Heya, my name’s Ri.
If you’ve ended up here – whether against your own will (gahdamn Internet, right?), of your own volition (hey, no judgement. I search for weird stuff on Google, too) or, most likely, because I’ve tricked you (I’m not sorry) – you probably have two questions:
Where the hell am I?
Who the hell is Ri? Is that even a name?
Ok, well, first of all, chill with the cursing. Second of all, that’s three questions.
My name is Mariah Jane, but I’m saving being called by my full name for when I’m a beautiful silver-haired old lady who wears jingly earrings and patterned headscarves and plays the harmonica while writing poetry in the mountains (I’ve got big plans).
For now, unfortunately, I look more like this:
And I do things like run from angry turkeys in the Australian Blue Mountains and fall down entire flights of stairs on the London underground.
So, Ri is good.
I fancy myself a storyteller, possibly because it makes me feel better about spending large chunks of time writing about my own damn self or, possibly, because it’s true. I want to tell stories that knock people over the head and make them spit out their almond milk – either because I have just smashed the most profound piece of wisdom ever written into their brains or because they literally cannot believe I took the time to post such ridiculous and irrelevant stories on the internet and their body is rejecting it. Either reason is fine with me. As long as the spitting happens.
My own story goes a bit like this **
I was born and raised in the US – in the magical cornfield land of Ohio – and I did not possess that miraculous item known as a “passport” until I was 18 years old. So, when I did finally leave the country, I went all out and flew myself to Tanzania for 2 weeks. That trip was supposed to be the first checkbox in a carefully mapped out & incredibly detailed life-plan that included starting my own international charity and singlehandedly saving the world by age 50. Instead, I spent those weeks volunteering as the world’s most ineffective English teacher, questioning my entire notion of impactful service, and realizing that the beautiful country I was in did not need or want me to swoop through it like the divine, selfless angel I thought I was supposed to be. This little burst of understanding (that should not have taken me 18 years to realize – I know, ok? Let me grow) forced me to question my identity and my role in the world, and ultimately crushed my neat life-plan into a tiny ball and threw it in the garbage can.
It was awesome.
Since then, I’ve been on a mission to continue finding out all the things I’m wrong about and, hopefully, get a bit closer to actually knowing how to make the world a better, fairer, more decent place. Sound like a cheesy coming-of-age novel? It is. I live my life based on how well it will translate into book form in the future.
So, now, I am a humble ol’ 21-year old university student studying international affairs, politics, environmental science, and several languages that I am all equally terrible at and enthusiastic about. Much to the disbelief of anyone who sees how dysfunctional I act in real life, I am actually an enrolled and full-time student at the University of Miami, Florida. I spent two years of undergrad in that land of palm trees, incredibly good looking people and terrible Will Smith songs before stumbling off for 2 years of exchange programs.
Through a buttload of scholarship applications, never-ending visa paperwork, a few 4 am phone calls with my poor academic advisors in Miami, and a little bit of dry heaving over the amount of student loan debt I’m racking up, I’ve managed to study at universities in the UK, France, Australia, and Argentina. I’ve been a Fulbright student in London and a government intern in Buenos Aires. I’ve hiked the Camino de Santiago in Spain, dove the Great Barrier Reef in Oz and road tripped the North Island of New Zealand. I’ve been an upstanding young person at a Model United Nations in France and a very not upstanding young person at Oktoberfest in Germany. I’ve seen Stonehenge and the Eiffel Tower. I’ve touched glaciers and landmarks and every stray dog that will let me and an expensive sculpture hanging in the Tate Modern that I incorrectly assumed was interactive art and meant to be swung (I should stop touching things).
So, that’s where I am now: still alive despite my best efforts, incredibly unsure where I’m going next or what’s happening after graduation, but knowing damn well that I want to keep learning, keep exploring, and keep annoying people with my deep-seated political beliefs and global warming anxiety.
**names, places, dates, details, facts & entire story have been changed to protect privacy. They also differ dramatically with each retelling
If you’re still confused about what the hell you’re doing on this website, just know:
All I can tell you with conviction is that One Wild is a space for stories. I hope those stories can inspire you to question more and think more and laugh more and feel more. I believe in a lot of things and I believe that believing in things is important.
I believe in travel – in forcing ourselves out of our comfort zones to realize just how incredibly different and how incredibly the same we are to the rest of the world. I believe in education – in learning in whatever ways work for us and listening in humility before we open our own mouths to speak. I believe in living as an activist – in speaking up and showing up for what we believe in,
even if especially if it’s uncomfortable or scary or both.
And, most importantly, I believe that you cannot give fully of yourself to travel, to education, to activism, or – come to think of it – to anything, if your soul is not on fire.
Why does she keep bringing up the soul-on-fire thing?
What does that even mean?
Is she finna burn me?
No guys, chill. It’s a metaphor
Setting your soul on fire means uncovering that thing that makes you feel alive and terrified and incredibly brave all at once. It’s that passion for some dream or idea or desire that grows like ice and flame in your stomach and makes it hard to breathe. We may not know what it’s calling us to do or where it wants us to go, or what even the hell it is, but it’s there nonetheless.
I believe that feeling – that fire in our souls – is our calling, and I believe that we owe it to ourselves to chase the fire wherever it leads.
For me, that has meant stumbling around the world with a backpack, asking everyone I meet what they think about climate change, the global political crisis, and where exactly I can find peanut butter in these strange new lands.
For you, well, I don’t know, fam.
It’s up to each of us to discover, nurture, and chase our own fires. But, if you are looking for inspiration, it is the hope of all my wee little hopes that something you read here can start the spark or grow the flame. If so, I have done my job and can sleep peacefully at night beside my photoshopped picture of me eating ice cream with Joe Biden & Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Barack & Michelle are smiling warmly in the background. They served the ice cream. We’re at their house).
So, please, use this space (I have been told it’s called a “blog”).
Read my stories, write your own, question my thoughts, question your thoughts, tell me I’m wrong, tell me you agree, let me know I’m a gahblame idiot & please, for the love of all that is holy, instruct me how to stop growing a full new set of eyebrows every week.
Whatever you do here, do it for the fire in your soul. We’ve got worlds to build & words to spread.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your One Wild & precious life?”