Tuesday, 14 September 2010

My Dichotomy

by Gavin, from The Greening of Gavin.

Have you ever been split between two paradigms?

Well, my life seems to be a constant tug of war between the two main parts of my day that both demand equal amounts of my attention.

Firstly, my job.  I work with a multi-national in Information Technology in the central business district of Melbourne, Australia.  I need to travel from my semi-rural home to the city each day with a total round trip of 2 and a half hours, door to door which is 50 km one way.  I drive to the train station in my Hybrid car, then catch a country train for 50 minutes, then a city train for 10 minutes, and walk from the underground station to a high rise building and work on the 31st floor in a little cubicle that a battery hen would enjoy, surrounded by workmates who probably do the same.

Whilst at work, I do the best I can to be sustainable as I possibly can in an office environment.  I avoid printing, turn off lights in unused meeting rooms, shut down my computer and monitor when I leave, and take the stairs when travelling between floors.  I also work very hard and am proud of my accomplishments at the end of the day.  It is a complex and stressful part of my day, getting even more complex as time goes on.  I often think about the diminishing returns of technology, and that increasing complexity creates larger and larger technology failures.  It is this complexity that is one side of my dichotomy.

Alternatively, when I arrive home, my entire day changes.  Simple tasks like checking on the chickens, enjoying good food from our garden, savouring time with loved ones, and just enjoy the little things like pottering around the garden at my own pace.  Life just slows right down.  I don't need to try and be green and sustainable at home because that is just the way we have designed everything around us, the way we all behave, and what we like talking about.  A very simple lifestyle and we continue to simplify it at every chance we get.

So, as you can see, I have opposing forces at play each Monday to Friday.  One of complexity, hustle and bustle of city life during the day, and a slow, simple lifestyle during the non-job times.  I often remember back to what my life was like when I only had one reality to deal with.  It was unfulfilled, boring, and mind numbing.  Now that I have this yin and yang thing going on, I find that feel kind of in balance and certainly in tune with the things that really matter in my life being, family, the environment and sustainable living.  However, if the balance was tipped the other way towards a completely slow lifestyle, would I still strive so hard in my endeavour to make my local community a better place to live by promoting and educating other about the joys of a simple and sustainable lifestyle? 

I don't really know the answer to that question because I haven't reached that part of my journey yet.  However I can tell you that I know which one I prefer, which is the sustainable lifestyle that our family constantly strives for.  I bet by now you are wondering why I don't throw away the complexity and fully embrace the simple life I so enjoy and desire.  Well, there is this little thing called a mortgage that still needs to be paid off.  We have been pulling together all of our resources together to pay it down as quickly as possible, and all being well, I predict that it will be paid off in 5 and a half years, just in time for my 52nd birthday!  When that happens I believe that my dichotomy will vanish, and all I will need is part time work to earn enough for the few simple needs we will have.

Do any of you have the same dilemma?  City by day, and country by night and weekend.  What are your experiences and what plans do you have to embrace a simpler lifestyle?  If anyone has already made the switch, I would love to hear about your experience.


Jennifer said...

Hey, I'm so glad to read this. So often, when reading blogs like this, you end with the impression that EVERYONE who is trying to live more sustainably also magically somehow doesn't have to work a 9-5. Both my husband and I are working full-time, and there are limits to how much we can do with the time that is left.

We live in the city. Our yard is pretty small, but we can still do a lot with it and we have almost no commuting.

That's not to say that the country doesn't call to me, and often, but sometimes you just have to make do with what you've got. Thanks for this post!

Sandy L said...

We are time limited as well. What keeps me going is knowing that the little bits we do every day will add up to a lot over a lifetime.

brendie said...

have you added up your lost time 5 days a week, 48 wks(assuming 4 wks leave)x 5 yrs = 3000 hrs
is it really worth it. i understand wanting to reduce debt quickly but sometimes the slower pace, less stress approach is healthier and richer in other areas
i would be looking for opportunities closer to home. you can bank money but you cant bank time with your family

gullygunyah said...

Definately can see what you mean. I spend most of my weekends 160k's from home on my rural block. And there's often a sadness of having to come back to work in Brisbane to pay the mortgage. I probably have about 10 years to go at this rate but I'm a few years younger.
There are times when I think why don't I just sell the home in Brisbane, clear my debt and stick the balance in a savings account but then I'd still need employment and be kept from spending 100 percent focus on the block so I keep going knowing that one day I will be free.

Marley Hill Cottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marley Hill Cottage said...

I don't travel as far or for as long but I find the time spent away from home and the things I'd rather be doing gnaws at me. But, while I work on my 'work from home' plan I still need to pay the bills so I'm making hay while the sunshines.

I will not be doing this forever and knowing there's an exit strategy makes a difference and keeps me focussed on the important stuff.

Darren (Green Change) said...

I've got exactly the same dichotomy going on - living on a rural acreage and trying to be more sustainable, while working as a computer engineer for an international telecommunications company.

Both are enjoyable and fulfilling, in different ways.

That said, if I was independently wealthy I'd quit the job, but wouldn't quit the acreage :-).

earthmotherwithin said...

Yes, well I am, like you, working towards the end of full time work. We are a little older than you -58 and 56 and we have just -a month ago-paid off the mortgage on our suburban home, which we are fitting out as sustainably as we can.

We are still working on repairs and renovations enough to enable us to live comfortably in our retirement, and we are planning and training for the kind of work we can do from home, part time, as our own bosses.

I have been lucky enough to move to a less stressful job in the last 12 months, so that is a start. Like you I have a lot of commuting to do, and I long for it to be over.

I agree with you that the more sustainable parts of our lives are the most enjoyable, and I am glad for what balance we have created so far.

Ilene said...

Next March, I will have been retired for three years. It's wonderful!
Our home was paid off long ago. But we adopted grandsons, and I worked until Hubs received an inheritance that gave us a nice safety net. Things went south at work and I was one person that was more than ready to not have a job.
How wonderful it is to roll out of bed whatever time I want to (which ironically, seems to usually be about 4:30 am), to spend a day now and then not doing a thing if I happen not to feel well and not have to worry about responsibilities at work or call my supervisor and describe all my symptoms to justify my absence. How wonderful it is, after so many years of having supervisors who were younger and/or not as smart as I was, telling me what to do with my day. Now I decide what needs to be done each day.
We moved onto 1.6 acres two months ago, where we can be more sustainable. But prior to that I had my yard (which looks very small in comparison to out here) full of raised beds and stock-panel arches. This year I even grew garlic and hot peppers in the FRONT yard although I hadn't realized how much the mailman cut through my yard until then.
I have all kinds of plans for the coming spring.
You will love being "retired".

eatclosetohome said...

I hear you. I also work with technology at my day job, and I feel this odd pull: at home, I'm trying to use less and less electricity and electronic gadgets; at work, my job is to help people use them more and more. Though I am starting to find ways to steer people to "appropriate" technologies at work, by doing educational research projects that show whether lower-tech (and -cost) solutions are just as effective as the electronic ones.

I've often thought I might retire or quit and do my "sustainability work" full-time, but am recently realizing how much I really like my job...especially the part where people hand me interesting projects day after day and a paycheck, to boot. I would not fare well doing the same tasks in the garden or teaching canning day-in and day-out.


Annette said...

Like you and it appears, many others, I am split between two worlds; balancing the two is challenging. I have not yet figured out how to homestead full time AND still make the mortgage.

Christie said...

Hi Gavin

I read your article and I know I sometimes feel the same way - overwhelmed. But then I reason with myself that at least I'm doing something, anything (as are a lot of other people) and that's a start. There are a lot of others who are simply doing nothing. Does that comfort you at all?