luck and a partial mental breakdown, you came upon an interview with a small group based in Aldinga, Adelaide, who were seeking to hire! This was the utmost exciting moment to finally have the chance to be able to step up to your calling.

You were never so proud to be wearing a khaki shirt and steel cap boots. Finally, you had the job of your dreams! This experience was a whole other level of living, to be able to stand tall and tell your family about what you do. Despite the confused faces and questions about when you will “get a real job”, you had never felt so proud, waking in the morning with the purpose of saving the world! Days were filled with studying, caring for coastlines and bush habitats, being drenched in the rain and burning in the scorching summer heat; every day was an adventure and a way of letting yourself be truly open to who you are.

This bliss continued for three years. Then due to unfair work circumstances, it all ended, and you were thrown back to square one and back into the system. With nothing much else to do and needing work, you started work at a cafe. It was a soul-draining experience. But, with each customer that came in and each abusive moment initiated by the cafe owners, you decided to commit to a continuing search for acceptance and somewhere you belonged.

Fifteen years have gone by now. It’s been a long journey, figuring out who you are, being shattered, pushed down, rejected by thousands of jobs because you weren’t strong enough or suited their needs despite your qualifications, accompanied by dwindling self-esteem and absolutely nothing to show for it all. 

Much like any tumultuous situation, I learned a lot during this time. First, I realised that I am a conservationist. No one on this Earth can tell me otherwise. It was who I was born to be; I feel it in every inch of my soul. 

Second, I learned that I don’t need to have a full-time job with a fabulous pay rate to be a conservationist. We come in all sizes and forms, changing home habits, teaching others about the Earth and what we can do for it, big and small, walking local roads to pick up rubbish, coming up with ideas of how to do things more sustainably, having a job in which you get paid, and volunteer work; all these things and so much more, are what make a conservationist. But unfortunately, most of us are underpaid, unrecognised, unappreciated and never noticed. But we all have the same vision. We are devoting our lives to making this Earth a better and happier place for all who live here.

 I sometimes laugh at my past. Don’t get me wrong: I still hurt from all the things that have happened, but they have all been teachable moments. Moments that have destroyed me but have also made me stronger. We all know inside ourselves who we are and what we want in this life, and it’s up to us to chase our dreams no matter the cost. There hasn’t ever been a moment where I have changed my mind or wanted anything other than this unglamorous, beautiful adventure.

 Love from 29-year-old Kat.

Written by Kat @earthlyflowerchild

Illustrated by Daisy Buckle @naturalcuriositystudio