Hello, friends! Long time, no chat. 

It has been a crazy, hectic year. I’m sure you can relate to that statement. 

I will start this post by disclosing that I did not plan to disappear from Clear the Air for so long. Alongside the responsibilities of life piling up throughout the year, I found myself questioning my goals and aspirations for this platform. If you have followed along for some time, you may know that I started this platform in 2017 when I was graduating high school. Clear the Air transformed several times since then, but my goal for that platform remained the same: to help young people change the world, using my personal experiences as guidance. As I near the end of my undergraduate degree – just four months to go now – this year has been full of self-reflection and discovery. Naturally, I also wondered how Clear the Air could be a part of the next chapter of my journey.

In this post, I want to share all of the exciting sustainability-related things I have been up to this past year to highlight just how much my idea of sustainability and activism has changed since I last touched base. I also want to share my short and long-term aspirations which will shape where Clear the Air goes next. 

What happened in 2021?

It is no surprise that all of my sustainability work was conducted virtually this year. While it was disappointing that I could not attend the in-person events that I had lined up, including all-expense-paid trips for presentations at conferences, this challenging year also offered opportunities for collaborations and activities that I never imagined could be possible. For instance, during my eight-month co-op at the University of Waterloo’s Sustainability Office, I had the opportunity to publish and present a research report at an international summit. The virtual platform allowed me to connect with individuals from around the world in all different time zones, which is way more exposure than what would have been possible from an in-person summit. During this co-op, I also created a podcast for the Sustainability Office, which was the first of its kind for a university’s Sustainability Office in Canada. Not everyone has time to sit down and read a long blog post about a sustainability issue; podcasts are much more accessible and can be listened to on the go or while completing other tasks. Although I no longer work at the Sustainability Office, the podcast carries on with the support of the current co-op students.

One of my favourite things to do is talk to people and educate them about sustainability, and there were plenty of other opportunities to do so virtually. I was invited to present at workshops for the World Wildlife Fund, the University of Laval, and more. I served as the first-ever Sustainability and Wellness Coordinator for my Faculty’s Orientation, planning events and creating resources to educate incoming first-year students about ways they can promote sustainability in their personal lives and on campus. Since September, I have been the University’s Sustainability Commissioner, which advocates for sustainable change across campus from the student perspective. In this role, I have supported events with campus partners, provided guidance to student groups, and sat on committees about campus sustainability. Most notably in this role, I established the first-ever Student Sustainability Committee. This Committee is made of undergraduate students from every Faculty that work together to promote sustainability across all Faculties, departments, and student societies. Virtual engagement platforms have allowed us to come together despite differing study/co-op schedules and living in different time zones.

All this to say, 2021 has been foundational for my understanding of sustainability and the role I have in creating sustainable change. You may have caught this change on the website in my most recent posts (before I went MIA). My focus has changed considerably since I started the platform in 2017. Up until 2019 and even into 2020, I thought sustainability was just about the environment. As a result, I focused my actions and platform content on being the “best” environmentalist. How can I be zero waste? How can I stop microplastics from entering our oceans? These were the types of questions I asked myself. Don’t get me wrong, these are still very important questions to ask. However, the pandemic forced me to stop prioritizing the answers to just these questions. It wasn’t possible to live a completely zero waste lifestyle in a global pandemic, at least with my personal circumstances. I felt myself burning out by trying to focus on these issues when external forces were making it more and more difficult. At the same time, the pandemic was shedding light on global issues that are interlinked with environmental sustainability and must be addressed in the process of making our environment healthier and vibrant. For instance, living zero waste goes beyond our personal actions and forces us to look at broader systems, including the capitalist, gentrified regimes that govern society. These systems perpetuate issues related to social justice, political corruption, poverty, reconciliation and decolonization, equity and equality, and so much more. Maybe this is a hot take, but if vaccine rollouts cannot be done equitably, sustainability cannot be pursued equitably, either. In other words, to protect the environment, we must simultaneously change the human systems that interact with the environment.

Activism (and pandemic) burnout is real 

My perspective of sustainability has transitioned from a narrow-minded view to a more holistic one that considers how we govern society influences who are the “winners” and “losers” in our sustainability battles. Solutions to environmental problems are not as simple as “reducing our waste” or “eating less meat.” Every action we take has a reaction where some people benefit and some people suffer. And usually, the beneficiaries are the most powerful, affluent people, whereas the sufferers are the most marginalized, disempowered people.

I’ve found myself mentally battling between these trade-offs as I try to help you all live a more sustainable lifestyle. Who “deserves” to win and lose? How can we minimize the losers? How can we ever decide what is right when we are limited by our own unconscious biases? Frankly, this mental battle is tiring and frustrating. This mental battle, coupled with the struggles of finishing undergrad, applying to grad school, writing my thesis, and general pandemic fatigue, has me feeling like I am on a burnout plateau. Thankfully, I have an amazing support system from my friends, family, partner, and therapist. I have inspiring professors and a thesis advisor who hypes me up whenever I am feeling discouraged. It’s been really helpful talking to people like professors with career paths I am interested in, to learn how they overcame hurdles in their work and how they got onto their path. I have reached out to profs for career advice, and from those conversations, I also gain life advice. I am now in a place where I am hovering above this burnout plateau – not quite on it, but when major stressors hit, I know that I need to take a break before I fall face-first onto that plateau. 

One key thing I have learned over the year is to not force yourself into doing something that does not excite you. Yes, sometimes you have to do tasks you are not joyous about, but those may be important stepping stones towards your end goal. However, you should not be forcing yourself to do “x” activity or “x” job because that’s what you used to think you were passionate about but now feel no spark towards it. When this happens, you should take a break. While this year has been crazy busy, I think this is what happened with Clear the Air. I wasn’t as motivated to blog and podcast as I used to be. I was blogging and podcasting for co-op so I didn’t want to feel redundant, and I was confused about my interests and career goals, so I just didn’t know what to talk about. This was stressful, especially because I knew I had to find a clear direction for my thesis and for my grad school applications (because you need to write research proposals, find supervisors that will support your work, and so on). If I didn’t slow down, I didn’t think I could do it. I needed a break. So I took a break. 

For me, this break was at least half of the year. A break can look different to everyone and can be all different lengths. You will know when your break should end when you start feeling excited again. This break has been very enlightening and refreshing for me. I used to feel guilty for slowing down (let’s be honest, I still feel some guilt) because I thought I wouldn’t make any “progress.” Yet, I am slowly learning that these breaks do promote progress because you learn how to channel your efforts more precisely into the things that motivate you. It’s like a rest day at the gym (also something I have only recently understood to be important). Rest days allow for muscle recovery, leading to more effective, progressive workouts.

What did I do during my break? I focused on my other priorities. Through coursework, conversations with profs, writing my thesis, applying to grad school, and other life activities (including fun things), I have found topics and worldviews that I am passionate about. I have surrounded myself with people with similar interests and makes me feel good about myself and where I am in life. I asked for help when I needed it, and I was open with others about my struggles. There is no shame in needing a break, for whatever reason you need it. Without this break, I doubt I would be writing this post today, or be as excited about my future as I currently am. Sure, I am still tired and just wish this crazy pandemic would be over so I could return to a “normal” sense of life – but what if that “normalcy” that I long for is no longer well-fitted for the new life I want to live? Why can’t I just live my life by taking every day as it comes, and finding passion projects even amidst the chaos that is the world right now? The answer: I can do those things, I just have to remove the mental barriers that tell me I can’t. And that’s what I am doing now, and will continue to do in the future. 

What’s happening next?

I will plow through my final semester of undergrad, and then I have four months off until I start grad school in September. Grad school application decisions won’t be released for quite some time, so I am not ready to share that journey, but I promise to once I know where and what I will be doing. I am interested in global governance/international development work, so I have applied to programs that can offer me holistic experiences that align with my newfound understanding of sustainability. I will also be wrapping up my thesis in the next few months, which has been a very interesting experience. For anyone interested, I am exploring the barriers to reconciliation within Higher Education Institutions in Canada. I’d be happy to write a blog post about this topic and the journey of this work as a non-Indigenous settler research, and what I am doing to ensure my research is respectful and supportive of Indigenous leaders. When school ends in April, I will still be working as the University’s Sustainability Commissioner (my contract goes until August) but I hope to use the summer to enjoy myself. I may pick up another part-time job, but I want to take the time to relax, reground myself, and reflect on my growth over the last five years. And (fingers crossed) do a little bit of travel to explore regions I hope to study in graduate school.  

Now you’re probably wondering, what does this all mean for Clear the Air? In case this post made it seem like the end of the platform, I promise it is not. I still want to build up the platform, and I want to do so more in a more intentional way than I did in the past. I don’t want to set myself on a rigid posting schedule because that only added to my burnout and stress over the years. I want to get back into podcasting, as well – my microphone broke, which is part of the reason I stopped, so I have to buy a new one before that happens. I want to focus on building up Clear the Air on social media, because social media has become a key avenue for growth, collaborations, and reaching those that near to hear my message the most. As things (hopefully) transition to more hybrid and in-person engagement, I want to continue connecting with young people around the world to educate, inspire, and mobilize them to take action in their own lives – this time, in a more holistic way. 


I tried creating some sort of structure for this blog post, but it still seems like a chaotic word dump that shifts between motivational a TedTalk to a harrowing YouTube horror story. I guess that is what happens when you try to cram a year’s worth of realizations into one post while maintaining brevity. In case you got lost in the word dump, here are the key messages that I learned this year: 

  1. Don’t force yourself into a burnout plateau. You need (and deserve) breaks, and need them however often/however long is necessary for your healing.
  2. Don’t force yourself to do the things that do not make you joyous anymore just because they are what’s familiar. Unfamiliarity can be scary, but it can also be so fulfilling once you overcome the fear. 
  3. Surround yourself with people that inspire and motivate you.
  4. Don’t focus on mapping your future in a precise way – because such precise long-term planning is not possible in this day and age. Instead, integrate flexibility and reflection into your everyday activities, and be forgiving with yourself when priorities and stressors change.

Thank you for reading my rambles. I hope this has helped you in some way. Maybe it has provided the encouragement you needed to finally try something new or to step away from something old. Maybe you have been waiting for permission to take a break, and this is it (although you don’t need permission, and that’s something we all need to recognize). Maybe it’s provided you some comfort and relatability in a time when it is easy to feel isolated. If this post has been helpful, I’d love to know why in the comments. I’d also love to hear what content you want more of in the future. 

Until next time, friends.

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