19.7% of 2023 is history and so is 100% of my plan for it
Abandoning my flawed motives and getting lost in life
In 2009, after attending a talk on economics and philosophy, my life took a dramatic turn. I went from being a high-earning self-centered corporate drone to a human being aware of my privilege and complicity. This moment of awakening (becoming woke?) changed the direction of my life and I am incredibly grateful for it. Now, 14 years later, I am going through a similarly dramatic and unexpected shift in my grounding and approach to life. Needless to say, all of my plans for the year are already out the window.
I’m not sure what has caused this newfound change, but losing a beloved mentor as well as my dog have made for a sad start to the new year. I abandoned my plan to move to France and finish the manuscript for my next book. I never even set foot in France or opened up that draft. After a six week whirlwind of four transatlantic journeys with visits to Ireland, Scotland and England amidst rapidly changing plans, I returned to Seattle about a month ago to rest and reset. It was only during this time of recalibration that I came to realize a fundamental shift in my foundation had taken place.
When I ‘woke’ up in 2009, my foundation shifted from wanting to live a life that maximized my personal wealth, power and pleasure to one devoted to social justice. I was no longer worried about myself, but instead with what I could do to make a positive impact in the world during my brief lifetime. I wanted to find the root of the world’s ills and settled upon the need for other people to undergo the same shift in consciousness that I had. My belief was that if everyone moved from a focus on individual wellbeing to global wellbeing, most of the world’s problems would go away - people would stop living lifestyles that destroyed the planet and exploited others.
My new foundation led me to (slowly) leave the corporate behemoths, pursue higher education, write, volunteer on social and environmental issues and strengthen literary communities. I also ‘found’ God about halfway through and felt a strong resonance with Christian and Baha’i teachings on social justice and ecology. All good things, at least on the surface. Underneath, I was always driven to change people’s behavior, to shift their foundation away from selfishness. However well-intended, I now see that this involved a lot of closed-mindedness and patronization on my part.
The shift that has hit me is one of no longer wanting to change other people. No longer thinking I know better. Still wanting to do good and make a positive impact, but without the motive of changing other people. Instead, I am now trying to love other people. I think I always thought that I (tried to) love others, but now looking back I don’t think wanting other people to change and loving them are compatible. I suppose it’s a shift from loving other people for who they could be to loving other people for who they are.
I’m not there yet, but it’s the only path forward that I can see. I have a history of being a very cynical person, so moving away from that mindset remains a struggle. I still want to leave the world better than I found it, but now I’m faced with the knowledge that to do so is not a matter of changing other people, even if it seems like the most efficient and logical solution to so many of the world’s ills. I’m still passionate about social and environmental justice. I still enjoy engaging the world through writing. But now I’m faced with a strange re-adjustment where I do the things I do with no hidden motive, no desire to change others.
To go full circle would be to abandon my drive to use my one precious life for the greater good by concluding that it’s impossible to improve the world without changing other people. To be ‘woke’ to injustice and abandon the pursuit of justice is a way of life I’m not suited for. Instead, I’m lost in a bit of a quandary trying to find a new way forward. Perhaps I now have pure motives in doing what I do, which is great, but it takes time to get used to. Rather than write, I’ve spent most of this readjustment period immersed in housing and environmental advocacy and service. But perhaps this post marks a personal milestone in my journey towards writing without hidden motives.