Anticapitalist Practices: Moving at Your Own Pace
A few years ago I was working full time at a national nonprofit scholarship organization. In many ways it was my “dream job,” one where I got to be present with young people moving through college and big life transitions. I got to solve problems and support people in learning how to build secure relationships every day.
Sometime in late 2016, I realized that I was having an experience I could only describe then as “my heart's somewhere else.” It was like looking up and realizing all at once that this wasn’t what I wanted, even though almost every outward indicator said that I should be happy & grateful to be working where I was. I felt an ache in my chest a lot of the time when I was working, a feeling of reaching for something that wasn't there anymore.
One of the reasons that happened was I’d stayed long enough to see the ways that neoliberalism and capitalism were subtly and overtly shaping our work to always choose institutions over the young people we were supposedly doing this work with and for. Part of it was once trump got elected, the ways I was having to coach young people on how to survive in racist and classist institutions became really painful. Part of it was I was overworked and underpaid (hello capitalism).
In the midst of those feelings, I took a vocation class with Michael Milano & a crew of teachers at All Souls, a local Unitarian Universalist church in DC, which I jokingly (and also accurately) describe as “six weeks of me sitting in small groups and sobbing while holding a rock.”
It’s a really hard thing to feel stuck, and to feel a lot of energy and desire to be doing something purposeful and have no idea what that is. I really believe that humans want to contribute meaningfully to the people and earth and communities around us. There’s something that lights up in us when we can find ways to live out our deeper skills and knowings. I was watching the other people in the vocation class express really similar dreams of finding the things that bring us more alive - and also noticed how capitalism interrupted those desires for each of us, how it demanded we reshape them to fit its desires for the world.
It took me almost another year of feeling that feeling of "my heart's somewhere else" to leave my job. And even then, when I did, I jumped to another job that looked almost exactly like it. And what happened next was I stopped being able to do that kind of work at all. I lasted seven months at that job before I had to leave and do something totally different, which was working part time at farmers markets and helping my friends with their resumes.
I came up against a lot of fears & physical reactions when I shifted my life in that way. Fear that I’d be “ruining my resume” or taking myself out of a particular career trajectory (even though deep down I didn't even want to do that kind of work anymore). Fear that I’d no longer be able to support my parents when they got older because I didn’t have a “good” job. Fear that in order to do what I was feeling called to do I’d never make any money. Fear that I’d never really figure out what it was that I wanted, and I’d just have a collection of ideas or desires with no real idea how to move those into the world.
Much of my coaching is rooted in what I learned during these years, experientially, and in an embodied way. How to build a life that looked different than the way I thought it had to be. How to ask for, accept, and receive support. How to let go of dreams that weren’t actually mine, but were informed by my family, by capitalism, by whiteness. How to find what I actually wanted to do, and what I was being called to do. How to move at the pace and in the ways my body needed me to. How this kind of purpose work isn't something that can really be done alone, but has to be held in community, in collective.
I've spent hours over the past few years listening to people share their own fears and deep emotional aches around the distance between their longings and "it has to be this way," and mapping out the ways that the systems we live under shape our anxieties and attachments and imaginations.
One of the things I say, to the people I work with, and to us, is that we can move at our own pace. We can be slow, or fast. We can rest. We can leap. Each of us has a particular way of doing and being that works for your body. It’s okay if you don’t know what that is. You can take the time to listen for it. Your way doesn't have to look remotely like anyone else's. It doesn't have to mean you quit your job in a huff (but it doesn't mean you can't, or won't). Moving toward your purpose doesn't mean you won't have any income, but it will most definitely require shifting your relationship with capitalism and resources in some way.
There’s no timeline, no perfect plan that will help you “achieve your purpose” in the same linear extractive way that capitalism operates. We aren't guaranteed an easy road, or a hard one. But what does exist, always, is a relationship between you and the world around you. A relationship where as you make movements, in ways that work for you, things shift and change around you, in response. The people, the earth, our ancestors, the spirits, however you talk about all of this, they're here for us as we get free of systems.
There are as many models and ways of being anticapitalist and living out our deep purposes as we can dream of. And if our imagination has been limited by systems, nature is a great expression of anticapitalist values.
Anticapitalist imaginings ask:
What pace do we need to move at?
How do we know?
What are we longing for?
What feels good?
What feels hard?
How can we thrive together?
Noticing all of these things gives us information, helps us to move at the pace and in the direction we’re actually called to go.
I'm asking you, as I ask myself, too:
What if what is here for us, is here?
What if there’s no need to rush?
What would be possible if we moved gently through this process of change, taking time to rest, to look around us?
What might happen then?
If you’re interested in learning more about my coaching, or know someone who might want to work with me (angst about your job or what the heck you should be doing with your life is a good indicator), there’s lots of ways to connect with me - I send out bi-weekly email notes, have sliding scale monthly check-ins through Patreon, and offer 1:1 coaching work for people leaving their jobs, seeking career changes, working on writing or other creative projects, or who feel stuck around work or purpose under capitalism.