Farmageddon and the Big Goodbye
I spent the first three weeks in Ireland on a farm. While I was there I had a revelation. I had thought I was going to be helping out with marketing of their two guest houses, but when I arrived they were just leaving on vacation for a week. They asked the other workaway volunteer and I to be in charge of the heating system for the farm. At first, this sounded easy enough. We just had to make sure the burners kept running. Actually, this meant that we had to check them and add grain 4-5 times a day. It was a little stressful because it was very cold outside and we were not 100% clear about how the heating system worked. We were trained hastily before the owner left, leaving us with only a fleeting sense of confidence. We were worried the heaters would go out in the middle of the night and the whole farm would get freezing cold. And what if we couldn’t restart the system? All in all, we did okay. The fire never went out.
Being out on a farm was nice, somewhat. I enjoyed the peace and quiet of the countryside. But, I had wanted to make a difference and when they returned marketing seemed to be the last thing on their minds. They were super nice, but everything else seemed to take priority. The entire place was cluttered, with piles of stuff lining the hallways and in the shared areas. There was some serious hoarding go on there, with so much stuff in boxes that they literally couldn’t find what they needed and could barely walk through the hallways. The clutter seemed to mirror their distraction, as they tried to keep up with their many commitments.
You can’t overcome other peoples’ karma.
I suggested a project to organize the space but they were not interested. Despite the quiet, I found not being able to organize the clutter a bit stressful. In my mind, I nicknamed it the Farmaggedon project. They were not very good at providing direction either. I had to remind them that they had invited me to come and help with the marketing. I tried to follow their lead but they were all over the place. So, at a certain point I gave up. I just did the little that they requested and that was it. Eventually they asked me to work on the website and agreed to my suggestion that they get their guest houses onto one of the big international vacation rental sites. But, then the internet connection kept failing. Finally, I decided to finish up the marketing projects and head to Dublin early.
There was something eerily familiar about the Farmageddon project. I felt like I was having deja vu. Suddenly, it hit me that at all of the workaway projects, I was more interested in helping them than they were in being helped. I realized that I had been replaying a very old situation. I was unconsciously trying to fix a situation from my distant past that could not be fixed, not then and not now.
I was replaying that situation in all of the workaway experiences and even in my nonprofit career. I think deep down I always felt that if I could help this or that nonprofit, that the world (my world) would be okay. It hit me like a ton of bricks that you can’t overcome other people’s karma.
If people have issues and multiple priorities which keep them from moving ahead, and they literally don’t want to change, they are not going to move ahead… no matter what I do. That’s why nearly half of the nonprofits I counseled succeeded while the other half remained stuck. I also think that getting in other people’s business distracts me from focusing on my own stuff. It prevents me from doing what I need to do, which is express my true self. This revelation alone may be the single most valuable part of the trip, because it may change the entire course of my life. I need to break free and live my own life.
Before leaving for Dublin, I did a little research. I was surprised to find that there was a lot going on there. I found a great website called VisitDublin, which pulled together all of the happenings. While I was there, there was an international dance festival, an international literary festival and Michaelangelo’s sketchbook drawings were on display at the National Gallery. There were so many cool things to see and do. My last hosts had given me a 2 day pass for a hop on hop off bus, which was super fun. I used it to kind of like a taxi, hopping off when I got near a place I wanted to see.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was seeing the “Story of the Irish,” which was narrated by an actor and told the story of Ireland from the beginning of time until now.
One thing that struck me about the Irish Story was the part about the Potato Famine of the 1840’s. Being of Irish descent, I had heard the story. I knew that millions of people had died but what I had never heard before was the role that America played. Apparently, two million people emigrated from Ireland during that time, with America taking in a great majority of the refugees. These immigrants sent money back to their relatives in Ireland, essentially keeping them alive. Ireland is incredibly grateful for that and as I sat in that darkened theatre, I struggled to keep the tears from running down my cheeks. I was never more proud to be an American.
So, as I replenished my soul with culture and fun in Dublin, I prepared to end this particular trip to Europe. While I was there I attended a lecture on Michealangelo’s sketches of potential musical instruments and a lecture by the feminist author of the world-renowned book “I Love Dick.” Being in an intellectual environment was like a tall glass of water after wandering for years in the desert. I don’t know if I can live without it. Even as I was preparing to leave I couldn’t help wonder what my next adventure would be…