It’s a cliche, but like all cliches, it’s rooted in truth. “Decisions are made by those who show up.”
In my line of work, we are constantly being asked to serve on committees, on task forces, in project groups. A faculty member’s duties include teaching, research, and service, and it’s challenging to balance the three. Teaching is a time-and-place sort of thing: you prep for class, you teach the class, you do the grading. Research requires a degree of self-discipline, creating and adhering to a schedule of one’s own devising.
Then there’s the service.
Service obligations often get pushed to third place in the great trifecta (and, one could argue, rightly so, as service often “counts” the least in promotion and tenure decisions). And all those meetings take precious hours from our already-tight schedules. It’s tempting to say no, even with the prospect of free coffee and pastries in the morning.
When someone calls to recruit you for a committee, the pitch is always the same: We NEED you. You know so much about this issue. You are so talented. You’re so good with people. You have expertise that nobody else does.
I try to say yes when I can. I listen to people complain, people who didn’t come to the meetings and sit on the committees, and I sometimes bristle at their dismissive attitudes toward decisions that were time-consuming and carefully made. No solution is ideal, but we are often invited to take part. That’s the time to make our voices heard.
I am heartened by the rising activism I see among young people. And I would say to all of us: if you’re fed up with living under the restrictions that others have imposed, make sure you are taking advantage of opportunities to be heard. Many times we’re invited to the table, and find reasons not to show up.
Let’s renew our commitment to showing up as much as possible.
I’m usually able to keep my temper in check, but my personal danger zone is when I’m “hangry” (hungry + angry). A few evenings ago, with a stressful week behind me and another one ahead, I behaved badly with a friend. She expressed an opinion I disagreed with, and I went salty.
I wasn’t proud of myself. And I did apologize.
In our culture, we’re encouraged to express ourselves, told that every thought and opinion is fair game for public airing. Free speech, right? But I’ve always believed that rights come with responsibilities – just because we *can* doesn’t mean we *should*.
Whyever not? Why not just let it all hang out?
Because we care for one another. Because we want to build relationships, not tear them down. Because there are ways to disagree without expressing anger, without hurting or humiliating someone we care about.
Because I don’t want to be that person who loses my temper. I want to cultivate patience and kindness, and stay aware that when someone disagrees with me, it doesn’t mean they’re my enemy. If I want my friend to think my viewpoint is valuable, I can start by treating her with respect, even if I think she’s wrong.
I try to keep a handle on my rage because the short-term gratification of the outburst isn’t worth the long-term consequence of alienating someone who’s important to me. And sometimes, I have to take a deep breath and remember that.
You who never arrived
in my arms, Beloved, who were lost
from the start,
I don’t even know what songs
would please you. I have given up trying
to recognize you in the surging wave of
the next moment. All the immense
images in me — the far-off, deeply-felt
landscape, cities, towers, and bridges, and
unsuspected turns in the path,
and those powerful lands that were once
pulsing with the life of the gods–
all rise within me to mean
you, who forever elude me.
You, Beloved, who are all
the gardens I have ever gazed at,
longing. An open window
in a country house– , and you almost
stepped out, pensive, to meet me.
Streets that I chanced upon,–
you had just walked down them and vanished.
And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors
were still dizzy with your presence and,
startled, gave back my too-sudden image.
Who knows? Perhaps the same
bird echoed through both of us
yesterday, separate, in the evening…
Rainer Maria Rilke