“So, what do you do?” Oh, that’s a question that is rarely paired with a one sentence answer – unless they’re being purposely humble. The rise of the Gig Economy has affected more than Whidbey Island; but islands have always been places for resourceful, creative people.
Resourceful, creative people frequently become that way from necessity as much as choice. In the case of islands and other remote communities there was a choice, the choice, the decision to live beyond the typical mainstream boundaries. Resourcefulness and creativity are similar to the mother of invention: necessity.
For many the decision to move to Whidbey Island was made by others, like commanding officers. For those moving to Whidbey Island as a life choice, the decision to move to the island came first, and then the resourcefulness and creativity are called in to make such a life livable.
People move here intentionally. That may sound innocuous, but within large cities it is easy to slide from one neighborhood to another, smoothly transitioning from this commute to that commute, from this school district to that one. The decision to cross the moat of Puget Sound is abrupt, literally with no middle ground.
Many people on the island stitch together a lifestyle from their available skills and talents. Those skills and talents may be impressive, but it may take more than one to create a living wage. Even among the retirees, decades of work and advocacy can become more lines than will fit on a resume.
Scroll though LinkedIn, the social media site that is becoming the modern resume. With so few full-time jobs on the island, islanders’ LinkedIn pages become multi-page storylines worthy of feature length movies. Some are independent art films. Some would be blockbusters. Many would seem like fiction.
An environmental and social activist who has also written several books, taught and researched at several facilities, and who helped develop and sell a best-seller seen on infomercials around the world.
Actors, editors, producers from Hollywood who happily retreat to engage in gallery art and non-profit management.
Overlooked co-founders of multi-billion dollar companies that missed out on massive wealth, but are generating un-matchable social wealth within the community.
A doctor whose once radical ideas are now mainstream after switching to creating facilities for think tanks wrapped around the simple goal of solving planetary issues.
Without much surprise, a collection of Peace Corps veterans whose expertise and world view softly shatter paradigms, particularly as they appear to be dancers, counselors, or farmers.
A more personal example, myself, who started with blue collar jobs that included a risk of death; years as an aerospace engineer developing commercial airplanes, rockets, and satellites; taught karate; became a writer and photographer; a business consultant; a teacher and speaker; and is now a real estate broker – and is humbled by so many who have done so much more.
One of the joys of living within such a community is knowing that everyone has a story. Even if they think, or pretend, that it is dull there is a story to hear. Such a rich populace makes parties and events much more entertaining, makes conversations more engaging than anything online, and provides an array of solutions for almost every problem.
Around the planet, the Gig Economy is creating an environment of similarly fractured or fractal resumes. Life-long careers are vanishing. But, at least on Whidbey Island, don’t be surprised to learn that such a fragmented life is common. Despite a diversity of backgrounds, values, goals, and circumstances people in places like Whidbey Island share at least one thing in common – the conscious decision and desire to live in that particular place at that particular time.
Just be careful asking “What do you do?”. The answer may take much longer than you expect.
PS As soon as I stopped typing, a list scrolled through my thoughts: the ex-VP who is an artist and entrepreneur, the bagpiping biscotti baker who is also a scuba diver, the interior landscaper and belly dancer who is devoted to saving animals, … If you want to add yourself to the list, include yourself in the comments.