I’m embarrassed to admit how close to home this image currently hits. (I also apologize if the F-word offends: I think “La, la, la, la, I’m not listening” would have worked just as well for the red bar, but alas, the cartoonist didn’t consult me.)
When I left my school and choir and friends in Colorado, I went with what seemed like a decent plan: take the several months’ savings I’d accumulated and embark on a quest to realize more of my “money, mission, mate, and home” mantra. Lately, however (as I’ve detailed in such recent posts as “Mildly Manic Mondays,” “Oh, the Things I Don’t Know” and “Four-Month Checkup“), I’ve stumbled into a period of self-doubt—not to mention its evil twin, second-guessing (Should I have given up full-time Sudbury staffing? Should I have left Colorado? What if I’d stayed and pursued my CASE dream there?)
Well, to paraphrase Popeye, I am where I am, still clinging to the belief that for the reasonably mindful person, there’s no such thing as a mistake. (Actually, there’s a good Sudbury post in this: how conventional students learn to avoid, if not fear, mistakes, whereas in Sudbury schools we see them for the excellent teachers they are.) Much of the time, I am able to tell myself (and others) brave things, to open to all aspects of this adventure I’ve given myself. Yet too often, I must confess, fear of The Mistake often makes it difficult for me to think straight.
Of course, this makes me wonder whether all the time I’ve been spending at the local Zen center is having any effect, or if this too is either a long-term process or a waste of time. Shouldn’t I have acquired a little more equanimity by now? Or has my practice actually helped and kept things from seeming even more challenging than they already do? Am I progressing more than I realize?
Stepping out of the worry for a moment, I wonder: What might an honest assessment of my situation reveal?
Financially speaking, over the past four months I have, on average, kept my spending within my minimal budget: at this rate, I could continue not generating income for at least a year and a half. So far, so good, then. (Of course, my current lifestyle is hardly viable, relying as it does on a distinct lack of health insurance or an automobile, let alone savings for the future. But for now, it’ll do—and my record over the past quarter-plus should ease my fears of imminent bankruptcy.)
Yet one’s conditioning is not easily talked down from the ledge, and I do not want to spend through my meager savings or hope that my health and my bicycle will carry me through however many months it takes to right this fiscal ship. More bluntly, this hemorrhage of savings is driving me nuts. There may be no need to panic, but it’s time to get moving.
And that’s where my real concerns lie. I’ve been in Austin four months now, and how much closer am I to my dream of living in a place that feels very much like home, making a decent income doing mostly things I love? More to the point, how avidly have I been working to manifest this dream?
I have to wonder whether I’ve overextended myself with enjoyable, yet non-paying, pursuits. In the recent posts cited above, I detailed my current routine of school, Zen center, and choirs. Granted, I initially took on more hours of school and choir per week than I’d intended. Is it time to scale back on one or more of these? Perhaps, but that’s not a pleasant thought. For one thing—the phrase “making a living” comes to mind—making music is one of those things for which I live.
As for staffing at Clearview Sudbury School, it’s already somewhat frustrating (as I’ve written elsewhere) to work only part-time at a place where I have a full-time passion. Besides, even when CASE does take off, I believe it’s critical for those involved to maintain an active presence in Sudbury schools. I don’t want a nonprofit that’s disconnected from life in the trenches of those it supports. Plus, Sudbury staffing is just too engaging and meaningful.
Anyway, two days a week should be enough time for CASE, shouldn’t it? So why am I not getting more done? It’s easy enough—or least was, in the early going—to write off this perceived lack of productivity as the price of settling in to a new location and routine. After a third of a year, however, this excuse is wearing thin, and I can’t honestly say I’ve been living like a weasel when it comes to nonprofit-building. (For one thing, there’s this blog, which may be well be more a waste of time than an exercise in networking and brainstorming.)
Personally, leaping into uncharted territory is very challenging, as prone as I am to that sort of behavior. As much as I love creating something new, there’s no map here, no user manual. No one can point out what to do and where to go, what I should be doing at any given moment or even how best to prioritize my efforts. This lack of guideposts and benchmarks makes the already tiring work of blazing a new path even more exhausting.
Yes, it would be wonderful to have an angel bless me with a start-up grant, or to enjoy more consistent support from my Sudbury colleagues, many of whom are either too busy or skeptical of CASE to be much more than spectators for now. But again, I am where I am, and the question remains: Where do I go from here?
At some level I feel as though I’m undergoing my own remedial Sudbury education: learning confidence and self-direction; learning to trust my intuition and realize my goals. In the meantime, however, I have to make some decisions.
First and foremost, should I move “generating income” above “living my life” and “building/promoting CASE” on my list of priorities? In other words, is it time to polish my freelance writing/editing resumé or go off in search of the dreaded day job? (I’ll admit, I was looking at the university and state government as potential fallbacks in moving to Austin.) That wouldn’t seem to square with my quest, but it might be the smart or prudent course.
Should I do something drastic? For example, I could make arrangements for my belongings and my cat and become a Sudbury gypsy for a time, wandering from school to school…or I could plan to through-hike the Appalachian Trail next spring…or I could arrange to spend several weeks at a Zen monastery somewhere.
Should I make minor modifications to my current schedule? I could look into singing in one choir instead of two and/or cut back on my volunteering at Clearview. I could blog less frequently, try to spend less time online in general. I could draft some kind of plan where I peg some more drastic change to a certain drop in savings or a certain amount of time without generating significant income.
Or should I just suck it up, summon even more discipline, and make use of the time and money currently at my disposal?
Yes, maybe I should just get back to work.