“The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
“But a real vision, a real change, isn’t safe,” Maya said. “You don’t pay a workshop fee for it, you pay with your life.” ~ Starhawk, Walking to Mercury
In recent “Cultural Emergence/Design Web’s Course with Looby McNamara and Delvin Solkinson , we were asked to draw our stories into a “river of life”…the question was: how did we get here? What steps, choices and moves happened in our lives that allowed us to be in the place we are now?
This is my recount and commitment: how I got here and where I’m moving towards…and why…
Five years ago, around this time, I finished my first PDC (permaculture design certificate). My life had started to be affected and changing long before that, when around 2011, I suddenly matched the dots between climate change, resource depletion and the big financial circus and “saw the Matrix…or I should say, as Gaia University puts it: the “Patrix”.
Few I would know by then that with the years, I would embark in a Life Journey that has now given birth to a new chapter…and the closing of an old one. Once again. (yes, I have closed and evolved many chapters in my 52 years on this planet)
This is the story of my life journey, the end of a chapter and the starting of something new…
If you have followed my journey, you’d know I live in a townhouse somewhere between Surrey and Langley suburbs, BC, Canada. I emigrated to Canada with my partner and two sons in 2004, running away from a politically, socially and financially messy Venezuela, where I had lived for most of my adult life, after getting there as a refugee from a coup d’état in my home-country, Argentina.
In Argentina, I grew up as a child living in the edges: the edges of society and mainstream. My mother, ant and uncle were all social justice activists and my childhood was spent in poor neighborhoods’ homes, many dysfunctional and abusive environments, but also a lot of freedom, particularly around connecting and playing in nature.
In my teens, I was forced to drop out of school at an early age to support my mom with extra income and caring for my siblings. Life became “easier” when I took the chance to stay in Venezuela alone at age 17, but still, working to support my basic needs was priority. I was taught from a very early age to feel ashamed if I ever complained for not having access to things that seemed easy for others: dream of a future, make choices in life that would include traveling, university studies, exploring spiritual or other “luxury/privileged” stuff.
I finally completed university college at age 38, graduating with an advanced diploma in educational psychology; in the meantime, I took classes whenever I could find the time or money on computer programming and systems analysis, education, languages (Japanese, French, German and English) and business administration. I read almost anything that I could put my hands into and never stopped dreaming and thinking…my life consisted of working for mostly underpaid jobs, even when I was good at what I was doing (but, I didn’t have a “degree”).
I had many “achievements” during those years: I became the manager of a small local travel agency (a low income job that allowed me to travel to many places I couldn’t afford otherwise); my passion for computers allowed another travel agency to have the first SABRE system for booking and communication in the area (in a time where Internet wasn’t even a dream); when I made my first “career change”, I quickly became a well-loved teacher and ICT coordinator: I would take the K-12 kids to field trips, teach them coding and, most importantly, thinking outside of the box and created a computer-science “club”. I installed a full LAN with Linux and created a curriculum for kids and teachers that included from history of computers to the future frontiers in sci-fi…I was the third first city resident to get an Internet account. I took the kids to watch Matrix and other movies and we had a movie-forum to discuss the future of humans and technology. I was part of a Linux group and the founder of “Linux en las escuelas, Open Source/Open Minds”, a project for kids and teens…
All this came to an end when we moved to Canada. That was the end of an entire chapter. And I was the one who initiated it: things had become stale in many areas of my life, and the Venezuelan environment was suffocating me…I needed to get out and start over again, fresh!
It took me four long and difficult years to completely “settle” in Canada. While my partner got a job right away, I had to stay at home with two young boys, low English and no idea of what to do next. I opened a small family childcare and dedicated to it three long years: I took the kids to field trips and swimming classes, played on the ground with them, did arts and cooked together. The kids taught me the English I needed and I learned the rest through online university classes.
When the time came, I closed the childcare and got my first job. I was convinced that my own journey and challenges, first as a refugee and later as an immigrant woman would help me to support other newcomers and refugees. I took a few certificates and courses and became certified as a “career development practitioner”, “adult educator” and “online instructor”, among other things…for 10 years, I’ve been working in different non-profit agencies supporting immigrants and refugees, as well as other vulnerable groups in getting back to a decent career/job in Canada.
In 2013, however, the crack was too obvious for me not to notice: I started noticing that my job was fueling a system of oppression and privilege, a system that still lived in a dying story of separation from Nature, each other and ourselves…my immersion into the permaculture/transition/ecopsychology path became more and more of a challenge to that job and the life it supported. I struggled for many years with my family and own very real needs: to pay mortgage, debt, support our families back in Argentina and Venezuela and support ourselves here as newcomers with no savings and no extended network. I considered to leave my job, my life and even my family behind and completely embrace a new life that would reflect my new found values and concerns…
My struggle reflected first on my emotional well-being and later my body: I became sick and unable to do many of the things I wanted. My body was screaming for a change!
Through those years, however, I started silently crafting a new livelihood: I made a promise to myself that I would find a way to experience in myself what I knew was a must of these deep times: the transition away from a degenerative, destructive and unethical way of supporting our needs to one that would be truly regenerative, ethical and supportive of resilience building.
I took courses and attended gatherings: from more permaculture courses to ecopsychology, ecotherapy, horticulture, herbalism, life coaching, Art of Hosting, Art of Mentoring, SoulCraft, Vision Quest and Cultural Evolution, the Renewal of the Creative Path, DreamWork, Holding Space, Storytelling for a new paradigm, Purpose Guiding, Design for Sustainability, Ecosocial Design, WTR Facilitators Training, Anti-oppression training, EDE, ToT, PcTt and so many others that it would take an entire post to name…I was exploring and digging deeply into many areas, trying to find the answer to the question: how do I live my life? What are my gifts I came to share? What is my Soul’s purpose?
In all those years, I also contributed as a teacher assistant, collaborator or contributor, many times without being fully recognized and my ideas, initiatives and work dismissed or plainly stolen. I also found myself being betrayed by false ideals and idols, finding that a lot of people in these movements and causes are still distilling the “old story” through acts of aggression, judgement, incomprehension, lack of empathy and compassion, selfishness and blaming, shaming and competing…I fell many times, found myself falling into a deep hole of nothingness, depleted of compassion and energy and wanting to close all my accounts, give up, scream at people and run away…it was a long and treacherous journey that has not yet come to an end, but has changed significantly.
My final version of what sustained my life and got me back again on the path was that of Thomas Berry referencing his life’s work and philosophy, based on his childhood’s meadow: “Whatever preserves and enhances this meadow in the natural cycles of its transformation is good; whatever opposes this meadow or negates it is not”….
Finally, last September 21 I worked my last day as a career counsellor/case manager and facilitator at the largest and oldest non-profit multicultural agency in BC. I quit my job.
I have no regrets: in many and mysterious ways, the things I lived through allowed me to connect, learn and experience many of the things other individuals are experiencing: from poverty to abuse to neglect to being in deep debt, to not seeing the way out, to becoming a refugee, an immigrant and so on. I was lucky and privileged to have been witness and able to support hundreds of children and teenagers, then immigrants, refugees and other vulnerable groups. My job allowed me to travel, experiment and train on many other areas (without it, I wouldn’t have been able to afford the training or traveling). I am grateful even to those who hurt me, because they too were carrying a burden not entirely of their own making…
There was one BIG TRUTH I discovered in my journey: that unless people (at both the individual and collective level) find creative ways to craft a regenerative livelihood, nothing will ever change.
I’ll repeat this because I think is one of the missing aspects of transition town, permaculture, ecovillage, social justice, environmental justice and similar initiatives, and is the key factor that keeps people locked into a degenerative, destructive, consumerist, capitalistic and extractive system: people need creative alternatives for their livelihoods, and this will not come only from creative and inspired individuals, it will come from a collaborative, intentional effort of both individuals and communities, from ground-up and top down initiatives, from emerging organizations and networks, and needs to happen fast!
It also needs to happen at the same time as the other massive change we know is needed and possible: from fossil fuels to more regenerative sources of energy and resources, and the biggest change of all: the change of the underlying story that has created this in the first place! : the story of separation and duality, the story of hatred, aggressive responses, blaming, shaming, power-over and privilege.
And...it needs to happen in an environment and approach that invites and embodies humility, openness, awareness, acceptance of our own mistakes, acknowledgement of our privileges and tons of compassion…
That’s how it has changed for me: I’m now completely aligned in my livelihood, but it wasn’t easy or free and it is still evolving, as I still need to align my needs and wants and embrace community. Now, instead of working to support the mainstream system, I work to empower peoples and emerging systems in different ways:
My commitment to the Great Turning, as Joanna Macy has called the change that needs to happen, is set and sacred: I’ve seen and experienced enough and I’m fully ready for the next chapter. I can no longer carry the diminishing beliefs that I’m not enough, that I’m not yet ready, that others are better than me, that my work has no value or that that I’m too old, too sick, too much in pain, too busy or whatever other disempowering beliefs I may carry…
Permaculture and Earth activist, Starhawk once told me that when we delay giving away our gifts to the world, everyone suffers. She encouraged me to find my own voice and use it.
The recent workshop on Cultural Emergence Design Web with Looby McNamara and Delvin Solkinson showed me that I already have the tools and resources I need, that waiting for a perfect “me” or a perfect moment, family, partner, body, health, place, job or circumstances will only put the entire world on hold and my gifts, whatever they are, will never emerge…(you can take Looby’s course online for an intro)
This is the river of My Life, the ever evolving new chapter, the Path my Soul chose to follow, whatever that means…
May you find your path and gifts, and the strength and resolution to share them with the world…
“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.”
~ Rumi, The Essential Rumi
“The future depends on what you do today.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi