Interpreting “Do-gooder”. What does that even mean?

I dislike the term “do-gooder” which makes me question why it’s part of my blog name and that I’m referring to myself as one.  It sounds pretentious.  Who says I’ve done any good at all?  Perhaps I’ve only mucked things up trying to be good.  Though I also think it’s humorous and fitting.  When I first heard the term years ago, I laughed because my friend was clever, mocking the obvious dysfunction at the non-profit where we worked.  People were assholes and complained about being underpaid and working too hard, often leading to dissatisfaction and stalled productivity.  It defeats the purpose of choosing the non-profit industry in the first place. (Yes, it’s an industry).

In a positive light, I’d say it’s another word for  trying to do charitable-type work or think of others: wanting to make the world a better place. This “world” may be your own home, your neighborhood, community, or literally the world.  It sounds admirable and selfless, and it most definitely is at times, but it isn’t simple.  I have questioned my motives for doing so.  After some reflection over the years I see how choosing do-gooder professions has been very meaningful.

Without going into detail right now, I had to be responsible and take care of others long before I should have.   At this point in my life, I don’t see this type of self sacrifice as noble or even desirable.  It has come at a high cost to my own well-being.  I have tried my hardest to temper the do-gooder in me and let go of what feels like a burden.  Hence, the name of my blog.  I want to be preoccupied purely with pleasure and enjoying myself.

One of the main reasons I came to Hawaii was to get away from the environment I had become so entrenched in.  Working in the field of international relief and development was wonderful and I don’t regret one minute of it, but what was once a insaitable drive and passion became a burden.  In other words I burnt out.  I didn’t want to care anymore about war-torn countries like Sudan, countries that are rebuilding from the tragedies of civil war like Burundi, women in Africa who have been raped as a weapon of war in DRC, or mass destruction and chaos in places like Haiti.  The list really never ends.  But what truly wrecks me is the reality of the injustices and unbalance of power around the world.  How is it that I live the privileged life I do, but people in Ethiopia are being taught to use latrines (some are just shacks with holes in the ground) and how  to correctly wash their hands?  No joke, there was a celebration in an Ethiopian village, “Open Defecation Free Day” because the entire community had all started using latrines versus, well, defecating openly which spreads bacteria and disease.  Thousands of lives are saved from this alone due to prevention of diarrhoea, one of the biggest killers of children under five in Africa.  I cannot wrap my mind around it.  There are numerous studies, theories, books, etc. on the state of the world and poverty but they don’t have the power to relieve my conflicted feelings.

So Hawaii it is.  Could there be any place more opposite of Washington, DC and the places I’ve been?  I laugh about it to myself all the time.  I feel like I’ve entered another reality and at this point I feel mostly like an observer.  I partake in the pleasures of what Hawaii has to offer, but I am cautious, even reluctant.  I question if I’m allowed to leave suffering behind and simply enjoy myself.  Sounds ridiculous, but it’s real for me.  I brought the do-gooder with me, funny how that happens.  Wherever you go, there you are!  Though  I am aware I also need to honor an embrace that part of me.  Through it all, I have cultivated compassion and a deep appreciation and understanding toward those who suffer.  It is a wonderful gift at times.  Hating aspects of oneself is not productive, nor helpful.

I have a lot to learn from the people around me.  Graduate school, despite the challenging adjustment, has opened my eyes to a different way of living.  It’s perfectly acceptable and attainable to have as much fun as humanly possible with still getting your shit done.  It’s amazing!  Why the heck did I go straight to work and throw myself into a demanding and emotionally exhausting career right away?  Well, I think I know the answer to that…it’s complicated piece of who I was, who I still am.  I feel like I’ve skipped over periods of time in my life when I was supposed to be enjoying myself more and living a carefree life.  Don’t have much control over the past, but working on the present.  One day, I hope I can trust  and embrace compassion without losing myself.

Can I let go and allow myself to be a Hedonist?  I don’t know.  But I’ve had more fun in the past three months than I have had in years.  That has to count for something.


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