Hi! I’m Karishma and I’m 23 years old. It’s hard to articulate where I’m from because I’ve lived in so many places, but I’m of Indian origin. I was born in India and we moved to the Middle East for a while, and then lived in the United Kingdom, and then we moved here to Canada in 2014. That whole journey is part of how, as you said, ‘Climate Girl’ became part of my identity.
In moving around so much, one effect that it has on you is that you lose friends a lot, especially when you’re a kid and you’re getting close to people and getting into friend groups. Then suddenly you move and you’re in a whole new place. I never had many friends growing up, and that’s honestly the truth. Even today, I would say I don’t have that many friends. I have a close circle of people who mean a lot to me, but I’m not that kind of person who has a lot of friends and is ‘popular,’ whatever that means to people.
But I guess what started to happen was my family became something that was really constant to me throughout my life, and also nature and being outdoors. I’ve always been an outdoorsy person, and every time we moved, everything would change… except for the fact that I could always go outdoors and be happy. I could always be in nature and enjoy it, and that was one constant. In India, it would have been the monsoon season, and [in] the Middle East there were deserts. I’m fortunate to have seen so much of the world, and it also forged this connection with nature and inanimate things in the natural world. It started to become a source of comfort and a source of familiarity to me, and so I have always been close to nature.
When I was going into high school, it was the age where everyone wants to be cool, wants to have friends, wants to fit in, likes the things that everybody else likes. I think it’s one of the really shitty parts of the high school and middle school system, the fact that you feel pressure to fit in. So I started letting go of those things that made me happy, and I started acting in what I thought was the ‘right’ way to act. Going to the mall with my friends because that’s what everyone did, or wanting to go to the movies. And if that’s what makes you happy then you should do it. But that just wasn’t what made me happy, and I started to not feel like myself. I knew I was suppressing the things I really cared about to fit in. For a lot of people, you can get really sad and feel detached from yourself when you do things you don’t like, and then you don’t feel like yourself.
So when I joined university, it was a whole new experience of meeting people that had a lot of different likes and interests, as opposed to my small-town high school, where everybody was kind of trying to be each other. In my fourth year, I was lucky enough to go visit my boyfriend, who was working in Vancouver at the time. I honestly experienced nature and the outdoors in a way that I’ve never experienced before. Everyone knows that the West Coast is beautiful. Even I knew that before going, but it wasn’t until I got there that I was just in awe. I felt so, so happy being there and being outside. I didn’t know anyone there except for Karna, my boyfriend, who was working during the day. When he would work I would spend time outside, and I had no one to put a face on for, no one to prove anything to. I was just there for me. We’d go on hikes, we’d bike around outside, and I was starting to feel like myself.
And then when I came back, I felt like everyday life jaded me a little bit, and like the things I was doing — going out, partying — were fun, but weren’t what I really liked. There was just a moment in time where I was posting on Instagram, and it was a picture of me going to a party or something. I just remember feeling like, ‘everyone else is posting this too,’ and I knew it wasn’t bringing me happiness or a sense of purpose. I thought about the time I was in Vancouver, and I was thinking, ‘the world is so beautiful, I want more people to see this and to stand up for this’. At the time the climate movement was growing really strong. It was the end of 2019 when Greta and her movement were at a peak, and that was also on my mind. I just thought, ‘this is the day I’m going to change, and this is the day I’m going to start being myself and talking about the things that make me happy, regardless of whether other people care about them or not. Because I’m not doing it for other people, I’m doing it for me.’
I kind of just dove in headfirst. I know a lot of people don’t use their personal account as their ‘business,’ or creator or blog account, but I fully went in and switched my personal account to that. I didn’t want there to be more than one version of me or more than one identity of who I am because I’ve lived life like that for so long. So I changed everything completely, and since then I’ve been laser-focused on climate. It was like hopping on a train: there was no stopping and there was no looking back, and I felt like me. And on that journey, I met so many people — virtually and in-person — that shared the same passions as me. I think it helped me realize that once you start owning who you are, and once you start being shameless about it, you realize that people actually love that about you. And you meet people who might think the same way as you, and you start to feel less alone and more empowered.