Someone asked me recently to share with them how I got to where I am. I just wrote them an email, and I wanted to share it here. Enjoy…

(updates about the holidays here — especially the New Year’s Party — coming soon!)

Asking me how I got to where I am is a great way to get me to talk. My journey is still fascinating to me (especially since I’m still on it!). The root of it was a deep belief that there was more to life than what I was experiencing, and I wanted to seek it. I graduated from college with degrees in Sociology and Religion, and a passion for social justice. I was involved in social activism at different levels, and I got a job doing residents’ advocacy in an economically (and otherwise) oppressed neighborhood in Cincinnati (the city where I grew up). In all that I was doing at that job, I felt like I wasn’t really being effective towards making anything better. I was doing band-aid work, trying to heal the wounds created by an exploitative system, without doing anything to change the system itself.

I had already accepted a job as an actress with a children’s theater company before I took on the residents’ advocacy work. When it was time for me to go into rehearsals for the show, I was ready to leave the first job. I felt totally ineffective and I was ready to be doing something that I was good at! I toured with the theater company for 8 months and loved it. We performed in elementary schools around the country, teaching about science and simple machines, and entertaining them with stories about the Pied Piper. I loved the work I was doing, and yet I still wasn’t feeling satisfied with my life. The actress job was a way of me making my life great and enjoyable in the moment, but I couldn’t see myself living like that for the next 40 years. I was convinced that something more was possible. I wanted to be working towards a deeper, richer way of living AND making it accessible for anyone, long-term. So at the end of the tour I left the company, packed up my apartment, and got in my car. My plan was to travel around the country and find other people who were seeking a different way of living. Before I left, I did some research, looking for apprenticeships and internships and other experiential opportunities I could plug into, and I found the website of the Fellowship for Intentional Communities. I had read about communes when I was in school, and for a while I had gobbled up any book I could find about people’s experiences from communities of the 60s and 70s. I had no idea that any were still around, or that communal living was something that actually worked (I thought they all crashed and burned because of some flaw in human nature). There were hundreds(!) of communes listed on the FIC website, and I started an extensive exploration of communes’ websites. There were lots that were in the early, formative stages, and I wanted to visit a community that had been around for awhile, so I could get a sense of people doing something that actually worked! I found Twin Oaks, which at that time had been around for 35 years (now nearly 38). There was a structured visitor program that I could come to for 3 weeks, and I liked the idea of visiting a community with a group of other people who also had no idea what they were doing (for an anarchist, I really appreciate structure sometimes!).

The rest is history. I visited, loved it, traveled for a little while but felt so clear about wanting to be at Twin Oaks. I’ve been here for two and a half years now, and I’m still learning so much about myself and how I want to engage with the world. I’m realizing how much of what we experience as “reality” is actually human creation — I’ve really been getting into History as a way of understanding the present, specifically how things got to be the way they are; it’s not just fate or “this is the way it’s always been”. So much of the world is the way it is because someone or some group of people made a decision to make it that way, or made a decision that had an unintentional effect of making things happen that way. That awareness empowers me to make choices towards things being different. That’s a big piece of the “anarchist” mindset for me. I’m also learning how to live collaboratively, creating “power with” people rather than “power over” them, and this feels like a key understanding that I want to share with other people in the larger. I travel around the country and share my experience of communal life at conferences and in college classes, and I feel more effective in creating social change than in any of the other work I’ve done in my life. And I’m HAPPY doing it! My life at Twin Oaks is rich and full of delight (and struggle and conflict and friction and confusion, too — that’s all a part of the richness).

in joy,