My Search for Purpose by Noell Evans

March 24, 2023

Right after I graduated college, I thought I knew exactly what career path I wanted to pursue. I had always been interested in politics both foreign and domestic, and I had always been interested in foreign languages and culture, so it seemed a natural and logical conclusion that I pursue a career in foreign policy. I had been so sure of this, even back in middle school. However, my dreams began to falter after my first internship. I worked as an intern for the State Department, and it was nothing like I had imagined. I never got that spirit of purpose I had expected going into the internship. No matter the work I did, it never felt quite right. Nevertheless, I persisted in my goals. I finished my degree in international affairs and graduated with the same expectation of pursuing a career in foreign policy. After my experience in the State Department, I wasn’t particularly interested in that institution. I figured that I would instead be a writer for a think tank. I could make a living of keeping up with foreign politics, something I love, and meaningfully impact foreign policy discourse in the process. However, as I applied for multiple jobs and internships, I once again lacked the inspiration I was looking for. None of it felt right to me.

At this same time I began to develop on my interest in gardening and ecology more broadly. I became more acutely aware of on-the-ground sustainability projects and movements such as regenerative agriculture, land management, and urbanist city planning. I realized that this was the sector I wanted to be in. The work is hands-on and engaging, and more importantly the work is directly and immensely impactful. With the threats of climate change growing exponentially, the work to mitigate impacts and build resilient communities is more important than ever. So, I decided to take a leap of faith and pursue an entirely different career path. I dipped my toes in by starting as a merchandiser at the Lowes garden center. At first glance it wasn’t much, but through that work I was able to learn more about invasive and native plants and pass that knowledge on to customers. Then, I found my current AmeriCorps service position.

It was as if the pieces had finally come together. During my service thus far I’ve been able to be involved directly in the exact work I’ve been looking for. I am currently engaged in a variety of city sustainability projects where I can directly apply my knowledge and expertise. Throughout the process I’ve learned about the key ways in which local governments work, the ins and outs of community engagement and project management, and the unique ecology of the state of Montana. Most importantly, I truly feel like my service is having an impact. Climate change is a daunting threat looming over us with each passing year, and the fear of its impacts and the rage at the critical lack of any serious large-scale action from key players can make anybody want to simply give up. At times it even makes me feel like all of my work is for nothing. But when I’m able to see the fruition of my work, it makes it all worthwhile. Perhaps the worst effects of climate change will come; we’ve already experienced some of its horrors with record heat waves, disrupted seasonal patterns, freak cold snaps, and extreme droughts and flooding. However, I feel even somewhat at ease knowing that I have an active hand in the solution, and even more empowered knowing I have an equally driven team of other resiliency VISTAs and local community members standing with me. 

Noell is an AmeriCorps VISTA member serving with the City of Red Lodge