Updated: Feb 9, 2022
Courtney Crossgrove, the Climate Resilience Finance Fellow, speaks on the meaning of the word resilience and how it plays a role as a core value within her personal and professional life.
In recent years, we have all become acquainted with the buzzword “resilient”. As a member of the Resilience Corps, I have been thinking about this word even more so as my work revolves around this very word and the powerful, yet often empty, statements that use it. Oddly enough, I remember the first time I ever heard, or more accurately, read the word resilient. It was a vocab word back in my elementary school days; “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” At the time that I learned this word, I didn’t see it in myself. Frankly, I wanted nothing to do with being resilient, but I admired the idea of resilience in others. Young me was blissfully unaware that difficulties are a part of life, personally and globally, and that we all would need to develop some degree of resilience to make it in this society. Resilience would grow to become a core value in my life particularly with my ever-growing passion for sustainability.
Fundamentally, the Resilience Corps is a group of individuals committed through service to building resilient communities that can adapt and overcome in the face of changing economic, environmental, and social systems. I personally like to center on adapting to and taking proactive action on environmental stressors, particularly the doom and gloom of climate change, keeping in mind that social, environmental, and economic systems are all integrated. While partaking in this community resilience-building service term, I am also reminded of my own resilience that is necessary to do this work.
Just weeks prior to early November when we started this service term, I was living in DC working in the government sector thinking it would be months before I left my job and the city. All of a sudden, a service opportunity arose and within a short period, everything changed. I quit my job, broke my lease, signed a new lease for an apartment in Maine, packed up my belongings, called my mom twice as much as I used to, scheduled a move, and start learning a new position all within the span of four weeks. After this, I am mentally and emotionally EXHAUSTED. My motto is, “this is tough, but I do tough things”. I am adapting and taking on that resilience I had rejected as a child.
In our orientation, we received presentations on the happenings and developments of the greater Portland region. These presentations are peppered with challenges and shortfalls of the region not unfamiliar to the rest of the nation. Equity, broadband, transportation, climate change and all that comes with it, and so on. Julia, our Program Manager, asked us how we are feeling about all these challenges and if we have been deterred yet. But, being a part of the Resilience Corps means enthusiastically taking on community adversity and shortfalls in order to create a better, more resilient future.
The work is hard, but the actual activities of the work aren’t the biggest challenge. What is hard is the doom and gloom that I mentioned earlier. It doesn’t have to be doom and gloom, but it is easy to spiral into that. I just spent two years working in international humanitarian assistance, so I am no stranger to bad news and being inundated with the world’s suffering. The worst is when you feel helpless. Communities are being overwhelmed with stressors. Where will the money come from? What do we prioritize? Who will do the work? How do we convince others to care about the work? How do we ensure equitable outcomes? What happens if we don’t meet our goals? Despair.
What if we do? What if we all work together? What if there is more financial support than we know what to do with? What if the community improves for everyone? What if we avoid the worst-case scenario? Hope. The work goes on.
As a Resilience Corps cohort, we talked about our why. Why do we serve? Why the Resilience Corps? A common answer was that we want to make a difference. Do I always feel like I’m making a difference, a more resilient future, as I roll out of bed, sit at my desk, and tap away on my keyboard? Absolutely not. Would I be able to keep going day after day if I didn’t remind myself that there is indeed hope for resilience? Also no. Would communities actively pursue resilience measures if they said, “there’s no chance we can make a difference? Climate change is going to overtake us all. It’s all doom and gloom.”? Probably not.
Personally, I am glad “resiliency” made buzzword status in 2020 to now 2022. Sometimes “resilient” just feels like an empty term that we assign to communities that have had to face adversity and tragedy, often alone. Sometimes it feels like the product of hope and hard work. As a buzzword, I hope that people more actively pursue resiliency which is what is truly required if we want it to not only be a word that is emptily assigned to communities that have faced adversity. Contrary to what little Courtney believed for herself, I now choose to embrace resilience. Resiliency has always been necessary, but now resilience planning can take its turn in the spotlight and hopefully give us a better future when those scary changes inevitably come knocking on community doors.
Courtney Crossgrove is originally from Moravia, New York but also lived in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Washington DC, and now Maine. Courtney has a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of New Haven and a master’s degree in Sustainability Science focused on food systems and agriculture from UMass Amherst. Courtney has experience working in campus dining, nutrition education, university programming, state hunger elimination research and planning, and humanitarian assistance. Courtney’s personal interests include making ice cream, cooking, baking, staying active, kayaking, being outdoors, her dog Simmons, trying new restaurants, and reading. Courtney is excited to learn about and integrate into the greater Portland community through Resilience Corps. She is also interested in learning about the various ways that the region is approaching adaptation and mitigation as well as positively contributing to these efforts