By Kayla Gillen, Texan by Nature Intern
It seems I have always reflected upon the impact that “place” has on formulating personhood and personality. I was born in Austin to parents who had moved down from the plainlands of Kansas in search of a warm and inviting place to start a family and make some memories. The earliest moments in my first home were not too out of the ordinary: running through the fountains made by sprinklers in the prime of summer, flying endlessly and weightlessly on the swingsets at the park, and the smell of sunscreen slathered on at the pool. Most of these moments were tied together by a backdrop that characterizes Texas nature: the blue skies without a single cloud, the beating sun on the asphalt, and the relief of a shady oak tree or cold spring water.
Later on, we moved just north of Austin to the Hill Country, where houses swam in a sea of green trees and the drives were fun. Each summer, I went to camp, and despite my protests to be indoors (there always seemed to be a heat warning), I made close friends and learned about the joys of telling stories on a hike in the woods or playing on the slides in the lake. One night in Girl Scouts, we got to spend the night at a zoo, seeing nocturnal animals awake and lively. I held snakes and saw an armadillo scurry around the room. I absolutely fell in love with the wildlife of my state.
My love for adventure both locally and globally grew as I got older. As we traveled, my parents began to take my family snorkeling, changing my life and fostering the confidence I needed to become my own explorer. I fell in love with marine life and the feeling of being underwater. I knew then that all these experiences with the environment in the background would play a large part in finding my future direction.
Leaving Austin proved to be extremely difficult for me, as I packed my bags to move up north to Boston (and to the cold!) for college. At Northeastern University, I am studying Environmental Engineering, and hoping to minor in ecology with a focus on Marine Biology. I am interested in using technology to enhance conservation and optimize the positive effects that humans have on their surrounding world. Even in my new environment, I think about how grateful I am to have been shaped by Texas from the start. It is hard not to miss the beautiful starry night and day trips across the state that filled me with wonder and curiosity.
This deep wonder, curiosity, and long-lasting connection to the place that I call home, is what makes me Texan by Nature.