Notes from Windward: #65
Moving Beyond Rebellion:
My Greatest Accomplishment
A few days ago I found myself rocking along to a popular song by the band Green Day that opens with the lyric,
"She's a rebel
She's a saint
She's salt of the earth
And she's dangerous."
As I let strands of hair fly around my bobbing head, I marveled at how closely I identified with this mythical female character. Her strength resonated with me deeply in that moment. My emotional reaction was, of course, separate from my rational awareness that the beautiful rebel was simply a creation of a young punk who is paid by a record company to pander to and exploit the fantasies of adolescent Americans. Regardless, I was filled with the gratifying self-awareness that I too am a rebel-a real live rebel. Let me explain.
Raised in a sunny suburb of San Diego, I chose to go to college in the woods of New Hampshire. The allure of New English fall combined with the academic challenge of an Ivy League school was too great. I had to leave home. College itself provided more fodder for my restless spirit in an even unlikelier form-the mainline Protestant sect of Christianity known as the Episcopal Church. When most of my friends were partying in the basements of Dartmouth's fraternities, I often spent my evenings in quiet conversation with people like Gene Robinson, the first openly homosexual bishop in the history of Christianity. I found in him a rebellious counter-cultural creativity that added a spiritual seriousness to my ever-searching soul. My Episcopal friends also introduced me to modernity's long struggle for human rights and social justice, ideals which ultimately led me to the developing-world country of Honduras after graduation. In rebellion against the "conventional" career paths taken by most of my peers, I headed to Central America to teach fourth grade in a bilingual school. After my year-long volunteer visa expired, I worked for several more months in the Caribbean as a dive master on a remote island-and almost decided not to come home.
But I did return. I returned home to San Diego to a conventional teaching job in a private school. I returned home to discover that my spirit was not yet satisfied. My wanderlust, my spirituality, and my intellectual curiosity combined to create a slow-burning tension that I've heard aptly described as a "quarterlife crisis." This was roughly six months ago.
Once again, I began to search for a better alternative, a new challenge. It was then that I found Windward, an intentional community in rural Washington about ninety miles outside Portland, Oregon. I had talked about "communes" often enough with my college friends, but this place was significantly different. A model farm, a Mensan special interest group, an experiment in alternative energy, a non-profit transitional center for people in crisis, a foundry, a campground, a matrilocal community of independent women, and a bastion of free-thinking individualists--Windward fits all of these descriptions. And soon enough, as soon as I summoned the courage and faith to make yet another life-changing transition, I found that Windward was also my home.
Finally, I've found a place from which I do not desire to move on. I am surrounded by good people who value me and whose respect I have earned. So, my greatest accomplishment to date is the process that brought me here. All the traveling and soul-searching, the restless wonder and doubt and endless conversation and exploration--without it I wouldn't have been able to make a commitment to this place. I wouldn't have been able to see the goodness and nobility of intention that drives this community-the often-humble intention of simply making our world a little bit better. We're in the business of showing people that cheaper, healthier, and happier alternatives exist. In short, I've come to terms with my rebellion without curbing, taming, or denying it. Instead, I've found a place and a context in which my funky energy is valued, appreciated, and funneled into projects that will bear fruit in years to come. I have found a corner of the universe that deserves my devotion. That is certainly my greatest accomplishment to date.
Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 65