Being a volunteer, in some capacity or another, has always been important to me. Whether it is the altruistic need to help those who need it or the ability to feed my control issues, I will always volunteer in some capacity. This year though brought some issues with volunteering that almost had me quit. And then I remember the I that I was.
To give credit where credit is due, this breakthrough is courtesy of Billy Crystal in the classic role of Mitch Robbins in City Slickers. The basics of the storyline involve a man who is disillusioned by this life and seeking satisfaction in manly adventures involving cows. The point that has always stood out for me is at the end of his adventure when he comes home to his family. His realization that his life doesn’t need to be better – he needs to do it better.
Wife: It’s okay Mitch – you can quit your job. Find something that makes you happy.
Mitch: I don’t need to quit my job. I just need to do it better.
How is that for a life changing realization ? Simple but true. I don’t need more stuff. I don’t need to change careers. I don’t need to change my partner. I just need to do it all better. And this my friends is my realization. I was on the verge of quitting something that I love because I was not doing it well. Not perfect. Not my way. Not to some unachievable standard that only my psycho mind can validate. Just not well. Not engaged. Not anything to what I know I need it to be in order to be satisfied.
So I contemplated leaving the volunteer position that I’ve enjoyed for 8 years. In that time I’ve planned a yearly program that has increased the unit from 13 girls to 35 with a waiting list. I’ve planned camps that have girls being able to pitch their own tent and cook over an open fire. I’ve talked about making methane, making armpit fudge and making girls in to strong, capable women. And I’ve loved every minute. Volunteering makes me who I am which is a better person, daughter, wife and mother.
Being a leader with Girl Guides is something I am enormously proud of. When I look at all I’ve accomplished, I am sometimes overwhelmed. Between trainings, conferences and meetings I’ve learned an incredible amount of information. And I am extremely fortunate that I’ve been able to take that information and transfer it to other areas of my life: organizational skills, opportunities for creativity, group management and team work.
There are those that would argue about the team work and I can see why. I can see how it appears that I want to control every aspect of what other people are doing. My perspective is somewhat different. I don’t care how anyone gets the job done as long as it’s done. Shop where you want, pull resources from where ever you need to, do whatever you need to do: but get it done. I welcome anyone’s ideas for consideration by the team. If you want to try bungee jumping then do the research, cost it out and put it before the team. If majority rules then I will strap my sorry butt to the bottom of a long stretchy cord and jump off. For me, my issues with team work stem from communication.
This is probably the Gemini in me. We are born communicators. We love knowledge. We crave stimulation. We also crave stability and a clear path. When communication doesn’t happen in a team this throws things off. This upsets stability and the path becomes less clear. For me – this equates to being on a rocket ship to the moon with only half a tank of fuel, a faulty compass and a parachute with a hole in it. Not sure how we are going to get there and not sure if we’ll land safely on re-entry. If anyone’s familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you can imagine what my brain is doing during these moments. There is no way I’m reaching the top of any pyramid any time soon.
The communication issue isn’t necessarily a one-sided thing. When I become disengaged, I don’t make the effort to check on what I need to know. If I’m used to having all the information, then it’s not in my repertoire to look other places. I need to be connected to things in order to remember to do them so if I don’t create it, it’s not in my brain. This is a long-standing issue that I’m working on.
I’m hopeful that by committing to another year of volunteering with this new perspective that I will do a better job. My plan is to continue with whatever duties I end up with to the best of my ability. I will continue to engage with the girls and watch them as they grow. I will balance my new career with the opportunity to teach and learn. In short, I will remember the I that I was and become the me again that makes me happy. I think I’ll also learn to sew and fix that pesky parachute problem.