Out of the Bouleversement of COVID-19, A
New Different Thing
It’s been a while (again). I’m trying! In this post, I hope to share the present status and future prospects for this Vermont Project. Sneak Peak: Vermont may no longer be the destination. So, then what is the destination?
I have organized the next four updates according to the four passions that inspired me to track my journey publicly in the first place:
- H – Housing Affordability & Sustainability
- E – Economic Justice & Opportunity
- R – Racial Justice & Reconciliation
- E – Environmental Justice & Stewardship
H- Housing Affordability & Sustainability
In 2018, the answer to questions about housing affordability, sustainability, and setting down roots looked like a home in the country, aka Plan A: I would buy land in Southern Vermont 2.5 to 3 hours from Boston, pay it off, then save until I could afford to construct a sustainable home. Perhaps as an outcome of sharing my project online, others would choose to move with me; I would absolutely prefer to live in a an intentional community over going it alone. This last detail about desiring an intentional community–fellow travelers for the journey–is not something I shared online. I felt outlandish enough being a Black female seeking to live in the predominantly white, rural, cold Northern state of Vermont. To ask people, especially people of color, to join me? Well, I wasn’t ready to ask it in writing; I was also busy processing the implications for my own Black body along the way. I feel more secure sharing this desire now, ironically, after the events of 2020 and after my direction has shifted during the pandemic.
- The Woman in the Mirror
- Affordable Housing Eligibility
- Law School
1. The Woman in the Mirror
Summer 2020, I took time to consider alternatives to Plan A. I did so primarily out of panic, disorientation, disillusion and discouragement from life in the “new normal”. I recognized that Plan A, strictly followed at my current salary alone, would take more years than I am ready to wait. Amid uncertainty about the economy, job security during a recession, the impact of increased grocery prices on my ability to save and deferral of wage increases at work, what was the value of sustained devotion to Plan A? It began as new hope for my future and continued as vision, but if I were to be honest with myself, Plan A also functioned as self-medication while I navigated the uncertainties, disappointment, stress, anxieties and unmet longings of the present. The uncertainty of the pandemic made this more clear; I wanted Vermont to be a certainty I could look forward to, yet if oatmeal was going to cost me $14 and butter $7 because expensive brands were the last on the shelf, how could I ever reasonably get there?! This project gave me five to ten years to hope for something better later, assuaging disappointment with the upheaval and transience of my twenties.
This summer, with abundant quarantine and social distancing time for self-reflection, I was forced to question my relationship to Plan A head-on: What does it mean if I abandon Plan A? Were these two years a waste? Was I completely self-deceived? –I don’t know about your inner critic, but mine is quite aggressive when it hits me in the gut.
The intensity of my grip on Plan A betrayed its emotional function. I wanted a sense of certainty, direction and purpose, as anyone does, but my inflexibility in how to get there and the sense of loss when a different, perhaps even more feasible path was proposed, revealed its medicating role as “something to look forward to”. If concrete results such as owning a home in Boston or renting an apartment in Vermont were realized sooner rather than later, then what–concretely–was therewould I work toward or look forward to, in five to ten years?
To answer the questions of the inner-critic directly: No, the past two years of research and writing were not a waste, and I was not completely self-deceived in my values or interests. With help, I learned that more than realizing homeownership in Southern Vermont in a “reasonable” amount of time, this project furthered my growth as a person–growth into my own skin–over the last few years. It helped me clarify my societal concerns to both myself and to others, inviting old friends and new strangers to consider ideas along with me; I made new connections with strangers across state lines and within different networks. It motivated me to better steward my finances. I learned about the process of purchasing property. I utilized my active mind in ways that it was not engaged at work and geared it toward learning, reflection, thought, communication and creative thinking about real world issues. I stepped outside of my comfort zone with stronger convictions, a better informed voice, and growing self-discipline. The interests, insights and values of this project are my own whether Vermont becomes its final destination or not.
In June/July, I researched alternatives to Plan A. I did so even before I fully admitted or accepted the revelations above. My grip on my original idea loosened; Plan A did not have to be Plan-Only. Below are the alternatives I considered last summer. The first two are suggestions that I received prior last summer:
- First-time home buying in Greater Boston then buying in Vermont
- Moving to Vermont to work at the University of Vermont, rent and save in Vermont
- Renting land and owning a tiny house, (Black Tiny House Trailblazer, Jewel Pearson)
- Life on the road: Van life, Truck camper life (I like nice things, lol) or RV life. All three of these would be too expensive if I were to aim for my construction quality a style preferences. For example, truck campers can cost up to $450,000 with all the amenities of a home. Also, I think these would be a slightly frightening lifestyles for me as a single Black female on the road, alone, in Walmart parking lots or RV camp grounds.
3. Affordable Housing Eligibility
In August 2020, I learned that I am eligible for multiple affordable housing programs in my current city of residence! I had had no idea… I will apply as soon as I assemble all of my required documents. I am still waiting on my W-2 which will serve as proof of income.
An aside: While raises were deferred over the summer, my company was able to move forward with promotions and merit increases this December after all, and I received both! Praise the Lord!! I am also still eligible for the affordable housing programs.
Affordable housing would give me the chance to live in a studio or one bedroom apartment at rent and utility costs comparable to those I currently pay while living with roommates. It means I could afford to stay in one place as long as I am eligible and be free of annual roommate deliberations about who’s re-signing the lease and potentially searching new housemates. During COVID-19, living alone would mean more control over virus exposure in my own living space; at present, my roommates’ exposure is out of my control.
When friends shared these affordable housing programs with me, it felt like a window opening as the door of Plan A closed. Renting alone could help meet my desire for greater home-life stability while waiting game to buy a home for myself. God is good.
In August-September, a new romantic acquaintance further loosened my grip on Plan A. I may be in my thirties, but dating is not and has not ever been a familiar activity for me, not during pre-adolescence, adolescence, young adulthood nor as an adult-adult :). For example, if you were to ask me the question, “Are you a PDA person?” I would answer, “I don’t know! ::shrug::” It’s been an irrelevant question to all but two–a few (?)–days of my adult life! I hope this is indicative of the infrequency of my participation in US dating culture “norms” either formerly or presently. Envisioning lifetime companionship hovered toward the lesser of my priorities leading up to August 2020. Meeting someone I liked and who liked me was a bouleversement of its very own during COVID-19.
As we got to know each other, it dawned on me–in experience, beyond intellectual conceptualizations–that to be open to life companionship meant we’d consider each other’s hopes, dreams, passions, goals and the direction we would take together. A relationship with this person did not pan out, but the can was opened for me with regards to leaning towards life with a committed companion versus celibacy and life-long singleness. I also realize that a life-long companion may not materialize before my last breath, and that will be OK. I am currently living a life of temporary celibacy (open to marriage), and I intend to seek committed community and relationship that is not romantic regardless of my relationship status.
Over the summer, the realm of romance helped me to become more open to the variety of circuitous paths life can take. It also helped me acknowledge two sentiments even more clearly: 1) I do not want to set out on a project like this alone AND 2) I would like a life-companion with whom to pursue whatever unfolds. I also understand that simply having this desire neither entitles me to life-companionship nor limits my movement in pursuing my passions and living a full life without that companionship. Openness to different routes with unknown timelines is not an abandonment of hopes–I would indeed prefer a home in the country. Instead, I am challenged to surrender to uncertainty while hoping. I am challenged to wait, see and believe in the possibility of good things panning out in better, healthier, more joyful and less lonely ways than self-medicating, controlling or worrisome striving could even begin to plan or imagine. *Please pray for me :)*
Then… in November of 2020, another unexpected connection happened. The leadership of TRACTION, “a network of individuals of Christian faith offering men and women an experience in supportive and enriching environments where they are mentored and challenged to pursue individual and shared goals”, reached out to connect me to a like-minded couple looking to start: 1) an intentional Christian community of 2) co-owned land and 3) sustainable tiny homes around 4) sustainable farming in 5) rural New England.
::cue vinyl record scratch:: Whaaaat?? Come again??! A near-future realization of anything remotely close to Vermont, at this point in November 2020, was in the process of floating away like a dandelion seed carried by the summer breeze! By November of any year, summer breezes are long gone, am I right?? (extending the metaphor there). Then, the news from TRACTION came… GOD. IS. GOOD. Besides obedience to share the progress of this vision with you all and the world wide web, NONE OF THIS WAS FROM MY EFFORTS. TRACTION connected me with them. I wasn’t actively looking. I cried tears of unmerited favor the morning after the call.
The couple and I first connected via email. We read each others’ blogs and documents regarding our respective visions, missions and journeys. For the past few years, they have been crisscrossing North America, visiting or living in different intentional communities who also have a focus on sustainable living and permaculture. Soon after connecting via email, we scheduled a phone call and ended up talking for a couple hours. We got better acquainted with each other’s stories, interests and how our passions for intentional community, marginalized communities, sustainable living and agriculture are informed by our faith and personal testimonies.
We have a number of interests in common and some differences in areas of focus as well. That said, if there is anything that I have learned from the past six to seven months of 2020, it is to hold these opportunities with an openhand, including my own initial visions for how they can play out. I am more ready to discern along the way and see where things go while dialoging with this couple.
Over the next four months, I will join them–and I believe others who are also considering this community–in reading and discussing the book, “Creating Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities” by Diana Leafe Christian. I’m looking forward to what could be next. I am looking forward to praying, learning, discussing, and discovering possibilities with like minds. No matter the outcome, no matter if I end up partnering with this couple to begin this particular intentional community or not, I am encouraged and excited to support their discernment, vision and mission. I know I will grow in the process as well.
6. Law School
I registered for the LSAT at the end of December 2020. My hope is to apply to attend law school beginning in Fall 2022. I am still in the process of researching schools and programs, figuring out what kind of law career interests me. Whichever law school I potentially attend, God willing, may or may not impact where I live for a span of at least 3 years. I could got to school in Massachusetts, online, via a part-time program or via an evening program depending on the school. I’ve definitely opened to different pathways for my life since Summer 2020!
Becoming a lawyer does not necessarily conflict with living in intentional community in New England, owning land, living in a tiny house, living rural, seeking racial justice, economic justice, environmental justice, or justice in housing–any of those four passions. In fact, I believe I’ll be better equipped to impact and contribute to any one of these areas if I refine my knowledge and skillset in research, writing, analysis and argumentation with a professional degree in law.
How did I arrive at considering law school? In short: the wake of George Floyd’s murder. More about that in a future post on Racial Justice and Racial Reconciliation.
Writing this post inadvertently became a reflection on a variety of blessings in my life, including facing tough truths about myself, during the past seven months of this pandemic. As I reflect on these revelations and connections of 2020, and all the work God did on my heart during the pandemic to prepare me for each person and opportunity that came into my life, I feel incredibly looked out for by Someone well beyond my small human self.
Thank you for reading, supporting and praying. Until next time.
Copyright © 2021 A.M. Wilsonne