Last spring I made the decision to move back to my hometown. I bought a share in a co-housing community located in the heart of my city. I said “goodbye” to rent, a mortgage, a car, all forms of debt and all the demands of my academic career. I said “hello” to daily meditation or yoga, daily reading and writing (including letters to friends!), bicycling advocacy and intellectual pursuits that satisfy my true interests and values.
Co-Housing & The Elderly
Nearly every day I talk to my neighbors, most of whom are seniors. Retirees have time to talk to their neighbors. They have time to reflect on life. And they are, for the most part, finished with the business of acquiring money, status, looks and people to feed their egos. So, I am quite content living with people much older than I, though my choice is not a conventional one. I have always enjoyed the company of aged people, and I find it odd how society separates us from them.
Advocacy & Service
In the time I have been away my hometown has grown, distinguishing itself as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the nation. The same bike paths I used to ride on as a kid have expanded and now encircle the entire city. It is as though my own passion for cycling has grown up alongside my hometown. It is so strange, in a wonderful way. But perhaps it is not so strange. After all, this city formed me. It was here than I worked at my first bike shop and bought my first commuter bicycle.
This week I entered two elections: one for my city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, another for our Cooperative Housing Board. I volunteer for several wonderful organizations. On the weekends I work as an academic tutor for underprivileged 3rd graders. Sometimes I work as a mobile bicycle mechanic, fixing bikes in low-income neighborhoods. And lately I have been spending my afternoons painting my father’s house. In the Spring I will work as a Professor, teaching two small introductory philosophy classes at the community college. Half a lifetime ago I took my first philosophy class there!
Though my academic career is not the center of my life, I am an intellectual, and so I fill my deep curiosity by going to talks at the university, engaging in discussion with my former students and colleagues or reading material from the university library. I also tune out a lot of the mass media in order to make room in my mind for more important ideas and concepts. Not having a Smart Phone or TV has helped me limit my participation in spectacle or rage, so that I can focus on more meaningful endeavors. (No, I do not know Donald Trump’s latest theatrics. What is more, I do not care!)
It is no wonder I have a growing sense of having come ‘full circle’. I am twice as old as I was when I left, but I am different and happier. Even though I do not work for pay full-time, I still experience stress and anxiety, especially social anxiety. I am an Introvert who happens to love people; so, I am sometimes tired. Sometimes I am too busy, reverting to my old tendency to schedule every minute. But at least now I am able to slow down, savor the moment and appreciate everywhere I have been and where I am now.