The Peckham Geographer
Being ‘The Peckham Geographer’ (a nickname I gave to myself in year 7) wasn’t an easy ride for me as throughout my journey I found it difficult to even refer to myself as ‘The Peckham Geographer’ without the fear of criticism from my friends, family and the people of Peckham. So yeah, to keep it real with you, life was pretty bleak at the beginning of my journey. Therefore, for my first piece, I thought I’d write about my journey with Geography. Starting from where the passion began to all the trials and tribulations I faced along the way and how I overcame them. This is so that you can get to know me a bit better as well as gain some motivation in any pursuits you may have – So let’s get to it, here is the tale of…. The Peckham Geographer!
Primary School was the beginning of my curiosity for Geography. It was at a school trip to a butterfly exhibit where I was fascinated by the array of butterflies fluttering across the tent. It was then that I thought to myself, how did the butterflies become so different from one another in shape, colour and size and why did we need to protect them. With these questions in mind, after school had finished, I went home to watch a documentary about butterflies and that’s where it all happened. Ever since that documentary, I wanted to learn more and more about the environment around us and what we could do to protect it. From this, I started to read and watch documentaries about global issues throughout primary and secondary school, becoming interested in the interactions between animals and humans. It was during this stage that I aspired to be a zoologist to follow in the footsteps of Sir David Attenborough. Soon came sixth-form where I picked A-level Geography due to my prior interest in the environment and it was at this part of the journey that my love for Geography reached new heights. A-level Geography exposed me to an array of issues that impact our world and provided the means to resolve them. This inspired me to want to make a future out of tackling prominent problems to preserve nature. Because of this, as the idea of going to university came around the corner, I knew it was Geography (particularly physical Geography) that I was going to pick as my degree choice. No other subject filled me with so much joy and fascination than Geography and I just knew everyone would be just as glad.
Sadly, I was wrong. Me being ‘The Peckham Geographer’ was not taken very lightly from my friends and family. You would expect all of my friends to be supportive in my ambitions yet some of my friends laughed at my environmental-related plans. Some said the whole idea was “stupid” and that since I’m black I should “focus on human rights issues solely”. In addition to this, friends also questioned my beliefs. For instance, one of my friends pulled me up on my eating habits and stated that “if you cared for the animals then you would not be eating them”. Although this isn’t necessarily a negative criticism, it made me wonder whether I actually cared for the environment or just found it interesting. My parents weren’t any help either as they also criticised my passion saying a “geography degree is a waste of time, just go do business or something”. All of these critiques made me question the very dream and passion I had for the environment. It made me question even doing Geography at degree level and just maybe pursuing this passion as a hobby. Nevertheless, what I’m about to say would have sounded crazy to me during this painful period and maybe even to you but, I used the criticisms as fuel to drive my passions for Geography even further. From what my friend said about my eating habits, I started to implement habits I could do to reduce my impact on the environment. Even what my friends and family said made me read more on global issues so that I could prove to myself how important being a geographer is to this very planet! So, to answer your questions… Yes, I chose Geography at university! Yes, my interest in Geography grows more and more each day! Yes, I didn’t let critiques and criticisms get in the way of my ambitions! Even though this is all true, the road to getting there wasn’t easy, which leads onto my next point.
If you’re interested in the environmental sector and all it has to offer, well here’s some advice for you. Follow your passion no matter what! Take me for example, if I didn’t follow my passion and listened to all the negativity about Geography, I wouldn’t be here writing to you, I wouldn’t have picked Geography and be as happy as I am now. I know it’s easier said than done but don’t stop fighting for your dreams because when you start to see your dreams becoming a reality, that’s when your life truly begins. Furthermore, you can care about the environment and be black! I understand that black people face oppression and inequalities on a global scale but that doesn’t mean we should also neglect the environment. My race shouldn’t determine my interests and it shouldn’t determine yours. So, if this applies to you, be the black geographer you’ve always wanted to be, no matter what anyone says!
To conclude, I hope this piece helped in you getting to know me and my Geography journey. I also hope that you feel a little more driven into achieving your current aspirations as in life you only do get one shot, and so the real question is… What are you going to do with it?
2nd Year BSc Geography at The University of Sussex
Thank-you for sharing your story – my students in Luton have enjoyed reading it and using it as a springboard to think about their own aspirations for the future. Good luck in the rest of your degree.
Your story made me reminisce on the similar issues I faced when I chose to do Geography as a degree in Jamaica. However, I have never regretted it. Geography is one of the few subjects which has much in common with other sectors such as the economy, health, the physical and human environments. I am currently a Geography teacher who enjoys expanding minds to think like Geographers do.
I look forward to more publications from this blog.
Rhyan, Good on you. As a Geography lecturer at Aberystwyth University, I enjoyed reading your story and am glad that you followed your own interests and instincts to do what you wanted to do. I hope Geography leads you to where you want to go in life.
Love this post. Thank you for writing it. As a geography teacher near Peckham (Sydenham) would be honoured if you wanted/ were available to speak to some of our geography students?