I knew when reading this prompt that the most logical “goal” to pick would be starting CPA in LA, but I already did a blog about my goal related to CPA, and I’ve shared extensively about how I’m approaching this from a fairly detached, curious, open posture. So naming it as a core goal that I have multiple routes to would feel at best a bit boring and at worst slightly disingenuouse.
Our #teamtuesday did a good job using this prompt to spur collective dialogue about how we might go about achieving a collective goal of “Formalizing the relationship between CPA-affiliated organizations which enables shared learning, equitable development, transparency and collaboration.” (Your contributions to this question are welcome!)
So I will give you all a break from CPA for this week and try to practice this decision-making methodology by examining the various paths to a core goal (which encompasses a small ecosystem of goals) I have for my life which I have yet to achieve. The prompt encouraged us to go big, so just so you understand, this goal has since college held a greater appeal to me than marriage or any particular career goal, which is just to say: I’m not messing around.
Name the goals:
- Live in community, within a shared house,
neighborhood, or series of apartments with 4-8 friends who are themselves
committed to the community and sharing resources and time together.
- This community should
be multi-generational, multi-racial, ideally international, socio-economically
diverse and unified around values of mutual care, hospitality, and justice.
- This community should
be collectively owned, include regular practices of gathering and sharing, as
well as freedom to pursue individual passions and work.
- This community should
be porous and be a blessing not only for itself but for those that live around
it, and who come to visit it.
- This community should
be rich in plants, music, art, organizing meetings, and potlucks.
Possible choices to
I have been working
on the “plan a” version of this goal since college. Plan A includes attempting
to save money for an initial capital investment in property and encouraging my
closest friends from college who have a similar vision to do so as well. One
way to achieve the goal would be to eventually return to the east coast and buy
property where there are enough of us (likely 3-4, including partners) to
purchase a house in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Harrisonburg, Durham, or
Charlottesville and begin to form the community. This option requires remaining
flexible to where my friends, who are currently finishing masters’ degrees,
scattered, or overly burdened by student debt to be thinking about investments
- Stay in LA for
several years and then move to the east coast.
- Convince everyone to
join me on the West Coast.
Another option is
continuing to tell everyone I meet my vision and keeping my ears and heart open
to joining a community-living project already underway. For example, here in
Los Angeles I have already met three women who have shared with me their desire
to live in a similar kind of community, and I have found a life-partner who
shares a similar vision as well. None of these women were at the stage of
genuinely being on the brink of investment and needing a final individual to
catch the vision, but it was a reminder that such an opportunity might arise
and the limiting factor to achieving my goal would be my (and really in this
case, our, since my partner would need to be onboard) ability and willingness
to embrace this iteration of the dream and place both my money and my commitment
- Don’t make
professional or relocation decisions based on this goal at all, instead save
aggressively and discuss with your partner the minimum conditions under which
you would agree to join an existing community and plant yourself wherever you
find it. Practice holding the place where you currently are close, as if it is
the forever place, and keep speaking your goal and intention to those you build
relationships with. Seek and ye shall find.
- Set a specific
time-line by which if this method hasn’t worked I switch to another one.
I could start this
community in a modular way. That is to say, I could start with my partner and
build out pieces of the vision – the practices of hospitality, of sharing
meals, of sharing music, of investing in the local community and add
individuals who share this vision one at a time. They might not live in the
same house but they could be neighbors, and if they are neighbors with whom we
share meals and work and time long enough we can build up to co-ownership down
the road and keep looking for those who will join the vision.
- Think of my current
3-bedroom apartment and the two roommates I will have as the beginning of this
community. Start building the practices now.
- The next time my
partner and I need to move (likely by next December) we could consider whether
purchasing a small property somewhere the “modular” version of this community
could arise makes sense.
I could make enough
money to buy a large property on my own, start with regular renters, and
gradually shift from tenants to community members (sometimes with the same
individuals, sometimes by having friends or people who catch the vision move in
and/or become part owners) over time.
- This option requires
maximizing my potential income for at least a period of time (2-4 years) in
order to be able to afford the initial investment in a community space. Given
my professional background this might ironically entail some kind of
international civil service or UN posting, or theoretically (though not actually,
since it’s entirely unpalatable to me, with all the respect in the world for
Jonathan and Juan <3) the consulting route domestically.
instead of increasing my income, I can increase my purchasing power if I start
this community outside of the United States (particularly in a French or
Spanish speaking place where I have history and/or connections) where property
values are lower. This option appeals to my sense of self in that until I was
23 or 24 my assumption was always that I would live long-term outside of the
United States, since my experience growing up was that the United States was
the place we decided to live only when duty to family required it. Some
possible places to consider would be Senegal, Colombia, or Guatemala.
- I could meet the
individuals who are interested in this kind of living situation and able to
commit to it through exploring a potential CPA LA expansion and diving into the
world of cooperatives.
As I write these various options out I’m struck by the idea that while my goal is crystal clear, it is the very fact that I’m aware of these various paths to my goal that becomes its own choice. What do I prioritize? The people or the place? When do I absolutely need this to happen? What am I willing to sacrifice in order to get it? Is this community-vision my version of the “sacred-object” which Peter Rollins warns us about? I’m not sure. But I think at the very least it’s helpful to keep track of where I am in the world of choices I have generated for achieving this goal. Being aware of the stage I’m at, the choices that I’m making (including the choice not to chose between approaches for a set time) are all important information to track.
Finally, please let me know if you’re interested in founding this community with me. In your application please list your financial and geographic limitations and preferences as well as any dietary restrictions or unsavory political views. 😉
It’s exciting and fun and humbling to have you all read this. Felipe, I’ll certainly give you a heads up if Durham is in the plans.
I want to try to answer Carrie’s initial question of why this goal/vision/desire is so important to me.
Basically, this vision synthesizes most of my deepest-held beliefs (spiritual, political, social and otherwise) about who we are as humans, how we ought to treat each other, what is necessary for human thriving, and the shape and texture of what the “Kin-dom of God” looks like. I truly believe that *so* many of our deepest societal problems (from mental health issues to climate change related issues) stem from isolation, loneliness, and people of different groups not being in genuine, sharing relationship with each other. I also think the meritocracy is a farce and the reason one person makes 30K and another makes 200K is so often unrelated to the true value of what they produce and unrelated entirely to what they “deserve”. I also believe from a virtue-ethics perspective that if we want to be improving as people we need to do better than just learn how to be decent and loving to people it’s most comfortable and easy to relate to daily. And I think being intentional all the time is hard and unrealistic and exhausting, so we have to build our private lives in ways that facilitate rather than resist the world we want to see existing. Which ironically requires a ton of intentionality on the front end, but with the goal of having less resistance continually. (For example, the first time you have to figure out the bus route and it takes longer to get to work than just hopping in your car is work, but the benefits of not having to sit through traffic and pollute and being free to take public transit because you now know how it works are longstanding.) I know that I tend to be selfish, and lazy, and that behavioral economics confirms that if I want to make it more likely I have practices of generosity, mutual care, justice, and sharing in my life I need to make injustice, isolation, greed and selfishness things I have to actively opt into rather than forcing myself into a life where every decision has to be one to opt-out. If that makes sense.
I’ve been building this theory/idea for a while but it was viscerally illustrated to me when I was 23 and living in Colombia as part of a program with Mennonite Central Committee. I had my first serious adult relationship with a brilliant, funny, theologically and politically inquisitive and knowledgeable Afro-Colombian man 11 years my senior who also happened to be the father to a 16 year old, victim of the armed conflict, and impoverished. It wasn’t the right relationship for me for a variety of reasons I won’t get into here, but the experience of being in love and in relationship with someone whose life circumstances were so different from my own gave me an entirely different perspective on social change and economic justice issues. As I work in the world of social services now with its legacy of institutionalized racism, its language of “clients”, its broad categories and implicit assumptions I’m struck so often with how social segregation at the personal level leads to bad policy at the macro level.
There’s a lot of “why”s. I’m also an extrovert who grew up in Europe, West Africa, the Middle East and around Mennonites so more communitarian set ups may also just appeal to me personally more naturally. But I think the truest whys are linked to what my freshman college seminar called “Ruling Ideas”. I just think it’s a normatively and existentially better way to live than most. 😛
I’ll also briefly touch on Carrie , Alessandra and Felipe’s questions of the common thread, what holds the vision together in all the various iterations of it I’ve described.
There have been several moments I’ve looked around my life, seen that this vision was not yet within my reach and felt a deep sense of mourning, and anxiety about it. In the wake of such moments I’ve had to reframe and name the fact that every time I chose my living situation, every time I chose a partner, a job, a next step, this vision is weighing in and influencing how I make those choices. I could afford to live in a studio or maybe even a 1 bedroom in Los Angeles and instead I’ve chosen to consistently live with roommates, and consistently attempt to share life with them in increasingly meaningful ways. I chose to move to Los Angeles because I wanted to be near my sister and not become a near-stranger to her. I chose my current partner in part because his vision of church (he’s going to be a pastor) is one that holds within it so many of the aspects of this community vision I have. I feel that I am orienting myself towards this intention and that I’m trying to inhabit a “not yet but already” mentality about it.
I hope and pray and save money and will likely make a discreet serious choice someday that will make the co-ownership a concrete reality. I will only do that if the people I’m co-investing with share a vision for our community (whether it’s apartments, micro-neighborhood, large shared house, or other) to be a space for hospitality, shared life and care, art and organizing. I’m not going to artificially impose racial and socio-economic diversity, but I believe that if I continue to stay involved in the issues I’m passionate about, and if I hold to the intention of that diversity, I won’t have to impose it. Similarly being multi-generational will come when people have babies, or when parents need housing, or when someone from our local church finds themselves precariously housed, or when the lgbtq community has yet another member kicked out from a conservative family. The important thing is to have the space and intention and practice of hospitality, or letting go of a purely wealth-maximizing mentality, or of accidentally creating a community that isn’t porous enough for people to enter or to feel free to leave.
Anyways this is far too long. And late once more. But there it is. If you made it this far, thank you.
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