“By the time I quit my job at the call centre, it seemed to me that the sunrise industry was a rather fake world, dressing up its ordinary routine work in the tinsel of youthfulness. From the internet terminals scattered along the passageways, to the food courts,the recreation room with pool tables and the pictures of workers with American flags painted on their faces, the bigger outsourcing offices gave the impression that they were Western college campuses. But there wasn’t much freedom in these outposts of the free world, with their sanctioned fifteen-minute bathroom breaks for every four hours of work. they were places where along with the monotony and stress of the work, the modernity of India became an ambiguous phenomenon rather than a market of irreversible progress. It seemed that I was not the only one there with a fake identity.”
– The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India by Siddhartha Deb
Each Wednesday afternoon until late evening, my daughter and I bundle up to meet with the interesting inhabitants of Southeast Portland, Oregon. On those few short blocks, people either know me by name or my daughter. Some even go so far as to respect my opinion. Occasionally there is music, lots of delicious food, and plenty of open and talented folks in local farming, craft and art. The experience is an intimate one, and a great event to look forward to with my three year old.
Sipping at hot mugs of tea or soup, we watch the rain fall and the city move. Our tent stands by Missy’s, the botanist who sells natural remedies and recently opened a school for studying herbalism. Across the way are the masa people, who generously lavish my daughter with fresh tortilla samples. Down a few yards is Danell with the best deal on beeswax in the city. And the Mushroomery people, I always go to them with questions and pictures of strange fungi I came across. The woman with my favorite honey only comes every other week. She sells from the back of her Subaru. Last week she came with persimmons from her front yard for 50 cents… ‘nough said.
You might know I work and live on an organic farm operated by an ambitious and anarchist agronomist in the Pacific state of Washington, Lyle Stanley. Working the farmer’s markets downtown is how I get away from real life. Recently though, I’m finding it’s more the only part of my life that’s real.
Life as a student is wonderful. I know how to read textbooks, write research papers. I know how to pass tests. My brain is a sponge, and the last months have nearly blown my head off . Short term memory becomes an art. It feels good to show proof that I am educated, but recently I wonder with such tunnel-vision, perhaps the light at the end of my path isn’t so bright. Why must I prove intelligence? Do I need permission to use it? It certainly takes a lot of money to buy that permission. In truth I go to school to prove to my educational system that I know everything I do. Everything beyond what I know can be found in a book, internet journals and YouTube. Meanwhile, it costs thousands of dollars that I can’t pay back without being a slave to paychecks to be trustworthy.
Real opportunities have budded. They crave for my affection and devotion, looming over my head like curious children. My self-imposed Facebook black-out transformed into a car accident that left me transportation-less, a kitten that chewed my laptop power supply into pieces, and a long-coming family throwdown. My guess is my angels were running out of ways to isolate me, so they threw everything under the bus in hopes that I would recognize where I am. Oh, and indeed, there I discovered a culture beyond my own experience…
Mornings with tea, books and needy animals that scamper behind my feet. Days conducting preschool lessons. Afternoons of intense labor and innovation. Evenings with people who share an array of generosity and talent. Community creating compassion, all in the company of my daughter. Had I only known what waited behind the glitz and glamor of modern society! I spent 10 months on the farm and I am already at the threshold of starting at least two businesses! (If I think I am ready for them.) Opportunity hangs still and patiently in front of me, altogether genius and risky, waiting eagerly for my signal. I could have avoided $20,000 of school debt and a lot of dignity, for the work I do now is priceless. There is no authority telling me where to start. No guidance for my questions. Cue dilemma.
How do I fend for myself without someone telling me what to do?
That wasn’t something I learned in school.
Teach your children well:
War is an excuse.
You have food on your table.
Power is a sickness.
You have friends.
Competition is an illusion.
Be a family.
It’s a wonderful life.
Detached aggression and mental illness don’t have to wait at the door.
That other life… makes people go crazy.
Don’t do anything today, unless it is in love for another.
Don’t betray your instincts. All will be provided.
Want Less. Love More.
ever truly your favorite prairie muffin,
Nellie Ann ❤
- Embracing the Humanity in Others: Mass Shootings and Attacks Against Children in Schools Around the World (adamevenevenadam.wordpress.com)