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Between Self-Sufficiency and Interdependence

by Cole on January 31 2012

I’ve starting thinking about Transitional Twenties as the follow-up to the Terrible Two’s: a period of swinging wildly between self-sufficiency and total dependence. One day you’re eating every meal on a non-optional campus meal plan; the next you’re wondering exactly how much of your day needs to be devoted to grocery shopping, recipe planning and preparing dinner. Or if maybe toast counts as a meal?

When I started The Orchard I was organizing on campus around environmental and social justice initiatives, and filling a social void with projects like bookbinding, writing political essays, making bread or  pesto from invasive species. In summer I farmed in the deep humid parts of Virginia— buying nothing, growing food and learning everything from electrical wiring to how to lay drywall.

Although my life relied on the larger context of college, I haven’t felt that independent in the two years since graduating.

Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. —Mahatma Gandhi

In Boulder, fresh out of school, I was all sorts of prepared to increase my independence—because, right? No more curriculum, no more enclosed community of peers?

But I was reliant on larger systems like public transportation and federal education loans—and found myself feeling paralyzed, thwarted, and struggling to complete basic daily tasks. I resorted to asshole-behaviors that could shave a few minutes off my day, and had little time (or desire) for positive political choices.

Sometimes it’s nothing more than the paralysis of depression that keeps you from making positive choices toward self-sufficiency.

And Do-It-Yourself can easily sound exhausting instead of empowering. I grew up in a big, chaotic family where efficient choices often won over intentional ones, and I understand the logic. And being sleep deprived, frozen at a bus stop, and generally full of despair—these things make DIY sound exhausting too. Lots of environmentalist haters don’t understand that (I generally try to avoid them).

These days, with most of my time and energy devoted to a full-time job, paying back student loans, and wondering where the fuck I’ll be in a year, I’m back to baby steps when it comes to self-sufficiency. 

The good news

You find, stumble upon, or create smaller systems of interdependence that jolt you out of a routine and make those choices easier. Like, say, a house full of dumpster-diving communitarian radicals who shit in a bucket, write letters to prisoners, and love their neighbors.

Sometimes you need a radical jumpstart. Sometimes you need to make peace with baby steps.

Right now I’m making my own dish soap and detergent (shaved bar soap + arm & hammer + borax). I picked up a new bike to use in this absurdly warm winter.  I cut back significantly on my drinking habit and started growing teeny kitchen herbs.

First things first, y’all.

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