By Alex Toglia, American Forests
There’s a quote that always sticks with me: “Love what you do and you will never work a day in your life.” Growing up in a small Philadelphia suburban neighborhood, the woods and local creek served as a second home during my free time outside of school. Hiking, fishing, and camping are just a handful of activities that I was privileged to have in my own back yard. These experiences of enjoying and admiring nature inspired me to value independence, responsibility, and an appreciation of our delicate ecosystems.
With my parents being avid gardeners, I naturally followed in their footsteps. I have always preferred natural décor over modern, and loved living in a place where my home and the various wildlife existed alongside each other. Needless to say, our garden is pretty awesome. If you would have asked me when I was sixteen that by the age of twenty-one I would be moving into my first apartment in Arlington, Virginia, I would have told you that you were crazy. Moving away from both the scenery that I love so much and my hobbies would have seemed pretty close to the end of the world to me. That being said, it makes it a lot easier knowing that I am working to improve conservation efforts for our beloved forests. I even have my very own porch to fill up with a garden, and, don’t worry — I also brought along my fishing rod.
It was my freshmen year at Muhlenberg College, during a professional success lecture, when I had my “aha” moment that has caused me to pursue the realm of environmental policy. Up to this point, I was dragging myself through the pre-med track and honestly disenchanted by my experience so far. The quote, “Love what you do and you will never work a day in your life” was ringing through my head. I have always motivated myself to pursue my passions, and thus determined medicine wasn’t for me. I knew I loved the outdoors. Thanks to my parents, I also understood the importance of being a politically informed citizen, so I have always been interested in politics and public policy. From there my next step was clear: I changed my major to Political Science to study public policy with focuses on the field of environmental protection. This career path is what led me to take a position as a policy intern at American Forests.
I could not think of a better place to get started! What initially drew me to American Forests was one of the organization’s core beliefs, “We are not separate from nature. By caring for nature, we care for ourselves.” This resonated with me exceptionally well, as you may have guessed. I have realized that taking myself away from the woods proved not to be the end of the world for me, however, taking away our forests away from everyone just might do so.