Pursuit of an Extraordinary Life

Submitted by Suzanne St Peter on

When still a babe, I internalized the story that a good serious person cultivates a clean, technical set of interests, and pursues them with uncanny passion until one’s efforts are duly exchanged for money-money. I swear, sometimes I still think that idea might work out for me, but mostly I work for pennies-pennies, trying to save the world from imminent climate catastrophe.

Classified as an “unconventional student,” I came to CHID after ten years of infrequent schooling from various institutions of higher learning across Texas. In that time before CHID, I was an artist, a printmaker, a nefarious head shop worker, a knife salesman, a job coach, an advocate, a companion for the dying, an organizer, a traveler, a too-frequent partier, and some odder characters in between.

Intent on becoming a bigger grown-up, I naturally joined CHID to pursue my *serious* career in post-structuralist philosophy and cultural studies. I had an erotic relationship with the library stacks there, but chronic anxiety in the classroom… when I wasn’t moved I was confused. At CHID I painted, wrote prose, and read with my eyes crossed so that I might see. My best works were incomprehensible compositions written in the style of Nietzschean bravado. My thesis became a love story on disability and theatrical spectacle. Those two years - a psychedelic training that felt disjointed until it was all over.

This winding path forced me to question life on a truly existential level. And honestly, nothing could have better prepared me for the extended existential challenge of my work today: The ambitious adventure of trying to save the world from catastrophic climate change.

I work with a group called Climate Direct Action, whose mission is to inspire and commit bold unprecedented acts that directly interrupt the harm done by the fossil fuel industry and communicate the urgency of climate change. The group’s seminal action last year shut off emergency valves on every tar sands pipeline running into the US, in solidarity with the peoples of Standing Rock. My friends and colleagues, (including my husband) face felony charges for this action, and as much as twenty years in prison for what Reuters called the “largest coordinated environmental action in US history.”

For Climate Direct Action, I am a project manager, activator, fundraiser, community organizer, events coordinator, writer, and social media shaker. I’m also a mother of three human beasts, an artist, a player, a puppet master, a storyteller, and the occasional candle-stick maker. In CHID, I found a corner of an institution that validated my natural inclinations and desire to envision a world not determined by the structural forces that constrain most thinkers. The return on my education has been invaluable: I learned to map power in order to dismantle it. I disabused myself of capitalistic interpretations of my own value and agency. And I struggled with my existence, shedding the fear that holds most people back from pursuing truly ambitious courses of action. I work from an understanding that we are among the last generations to either live on this planet or we have to save it. Either case calls for the pursuit of an extraordinary life and I’m grateful that CHID helped me live and realize mine.

By Nicole Bradford, CHID Alum