So community interests you? Good Work for those who have one. But do the rest of you know where you’d fit in?
Or perhaps where IT would fit into your life? Should we build a life around our community, or a community around our life? That’s one thing this website hopes to uncover. Community surely brings value to our lives, but how we choose to interact with it differs wildly.
Over the past 3 months, we’ve heard from people working in data management, community development, sustainable food, student engagement and on canal boats. We’ve also heard from travelers, students, graduates, and even a troubadour or two. They all interact with community in different ways. I want to thank everyone who has written so far and for those who will over the following months. As more of your write, this website will be a developing collage of perspectives on how community helps us to find balance. I passionately believe that being part of a community is essential to how balanced and happy our lives become. As the contributions grow, I’ll share my finding with you. If you’d like to contribute to the website, please fill in this form.
At the time of my last quarterly update I was living on a farm in Alentejo, Portugal, the owner of which had an interest in building an eco community. I didn’t want to go back to the UK just yet, so this opportunity seemed worth investigating. My focus became starting an event, however things didn’t quite go as hoped.
Sanctuary Festival was off to a running start, building some momentum, with a good team but a very short time in which to get a huge amount of stuff done. We had the support of local government, creatives and community groups. We were very ambitious and I still believe were capable of pulling it off, if everything had gone as hoped. However, one big thing I failed to predict was the amount of animosity surrounding the farm I was using for the event. It seems that some of the Northern European immigrant population living in Portugal have something against the farm owner and the way she treats her animals. There was a lot of “evidence” online to prove their claims, however it starkly contrasted with my own experience and that of others whom I trust.
However, I had to remain objective both in my assessment of the farm’s history and in my response to people who were getting personal and nasty with me publicly. I also had to defend the fledgling festival from being tarnished by issues that had nothing to do with the event itself. After plenty of investigation and reflection, I concluded that there was nothing untoward happening at the farm. Through this experience I feel that I’ve gained some useful insights into how people frame reality (they want to see abuse, so they see it) and perhaps some insight into how people use animals – who love them unconditionally – as a bandage for their past traumas.
Needless to say, Sanctuary Festival didn’t go ahead. There had been too much campaigning against us, making a viable level of ticket sales highly unlikely. Thanks to everyone who donated despite this – it was spent on food for the animals.
Getting established in Alentejo
So my focus shifted to the other stuff going on in my life. I had acquired a dog and needed to create a stable base for him (as I discussed in a previous post). Alentejo looked like as good a place as any to give it a go.
Meeting the locals
A few ideas were flung around during my time there e.g. establishing an English language school. But this would take time and I needed a more immediate source of income if I were to stay in Alentejo. So I linked up with an enthusiastic group of young people who were (and still are) knee deep in organising their town’s – Alvalade’s – Medieval Festival. They aspired to make their town more interesting and fun for their kids who currently have very little to do outside of school. This got me excited as I could see a space for my contribution to their noble goal – possibly teaching English and martial arts. However, after some further investigation, this also seemed to be financially nonviable.
As unlikely as this may sound, the bureaucracy in Portugal is far worse than in the UK. Not only are there more hoops to jump through, but costs are outrageous… If you’re considering becoming a self-employed person in Portugal, I’d think very carefully about whether you can bring in enough money to afford the taxes.
So for now I’m back on the Algarve looking for ways to make money moving forward. I’m also spending a lot of time “learning indiscriminately” as one friend advised, not least surrounding community. I’m getting back into some semblance of a routine, paying attention to the specific effects of the right food and exercise on my body.
Closing in on Good Work
After watching this talk about focus by Daniel Goleman (great guy – have a watch), I discovered the concept of Good Work. That is work that engages your skills, passions and values. If you can create this position your performance at said work will be excellent. Figuring out what work we’re most geared toward is not easy for a lot of us. Bit if you can find your Good Work (although this may change throughout your life) you’ll have something to structure choices around. Maybe even come up with a plan, but let’s not go crazy…
For many of us, we shut down our creativity and started ignoring our dreams during our socialisation and education (see this important video about the current UK/US educational model). In school we are mostly geared toward being stable part of the economic machine (at least in the UK – see what Finland are doing) instead of being encouraged to discover our natural gifts – we all have them!
So how do you figure out your Good Work?
To reconnect with what we’ve spent so long shutting down, we must pay attention to what excites us, as I suggested in this post. Also a good indicator is what you enjoyed doing as a kid, which Kevin discussed in this post. Here are a few more approaches.
For me, I’m people focused (although I appreciate the need for alone time). I love bringing people together and also helping them. Digging deeper – I love setting the conditions for, and facilitating an experience that people can take value from. An opportunity recently came about which may allow me to do just that, as well as planting me in one of my existing communities. I’ll let you know if it happens.
To round things off
I was a little disheartened about Sanctuary Festival. The past few months have at times being incredibly frustrating. However, I’m listening to my excitement and remaining open to opportunities. Although that excitement hasn’t led me to anything that can sustain me financially, perhaps that isn’t the point right now. I’m taking what I can from the experience. I’m circling closer to my Good Work and have some stories to tell!
In my next post I’ll be able to tell you about my 2 months travelling. I know I said I couldn’t leave my dog, but it seems a shame to waste thousands of pounds worth of pre-dog booked flights.
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