My father was in town for business about four weeks ago. We talked about everything from politics to religion, philosophy to web applications (like father like daughter)…and of course money and work. I came to a point in the career portion of the conversation where I basically expressed that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life working for a company whose values were not congruent with my own; that I didn’t want to waste my time, look back in 30 years and regret it.
Now I don’t really believe in regret. Everything I’ve done including my major, MAJOR mistakes make me who I am in this exact moment and that person is a pretty cool, good hearted person with a lot to offer…and my feeling is that his sentiment is the same. So it surprised me to hear him say that he spent the last 30 years working as a programmer, mostly for large corporations, who made it their job to screw the little guy. I’ve always known what my father did but I never thought about how those programs effected the masses. For many years his company’s main client was a major corporation and somehow, even though everyone in my family is a customer of this Goliath and know how ridiculous and lame they are I never made the connection. Ignorance is bliss and I suppose my parents did a good job at sheltering me from some things.
Anyway it seems like a simple thing but in the moment, hearing his exact words and the look on his face…kind of broke my heart. It’s like superman saying that every time he saves one person, there are 2 more people that died. Well maybe not exactly like that but my dad is my hero. Most brilliant guy I know. To hear him say that hurt a lot and has made my last 4 weeks enlightening…and painful.
So. What’s it mean to me? Of course by the end of the conversation he simply said, “Find what you will do for free, then find someone who will pay you for it”. That’s always been his work advice but this time it hit me differently. So I did a little self-reflection and sent in a few applications for 3d design jobs by the end of the week. I, of course, do not have an architectural design degree but I do make a mean custom green home in SketchUp. Actually, I would say I’m better at that than most things I’ve done…and they actually pay people to use that program specifically. My portfolio was enough for an interview however I emailed yesterday and the position has since been filled. I started with architectural design firms, then to green home design, to solar energy and after that its been a brain scrambling spiral into…all of these issues that I didn’t realize I cared so much about.
Fossil fuel peeks/renewable energy
Super-cheap super-sized food/food monopolies/buying local
Homelessness/mortgage crisis/bigger-living-is-better-living obsession
…There are a lot of things I care about and a couple non-profits I wanted to start eventually but those seemed way in the future and required a lot of resources to get done. And knowing me I probably made it more complicated than it needed to be. However these four issues not only are so immediately crucial but also they are things I can do my part to change right now. Habits I can incorporate today.
*sigh* Let me get off my soap box for a second and be real. This is NOT what this blog was supposed to be about. It was SUPPOSED to be about how to live a decent quality of life without killing our pocketbooks. And it has caused me to do so much reflection, on myself, my values and lifestyle which I see now are two totally different things and on the world around me. What is the cost of cheap goods? Where are those goods made and who made them? And I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even know if this blog is valid anymore. The “Price” of this blog seems to refer less to the ticket price of something and more to the long term affects of those same products on the economy, the environment, and international relations (based on the fact that we are practically owned by China and half of the Middle East depending on your point of view).
A lot of people donate money to youth programs in the inner-city when the smog from our cars, city landfills and rabid product supply chain causes them cancer. Does that make any sense to you?
I am by no means more of a help than a hindrance. I’ve been educating myself and changing habits slowly but I am no saint when it comes to these issues or when it comes to anything. It’s hard. But now that I know that I know – because I did know…I guess I just didn’t care or didn’t think about it – I can’t stop thinking about it.
So what am I doing about it:
#1. I am inviting an increase of income in my life (I estimate I will have applied to 100+ jobs and temporary projects in the month of March alone in case you thought I was only “inviting” and not taking action). Need is no longer an applicable word really. There are people who do with so much less. But let’s get real, everything costs something: time, energy, money, or favors, and knowing that you can keep a roof over your head and food in your stomach makes room for everything else that is important to you. In my case:
#2. Shopping for the food that I want, buying local and juicing more. I believe the FDA certified organic is overrated. My family owns a farm and the land nor the animals have been touched by anything unnatural for 4 generations. Can’t get more organic than that. FDA regulations make it hard on farmers and ‘local’ often means organic in a purer sense. If you aren’t sure shopping at the Farmer’s Market will always give you an opportunity to ask.
#3. Consuming less. I’m already what I would consider a ‘low-consumer’. Outside of food I typically only buy things when what I’ve got is worn out or when I need supplies/business attire for work. I’ve never been a big shopper, prefer making gifts for family and friends and don’t have many possessions I truly care about outside of my laptop. My three big products this year thus far have been a juicer from my parents for a late Christmas gift (mine was in the $80 range and works great), a replacement phone when mine was stolen and a pair of wrinkle free sheets…they feel amazing.
#4. Gasoline alternatives…I admit that I have a gas card from one of the Seven Sisters. It does not make me happy. I thought that Diesel was the devil up until I watched a few documentaries and learned that Rudolf Diesel’s original design ran on corn oil alone. Huh? Standard Oil, who I was already familiar with, bought that patent and started marketing it as strictly a petrol engine, a fact whoever taught me conveniently left out. So now I’m considering dumping my car or altering it to a gas engine (runs on fumes only, can go for 100+ miles per gallon), diesel engine or solar electric system. This is pricey, time consuming and requires a ton of research before making a decision so I have a couple years to work on that one…
#5. Down-sizing. I’ve been obsessed with Container Homes (recycling 40 x 8 ft. shipping containers as building structures) and Tiny Homes (any house smaller than 800 sq.ft.) for a few years now. Since home design is a hobby, I already have a lot of construction experience and own a decent amount of the required tools I’ve decided I want to build a tiny home. I like living small. It’s a fun challenge, is inexpensive and my entire life thus far has always fit into about a 13 x 13 ft. space anyway. So why not dump the roommate, the landlord, and the utility companies? I want to own a home. I’d like to design and build that home myself. And with almost no space to build in LA this provides so many more options. If I build it myself I’m looking at about $20k just for the structure and basic amenities. I’ve got a few ways around this (sponsorship, recycled lumber, fundraising) which I think will cut my costs in half. The rest…well that is 1 year’s rent in a 1 bedroom apartment. Not too shabby for something that could last a couple decades.
All this will enable me to save a lot of money and use it to travel, see family more, have more barbecues with my friends and sail much more often. And all that sounds pretty good to me.
So that’s what I’ve been up to. I started so many posts in the last several weeks; going on and on about my job search, oscillating between points of view on certain issues, trying to come up with topics that were applicable to my original topic without getting to preachy and complaining about the ongoing poor communication skills of a couple of my clients as well as myself (I just got my NLP Practitioner certification so I have no excuse). But all that stuff’s not really what makes the world go ’round ya know? I think this time I actually got out what I needed to say and it feels good.