Oh the days have been flying by…I’ve been so engrossed in serendipitous research that I hate to go to sleep. It’s really great!
I’d gone through a period of hating being stuck in this role as adoptee elder statesman, all communication being about adoption, adoption, adoption, adnauseum adoption, and was bemoaning whether it was even possible to ever escape , as other adoptees chuckled at my talk of opting out and told me with total confidece that I will always be involved, as I look at them and begin to hyperventilate, frantic.
And then I went through another period where I tried like hell to ramp down my activity and divorce myself in preparation for a total break but then went through not knowing what to do with myself. To add to my misery was being totally irrelevant at work and barely teaching at all for the past six weeks, which set me on a path to try and make my last semester teaching as valuable as possible.
And then something happened: I got engaged in immersion teaching techniques to a surprising degree. And pretty soon I was finding myself passionate about it! And it was so great to have my energies focused on something, as it’s been a chore to do any adoption-related work, so much so that I’ve not gotten anything done. I’ve talked to amazing innovative passionate teachers’ teachers like Ben Slavic who is like the Jaime Escalante (the calculus teacher in the movie Stand and Deliver who took at-risk students and helped them pass the AP SAT’s) of foreign language teachers (using unorthodox and maligned methods his students placed highest in the nation on SAT tests) and even helped him out, and it felt so great because I really believe in how he empowers students by making education be about them/respecting them as people. So researching how to reach my students is what I’ve been doing. Is this a calling? No. But finding Ben was a reminder that positive things engage me. Just like adoption work is not my calling, nor is blogging. But I do what I can when engaged. Fixing things engages me. But fixing them doesn’t bring me happiness. Creating things, now that brings me happiness. Connection to time and space. That brings me happiness. Dwelling, as Heidegger defines it, that brings me happiness.
Meanwhile, incubating for several months now, at this time where I am on the cusp of a new job and moving back to the U.S., has been this nagging idea that I was about to repeat all the same old wrong survival techniques that have always served me yet kept me also from self-actualization; those techniques being grasping for something somewhat rewarding yet sensible enough to not hurt myself, as if happiness can be rationalized. So that little something somewhat rewarding had to be amplified, and I would throw myself into it with as much zeal as humanly possible. That passion everyone so admires — some of it is misplaced energy, and some of it is gritting my teeth in determination to fix things in the most positive manner I can muster. Must make lemonade. Must do something worthwhile. Must do something to make myself feel better. It was desperate and hysterical.
There has always been a scale to what is sensible or not, and there has always been this notion that personal fulfillment was inverse to safety. And so, at every discontent I’ve always questioned whether I had sold myself short. And at every flight of fancy I’ve always questioned whether I had compromised myself, my family, my future…and though by others’ standards I have taken huge risks, they were never risky for me: they were always safe and sensible in the context of my own internal conflicts. Even coming to Korea was playing it safe because it was a resource for a steady income. Even coming home is safe, because I have a job lined up. And I have always played it safe because I’ve never felt confident that good things, things that make people happy, can happen to me. I mean, I can work hard and do anything I set my mind to and have, but achieving happiness is something that happens to blessed people, and I was born under a bad sign. I always felt a measure of fulfillment was as much as I deserved to ask for. So I always compromised by making sure things penciled out..
But now that I know better, and by that I mean I feel connected to myself enough not to ignore what my heart wants and be able to admit it and say it out loud, I had to ask what I’ve been shying away from. What have I consistently and repeatedly put away, dismissed, dropped, talked myself out of? What have all the things I have done danced around but not really addressed? What do I want that does not require some self-flagellating suffering, martyrdom, painful investment to feel like I’ve achieved something? What has always been there grabbing my interest in spite of myself?
That would be homesteading. Which is perfect for a generalist like me, who knows her way around a hardware store, who understands simple mechanics, who can grow things if she’s not at school full time and working half time, who can build things, who likes to draw plans and make schedules, who isn’t into hiking to get to the view but likes to note all the vegetation on the way and lie down in deer beds and pick berries, who loves to learn about systems and values self-sufficiency, who doesn’t mind getting dirty or shoveling manure or hard labor and loves organizing tools, who actually enjoys the OCD of weeding, etc. etc. And its bottomless research and never-ending learning is a goldmine of contentment.
It’s been my thing since about third grade when my aunt began to give me the “Little House” book series. I read all the Foxfire books and would hand copy all the useful information from them. I subscribed to Mother Earth News while in elementary and middle school. (weird kid, I know) Throughout high school I collected books on how to raise goats, chickens, make out-buildings, make solar ovens, slow-cookers, irrigate with gray water, learn the concepts behind drain fields and septic systems, learn about cisterns and showers, companion planting, making root cellars and food preservation, passive and active solar buildings, etc. I carried those books around with me for another decade after graduation, from job to job and house to house, and only abandoned them after I graduated from Architecture school when I gave up hope, locked into my educational investment, barely off welfare and in debt. It seemed frivolous at the time, or not fair to my family, or in the design world being green seemed like just another gimmick to market. Or its proponents were sanctimonious and exclusive. While I’m happy people are into it now and disgusted that it’s too often superficially fashionable, for me it seems like coming home to who I am and therefore it’s the most important thing.
So that’s the plan. Not art – too serious, and that would stress me out, always having to be profound, and I would quickly get tired of my own voice, just like I’m tired of this blog most days; and besides, that would be another instance of me being safe and sort of but not really doing what I really want. It will take many years just to save for a few acres and my very own shack, but hopefully I can do this before this body is too broke down, and in the meantime I can joyfully fill my spare time like I have the past few weeks, since I have to re-learn everything and catch up, as things have changed a lot in the past two decades and I’m not such an anomaly anymore.
And on the way I am finding new heroes, such as Alex Weir, who has devoted his life to economic development of third world countries and has probably helped millions of people by giving away a lifetime of work in permaculture, plans to simple machines, and computer programs which improve equality and connectedness for the dispossessed. 34 gigabytes of information – given away for free. That’s something I can respect. You know, there are those that want to be legends, and then there are these unsung heroes nobody knows about who quietly get the job done.
I don’t want to be an adoption reform hero. I’m happy to just have shared my attempts to sort out this complicated adoptee experience and hope it has helped some people. And so in honor of the life I am working towards, I purchased this peasant gear: which, btw couldn’t be better designed for comfort and functionality and a great tool that should be worn with pride. And with that there’s no further reason to write this blog! I may write about other things one day, who knows, elsewhere. And I may post an announcement if that book ever gets printed. But this chapter is closed. Happy ending!