“So…you want to be a professional hippie.”

I always joke that it’s my mother’s fault I ended up this way. Maybe they should have suspected I was going to grow up to be a pagan environmentalist when I was three and tried to steal snapdragons from the Lowe’s greenhouse because they were being improperly watered and were therefore on the verge of death. (My mom wouldn’t buy them for me so I could save them, and had to haul me home screaming and crying that she had murdered those poor little snapdragons.)

I think maybe that should have been the first clue.

Then, when I got a little older, I began the important business of deciding what to be when I grew up. Pretty easy. I chose pioneer.

Now, maybe you’re thinking, ah, yes, entrepreneur, innovative, she wanted to be a pioneer in her field!

Nope.

I meant an honest-to-god-Oregon-Trail-dealing-with-dysentery pioneer.

I used my science unit studies to learn how to  make butter, lobbied for livestock (and then guppies, when I realized livestock was hopeless) so that I could understand genetics, read about chicken-keeping and cattle-breading and tree-tapping. I made pretend buckskin dresses from paper bags and tried to figure out how to make beef jerky and pemmican. My favorite book was about a pioneer girl kidnapped and raised by Indians.

But pioneers were nonexistent and my parents were imminently practical and after a brief stint of glorious rebellion during which I spent my senior independent-study class trying to figure out how to build a sustainable polar colony with my mad-scientist friend and my mechanical-genius friend, I decided to be something reasonable, like a lawyer or a psychologist or a journalist. So I went off to college and began to study psychology.

Late in my junior year, nearly finished with my psychology degree, I took a class called ‘Writing for Social Change,’ read No-Impact Man, and did a project on local food. During the course of this project I ran into all sorts of science about environmental degradation and what industrial agriculture does to the land. Nothing else particularly interesting was happening that semester, so I started to actually investigate the world and my assumptions about it. I spent my psychology classes on the internet, trying to understand ecology and permaculture and whether climate change was really a thing after all.

By the end of the semester I was terrified (because it seemed like there was a huge environmental issue with damn near everything) and confused (because nobody seemed to know exactly how bad it was or how to deal with it) and mad as a hornet that nobody was talking to me about it. I also made a good go at failing every single class I was taking because I was so preoccupied with my question: What are we doing to the environment and what does that mean?

Well, I thought, I’m so close to finishing my psych degree. I should just suck it up and do it. I can’t switch majors now; it would be like starting all over again. I found a master’s program for social science majors that dealt with climate change and other environmental issues. I told myself that would be enough. Meanwhile, I couldn’t concentrate on my psychology coursework. What did psychology matter if there really were such huge environmental problems to be found in the world?

This was the beginning of the end.

We had a roommate and her little girl (alias The Broccoli Bandit and Minimonster, respectively) move in with us a couple weeks ago, and as she was finishing up dinner the other night she was reading the titles of the books I have stacked beside my seat at the table. Finally she looked up at me and said, “What’s your major, again?”

“Sustainability.”

“So…you want to be a professional hippie.”

Yes. Yes ma’am, I do.

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