Self-sustainability is not self-ish

I recently purchased dictation software to ease the pain that has been creeping into my wrists, forearms, and biceps from hours spent typing away on my laptop. To use the software, I had to purchase a more recent version of Mac OS X. Then, my computer started moving at the rate of falling molasses. Are you sensing a house that jack built scenario? There was indeed a technological rippling effect. The hours this software was meant to save were spent chatting away with Apple tech support instead.

So, I posted an update on facebook this afternoon after frustration had set in with the sound function becoming out of sync in Photobooth, the application I use to record music that I post to my youtube channel. A friend responded by sharing a link to a site about world hunger.

I understand the jest and the seriousness of this response. I was writing about seemingly frivolous issues of a privileged white girl in the first world. Dually noted.

But a privileged white girl is who I am, and it does not mean that I have had an easy, silver spoon existence with golden lining and lace trim. I have laughed, and I have cried. I have broken bones and hearts, including my own. And I am tired of apologizing for finally deciding that my own sustainability and happiness are of value.

In thinking about writing an autoethnography about sustainability on the individual level and analyzing my own experience as my primary research, I worried that this was a narcissistic approach to scholarly inquiry. In the year following my separation from my husband, I felt many emotions, including the sense that I was a selfish person for choosing my own happiness over my marriage.

In our society, it seems like a selfish endeavor to figure out who we are and what we need to be happy, thriving individuals. At least, this has been the message I have learned since I was a child. Other people’s happiness came before my own. What I have discovered along the path to sustainability is that the more I know myself and what I need to be a sustainable being, the more I am able to give other people in return and the better I am to be a role model for other people, especially women, who are struggling in their own unsustainable lives and seeking guidance.

In taking the time to make my own life more sustainable, I have become a happier person, filled with love and patience for other people who are struggling. I believe that the world could be a much more sustainable place if more people engaged in this “selfish” behavior. Perhaps, they could then be filled with patience and love for the people in their community rather than projecting their unhappiness by lashing out in unsustainable ways.

I was able to follow a more sustainable path by the support and guidance that people in my community—friends, family, and members of my cohort at Prescott College—gave to me along the way. My intention in writing this dissertation is to pay it forward to the women in my life who may look to me as an example of a strong, confident woman who took control of her life. I don’t always feel like a strong, confident person inside, but when I look at back at the changes I have made over the past few years, I am reminded that I really did all of those things. I created a sustainable path for myself. I wish to share what I learned along the way so that others may follow.

I recognize that there are cataclysmic events taking place around the world as a result of global climate change. There are men, women, and children seeking asylum from countries where they cannot live in safety. People of all ages and walks of life are not free. Millions of individuals are hungry and out of work.

I know all of this, and I do what I can on an individual level. The way I can make a difference is to learn how to be a sustainable being, to be the best possible version of myself and pass along what I have learned in writing and in song so that others may take steps to sustainability in their own lives.

If every person were encouraged to discover what they needed to be sustainable, perhaps some of the issues mentioned above would begin to get resolved rather than being covered temporarily by band-aid upon band-aid.

I will not apologize for learning to care for and love myself. And neither should you.

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