A speech given at the EUDEC conference in Paris, August 20, 2017
A hard final year
School was taking up the vast majority of my time, and in an attempt to lighten the pressure I tried different strategies. At one point, I refused to look at my grades. Later, I tried deliberately getting lower grades. Unfortunately, getting lower grades on purpose took at least as much energy as before, and was much less satisfying. I realized that I was not happy doing school half way. I had picked my classes very deliberately and was determined to get the most out of each and every one. To take the time to care
about them, and to be interested.
But there were days when I just wanted to get out of that town. I decided that when I graduated, I would hop on a plane, go somewhere completely different, and explore the world. I just had to get through the final year.
To do so, I knew I needed a change in my life; so I moved out of my apartment and into a community house called Tierra del Fuego. They hosted weekly potlucks, had a garden and a backyard compost, and were generally a very alternative crowd. I’d always enjoyed visiting this house, but the idea
living there and hosting events made me pretty nervous.
Facing the fears
But at Sudbury Valley I’d decided that I didn’t want to let my fears get in the way of living the life I wanted, so I decided it was time to face this challenge.
I would define us “tierrans” as a group of young people who are interested in living in anecologically and socially responsible way and are seeking a community of like-minded individuals. As we worked on how to live together, both as housemates and as a public community space, we defined certain values that were important for us, including equality, diversity and respect.
We created an atmosphere where people felt comfortable being themselves, exploring life, making mistakes, supporting each other and caring about each other even when personalities clashed. We hadn’t created our ideal, we’d created a space where we felt comfortable experimenting with who we were and how we wanted live.
Life at Tierra del fuego
Just as at Sudbury Valley, I found community living to be both challenging and rewarding. Enough so that last year, when I graduated from university, I decided to stay at Tierra for another year. The decision to take a year of transition was also because my future at the time felt like a giant black hole. This vague idea of travelling came with a lot of questions as to why, where, and how. So I stayed in the same town, worked various jobs, explored the region, and gradually improved my french. At Tierra, I found many people who shared my passions for the environment and community living. I had never
felt that caring about the planet constituted as having a passion, but I found that the way I used the word passion had changed.
Finding your passion in life
To be passionate about something doesn’t necessarily mean that you have found your “life’s calling”.
It doesn’t mean that you know what you want the rest of your life to look like.
It means that you care very deeply about something.
At Tierra, I began to talk more and more about another one of passions: democratic education, and self-directed learning. I gave a presentation on the Sudbury philosophy. And people were interested. As I found people to share the things I was passionate about with, I began to feel more purposeful in life, and finally, I began to plan my trip.
Or rather, to not plan it.
Because not having a plan scares me, and when you take the difficult path in life, life is both a lot more interesting, and a lot more meaningful.