Monday, April 07, 2008

A Fair Trader's Work-Life Balance

There is so much great stuff to report from the Fair Trade Federation conference in Austin this weekend: interesting workshops from the likes of Tex Dworkin of Global Exchange and Jacquie McDonald of Ten Thousand Villages Canada, fun and inspiring colleagues too numerous to mention (but I'll give a special shout out to Elizabeth Cole a friend and local Fair Trade activist who took a bunch of us on a tour of Austin one night), and dozens of challenging conversations and strategy sessions. But I'm going to focus on the fact that three people separately talked to me about being "overwhelmed" by all the work that needs doing in the Fair Trade world. Of course, it is not unique to our social movement that we have high aspirations, limited resources, and a ton of problems to confront. But because I had one friend and ally tell me for the second time in recent weeks that he thought I was a candidate for burn-out, I have decided to take the warning signals for myself and those I care about (Fair Traders who uttered the world "overwhelmed" you know who you are).

I'm going to put this blog on hold for awhile. This is hard to do as a compulsive person who wants to answer "just one more email" before I go to bed each night, but one of the things that motivated me about the conference was that I want to give my best to the Fair Trade movement. I can't do that if my brain is foggy and my body tired, not to mention my spirit worn thin. Even though I only post every week or so, I feel stressed out most days that I need to think of useful and fun postings. It is very gratifying to have people tell me in person and read from google analytics that this blog is helpful, but then I worry that I have to be VERY helpful, ALL the time.

This attitude is foolish and, arrogant, I know in my heart. I need to listen more to my heart and less to the nagging soundtracks in my mind. My vision for the world is one in which we all have enough of our basic needs met, and we all have enough opportunity to pursue our higher aspirations. Although my motivations and aspirations are good--I want to help you live a Fair Trade life!--I need to tend to my own basics. I hope to return to this blog when I am restored and refreshed. That will mean--I trust--that I'll have better information and insight to share. And if any of my struggle sounds familiar to you, as you strive for your own vision of a just world, I hope you will consider what you can let go of for awhile. Join me in practicing a work-life balance that is full of the same respect we try to offer farmers and artisans....


  1. "Join me in practicing a work-life balance that is full of the same respect we try to offer farmers and artisans...."


    I'll try... but it takes a lot of work to run a fair trade business! But you're right, we must treat ourselves with respect and not overwork ourselves. I know plenty of fair traders who are overworked and underpaid... it's almost funny how we work hard so that our producers are not overworked and not underpaid, but we are :-) I guess I'm thinking too much about $$, we are getting a lot back for our work, I'm sure of it!

    Good luck and hope you feel better!!

  2. Anonymous6:33 PM

    I still remember you calling me for a chat when I was burnt out about a year ago. I really appreciated that. Get some rest, my friend. The movement will be here when you have a chance to re-charge. We need you!

    Ian Hussey

    PS - I started a group blog called Activist Notes with some friends recently. Drop us a line when you return to your desk

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