No More Fence-Sitting by Heather Armstrong

It occurred to me not that long ago, that I was no longer a “fence-sitter”. I had the awareness that my lifestyle was out of balance. I had finished university, was earning a reasonable wage and having fun with my financial freedom, however, deep down, I knew I was living a life that was far beyond what I wanted to be sustaining. Most of all, I was doing very little to change it.

Over the years, I have become informed on the importance of environmental awareness & simplifying life. While I could conceive there was meaning within the phrase “less is more”, there was far more talk than action in my life. In an effort to “save time”, I bought a car. No longer was I walking through vibrant East Vancouver or having conversations with my neighbours. I had become committed to a vehicle-based lifestyle and in the process I ended up losing the connection with something I cared deeply about: my community.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know how lost I was until I experienced true loss. In a short period of time, I suffered a serious injury leaving me in chronic pain and on disability alongside the tragic passing of a longtime friend. The grieving process was difficult but it provided me with some necessary perspective. With time, my body and heart began to heal but my life had become very different. I started asking myself what did I really want and what did it look like? The soul-searching process made it clear that things needed to change!

Once I had made the leap off the “fence”, it didn’t take long for me to see the benefits. Many of the changes I have made have been simple but significant. Taking transit saves me money and allows me to reconnect with my community. Volunteering with local environmental and labour organizations allows me to support them in amidst these challenging times. My household is currently working on our garden and the local farmer’s market will be starting up soon creating another option to reduce my footprint and support a great community hub. Other changes have been more substantial such as starting graduate school part-time and finding a new work position, which is jumpstarting a career transformation. My experiences have informed me that becoming more environmentally responsible can save money and is fulfilling by strengthening the bonds with my community.

Spring is an empowering time and the new ideas are blossoming. Future goals include having a more success in my garden, becoming a cycling commuter and building the skills necessary to mentor youth interested in environmental careers.  While sadly for me, it required a shocking reality check to “take the plunge”, I have come to realize the value in slowing down and spending time doing what you love.

Heather is working on her MA thesis, focusing on leadership and mentorship of young professionals in Canadian water organizations.

*Send us your adaptation stories to be considered for the ACT series about people who are Taking The Plunge. Please include your complete name and a one-line bio with your story. One page is the best maximum length.