Career transition Q; existential angst underlying everything

Lots of people out there are trying to transition to an occupation that’s closer to the earth, better for the planet, better for community.

Someone in one of the groups (Deep Adaptation on Facebook) posed the question, “What did you used to do, and how did you come to transition to what you do now?”

My answer: Way back in the olden days, I did desk jobs. Editing, translation. The way I transitioned was around 2005 I started taking permaculture training, attending permaculture events, volunteering on local urban farms, taking peace training etc — and that made me less and less able to tolerate working a pure desk job with little benefit to society, plus it helped me zero in on what kinds of work I really wanted to do.

What I do now:

For some years now I have been a self-employed eco-educator. Writing; teaching various kinds of workshops (a wide range from composting to consciousness!); making art/crafts; speaking. And in the past five years I added an eco-landscaping business to my mix of occupations.

And as of this past year, I am an end-of-life Doula in training.

Because the business model I chose for the landscaping aspect of my work is gentle and human-scale, and includes sharing a lot of business with young practitioners, I expect that I will be able to do this landscaping work even in old age if I choose.

I also do occasional house cleaning jobs, using eco-friendly techniques and materials.

The person who started the thread, asking people for ideas on how he might transition to a sustainable occupation, mentioned that he had experience in construction and boat repair from his younger days, even though he has been working in an office for most of his life.

I responded: I imagine there are always a lot of boats that need repairing! A neighbor of mine stayed constantly busy that way, and also with minor home repairs. (I expect he is still staying busy those ways; he’s just not my neighbor anymore bc he moved across the state.)

Do not underestimate the number of people out there who are looking for someone to do super basic installations and repairs. If what I read on next-door is anything to go by, just about anybody handy could make a living just by being their neighborhood handy-person. Being older and experienced is a plus in this case, as there are a lot of fly-by-night people calling themselves businesses.

Also: People talk a lot about when electricity disappears, when fossil fuels disappear etc. There is really no telling how/ when that will actually happen. And if it does, it’s not likely to be sudden. But, regardless, just about every type of machine that we now run on fossil fuels used to be run mechanically (by gravity, water flow, etc) / or manually. So there will be always a need for people who know how to retrofit machinery to be nature-powered / people-powered. Probably it’s a lot of the same people who know how to do basic mechanical stuff — small engine repair, etc.

And (I keep adding new thoughts as they come to me): A lot of people in these kind of groups express concerns along the lines of “When collapse happens and people will no longer be willing to pay for my professional services.”

First, I think our human brains just have a tendency to imagine super sudden finite events; it might be easier for us to wrap our brain around a sudden “collapse” than some gradual thing. But it seems just as likely that a gradual thing is exactly what’s happening.

Regardless, just because we move to a less money-based system does not mean the need for most occupations will suddenly just go away. I think deep down what a lot of us are worried about is, to sum it up in a very primal way, “Unless I’m really great at growing food, my existence is not going to be deemed worthy of supporting and nobody is going to be willing to keep me around.” I think particularly a lot of us older people feel that.

And for that primal worry, the cure isn’t to go move out onto some vast acreage and start clearing the forest and trying to grow vegetables; it’s to address the internal, emotional issue of worth within ourselves. We have created a culture where people are not seen as having inherent worth. That’s what we have to work on. We should remind ourselves of how each person around us is precious and irreplaceable.

Our (capitalist, colonizer) society is spiritually ill, and any of us who are on a sort of metaphysical or spiritual path have a role to play in healing the collective rift between our earth-based existence and our existence as spiritual beings.

And besides, a lot of things that aren’t considered professions or occupations right now are always going to be needed. Really basic stuff like carrying water, hauling stuff, keeping an eye on things, keeping an eye on kids, keeping an eye on animals. Actually, a lot of people right now are doing businesses around all of those activities. And it’s certainly not going to go away just because the formal money economy collapses (if that even happens).

One “occupation” that has always existed is “elder.” Person who knows stuff and is a resource just because they have lived longer. This role has fallen by the wayside in our present-day society, but it’s not gone, and in a less money-based society it will only get back to being a bigger thing.

Super condensed nutshell:

• Material remedy for the aforedescribed angst: Reduce, to a bare minimum, the amount of money you need to live. (And no this does not mean depriving yourself of treats. Do distinguish wants from needs, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get to indulge some wants.)

• Emotional/spiritual remedy for the aforedescribed angst: Make plenty of time for people and relationships. Make people and relationships the most important thing in your life, second only to your connection with God, higher power, spirit, the eternal — whatever you call it.

Finally, a word about spirituality; spiritual practices. The only spiritual practices I know that are truly effective are ones that include a healthy process of confession and atonement. First thing I ran across in my life that was effective was a 12-step program which I got into as a young adult. The 12 steps include a searching and fearless moral inventory, confession, and amends. It was life-changing, no exaggeration.

Later on, when a friend introduced me to the Avatar Course, I found the compassion and integrity and forgiveness work in the Avatar materials to be extremely deep and effective, and I use those tools on an everyday basis.

Since today is the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, I got curious about how my Jewish friends do their confessions. I had heard that their process includes collective confession and atonement, not just personal. I searched and found this page about Yom Kippur confession. Good stuff.