By: Laura Torres, Social Media Contributor, Los Angeles California
When I think of who I am today, I am thankful for all the amazing people whom I have met and connected with throughout my life. I consider myself a resilient person and I learned primarily from the strong, loving, self-reliant women in my life. First and foremost my inspiration comes from my mother. She has overcame many obstacles in life, as an orphan, an immigrant and a single parent. My mother taught me by example to forge my own path, to be self-sufficient and to move forward even when I am filled with fear. My mother did not encourage me to be outdoorsy or even involved in sports. Growing up I knew my mother’s lack of interest in having me in sports was connected to a lack of resources. My own development into a force of nature stems both out of my mother’s guidance and a need to rebel and push back; a need to set my own path.
During high school, I joined the cross country team. This experience left a deep impact in my life, it taught me to focus and tune out troubles in my life, to push myself and reignited my connection with the nature. Through cross country met my high school best friend Yessica. Yessica made me feel completely comfortable in asking questions as a new person on the team, so I stuck around. Yessica shared her own insecurities, which helped me feel like I was not alone. When I felt like giving up on those 12 mile runs I remember her saying, “You are an athlete, you need to convince yourself you can finish.” As I got better. I found it gratifying to feel the power of my own body. I went from having negative thoughts like “Am I fat?” to having positive thoughts like “I will practice until I can run up that hill” or “I will improve my mile time” etc. Yessica was an inspiring Force of Nature because she was by my side both on the course and as I navigated planning my next step in life. Cross country was also a great opportunity to bond with other women. I loved the focus on teamwork and celebrating each other’s victories. While my mom wasn’t the biggest fan of having me arrive home late from practice and spending Saturdays in the forest, My mother knew running gave much more than an extracurricular for my college application.
As an adult challenging times have lead to growth. When I was in graduate school, I worked during the day and took classes in the evening/night. There was very little time for anything else outside of pursuing my degree. To save money I began to ride my bike home after class. To be honest, this was a bit scary at first. I was a young woman alone and at the time there were no bike lanes on my route. I had seen my mother do things that terrified her because she had a vision of a better life for me. It was my turn, I had to finish up my degree and continue moving towards not only being self-reliant but also a support system for her. Over time these night rides became my favorite time of day. My fears diminished and I fell in love with night rides. My rides became longer and a time to bond with friends. Social rides became a test to my will power, self-love and an opportunity to challenge outdated ideas of what others expected of me because I was a woman. My mother made it clear she hated my night bike rides. As a young woman she felt it was inappropriate for me to ride around the street of LA late into the night with a bunch of men. At this point in life my mother and I had many disagreements on the path I was forging for myself. I had learned my mother’s lessons on standing her ground so I choose to move out for the sake of our relationship.
In 2010, I volunteered at day labor center because they had a bike kitchen and I could get a free bike if I volunteered enough hours. (Did I mention I was hit and my bike did not survive? I was fine just had a small scratch on my arm.) While Volunteering, I met Brenda. It was the first time I got to know another woman who not only rode a bike, but was a bike mechanic. I was in awe of Brenda’s knowledge of bikes. As we got to know each other, Brenda inspired me in multiple ways. Brenda is such a badass woman. Women who inspire me are like my mother self-reliant, and courageous. One reason Brenda is my shero is her participation in a mostly female bike ride from Los Angeles, California to San Andres Iztapa, Guatemala. Let that sink in over two thousand miles, an international bike ride! They were not held back by not having the right gear or even a crystal clear day-to-day plan. When she arrived to Guatemala she spent some time there to reconnect with her Guatemalan roots. I could go on with reasons why Brenda is a Force of Nature that inspires me.
Currently, I am grateful for the opportunity to work in engaging communities to conservation and specifically to advocate for our National Parks. As the Los Angeles Field Representative for the National Parks Conservation Association, I have a responsibility to connect communities to our public lands. As an advocacy organization, this is done with a mix of outreach, presentations, workshops like our “Civic Voice Lessons”, partnering with other great organizations to have community events, among other wonderful opportunities. The days I come home with the most energy, are days that spent with young people who love nature and are becoming more confident in using their own voice to push for environmental rights, access and adventure. Seeing women in my age range and younger inspires me to dream that we can make our communities and our world better.
Of course, the women of Latinos Outdoors inspire me. I have the privilege of getting to know them little by little and beyond what you see on social media; they are all amazing. They are resilient, courageous and loving enough to volunteer time to support others in getting outdoors and connecting with nature. “To me being a Force of Nature is using one’s personal adventure and accomplishments as a form to inspire and support other women in becoming a Force of Nature for their communities.” As women, we are underrepresented in the outdoors. As a woman of color, my peers are my inspirations, I still do not see many women of color in mainstream outdoors media. My younger nieces and cousins are my motivation. I hope my actions and my guidance will help my nieces forge their own path with less push back from societal norms, cultural expectations, and even the remaining outdated family ideas of what a “good woman” is. Most of us have struggles, fears, and things beyond our control, yet as we nourish each other’s growth more of us will see ourselves as a Force of Nature.