Deciding

As colleges acceptances come to a close, I am left with a mere thirty days to decide where I want to spend the next four years.

Based on circumstances I can’t remember, I have narrowed it down to two colleges. One of prestige, and one of comfort.

Now I must decide, do I go to a school the size of a small town with a bumper sticker name, or a smaller school a step up from high school? As I gravitate towards the larger school, another big one comes in to play.

The final college decision letter. What was originally my top choice (though now I’m unsure) will now be competing with my new, other top choice.

There are two outcomes to this situation. Either they reject me and I’m disappointed, though my decision is made easier. Or I am accepted, and I now must choose.

I can’t decide which is harder. Though subconsciously, I know which choice is right.

Image Credit: UCLA Newsroom

Routine

I have conditioned my cat.

Her treats stay in the top drawer of my dresser, along with folded clothes. When I open the drawer, the handle bounces against the wood, making a clanging noise. Each time I hear it, she comes running in anticipation of treats.

Now comes the balance.

I worry to open the drawer for clothes, for fear of her conditioning wearing off. If she does not get treats when she hears the clanging, she may begin to unlearn her conditioned response. She will stop running to me, and I will have lost my leverage.

If I want her to come over, I open the drawer. Though, if I open it for clothes instead of treats, I feel obligated to give her what she wants. I wonder if it’s mean of me to tease her – even if I don’t mean it. She doesn’t know the difference.

I now find her trying to open the drawer herself. One day she will. And that day I will move the bag of treats. And the conditioning process will begin once more.

Trying to get her treats

Najin and Fatu

Some of you might know about the case of the northern white rhino. Today there are just two individuals left on this planet, and they are both females named Najin and Fatu, mother and daughter. For decades scientists have tried to figure out how they can save this species from extinction. I have followed this case for many many years and last week I received great news. Scientists were finally able to create five embryos of a northern white rhino in a lab. What they did is they collected eggs from the two females and then took semen from a deceased male northern rhino to create an embryo. They have now implanted one of the embryos into one of the females and they are being monitored every day to see if the embryo is making progress in growth and is healthy. 

This is a huge success and with it, we might be able to save this beautiful species from extinction. The two rhinos are located in northern Kenya and have 24/7 protection from 6 armed guards. Poaching has pushed this species to the brink of extinction. Humans and wildlife are getting into more and more conflicts due to our constant human population growth. Wildlife has less and less space to live and many species are poached, decreasing their numbers even more.

When I got the news that they have successfully created northern white rhino embryos I was filled with joy because it means that our future generations might be able to witness the beauty of these creatures. 

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/environment/ct-northern-white-rhino-embryos-20180704-story.html

If you love them, let them go…

At one point or another in your life you are told “if you love something let it go, and if it was meant to be it will come back to you.” It is a statement told to help someone usually adjust to the loss of something loved that is beyond your control. In theory it all makes sense, but you never want to have to tell yourself to abide by that concept.

I never really understood the meaning of that until I found myself fighting to keep someone in my life. Every day I would struggle to watch them drift away. I would think, how could someone that I love so dearly, and who claims to love me equally, simply fade away. I decided to simply let them go, because in reality, or as the saying goes, “if it was meant to be it will come back to you.” So that is simply what I decided to do.

At first, hours passed, the days, then weeks. The pain was real and it felt all so very fresh. like a deep wound that took ages to heal. Then eventually months began to pass, and I felt whole again, even without my dearly loved person. I accepted their leaving, I never understood it, but I accepted it and I considered that good enough.

I felt whole again, even though I was missing a piece. But after the hours, days, weeks, and months had passed a wave of emotions came back into my mind. I felt the need to reach out, to check-in, just to see how they were. But I had to remember that I let them go so I simply put it in the back of my mind.

That was until I received a message. The person who I loved so dearly came back. Did that happen because I simply let them go, or was it because it was indeed meant to be?

So maybe the age old saying isn’t wrong? Maybe if you really do love something and you let it go, it will eventually come back to you?

Ready, Set, Swim

Although I only started swimming in sixth grade, it has been my passion and hobby ever since. I looked forward to the daily practices and the long conditioning sessions. It was strenuous, but fulfilling.

The main reason that I joined swim was because I did not want to do any team sports, but I had to join at least one team sport per year. Swim came easy to me, especially the flip turns because of my previous gymnastics training. During sixth grade my strokes were breaststroke, back, and free. I was so happy when I got first place during my meets, and getting these results boosted my liking for the sport.

Photo credit: Olympics

I continued swim throughout my middle school years; going to meets, practices, and gym sessions. Middle school sports are really different than high school sports though, and so when high school came along I was scared for swim.

I did not know if I was going to make the team or even progress with my times. My coach did not release the team roster until our first meet… I got on Varsity! Holy Sh*t, I was so proud of myself. During the few meets we had due to Covid, I competed in back, free, and IMs. I was also the backstroke leg for the team medley.

Swim started out just being a scapegoat for me ot having to do a high intensive sport to a passion that I cannot live without.

The Ups and Downs with Life

As time went on, my emotions started to grow into something not so pretty. My thoughts and feelings followed me everywhere, even when I wanted nothing to do with them. I was trapped and claustrophobic. I would come home from school and sit in silence, and do nothing. My motivation was gone, my happiness was fake, and my mental health was non existent. Sometimes it would hurt to cry because the mental pain I was in.

Photo credit: Joey Guidone

I was getting better. I wanted, no I needed to get better. I talked with someone, a couple someones, and I worked on my mental health. I started feeling bursts of happiness and motivation. These feelings that I have not felt in a long time. I thought I was getting better, I thought life was treating me well. Until it was not.

This time I understood what I was feeling, and I wanted it to stop. I did everything I could to get better, and I knew it was going to be a long process with setbacks. I was kind to myself, as well as patient. It took a while, and I still have ups and downs, but I am getting better. It is a day-by- day process.

I am finally able to say that I’m truly happy with life.

A Culmination

I present my Capstone this Wednesday. It is a culmination of my experiences in high school, and a chance to share a topic I am passionate about. For my “project,” I fostered kittens. Not only will I share my experience, but I hope to educate others on how to care for animals and why it is a community responsibility.

Fostering is vital to the life of every cat. The Humane Society is filled with kittens, yet nobody considers where those kittens were for the first eight weeks of life. Every kitten was either raised outside by their feral mom, or they were fostered by someone who sacrificed their time to raise a kitten.

Fostering kittens gave me firsthand experience with the issue of finding homes for cats. While I “foster-failed” and ended up keeping one of the kittens, I did not have room in my then five-cat household to keep another. I named her Blue, and we took her to the Humane Society where she was adopted.

I look forward to sharing my experience and enthusiasm with my school, and I hope to inspire others to foster kittens and save lives.

Image Credit: Hannah Shaw

Racing thoughts

Often at night, I find myself just laying in bed and not being able to shut off my thoughts. There are so many things just racing through my mind. While I lay there, listening to the rain hit the roof of my room, I think about how funny life sometimes is. It can be amazing, you are happy and everything is perfect, and then the next day everything just comes crashing down on you. And when one thing goes wrong suddenly everything starts going wrong and it feels like you are drowning. But then there are those people that just pull you out of that hole. It might take a while to get out, but these people make it so much easier.

Honestly, sometimes you just need someone to listen to you. They don’t even need to say anything. It can feel amazing to just get everything off your chest without being judged for it. And once you make it through rough times you have so much to be proud of. You can reflect back to the times where you were at you lowest and look at yourself and say “I made it through this” and it proves how strong we are as a person.

So I lay in bed, and think about all the things of the past weeks, and I just think about how lucky I am to have people that support me in anything I do.

https://stories.jotform.com/the-art-of-thinking-5-steps-to-improve-your-life-and-business-da3a817903a5

Up close with our cousins

2 weeks ago I went on a journey back to Africa. But this time not to Kenya. We flew from Germany directly to Entebbe, Uganda. From there we drove all the way to the famous Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This is the place which one of the most endangered animals of our planet calls home, the Mountain Gorilla. The first tracking started at 7 am. We had a short briefing with some rangers and then left right into the Jungle. There are no trails so the guides cut through the bushes with machetes. The mountain gorillas are named that for a reason, they live upon incredibly high mountains. So getting there was not only difficult because of the thick jungle, but also becauseof the elevation gain. The first day we climbed about 300 meters in altitude the second we climbed 450 meters in just 1 1/2 hours. It was definitely the most exhausting thing I have ever done in my life. But so worth it.

We started hearing the gorillas communicating from the distance. We made our way closer to them until I got my first glimpse at the huge silverback of the family. It was a group of 9 gorillas. One silverback, four females and all for females had a baby around the same age. Seeing how they interacted and communicated with each other was amazing. They were so incredibly human. We share about 96% of our DNA with them! The little ones were incredibly curious and came closer to check us out.

It was by far the most magical experience of my life!

picture by author

The five boys

As already written in many of my past blog posts, I have spent a lot of time traveling through Africa, documenting my travels with my photography. My favorite place to visit is the Masai Mara in Kenya. It borders right in Tanzania and is part of the incredible Serengeti. When on safari you get the chance to observe some incredible behavior that can only be seen in the Masai Mara. The Mara is famous for a group of 5 cheetahs, the fast five or also known as the taco Bora. They are a coalition of 5 male cheetahs that hunt and care for each other. I have already written a blog post about them. This time I am writing about a coalition of 5 powerful male lions, “The five boys”. They come from the black rock pride and have been chased out. Male lions get chased away from the pride when they reach a certain age because they will get tendencies to take over the pride.

Once chased off, they either go off solo but most of the time they will get together with other nomads. These groups can become very powerful and are very threatening to lion prides around as they are looking to take over a pride for themselves. I have had the chance to follow the five boys for many days and observe them while playing, cleaning, and hunting. We spent three 13 hour days with them. They had found a huge herd of cape buffalo. Buffalo are one of the most dangerous animals in Africa and they oppose a very big danger to lions as well. They can seriously injure or even kill a lion. The five boys feed 90% on buffalo and they have created a strategy that works every time. Once they find a herd they will follow it for a few days and test it several times throughout the day. That means that they will charge it and try to pick out young, old, or weak individuals that will be easy to take down. Once they get the chance they will single a buffalo out and take it down together.

Being able to observe them for days at a time is something I will never forget. Truly incredibly.

Three of the five males

picture by author