“Don’t quit before the miracle.” ~Anne Lamott
Listen up, gorgeous human. You don’t have to settle for the scraps that fall from the table.
I just woke up from a dream that put everything in perspective for me and I wanted to share it with you. I was enrolled at a very sexist college as one of only a very small handful of women. Graduation was upon us, and our small group was talking about making our graduate school decisions. A very old and cranky professor whom I had in undergrad in real life (who was not supportive of me at all) sat down at our table to tell us that it really didn’t matter what we chose to do because none of us were going to amount to anything. And I just snapped.
I stood up, grabbed my bag, and told this professor that he knew nothing about what any of us are capable of. I told him I planned to move to New York, and soon he wouldn’t have to wonder what I amounted to because he’d be reading all about it. Everyone would. Then, in true Leslie Knope fashion, I wished him a good day and said I felt sorry for him that he was so unhappy with his own life that he felt compelled to be terrible to other people.
Everyone at the table, including that professor, was completely shocked. (FWIW, everyone was wearing the same drab grey clothes and I was wearing bright pink. I was only aware of this after I stood up from the table.)
Now, here’s the fascinating part: in my dream, my dream was to have the life I have in New York in real life. That realization was a lightning bolt. I sat straight up in bed, in real life in New York, with every opportunity just outside my door. This is what I’ve amounted to: I have my dream’s dream.
Brian often tells me that we get what we settle for. It’s a refrain that rings through my mind every day. I’ve only ever been willing to settle for my dream, and bit by bit I got that dream. It was hard work, with lost of disappointments and twists and turns. I never gave up, and I’m not done yet. There are still some pieces waiting to be found and set in place—the right romantic relationship, another book, a film, a home I own—and they’re all abundantly possible. I know that now. Let’s go get Monday, shall we?
I’m absolutely THRILLED to share that I’ve been offered & accepted a new job as a Development Manager at a TV & film production company in New York City to develop, produce, and write. I’m over-the-moon excited about this new adventure and dream job. I’m literally pinching myself to make sure this is really happening! A year ago I never would have believed this was even a possibility. It’s been a huge lesson for me that if we live our passions and share them, our lives can change in ways we can barely imagine.
“The wilderness holds answers to questions that we have not yet learned to ask.” ~Nancy Newhall
I’m pretty jazzed that my final assignment for one of my biomimicry classes is giving me the opportunity to lay down the very first tracks for the invention company I’d like to build with biomimicry when I finish my graduate degree. At first, I was so excited about this prospect that I was actually afraid of it. This felt like a big commitment to make to myself. And once I put these dreams and hopes out into the world, I couldn’t take them back. Once I had to admitted what kind of business I really wanted to build in this field, I could unsee it. Sure, it could morph, but there would be no denying my dream. There would only be choosing to do the work to make it happen, or not. And so, I went for it.
The assignment was to imagine my career in biomimicry 25 years from now and the business I would build with a sustainable framework. Here is what I came up with. What do you think?
25 years ago in the winter of 2019, I took my first class in biomimicry. At the time it was a burgeoning field and in many ways felt like the Wild West, a new frontier. Every day there was a new discovery, a new way of seeing and being in the world.
At the time, our planet was racked with difficulty—climate change deniers, enormous and growing islands of plastic in our oceans, rampant habitat loss, and painful species extinctions. This is not to say that we don’t still face difficulties today; it’s just that now in 2044 there is no denying our role as the chief contributors to climate change. We wore out the planet’s welcome and her resiliency; now it is common place for most people to consider the environmental consequences of their actions and purchases. We simply don’t have a choice to ignore our responsibility now as we so often did in 2019.
After graduating from my Master of Science in biomimicry program at Arizona State University, I put together my 20-year career in product development with my passion for science and started The Green Atelier, an invention shop that reimagines, patents, produces, and commercializes sustainable products, systems, and solutions that mimic the deep design principles found in the processes and structures of nature. We work with for-profit, nonprofit, and local and international government agencies. We are a small and mighty team with skill sets in product development, business, science, design, and engineering. We determined that we must begin this business as we wish to go. And so from Day 1, we fearlessly put a stake in the ground and committed to create conditions conducive to life.
Zero waste and maximum resource efficiency
We operate as the planet operates, taking only what we need and returning as much as we can to the greater communities where we work and live. This conservative approach to resource management means we have what we need for today and also ensure that we and others have what we all need for all of our tomorrows.
We do not and never will use any type of toxic chemicals in our products, processes, and operations. When we must do activities such as travel, which is now much-improved with high-speed trains but still has a long way to go in terms of air travel, we make sure to pay a monetary contribution that covers our cost to the environment for that activity.
Locally attuned and responsive solutions
Context matters to us. Before we take any action in our product development process, we thoroughly research and incorporate all of the environmental factors in which our solutions must exist. We use locally available resources—including physical goods, labor, and mindshare. Community-involvement in our co-creative processes is always top of mind and a part of every project. We are guests in the areas where we work, and we act accordingly—with gratitude and grace. We listen much more than we talk.
Integration of development with growth
We recognize that progress can and must coexist with conservation. Indeed, the two can feed one another in a symbiotic relationship so that everyone wins. There is a level of give and take that fluidly happens in the course of our work. However, it is not without effort and consciousness. Every player is aware of every other player, and respectful of their right to survive and thrive in the same space. The investment of our time, attention, and action with this mindset is crucial to our success, and the success of our clients, customers, and neighbors.
Respond and adapt to changing conditions
In the past 25 years, our planet has become more diverse than ever. This diversity has driven a compassion, curiosity, and resiliency that has become the backbone of our strength as a species and as a cohesive, cooperative biosphere. Relationships are the cornerstone of everything we do. We experiment, expect the unexpected, make changes based on new information and learning, and then replicate that work. We are committed to continuous improvement with every breath.
While all of these operating principles of our business seemed aspirational 23 years ago when we officially opened for business in the first days of 2021, to us they were an absolute necessity. We could see what our planet would become without this unwavering and sincere promise to operate and build in a sustainable, healthful way. A world without a sustainable ethos was not a world we want to live in. Indeed, it was a world none of us would actually be able to live in. Without exaggeration, we were on the doorstep of extinction and we were the only ones who could pull ourselves back from the brink. We had seen the problem, and the problem was us.
And so we set about becoming our own saviors, our own solution, and thereby the saviors of our elders in the natural world who were counting on us to make amends and drastically change our wasteful ways for the benefit of all beings. We would not, and could not, disappoint them. They needed us to be successful in our pursuit, and so we did everything we could to live up to our potential and responsibility while taking on the genius of nature as our wisest teacher and guide.
23 years on, we have no regrets at The Green Atelier about our brave and bold choices to build a business on the foundation of a sustainable framework. Our only regret is that we did not do this sooner, that our society had to quite literally be on a burning platform before we would make the necessary behavioral changes to survive.
We cannot change our past, but now that we are awake, we will never go back to sleep when it comes to the consciousness with which we make all our decisions, as a business, as a community, and as individuals who are but brief flashes of light in the landscape of deep time. We are privileged to be here in every sense, and we’re grateful for the opportunity that life affords us to support life.
Last week, I wrote about my interest in going back to grad school to pursue a Master of Science in Biomimicry. I intended to do a *little* work on my personal statement this weekend and then just couldn’t stop myself. I wrote the whole dang thing in one sitting. And I cried because A) it means that much to me and B) I am a big ol’ sap. I had a good night’s sleep, got up early, edited it, and sent it off. So now, we wait. I feel insanely happy that I’ve taken this step. I can’t wait to spend my days learning from nature so that I can literally build a better world for all beings. I still feel like I’m dreaming a bit that this is actually going to happen (provided the application process goes well), and that’s okay with me. I’m fine with having a life that is the stuff of my dreams. Thank you all for sharing in this process!
The only upside I can see to terrible times is that they can open the door for good people to make big ideas for positive change a reality. I sent some big ideas to potential partners yesterday. I shot the moon. Let’s see if I land in the stars. My hope for better days for all persists. I hope you’re hanging in there, and finding the light where and when you can. If you need help, let me know.
This week, I got some very exciting news today about my storytelling dinner with New York City secret history, all inspired by my time in Ireland: my #1 choice for a museum partner is very interested! Friends, swing for those fences and make ’em high. You never know what you can do until you try.
“The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep.” ~Rumi
When everything’s quiet, late at night and early in the morning, there’s a magic time when anything we dream with raw creativity and hope. That’s when I write, when I’m fearless.
It filled my heart with joy to see kids actively engaged in science and hunting for fossils at Rowan University’s Edelman Fossil Park yesterday. It is such a special place, unique in the world for the scientific history it holds. Walking through a 65 million year old time machine and physically seeing that time in layers around me is something I’m still wrapping my mind around.
An enormous thank you and congratulations to Ken Lacovara, the town of Mantua, staff, students, and volunteers who are working so hard to preserve this natural treasure. What a gift it was to spend the day there with them. I can’t wait to go back. Childhood dream of fossil hunting and being a paleontologist for a day fulfilled!
If you commit to following your curiosity and passion, the opportunities will be endless. The universe rises up to support bold visions and those with the courage to turn dreams into reality.
“I wondered about the explorers who’d sailed their ships to the end of the world. How terrified they must have been when they risked falling over the edge; how amazed to discover, instead, places they had seen only in their dreams.” ~Jodi Picoult,
Sometimes we don’t know what we’re driving toward. We just have the insatiable desire to try something new, to explore, to discover. Don’t worry that it won’t work, that you won’t be right for an opportunity. Leave yourself in the running to have a new experience. Trust that who you are in this moment is enough to become who you want to be in the next moment. Take a chance. Be an explorer. That’s the only choice that fosters change and creates a new reality out of dreams.