Meet Phary: Nature lover, poet, traveler, and environmental steward based out of Long Beach, Ca. Recently I had the opportunity to chat with her to learn more about her role as a Wild Keeper Mentor for Keep Nature Wild and the great work she is doing to keep our oceans and public lands clean.
Favorite quote: “Not all those who wander are lost.” J.R.R. Tolkien
You refer to yourself as a nature lover. When did you first fall in love with nature?
I think I’ve always been a nature lover. Since I was a child, I was always outside playing. I remember having fond memories with my family. Whether it was fishing, having picnics, biking or rollerskating, I just loved being outside playing with my friends and sisters. This later led me to be involved with outdoor sports such as cross-country, track & field, and tennis. I think all of the activities I did while I was young sparked a greater interest for me in my early 20’s. I started hiking on trails and camping with my family and friends. I became more curious about the world and started traveling to different parts of California, neighboring states, and some countries. I learned to appreciate, love and care for nature more and saw all the amazing benefits behind it. I guess you can say I’ve always loved nature and truthfully, I know I won’t part from it anytime soon. It’s my happy place.
Tell me more about your work with Keep Nature Wild. When did you first hear about this organization and why did you decide to get involved as a Wild Keeper?
Keep Nature Wild is a company that promotes outdoor stewardship through various ways. According to the founders, their job is to:
Create awesome, affordable, and unique goods;
Find, promote, fund, and participate in efforts to keep our wild places wild;
Encourage responsible outdoor recreation through group events and volunteer opportunities;
Form partnerships with organizations that we feel are worthy recipients of our time and money.
Based on these words, I strongly feel that they do just that. Taking action is the most important thing when it comes to creating impact and change within communities. I love the positive messages that they are sending and they definitely are creating a huge impact in this world.
I first heard about this organization in the fall of 2017 through someone I met during a hiking event. She told me she was a Wild Keeper and explained to me some of the responsibilities that came along with it. I was immediately hooked once she said that this organization is active in keeping the wild spaces clean. I did a little research online to get more information about them. However, it wasn’t until summer 2018 that I signed up to be a Wild Keeper Mentee. I was excited because I love volunteering. I grew up volunteering for different organizations and companies working towards many great causes. And since this was involving trail clean ups and stewardship, why not? It’s a combination of two of my passions, the outdoors and giving back to the community. I wanted to create a positive impact in our environment and spread awareness to others. I wanted to meet like-minded people who also care about the planet, and I did. It really opened up new opportunities and inspired me to host my own monthly beach clean-ups here in Long Beach, Ca. After the summer term was over, I decided to continue into the fall, in which, I am now a Wild Keeper Mentor.
People who are interested in joining the Wild Keepers program can apply online through their website. They open positions every term. And those who are interested in joining my monthly beach clean-ups, can contact me via Instagram @par.ree or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What does community mean to you?
Community is everything. Let me explain what I mean by that. A community is made up of the people that surround you. People from various backgrounds and experiences. We learn from our community. We learn from our parents, teachers and mentors, who are part of our community. This is how we grow. This is how we develop our mind and ways of thinking. So to get involved with our community, we learn from one another’s experiences, we establish confidence, we continue on moving in the right direction. Most importantly, we want to create positive change! It really does take one person to make a difference. When people notice your actions, they support and follow through with theirs; a chain reaction almost. Our actions matter most and to know that you are creating a positive impact, it’s one of the most rewarding feelings, in my opinion.
What has been your greatest challenge on your journey this year and how have you learned to deal with it? (Some information below may be triggering for those, who have experienced abuse of any kind)
To be quite honest, for the last year and a half, I’ve been struggling with some personal challenges. These issues have been present even before this, but it didn’t take a toll on me until last April when things started to take a drastic turn. I know that this story may make others feel uncomfortable, but it is my story and I’m no longer ashamed of it. I’ve learned to accept that it happened, but it does not define me as a person. It’s a long story, but I’ll try to keep it short. I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression for a few years, on and off. I was also in an unhealthy relationship at the time. I didn’t realize how unhealthy it was until I noticed how much it worsened my physical and mental health with time. At the time, I had low self-esteem, but I knew I was settling for a guy, who didn’t respect or treat me well. This relationship consisted of verbal, mental, and later physical abuse. It triggered my anxiety even more and made me depressed for longer periods of time. I was always on edge. I felt like I could not escape at all. I wanted out.
It wasn’t until April 2017 when there was another incident between him and I. He was abusing me. Verbally at first, which led to him physically beating me in a moving vehicle. This time, I had to call the police to remove myself from the situation. I had no other choice because I felt like my life was threatened. It was just scary and I was in fight or flight mode. I later flew back to California from Oregon. I remember all the thoughts that were running through my head, thinking if I made the right choice, but also feeling so ashamed of myself. But I was thankful for one thing, I finally left him. After many attempts, I finally left. And I never went back. That choice I made was probably one of the best choices I’ve made in my life to be honest, yet it was the most difficult of all.
For the remainder of that year, I decided to take time for myself, primarily for healing. Healing all my wounds and protecting myself from any harm. I built up a big wall and just wanted to feel better. I’ve learned to let that wall down with time and allowed others in again. I’ve learned to trust again and have developed many great friendships along the way. I’ve gone to one-on-one therapy and domestic violence group therapy to deal with all my emotions and anger built up inside. I immediately indulged myself in mother nature. I went back into hiking, camping, road tripping and traveling. The passions that I left for quite some time. I went back into just doing me and just creating a better version of myself, which I still am doing today.
You talk a lot about self-care on your social media page (@par.ree). What does self-care mean to you and why is it important? Have you always been a wellness warrior?
Based on my answers in the last question, self care is so important!! Some people overlook it and get so caught up in their busy lives with responsibilities and work, that they forget to take time for themselves. That happened to me plenty of times. After my abusive relationship, I’ve learned the importance of self-care and how much it can really shape you positively as a person. It wasn’t until I filtered him out along with other negative people in my life that I realized how bad my life used to be. There was so much negativity everywhere. So I just kept analyzing and filtering out more people and things that didn’t benefit me. If it doesn’t play a part in my growth process, it’s gone! It took a lot of self-reflection and time alone to figure out what I wanted for myself. With time, it got easier to say no to all the negative things and yes to all the good and positive things. It really does take practice and persistence to learn how to take care of yourself in every aspect, whether that’s physically, mentally, or emotionally. All of those categories are important because it encompasses you as a whole. To me, self-care is just taking the time to do what’s best for you. Making healthy decisions and choosing where to utilize your energy is also a form of self-care for me. Self-reflection and thinking things through also works for me. Journaling, writing poems, meditating, doing yoga, going hiking, walking my dog, or simply watching Netflix are all important aspects of my self-care. So yes, self-care is important! Make time for yourself each day. Do what works best for you.
In what ways would you say you show up for yourself and what would you say to someone, who is just getting started on their self-care journey?
It definitely takes persistence and being accountable for yourself. It is a learned practice or skill that you have to maintain and improve with time. It wasn’t easy for me at first. It took small steps each day to learn and find out what worked best for my lifestyle. The more you practice, the better you get at figuring yourself out, what you like and don’t like. You learn to adapt with change too. I hold myself accountable for my happiness. I understand now that I have more power and control than I thought. I used to think that I wasn’t able to speak up in certain situations or I couldn’t do anything to change something. But now, I know that in most cases, I can speak up, say how I feel about something, and provoke change. Everyone has control to a certain extent, but don’t underestimate your capabilities. You have more power than you think! You can change the negativity into positivity.
So if you’re getting started on your self-care journey, understand that it takes practice, persistence, and lots of patience. It is not something you can learn overnight. It is a process that you have to go through by taking small steps and simply learning on the way. Take time to reflect on your goals in life, small or big, and think of the actions you can take to achieve these goals. Remember to start small and work your way up. The process is not going to be all sunshine and rainbows. There will be days where you feel lost or defeated, but it’s okay. That time will pass because it is temporary. Also, embrace your feelings. Whether it’s good or bad, you have to acknowledge what you’re feeling and understand why you’re feeling that way. Don’t ignore them. This will help you analyze situations, problem solve, and understand yourself a bit more clearly.