“I like being outside and fishing because you get to experience and interact with nature in a raw and breathtaking way.” (Mary Kate O’Malley, 20)
Having children is a gift in so many ways, and appreciating nature more was one of the bigger surprises I received when I became a parent. Time slows, I become more curious about the world, and I explore and share discoveries with my loved ones. It makes me feel alive when I learn something new about our world, and I feel like a proper father when I can share my fascination with my family. I never knew what a cactus looked like on the inside until just last December. I love the constant “wow” you get if you just pay attention to the world.
Nature has taught me how to connect with myself and others. Even though I grew up in the city of Chicago, when I did get to connect with nature, I felt at home. I got the chance to clear my mind and get away from all of the traffic, construction, and other city noises. Nature has allowed me to reflect more on my life and the things that truly matter.
Being outside helps foster my curiosity. I have always loved learning and playing outside in my backyard as a little one was one of the ways that I really began feeding that love of learning. I used to love picking up worms out of the dirt and would play with all kinds of bugs because I was so fascinated by them and I wanted to understand more about them. As I got older, I stopped playing with bugs as much (thankfully…) and my fascination with the outdoors turned more towards wanting to see and experience all types of terrains and pushed me to travel to different parts of the world. There is so much nature to explore and I look forward to finding new ways to utilize nature in my never-ending quest to learn.
For most of my life, I have always felt a oneness with nature. My family enjoyed going to the arboretum throughout the year, but specifically the fall, when the leaves changed colors. Unfortunately, growing up, I lived in a modern suburban area where I was not surrounded by trees. This resulted in my sister and I going to different forest preserves near my house.
One of my favorite forest preserves is Waterfall Glen, located in Lemont, IL. When I was a junior in high school, my family moved to Downers Grove where we were completely surrounded by trees. We moved next to a wetland. Since we have moved in, I have seen an increase in happiness around my household. Everyone is more uplifted because of all the green around us. I remember sitting outside and smelling the fresh green grass and trees and feeling completely at ease, something I was not able to experience living by fake trees.
It was not until quarantine in 2020, that I took advantage of all the new forest preserves around me. Thankfully, where I live there are many forest preserves. My sisters and I enjoyed exploring all the different ones during that time. I loved walking through them or going off the path and finding hidden streams. One of my favorite things to do in a forest preserve is read or journal. There is a sense of peace and happiness that I feel when I am leisurely reading outside.
When I came to U of I, I needed to be outside. I am a transfer student who transferred last year during the height of COVID. I lived in the dorm, which is already a lot on one’s mental, but especially when everything was online and there wasn’t much to do, I needed to go outside. It became a habit for me to take a long walk everyday in the Urbana area where there are lots of trees and green grass. Whenever I was feeling panicked or stressed, I would go on a walk to clear my head. It helped me tremendously. I especially love when it gets a little chilly and I have to wear a coat or sweatshirt when I go on a walk. My friends know how much I enjoy going on my walks, and then recognize how much it helps me. To this day, whenever I need to clear my head or get some fresh air, being outside and going for a walk is the best remedy.