A Little Story of Serendipity

Sophia Cheng / 6 min read / Digital Nomad Days, Newbie Activist Life
21 January 2020
/ thanks Rob Hopkins

The beginning of January was bleak; large chunks of Australia were on fire, WW3 was being touted on Twitter by world leaders, I was still nursing post-election wounds and yet another example of being duped by my echo chamber, the novelty of New Years had faded.

It was just dark and so very grey.

So was my outlook. My motivated self checked out and hibernated deep somewhere out of reach. I stopped communicating, barely making work deadlines and if it wasn’t for Meggy (the wonderful dog we were looking after) I don’t think I would have left the house much.

Turns out this is a bit of a pattern, the last three Januarys’ I’ve found tough. Knowing this did help; it didn’t change how I felt but I knew that it would lift eventually. I was soothed by the wisdom that:

This too shall pass.

I booked in a massage and reconnected with my therapist. Even the act of writing to them helped me feel better. I could do nothing about the wildfires so had to avoid reading anything about them but I could send an email and book an appointment to look after myself.

I’m yet again reminded how important self-efficacy is in tackling the climate crisis.

I also sought out inspiration from other people, so scanned MeetUp and Facebook for interesting events. I spotted one: Transition Keynsham Presents Rob Hopkins. Rob would be sharing his stories from his latest book: ‘From What is to What if? Unleashing the power of imagination to create the future we want’. A memory stirred, I’d read some of Rob’s words in a recent blog post I’d drafted after going on to see 2040. I felt really fired up about that film and inspired to write something straight away.

And here was another opportunity to look into the future with a bit more hope.

Surely the antidote to my winter numbness?

More than that I felt compelled to go. Even though it was two buses and an hour’s journey away.

I owed Rob a lot.

He didn’t know that of course, I’ve never met him before. But he has had a big influence on my life, so I wanted to take the opportunity to see him in the flesh.

Why am I grateful to Rob without ever having met him?

Well, as founder of the Transition Town movement, he united Lucy Neal and Charlotte du Cann, who went on to create an Arvon writing course titled, Writing To Make Change Happen. I’d had my eye on this course for more than a year and was accepted in 2018. This course, these two women and the people on this course had a profound affect on me.

  • It has fuelled me to write more confidently than ever before and to believe in my voice
  • There I remembered how I enjoyed writing poetry
  • A fellow student shared Jem Bendall’s Deep Adaptation paper that was to set me on a course that changed my lifestyle and brought me back to the UK
  • I made a friend, whose continued writing support meant I was recognised as an Ethical Influencer in 2019
  • I also lived along the English coast for 2 months because my friend found us a room there. It was during the wild waves of February and swallowing Charlotte’s Dark Mountain essay, Varanasi that I announced my nomad days were over.
  • After learning more about Transition Town I sought out Totnes last summer, visited Reconomy Centre, attended a Climate Outreach workshop and was inspired firsthand by a town doing it for themselves.
  • The experience also played a big role in my choosing to be arrested during the International Rebellion in October! In April, by chance I bumped into Lucy Neal on Easter Sunday, hours after she had been let out of custody. During our brief exchange she allowed me to ask questions about the experience. Her responses stayed with me. And in October, that is what I chose to do. At the back of Downing Street under the watchful eye of my Arresting Officer, who should show up but Lucy again, offering her kind words of encouragement.

So you see, a lot to be grateful for. And if any of you have seen the festive classic, It’s A Wonderful Life, will know the feeling I was experiencing.

And here he was offering his time to inspire imagination on a dreary January night.

So off I went.

We took a ‘time machine’ into the future and imagined what 2030 would smell like, taste like, sound like if we had made the ‘rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’ the UN scientists’ said we needed to limit global temperature to 2 degree increase.

I’ve only tried to do this twice before and never in so much detail. It was challenging but insightful, particularly hearing from others. He challenged us to ‘create stories so delicious that you long to be there.’ He argues that we need to bring possible futures alive with multi-sensory imagination, otherwise ‘we won’t get there’. Then he reeled through truly inspiring projects around the world tackling these issues today.

I’ve subsequently devoured the book, and I’ll review that properly in a dedicated post. But it injected me with fuel I was looking for to really get started in this new and all important of decades.

I was able to look afresh at client projects I’ve been working on for years, challenged participants of eco-themed conversations I host online. And it’s strengthened my resolve to work on my own imagination skills; I’m back reading more fiction, discovered the sub-grenre of Solar Punk, dystopia’s brighter cousin. I might challenge myself to write some. I’m seeking out a course to craft and create something with my own two hands, putting my phone down more often, tackling my lack of focus, renewing my mindfulness practice and I’m out walking at least 30 mins a day.

Not just because it feels good, not just because it makes me a nicer person to be around but because re-awakening our imagination muscle might be the key to tackling the climate, social and ecological crises with the creativity and complexity it will demand.

I recall a phrase Charlotte said in passing during the writing course; ‘you never know when your words [or actions] will touch someone else’.

From that someone else, thank you Rob.

Avatar photo Sophia Cheng With a decade of communications experience across the for profit and nonprofit sectors, agency and in-house, Sophia has made a habit of making ‘the hard stuff’ more accessible. Since 2018, she has reorientated her life around the climate crisis. She has forged her decade of communications experience into offering workshops, mentoring, blogging, and more, on the biggest issues of our time. View all posts
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