Re-integration and future plans

November 15th, 2009 by scott

I wrote this a month ago today, with plans to publish it in a day or two, but then life intervened. Our church has a yearly “Holly and Lace Bazaar” where we sell used goods to raise money, and it is a huge production. Over 350 volunteers, thousands of visitors, and a Facilities Coordinator who has just discovered a serious heart problem. “Who can we ask to fill in? Scott just got back from a trip and hasn’t started working yet…” So I’ve spent the past month on a very steep learning curve, figuring out all the logistics and requirements around set-up and tear-down and balancing the often-conflicting needs of the various organizers. A great exercise in project management, but not how I was planning to spend my time. The bazaar was yesterday, and most of the tear-down is now finished, so it’s time to get back to what I started…

——

It is very strange to be back in Ottawa, both familiar and very different. From what I’ve heard from others, this is to be expected – whenever one spends time in another environment, coming back to the familiar may not seem that familiar after all.

My biggest stressor so far has been all the stuff we have. After living on a bicycle with only what we could carry, a full house of accumulated stuff seems excessive, but I struggle to get rid of any of it. The big things that are solely my responsibility are the contents of my office (lots of papers, computers and electronic equipment) and the workshop (lots of tools; from a table saw and floor-standing drill press down to many clamps and screwdrivers). Before we left, Becky did a lot of work to de-clutter her personal stuff, both clothing and office, and has done well weeding out the kitchen since our return. I have not done so well.

Our sporting equipment is another big chunk that needs weeding through. Between equipment for sports we rarely play (e.g. hockey equipment) and multiple versions of the same piece of equipment, that’s another big chunk of space and stuff. I’ve been reading Zen Habits and Unclutterer as inspiration for simplifying my life, but have not yet reached any epiphanies.

One thing which did stick with me was the idea of clutter as procrastination. Any time I put down something not in its correct place, I’m procrastinating dealing with it correctly, and it becomes clutter, which results in later stress and effort. As I sit in my office and look around, I can see piles of stuff like that. This sort of procrastination-induced clutter is really a tax on my future self, since the piles cause me stress, and they will need to be dealt with again.

{insert brief pause while I quickly move stuff out of my direct line of sight, either into an inbox for later processing, or away if it is an easy and obvious thing to do}

…Ahhh… If not perfect, at least the clutter on my desk now has a proper home.

As I go through this exercise of de-cluttering and organizing, I need to remind myself why I’m doing it. As we travelled, I realized that I was not content with my former life in high-tech and telecommunications. It was interesting work, and often technically challenging, but it never fed my need to make a difference in the world. Helping big companies solve technical problems, and allowing the people of the world to be more connected (if only in a small way) is a good thing, but I look at the inequities of the world, and humankind’s focus on the near term and immediate self-gratification, and think that there must be some more meaningful contribution I can make.

I started to think about this as we were riding, but found that the day-to-day effort of riding, finding food, and finding shelter in strange places (and foreign languages) prevented much deep reflection. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs at work!

I also need to bounce ideas off of people in order to refine them, and didn’t want to inflict all of that on Becky. I thought that the simplicity of life on the ships might help, but there we were recovering (and getting caught up on photos or blog posts) or getting ready for the next phase. As well, there was always something new and shiny to look at on the ship, whether up on the bridge, in the engine room, or walking around the deck.

Now that I’m back in Ottawa, I’ve decided not to look for work, and instead focus on this search for a different path. Even without looking for work, I find the activities of daily living taking over, and it’s easy to lose sight of my goals.

Speaking of goals, that’s another thing I’m struggling with. I’ve never been successful at elucidating my goals. When I was asked for 5 and 10-year goals back in high school, I had no good answers, and I have nothing better to offer now. I have always let the river of life push me where it will, and taken the easy (or at obvious) path. Now I’m twenty years past high-school, and looking to change that, but have 20+ years of inertia helping to keep me in my current life.

As I’m de-cluttering my computers and electronic stuff, I find the detritus of various other attempts to organize my life and direct my energy, whether it’s various attempts at GTD, different tools for information capture (each with a bit of information captured from a short period, until I stopped using the tool) or lists of books, websites and blog posts about organization and self improvement. If I can locate the data, it might be interesting to look at how long each tool lasted, and the periodicity. I suspect that each tool was used in a focused way for no more than a month, and I changed tools or approaches every 6-8 months. It’s too easy for me to get caught up in the “productivity porn” of a new system, a new device, or what have you, rather than actually figuring out what I want to do and accomplishing it.

What am I going to do do differently this time?

  • simplify my life by not taking on too many projects immediately (whether that be looking for a job, volunteering, or starting new hobbies)
  • journal daily, and aim to publish something at least once a week on some aspect of my quest
  • acknowledge that I do have things I want to do differently in my life, and challenge myself to actually figure out what those are
  • focus on my physical health, with daily exercise and an effort to become strong, flexible and healthy
  • make music (and improve my musical skills) a priority, to help develop balance in my mental development

What do I want to do that I am not yet doing?

  • be ruthless in weeding through the “stuff” of my life, and willing to let some of it go
  • work on my mental fitness through hard focus training, mindfulness, and meditation
  • figure out a way I can actually decide what I want to do (or what the world is calling me to do) so I can find goals which resonate with me

I’m looking at this time as a time of seeking, a time of training, and a time to look at the overall balance of my self. I’m seeking what the world is calling me to do, and training both body and mind. My body to be strong and healthy, and my mind and will to be focused and dedicated. This feels pretentious as I write it, but it also feels true.

I’m sure there are resources to help with all of this, and as I find them I plan to document how useful they are to me.

One Response to “Re-integration and future plans”

  1. Lisa Says:

    Hi Scott,

    I was referred to your site (& journey) by Pam a fellow traveler and great friend of mine!

    It seems we are living a parallel life at the moment as my husband and I just returned from 12 months of travel. He’s back at a job he likes and I’ve been putting off finding work as I really don’t want to go back to what I was doing. So much like you I am taking some time to keep healthy and readjust to ‘normal’ life. We’ve done this type of trip before, so were prepared for the confusion of having too much stuff and how in many ways, it’s strange to come back to a life you left. All I can say is that you’re doing the right thing by taking time to think it through. Everyone is different and there are no rules as to how life should be led –especially life after long term travel:)

    Enjoy your new journey!

    Lisa

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