Hi, I’m Holly. You may remember me from smash hits such as: “Oh, the places you’ll go: A year in the SGO”. To answer the question on everyone’s mind, yes, I did plan on leaving the SGO last year. And yes, I did end up staying. Life is funny like that.
I’ll be the first to admit that I hate change. I’m always finding reasons to linger in spaces for a minute longer, to hold onto everything I can for as long as I can. It’s not always a good thing. But deciding to stay at the SGO for one more year was one of the best things it’s ever brought me. Working as part of this team has been empowering in more ways than I can count or recite. This year has been filled with transformative moments, community, and gratitude. I’ve had opportunities to connect with a diverse range of individuals who share a common goal. We’ve collaborated with people from all across the university to engage in interdisciplinary conversations that fostered creative outlooks and solutions to problems we all face. Together, we organised tote bag workshops, educational schemes such as Carbon Literacy Training, and had discussions that educated and inspired us as much as we hope it did our peers about what sustainability means and how it shows up in day-to-day life.
It wouldn’t be wholly accurate to say that the SGO gave me a purpose, but what it has given me is a sense of direction for the purpose and ideas I already had. I’ve been provided with so many opportunities for personal growth and have had help to nurture skills I’d only started to develop like communication, organisation, and project management. I’ve been challenged to step out of my comfort zone time and time again and to embrace roles I would’ve run from eighteen months ago. It gave me an avenue to channel all that energy and restlessness into something tangible, something I could hold and nurture and cherish. Knowing that I was part of a community, that I had somewhere I belonged, not only provided the support and stability I needed to truly embrace myself and my ideas but also gave me friendships with people I would have otherwise never known, ones that I’ll carry with me for life.
In many ways, the world is still just as big and sometimes scary as it felt last year (I don’t think that’ll ever go away, no matter how much growing I do) but it does feel kinder. Softer around the edges. I’d spent so long getting caught on the jagged edges of fear that I’d forgotten there was an alternative. Because, above all, the SGO has helped me learn how to truly understand and appreciate the importance of resilience and perseverance, especially when faced with obstacles or disappointment.
Sometimes, the pizza oven won’t light. Sometimes, a tube of paint explodes over a tote bag. Sometimes, you’re trusted with a task that feels twice as big as you are. And that’s okay. That’s life. There’s nothing that can make everything bearable all the time, but there are things that help. Small things. Things I’ll cling to for as long as I can. There’s kindling and burnt eyelashes and a pan on fire, and there are four pairs of hands in the kitchen and half a dozen more outside. There are reworked designs and paper towels and shared laughter. There are people waiting for you, waiting with you, warm hands and shoulders you can lean on, mouthing things to make you laugh from across a room when the stage feels large enough to swallow you whole.
I used to believe there was strength in solitude, in being able to deal with problems without needing anybody’s help. I realise now how wrong that was. There is so much inherent strength and potential that comes from being vulnerable, in standing up and embracing the vast unknown and the jagged fear and doing it together.
But really, it all comes back to a quote, as many things in my life do. It’s one from John Steinbeck that I’ve carried with me but didn’t properly understand until recently. It seems only right I leave it here as a way to mark the end of one chapter (for real, this time) and the beginning of the next: “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
By Holly Steventon, SGO Projects Officer