My‌ ‌Environmental‌ ‌Story‌:‌ ‘I Am Air’: Understanding my environment through mental health and breath 

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My Environmental Story is a place where the discussion of one’s journey as an environmentalist changes and transforms as one learns more about the world around them. This series will highlight individuals and their honest reflections and introspections. The goal of this column is to emphasize how every individual has a unique environmental story reflective of their different backgrounds and experiences. There will be an emphasis on people of color and their stories due to the historic and prevalent disproportionate discrimination against marginalized community members being environmentalists. Any opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and not the opinion of The Daily Campus nor the University of Connecticut. 

The environment is me, I am my environment. 

— 

Sometimes my environment is dark and nebulous, 

A cloudy day that becomes my brain and I can’t quite see-through 

And I don’t mind it at all. 

Sometimes my environment is screaming, 

Noisy, loud bright cars, no quiet, 

I search for the quiet and it doesn’t come to find me 

I wish it would 

Sometimes my environment is just outside everyone else’s.  

It is my space and no one else’s and I am separate and  

The noise is distant even though it feels so close to everyone else 

Does it for you, too? 

I watch the lights blind me at 50 miles per hour again and again but I am farther away, I am past the lights, I am in a place beyond myself and I would like to come back. 

How do you define that space? How do you reclaim it? 

I’m going 50 miles per hour so I should probably figure that out. 

— 

Sometimes I am air.  

Sometimes I am a vacuum. 

I watch the clouds pile and even though it is a sunny Storrs day the sunlight is choking me and the air is weighing me and my lungs collapse 

Sometimes the air slowly escapes, so slowly I do not notice. Until it becomes normal for oxygen to only lace my blood and my environment spins before refocusing.  

The space we inhabit is ourselves. We are made of the same fabric,  

A tornado came in the night – I bet it was frightening but I couldn’t see it 

And it felt fun. Out of control, mysterious, throwing lives at 4:00 a.m. out of control with a switch in variable temperature and pressure – The air was cold, piercing, throwing. A knife. 

My environment is air. I breathe in, and out. 

— 

This air feels different, today: It is not relaxing me, it is for survival. I am forcing it in and it has only a second to settle before I hurl it back out and start again. 

I wonder how everyone else breathes so easily.  

—- 

I am doing the best I can 

The best I can  

What can I – what can I do,  

What have I done 

What am I 

What is the best 

What is my best 

My, I, I can’t I can there is so much on top of me and  

Breathe dammit 

I am air. So why is it so fucking hard to find? 

—- 

I find the air only when I am forced to hold it in –  

Give them space and time for us to recognize each other 

Before letting it go. 

Sometimes I feel the air 

Fill my lungs, we are the cool fall air all in one place 

And then we let go. 

— 

I am air. And I am most myself in the moments of stillness and release. 

But also the turbulence. The thickness. The caustic fumes, the freshness you can’t quite place. 

I am refreshing, refreshed, then I am taking and desperate 

To fill some space I have yet to define. 


About the author:  

Hey y’all, my name is Caitlin Daddona. I am a senior studying environmental sciences and sociology here at Storrs. I have often taken my environment for granted and never considered myself an environmentalist until recently. A lot of my appreciation for my surroundings comes through understanding my mental health, which has shaped my identity and relationship with the outdoors.  

When I lose myself, I run outside and force myself to lose my breath, only to regain it. This is what got me through a pandemic. Petting my dog and being kind to others is what made me an environmentalist. Caring about myself so I can care about my community has been my story. Community care for our human friends and the environment at large. Addressing my positionality, I am a white woman who came from a middle-class family in a wealthy, predominantly white town. Mental health affects individuals differently based on who they are and what they face. Our society has made it so these and other health consequences are disproportionately a burden on communities of color and those with marginalized identities. Understanding mental health and dealing with an illness of any kind takes a special strength. We are not here to compare, just acknowledge for health and healing. Sending love to all taking on these struggles, you are not alone.

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