Posted by: Aunt Magaidh | September 3, 2009

Saving the Bay and saving my sanity

Being unemployed presents challenges.  Obviously.  There’s the lack of money.  Here, have some stress.  How about a serving of depression?

But one of the challenges that isn’t talked about in the sound bites on the news is the challenge of boredom.  Boredom can be demoralizing.  You sit around looking at job listings, making lists of possible companies that you would like to approach, and dwell on the deafening silence that is the response to the dozens of resumes you’ve sent out to prospective employers.  You get morose.  You want to escape the house and go on a shopping spree with money you don’t have.  You start a NASTY cycle of self criticizing.

But there is help.  You can volunteer.

Consider where your interests lie.  Pick a passion you have.  Now, go look for a volunteer opportunity that is related to that interest.  Or, consider a topic or skill that you would like to learn more about.  This is especially clever if you want more exposure to an industry you don’t know much about and want to research.

I’m interested in knitting, cooking, environmental protection and restoration, gardening and a bunch of other stuff .  I went to a local site that hooks up non-profits with people who want to volunteer.   There were a ton of volunteer opportunities, short term and long term.  I found one and signed up.  It was easy.

Yesterday, I  volunteered with Save the Bay, http://www.savesfbay.org.  I spent a few hours with about 8 other people and the event leader.  For about 3 hours we transplanted seedlings and cuttings of native plants.

It wasn’t rocket science, but it was very detailed work.  We took the baby plants from their flats, teased fragile roots from tangles, and lovingly tucked the young plants into new pots of soil.  We misted and watered.  We chatted about families, work, kids, the environment, school, and birds.

For some of the volunteers, this event was a stress break.  Others came to learn something new.  Some people came to support the organization.  For me it was all of that.

Mushy brain syndrome, caused by two days of house arrest focusing on  learning new software skills – complete with itchy, strained eyes – required an antidote.   Check: I got out to a nursery about 200 yards away from the bay, where I was serenaded by the birds singing and leaves rustling.  The view was great.  I played in the dirt.

Sniggering, mean-spirited Self Doubt, telling me that I had wasted years learning about horticulture so I would be unemployable, needed a good beating about the head.  Check: I was given validation of my skills and knowledge by the nursery manager, as she asked me to do some specific tasks not appropriate for complete novices.  I had people brainstorming places for me to look for jobs.  My ego loved the fact that people thought I should be working with schools.  I was encouraged by my co-volunteers to be patient and wait out the economy, and that there was a job out there for me.

Save the Bay needed volunteer help to propagate  these plants to restore the shoreline that is under constant threat by our urban living.  Check: HUNDREDS of plants were processed yesterday!  The plants we transplanted will be used to restore several parts of the shoreline, mitigating erosion, creating habitat for the endanged Clapper Rail, and bringing recovery to a damaged ecosystem.

What were the benefits of volunteering?

  1. I had a lovely afternoon in the fresh air.
  2. I didn’t obsess about being unemployed for a few hours.
  3. I met new people who had some common interests.  I networked.
  4. I learned about some native plants. Gum Flower, Arrow Grass, Bee Plant, Coyote Bush.
  5. I helped a non-profit take a small step in achieving a noble goal.
  6. I helped Mother Earth.  I helped the Clapper Rail.  I helped the Bay.

It was a good day.

Magaidh

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