The hardest part is the start

By Susan Cousineau

Goedemiddag, friends. Let me introduce myself: I’m a 32-year old Canadian who has just completed a Master’s degree in Evolutionary Biology, for which I’ve spent the last two years studying in Europe, living in Groningen, Netherlands and Montpellier, France. (Prior to that, I graduated with a BSc. in Ecology from University of Calgary. I met Alla during our involvement with Alberta Acts on Climate Change and other initiatives at the university.)

Fortunate life, indeed. And yet, after completing my final thesis at the end of August, I find myself again at loose ends. It feels much like after I graduated from my Bachelor’s: the great wide open is terrifying.

Although in a (slightly) more coherent form, much of what follows came from an initial email that I popped off to Alla less than 24 hours ago. I hoped that just sending it out to someone would be a bit of a push to get headed in a direction – not even the right direction, just any direction would do.

I was spending a(nother) rainy Dutch morning floundering. This means: pouring through websites, comparing myself against the Who Are We and Our History pages, reading about workshops I’m either too old to take (youth being defined as 18-30) or won’t be present for or can’t afford, and trying to get my own ideas beyond the laying-awake-at-night stage. I have more scribblings and impulses than I know what to do with. On a leap of faith, I signed up for the Permaculture Design Certificate course with Geoff and Nadia Lawton in Al Jawfa, Jordan this November. Until then, though, I have a month to stew and clutch at my steadily decreasing savings, while trying to figure out what is “The Thing” that I will do with my life. It needs to be low-budget, to start; and portable. I’ll be on the move for some time, and returning to graduate school in the next year or two, quite possibly moving back to Europe. Given this kind of upcoming schedule, it also needs to be flexible: I’d like it to carry on through studies, kids, moves, countries. Finally, it needs to be (insert wry chuckle) *original*.

But rather than motivated and inspired, I’m left feeling overwhelmed by that destructive sense that “all the [innovative/new/interesting/groundbreaking] ideas are taken”. Is it better to launch something new and fresh, like opportunities for that middle age-not-yet-senior set of +30 to <50, or piggyback on something established, and help further efforts already set in motion? So much seems to require A Place and A Community, even though the digital age enables our networks to reach around the world.

It frequently occurs to me that this is not terra incognita. I keep returning to thoughts of the MWP, and what all those doing meaningful work have probably gone through to some extent, at some time. What would be great is to get into a LifeJAM, but of course, I won’t be in one place for that until December. I want to take the Next Up workshop – but since I’ll be turning 32 this October, it would be my last opportunity; and I’ve already missed the deadline, never mind the time and place issue. More pressing is that I want to do something starting *now*.

Fortunately for me, Alla is incredibly optimistic: to quote her delightful email response, “It sounds like you’re doing exactly what you should be doing.” Apparently, as I suspected, this is indeed all part of the journey and the ‘wilderness’ (to steal from the book “Making Good: Making Meaning, Money and Community in a Changing World”) of finding work that is fulfilling, sustainable, and all those yummy buzzwords that actually mean something to those of us looking to satisfy them.  So first blog post, here we go. The hardest is first to start, then to keep going long enough to build a bit of momentum. Wish me luck!