Friday, May 16, 2014

compromises and realities: how much of a difference do my choices make?

I am suddenly invited to take a hard look at a set of values I have long held dear, as my professional landscape continues to evolve and expand. For some people it's about what they eat, or where (and by whom) their clothes are made. For me, it's about how I get around. And if I am to expand my professional opportunities it is becoming clearer than ever that I will have to travel more often. That means I have to consider the way I get from place to place. 

I cannot avoid air travel, and yet every fiber of my being rebels against the possibility that there will be more, not less, air travel in my life as my professional opportunities expand. The fact is that in many cases, bus or train travel will simply not be practical for getting to some gigs. I wonder if the other compromises I can make -- traveling by bicycle in my destination city, or staying within walking distance of the gig -- will make any meaningful difference; or if I am deluding myself and will have to confront the ugly truth of how big a footprint my career evolution will make. 

As someone who, for decades, has espoused the ideal of reducing my hypermobility, of living more locally as well as simply, I am now facing the prospect of more air travel than ever before. Synagogues want to fly me in, not once or twice a year, but in one possible scenario, twice a month for a whole year! That amount of air travel changes the equation, and forces me to look at just how "sustainable" a life I can still make for myself if I keep following this dream.

The fact is that I cannot make the dream happen if I only do this work in Portland. I have to take out-of-town gigs in larger Jewish communities, because Portland's Jewish community is simply not large enough to provide me with enough employment -- or with the professional development and training that I so badly want and need to grow my skill set further. My partner and I are not willing to permanently relocate -- our lives and families and community are deeply rooted here. So when opportunities for out-of-town gigs arise, I have to look at them seriously. And that means I also have to look at my values about transportation and personal choice.

I have no easy answers right now. But clearly I'm going to have to look very closely at some values I've held dear for a long time, and hold them up against the dream I want so badly to follow now. How much more am I harming the world around me by following a dream that requires more unsustainable travel? Who will I be if I make certain, seemingly necessary compromises? And what will my life be about? 

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