I can’t believe how quickly time is flying by these days. It seems like 2015 started just the other day, and now it’s almost August…
Where have I been this whole time? Well, let’s see. After my trip to Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage last Fall, I returned to California, feeling almost certain that I was going to pack up and move there in the near future. Yet, as I contemplated my next steps, the word that kept rattling around in my head was: sustainability. It was a concept I’d spent weeks thinking about and talking to people about with at Dancing Rabbit. After all, as an ecovillage, environmental sustainability is a fundamental aspect of the community, and is perhaps what they are best known for. But, what I learned in my weeks there is that there are many other facets to sustainability that are critically important. At the end of the day, any endeavor, environmental or otherwise, is only impactful to the extent to which it can sustain itself. This is true of businesses, non-profits, social movements, and of course, individuals.
Having gone through a couple of cycles of working, then burning out, then going off the (literal or proverbial) grid, then going back to work, it was clear that what I lacked in any of the things I did, was sustainability. Living in the woods was emotionally and environmentally sustainable, but not financially sustainable, and to some degree, also not existentially sustainable (living alone in the woods, I often felt a lack of a sense of purpose). Working in the city was financially sustainable, but not emotionally or existentially sustainable. So, it seemed clear that what I needed was to build a life that was financially, emotionally, and existentially sustainable, and to find a way to make that environmentally sustainable to the extent that I could.
Once I was able to frame life as this multi-variable sustainability equation, solving it became easier. Though the last several years have been tumultuous in many ways, by throwing myself into a myriad of situations (too many to list here), I was able to learn a lot about what I liked and didn’t like, what worked for me, and what didn’t. I had learned that I need a sense of purpose. I learned that I need to feel like what I’m doing has a positive impact on peoples’ lives in a tangible way. I learned that my work needs to align with my values. I find fulfillment in making things, and want to work with other people. I need a good balance between time to myself and time with people I feel connected to.
Long story short, I feel very fortunate with, and very happy about where I ended up these past several months. In February, I started working for an education startup in San Francisco, where I spend my days helping build a modern primary education system from the ground up. I joined the team after I heard about what they were doing, and thought to myself: “Wow, that’s the school I wish I could’ve gone to.” Coming from someone who hated school, that’s saying something. The one downside is that I don’t get to spend as much time in Serenity Valley, but I’m feeling pretty ok about that. At this point, it feels like a long term project, and I feel fortunate to have such an awesome “hobby” along with a job I love. You can’t ask for much more, really.
But, don’t worry. While the updates may be far and few between, this project is far from over. I still have Hut 3.0 to build, and I still have a dream of someday spending a year homesteading on the property… someday, when I have a family.
Ryo: It is, first of all, good to hear from you 🙂 And to know that you have taken a path that is “both/and” personally and societally sustainable is really wonderful.
My perspective as one looking toward to life’s conclusion, is knowingly less sustainable but not entirely. I too have contemplated moving to Dancing Rabbit ……….tho’ I have never visited, I ‘resemble’ your thoughts 🙂 Additionally, as arthritis advances my contributions to community would be limited.
Having found a plot of land nearby (in the only township without zoning) my purpose for this chapter is to construct a “hut” that touches the land lightly from which I can experience nature and daily rituals.
Reading “Space in Japanese Architecture” by Inuoe just before I dozed off last night, I am keeping in mind that “…. human life and human dwellings are temporary shelters”.
Looking forward to your good work. Sincere best wishes. Rich
Oh, Ryo, you’ve done it again. Your posts are always meaningful to me. They make me think about the big questions of life. There is much meat here for me to consider applying in my life. Thank you! And it’s always a pleasure to have another post from you.
Good to hear you have found rewarding work. Re. Serenity Valley, have you ever looked into Food Forests, a very sustainable type of permaculture? These forests, if well constructed, can last hundreds of years: a lovely purpose for a hobby and something that would keep you quite busy on your escapes! Lots of info at geofflawton.com, although I’m sure there are similar resources closer to where you live. And once you save a little money and establish a food source, who needs a regular job??! 🙂