Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Need to do Something Worthwhile

Do you ever get that niggling sense that you’re just not quite making your contribution to the world, not quite pulling your weight? Like there’s something else that you should be doing to take care of other people, animals, or the environment, but you just don’t quite know what it is?

I do. Sometimes it’s just a general feeling of unease that I’m not doing my part, or curiosity about what the world would be like if I made more of an effort to make it a better place. Other times, it comes in incredibly intense bursts of longing to break out of the life that I’m living, to shed the artificial parts (the job that doesn’t fit, all the “shoulds” that go along with playing the career ladder game that I don’t believe in, the hesitation to follow my passions for fear I might fail) and devote myself completely to a worthy cause that’s larger than my own struggles. Bursts so intense that the tears come from nowhere, brimming with an indefinable emotion that is a mixture of frustration, regret, excitement, fear, urgency, hope, and raw, aching desire.

At these times, I am convinced of the absolute necessity of restructuring my life to expand my horizons and make a worthwhile contribution to the earth, and I understand why people commit their energies to two years in the PeaceCorps or a lifetime of volunteer service. I ask myself, what can I do? What am I willing to give up or change in my life so that I can dedicate my energies to causes I believe in? Could I spend a month, six months, a year or more of my life volunteering my time to preserve rainforest biodiversity or restore threatened habitats in critical regions of the world? What would it take to move my life to a place where I could do that? What can I do in the meantime?

Needless to say, these things are on my mind this weekend, thanks in part to Graham’s post about Thinking Beyond Borders and a conversation with a friend about EarthCorps (which, unfortunately, I am too old for – now, that’s a scary thought!). Volunteering and travel do seem to present an appealing combination of experiences, and one that I think I will look into further.


franz the mouse said...

I get that feeling a lot, though lately I've been lucky enough to be in a position where I can almost satisfy that niggling feeling. Depending on one's advisor, being a post-quals PhD student lets one do a lot of things not related to research (but not necessarily good for one's chances of being a professor, ha ha). I've found three separate community service activities that are really great, and I spend a lot of time on them.

I think Peace Corps and Teach for America are wonderful programs, but I don't think it's that or nothing. If you have a flexible schedule, you can tutor local disadvantaged children, be a volunteer ranger at a local preserve or state park, donate blood products (platelet donors can donate every two weeks, and platelets are really essential blood products), or any number of locally useful activities. It definitely takes a bit of work, as well as -- alas -- some attempts at community service that fall flat, to find fulfilling community service -- something that helps the community and you find fun.

crazizack said...

I just found this blog while searching through google, I enjoy reading it. I hope you are doing good and happy with your life after these six years.

and I didn't knew about this platelet donation, I will find out about it. Bdw which field did you do your PhD in?