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Monthly Archives: July 2012

I have been reading Oh Mexico: Love and Adventure in Mexico, by Lucy Neville. The book is an account of two years Lucy spent living and working in Mexico City after leaving university. When explaining the decision to go to Mexico she describes the careers sessions held at her university at the end of the course:

Now – after we had spent three years debating political economic systems and having come to the conclusion that neo-liberal capitalism was both unethical and environmentally unsustainable – they were telling us that, if we were lucky, we would get a job working for a multinational corporation. p.9

Rather than take the conventional route, Lucy decides to move to Latin America for a year to improve her Spanish.

I think many of us face its mismatch between the ideals and aspirations that arise from our education, and the reality of the job market. I am facing it now. Lucy solved the problem by travelling, teaching English, and being open to the prospect of only earning enough to get by.

Lucy was subsequently able to turn her experience into a book, which is one viable option for creative people who are willing to live large, then write about it.

One paragraph which stood out for me was on one of my favourite topics at the moment – To Do Lists.

Ricardo found my writing of to-do lists absurd. ‘Surely you’d get more done by just doing things rather than writing the things you intend to do,’ he would say. p.236

Its interesting how many of us are grappling with the same dilemmas. How do we organise our time? What function To-Do-List really play in our lives? Once I would not have understood Ricardo’s reaction, but now I think he has a point.

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As an experiment I had a look at job hunting website today. What an awful experience. There were over 250 jobs in the category I was looking at, however most of the ads were placed by employment agencies. As a consequence the specific company looking for staff was not named, and in some cases the industry was not even listed.  So what you get is a fairly general list of IT related skills, a very vague indication of the location and not much indication of what you would be working on or where. When I was able to get through to one of the agents, she was still not very forthcoming in explaining what the job was actually about.

This is a challenge for me because I can’t put my intuition to work to decide between options when they are devoid of details or distinguishing features. There is nothing to be attracted to, nothing to get excited about. I found the whole process rather disturbing. Sheep rearing is looking more and more appealing.

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I have decided to try leading my private life free of To Do Lists. I am doing this as an experiment because I realised that things that were essential were going to make their presence felt and get done anyway. This includes such gems as:

– take out the garbage
– make bed
– wash sheets
– get a job

Then there are things that are optional and tend to bring themselves to the fore if the time is right, such as:

– enquire about short courses in photography
– wash balcony windows
– have lunch with friend

And some things which are just fun and interesting really have no place on a list:
– read book
– go for a walk
– learn French

Making lists and ticking things off can be a way of feeling like I am achieving something, but I found that this arose out of a fear that I would not be able to make use of my time effectively. In practice the lists made me anxious about getting this arbitrary set of activities done and blocked the spontaneity to do other things.

So now I aim to do what is necessary without fuss, and choose between optional and enjoyable activities as I feel moved. Interestingly I have been getting more done, and getting more pleasure out of doing it.

In Driving Over Lemons Chris Stewart makes and interesting statement about making the decision to buy a flock of sheep. After experiencing “covetous thoughts” at the sight of a flock of sheep on the hillside he says:

A decision I had delayed making began to resolve itself and press for action.

How are decisions made? What is our basis for choosing one action over another? This decision, which had been on the back burner as a possibility, brought itself forward by an emotional reaction. He saw sheep and knew that he wanted sheep, so he went and bought sheep.

This is a decision based on feeling and knowing, rather than thinking and analysing. There may be research and a certain amount of mulling over of options behind it, but the actual decision comes in its own time.

I have been exploring this kind of intuitive decision making for myself. It’s very tempting to be logical and systematic, but decisions that are based on rational thinking alone don’t always deliver the best outcome. It’s not that intuitive decision making is illogical, it’s just that it does not give logical and linear thinking priority over other faculties.

There are a lot of good things we can choose in life, but we cant choose them all, and we need to draw on the heart and soul, as well as the mind, to distinguish between them.

I am reading Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucia by Chris Stewart. The cover displays a blue sky over blossoming almond trees, and a close-up of lemons. This gives it a cheerful beauty that makes it a delight to pick up. The book describes how Chris and his wife Ana buy a farm on a hillside near the junction of two rivers in Andalucia in Spain. Previously Chris made a living from music, shearing sheep, and writing among other things. Buying the farm was a commitment to living on the land, and enabled him to pursue a lifestyle supported by productivity – of the land and through his own writing. Soon after deciding to buy the property he describes his dread of the life of the businessman.

We wound down the path through the oranges and almonds and out into the riverbed where we scuffed among the hot rocks and splashed through the river. The sun blazed down on us from a cloudless sky. In euphoric mood I found myself musing on the idea of waiting in the cold drizzle of an early morning railway-station with hundreds of other besuited businessmen, waiting for the daily ride to the treadmill. ‘Whatever comes of this decision, ‘ I thought, ‘it has to be better than this’.

Chris Stewart still lives on his El Valero and he as written three books about the experience so it seems like he made a good decision.

I have my own decisions to make about work, having left my job (in an office) to travel. I don’t think I will be taking up shearing any time soon, and I do find some advantages in being drawn out into the world by a regular job, but I am hopIng to find a better balance between structure and creativity in the future.

Welcome to May and September. This is a “training wheels blog”. A place to share a few thoughts and pictures. I am aiming to choose photos which illustrate the theme of the post, but might skip the photo if I don’t have anything relevant. You can assume all the photos are mine, unless indicated otherwise.

I chose the title because these months have personal significance for me. They are also times of transition, Autumn and Spring, between seasons. This reflects my own desire for both balance and change. I am to find a middle way, rather than seeking to go to extremes.

Spring in Niagara Falls Canada