It's my “Covidversary” and I'm focusing on Fitz, the pugalier (pug x cavalier) we just rehomed, who in just 10 days has been such a boost. My body and my brain are basking in the new love we have for each other. It's been a tough couple of years, but I'm so lucky to have supportive family and a partner who have been so devoted to my wellbeing. They have never questioned the reality of my illness, and my new disability.
Three years ago today, it was a Friday afternoon and I was at the small wooden desk I bought after moving into my partner's place before lockdown. I had a strange headache I'd never had, one right behind my eyes. I tried to continue working, but after an hour or two, I was in bed.
So we participated in the National Grid's “Savings Sessions” last night via our energy supplier Octopus Energy.
We sat with one dimmed LED bulb and candle light for an hour in an effort to use less energy during a peak period, 5-6pm. (This is the period when typically, in winter, the government has to fire up dirty sources of energy, and pay horrible companies hundreds of millions of pounds to keep the lights on.)
We did so all the while believing that our government and our country has this all wrong.
When I was younger, I didn't understand my swings between a tail-wagging extrovert and a very solitary person who wanted to flee all social interaction.
I think I thought for a long time that the person fleeing was either depressed-me or rebellious-me. Me working through something.
Then I heard this term “ambivert” – filling in the space between Jung's extrovert-introvert binary.
It may seem absurd but when I finally returned to California to see my parents in January this year, after two years of not seeing them due to the pandemic and being disabled by it, one of the things that struck me most about arriving in their house was the lack of ice in the freezer.
I grew up in the Midwest of the US, where access to unlimited ice is some strange human right. That along with unlimited ketchup, sugar packets, napkins. Doesn’t really matter what season it is. If the drink isn’t hot, it comes smothered in ice.
As a child, I learned that people in other parts of the world have a different relationship to ice.
A while ago, I “quit” international development. I never considered myself an “aid worker”, but I’d spent 5 years in total working internationally in the sector.
Mostly at “headquarters” but partly “in the field”. I’d grown tired.
At the time I wrote an unsigned “Dear John” letter to development which stated “no amount of earnest critique, satire, or wounded camaraderie” could help me stay on.
People ask me how I did it. I am always surprised when people approach me for this kind of coaching. While I am happier and more stable than I can remember in my adult life, I remind people I am by no means materially better off.
So. This will not help you decide how to make money or choose a new career. If you are looking for advice about how to feel ok again, and (re)construct meaning in your life after working in international development here are some tips.
Living in East Timor, a far-away, post-colonial place (not my own city which lived its own fraught history), I became fascinated with the gaps in history.
What is told? What isn’t told? Amateur oral histories led me to the archives, which led me to ethnography, a form of translation.