I’m sure most of you have heard the term “Leave No Trace” and have the general idea to not litter, stay on trail, pack it in pack it out, and keep nature natural. (I’m also sure many of you have not always abided to this rule and I’m sure almost all of you have passed by a piece of trash on the trail or on a sidewalk and not picked it up and thrown it away.. what the hell, play your part!) Anyways, my point is that there is more to Leave No Trace then these general ideas. There are actually 7 principles.
But that’s not what I really want to dive into with this term.
Have you ever felt depressed or sad or anxious to the point that you have made yourself feel small? Maybe you started dressing in neutral colors to blend in or you started doing things everyone else was doing or just stopped attending events altogether as to not make a presence, as to not take up space? I have found myself over the past multitude of years struggling to find a balance between wanting to make a difference, to preach inclusive and accessible ways to combat climate change on an individual level and to stir community conversation in the right direction AND to be more accepting of people’s differences, that people do not want to change, that I do not have the authority to speak up, that I am not good enough. I struggle between knowing that change must happen, that it can be easy and not wanting to make people feel uncomfortable. It’s hypocritical I know. I am still trying to understand and recognize my place in this world- what it is currently, what I want it to be, and how I can make that happen.
Not only in terms of mental health, I also find this term relevant in my type one diabetic acknowledgement and care. I have always been open about sharing that I have this invisible illness and what people need to know about it in case of emergency. But, having an invisible illness does not mean that I am invisible. I used to believe, as well as my parents, that I could never be a field scientist, a long distance backpacker, a life on the road kind of girl because I needed to have direct access to medical supplies and physicians at all times. So I started to dwindle my curiosities and my dreams and naturally these deep rooted passions of mine never went away. I am SO glad they stuck around. Since going to college, I have put myself in some of the most vulnerable situations (medically, socially, mentally) and have never felt happier, stronger nor safer! Pushing beyond my “given limits” has taught me confidence, capability and inclusion.
For so long, I always waited for other people to define me. Diabetic. Female. Disabled. Broken. Small. Weak. Crippled. Injured. Burden. But I am none of these things. I have diabetes, I have had injuries, I have had my fair share of weaknesses. I am strong; I am resilient; I am abundant.
In middle and high school I was tired of giving myself insulin shots at school because people would make fun of how provocative I was being by showing my shoulders when delivering an injection into my upper arm. I was tired of being singled out for my disability. I stopped wanting to take care of myself because I stopped wanting to be myself. That was a scary place. It took many years to pull myself out of this burn out. I held relationships that made me feel guilty for putting the burden of sudden diabetic death on my partner’s shoulders (I don’t know why I entered or stayed in this relationship…). I felt guilty for holding people back on hikes and walks when my blood sugar would drop. I just could not reach my full potential by being a burden.
And that’s when I discovered this enchanting world of the “diabetic instagram community.” We are all diabetic care takers in different ways and that is beautiful- the biodiversity of different insulins, different injection or pump methods, different low snacks. I was enchanted and happy and included and I belonged. I belonged because I was finally authentic with and about myself- I have lows and highs and I also have good days and that is all ok and I am thankful for everyday I experience.
My point with Leave No Trace is that it is not to prevent the access or entrance of others onto a plot of land or into our personal lives, it is to prevent negative impacts and make us focus our intentions on positive impacts- picking up after ourselves, leave it better than you found it, advocate for ourselves and for nature, be a part of a community. When we are vulnerable with our disabilities and our set backs and our self care routines, we are opening ourselves up to love ourselves and to be loved by others.
I intend for the trace I leave to be one of intuitive intention, of transcending beyond the limitations we believe we have based on our abilities, of advocating for both ourselves and for this Earth and her ecosystems, and of inclusion in the outdoors.
with love, amanda