Posted by: Jack Hope | Monday March 4, 2013

2013 Plan: This Place is a Zoo

Component: Community

From the very beginning of the process for my 2013 plan, the one component of it that I have been the most certain of as been the component of ‘community.’

It has seemed imperative that I start contributing in someway to the broader world.

And from the very beginning of this process it has also been the component that has given me the most consternation.

It has seemed obvious that the way to tackle this would be to volunteer.

But in what capacity? Where? What would be a good way to volunteer on a regular basis? These questions have been at the forefront of my mind.

Yet there has also been a deeper unease attached to this, one that has been harder for me to verbalize. Volunteering means interacting with new people, dealing with a schedule, expending time and effort for an organization or goal.

In short, its work.

Going Back to Work

Volunteering is one of the few experiences that I can have that closely resembles the daily experience of going to work.

It’s not an exact match of course, as obviously I don’t receive any remuneration and have a lot more flexibility to set my own schedule and contribution. Still, it’s as close an approximation as I can get without actually going back to work.

And with that has come a lot of the same anxiety too, about my ability to do this, to be able to manage my mental state and social phobias well enough.

Still, it’s important that I make the attempt. I won’t know unless I try.

A Test Run

I obviously don’t know if I’m ready to go back to work or not. Lots of recent struggles suggest that I’m not, yet at the same time, if I don’t start building towards that goal, well then there’s no road from here to there.

Volunteering offers the opportunity for a test run, to begin to rebuild the atrophied skills that are essential to today’s modern corporate drone.

Volunteering though also offers other health benefits.

A spat of recent reports have suggested that volunteering has benefits for a person’s heart and the social interaction that is often needed by those with mental illness.

Its a Zoo in Here

So as of today I have submitted my application to volunteer with the Calgary Zoo.

IMG_4394I was inspired by my recent trip (note the penguins) with a friend of mine which reinforced that this may be an interesting place to volunteer.

My goal is to start small, aiming for a modest time donation of 4 to 8 hours per week.

I’ll admit I’m feeling pretty nervous about putting myself into such a new situation but I also know it’s time to make the attempt.

The whole point of this 2013 plan has been to start making the small steps, to build me back up to being a fully functional person, to give me a direction to pursue.

I have been feeling very aimless of late and it’s time to change that. More to come on this.



  1. That’s so awesome! Penguins rock, and they’d be lucky to have you to look out for them.

    I’m on a similar path too, I’ve applied for 3 volunteering vacancies in the last month, and am waiting for replies. I feel like I should choose to volunteer in something that could lead to a career, but reading this I’m wondering if I should just do what my heart sings to, and volunteer with something furry (that will make me sneeze!).

    Good luck!!

    • Hey, great to hear from you again! Way back in the day, if you can believe it, I used to actually be involved in the hiring of potential employees. And while I can’t speak for every potential employer, for me personally as a manager hiring others, volunteer experience of any kind was always a benefit.

      So, no matter you may do, I’d be willing to bet it will be good for your mental health and employment prospects.

      Hope all is well!


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