Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Stranger in a Strange Land

Do you ever get the sense that you tick to the beat of a different drum or that you will never really fit in with society?

Two nights ago I watched a Night Line special called "into the wild" where they found and documented lost tribes of the Amazon. It touched me so deeply that these kind simple people are being driven to the point of extinction because of the motivations of big business. I am talking about the literal destruction of entire civilizations - the genome left to 6 elderly members - because one government is in pursuit of greater ranching lands or trees to cut down. Other civilizations still thrive, but face the imminent threat of extinction if the Amazon river is dammed - the fishing will cease and the people will die. Period. These people want nothing to do with larger society. They want the freedom to live as they have for thousands upon thousands of years.

This really got me thinking about how different life would be if we lived in a way that was closer to the land, with less focus on money, and more focus on family community. I think back on how from colonial times to the early 1900's we still lived in an agrarian society, with respect for the small farmer and a greater connection to those around us. I reflect on how I have never been drawn towards big business and how infuriating the current Wall Street bail out feels to me. I've never felt the need to pursue money, make a lot of it, or gather possessions. I want to teach or grow or help. That's all I have ever wanted.

Last year I started volunteering again. It felt wonderful to help - to find a group that needed help. The thanks I received was touching but more so embarrassing or unnecessary. This is after all what I have always wanted to do. I am philanthropic by nature, I donate services, time or effort to support a charitable cause. My life goal is to promote good and improve the human quality of life while having no interest in the finances of it all. I have learned to give myself to others and help others in need. I care deeply for those around me, the earth, and everything on it. I have nothing but the best intentions.

This fall, the league I volunteer for has merged with a larger league. In the past month, I have felt the sense of joy I get from helping slip through my fingers. What once was a nice charitable organization is now becoming a big business. I have been misunderstood and then called out in emails inappropriately, when a simple phone called would have cleared up misunderstandings, and allowed for clarifying questions. I have missed meetings only to then been told what to do without any choice. I have asked for things to be done, and then had the president dismiss my requests and state the direct opposite to the rest of the board. I feel uncomfortable in the meetings, I don't feel like I am having fun anymore. I feel constricted, micro managed, misunderstood and disliked.

Now clearly, I can stop what I am doing, I can cease to help and have a bit more time to myself. But this brings me to a sense that I am a stranger in a strange land. I don't like big business. I don't like hierarchies. I don't like teaching in public schools. I don't believe in cookie cutter teaching, cookie cutter housing, for that matter cookie cutter presidents. I believe in individuality, compassion, and sensitivity.

I don't think there is anything wrong with this. I just feel alone, horribly alone at times. I feel sometimes like I am so different from the majority that I stand out like a sore thumb even though I look like just about everyone else. I want to find the right fit. I miss the sense of community I once had. I miss the school I used to teach in. I miss the school my eldest was raised in.

I cried myself to sleep last night. I cried because I feel so different at time, and so alone. I cried for worry that we as a species are moving in a horribly wrong direction. I cried for my husband who loves me for who I am, wouldn't change a thing, and agrees that he too feels like the odd man out at time. He's just got a thicker skin and can play the game. I'm just not interested in playing the game. I'd rather walk away and enjoy my peace and quiet on my small piece of earth and dream of a better day when we all care to live in a more sustainable way.

I am in search of a fit and a greater sense of community. I have a deep need in my heart to know that we as a nation, we as a people, are headed in the right direction. I need to figure out a way how to navigate through my fear, my anxiety, and my sense of dread. On a more imperative level, I feel the need to belong to something, outside of my family, that needs and wants my contribution. I don't want to feel like a stranger in a strange land anymore.

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