I realized tonight that I have arrived at a very different place than many of my colleagues who work to gird our organization against the tempests of the future. My understanding of our circumstances is too far removed. The very values that I worry could inadvertently lead to the end of our co-op are the values that people celebrate. The more I try to explain the connections I’ve made and the change I believe is necessary, the more I realize that the culture is focused on keeping things organized the way they are.
I’m being very vague, and I apologize. I’m very out of practice (and who am I kidding–plain inexperienced) with writing down my ideas. I can pretty easily get my head around a handful of concepts, parse out some higher-level relationships, and write six to twelve pages on how they all represent facets of a deeper process. I only have to hold a few ideas in my head at a time, and my subject is fairly narrow. But with this, I have to put into order all the ideas I’ve ever thought, with no boundaries except the ones I can try to knock together for myself.
I get really wrapped up in prose, I realize now after writing two paragraphs. I’ll finally give enough form to a feeling to feel capable of writing it down, and then I linger for seconds on each word, feeling out metaphors and synonyms, casting around for the perfect syllable, panning the river of my consciousness for the gold nuggets of language. It takes me far too long to write my sentences, and by the time I’ve finished writing one, I’ll have already “thought” myself into some new jungle of ideas and never bother writing a second one. This mechanism of words is like a too-narrow funnel. But maybe I just need practice.
And I apologize, quite sincerely, if the above paragraphs are the absolute most pretentious thing you’ve ever read. I take pride in my prose (It’s been called flowery), and I get little chills when I craft a sentence that I really like. I think it has roots in my fantasy background–I grew up in the company of lords and princes. Their manner of speaking really rubbed off on me.
What was I talking about? My organization. Let’s see how far I get this time, and it’s already late.
I think what I’ve realized is that I’ll never be able to fully convey my understanding of the co-ops, because there has been no one else, there will likely never be anyone else (except if someone ran for office after being both the ConCom Chair, Conduct Investigator, and President) who has seen the things I’ve seen, and sustained the wounds that I have, and bore the weights. Every semester, the underside of the BSC gets shoved further and further into the shadows. No one on Cabinet this year, or last for that matter, had ever participated in a conduct hearing. None of them (except, of course, for Jan and Kim) had ever probed those party to a case. I think I am the only one besides Monique who has ever investigated a conduct case. I don’t meant to say this to make myself seem somehow special–I really am not. But I have dealt with issues which future executives will likely never have to deal with, and that is relevant.
I’ve seen how frivolously money has been spent by those in power, and I’m highly distrustful of bureaucracy. I’m a bureaucrat. I’ve been a bigger bureaucrat. I work with bureaucrats. I’ve seen the malaise set in. I’ve felt it. I’ve felt my idealism dry up, like a leaf in the desert. I’ve known, in my heart, the feeling of no longer caring and I understand how it happens. This is no one’s fault, but a consequence of the structure.
I’ve also felt the vigor of starting something new, having the future at your fingertips, and eagerly clearing away those who seem to be unable to align themselves with the new thinking. I’ve disregarded those whose opinions I felt were… extreme, even as I indulged others.
I’ve borne the pain of investigation, of speaking with those in pain, of speaking with those who cause pain, realized that each sees themselves as victims of the other, and as doers of good. I’ve seen the neglect of integrity lead to the build up of deceptions and misconceptions, to the point where the unstable concoction blows up, and the world that people had been coaxed into living in suddenly changes beyond recognition. I’ve seen how scared and zesty people can act rashly and excitedly in situation of uncertainty, making decisions in the moment for the rush, causing more pain and suffering in the long run.
I’ve also felt that zest, and was publicly berated for it. I wonder who would berate me now… and how I would take it.
There’s one person who does, from time to time, in public but more often in private. I try to take it in peacefully. Even when I see where she is right, I also feel where she is wrong. I try to hold her opinions with my own, without discarding hers or unmaking mine.
I think this style of writing is working well for me, right now. I’ll dart from idea to idea in the barest semblance of logical order. Maybe later it’ll make more sense. This freeflowing style is kind of exciting, but then I wonder what people will think. This is a… public blog, after all. I feel like my reflections are as valid as anyone else writing out there. (These are things I worry about).
Back to the organization. I’ve terminated people. I’ve sat in a room with one other person and made the decision to throw them out. More than once. I remember the first time. I was called into the back office, told that something important had come up. I found out that this boy, I’ll call him Zane, had been reported as using Heroin. To say the least, this was not a very good time to be using Heroin in our little organization. Things could get really bad, really fast. Someone wanted him out, and I was asked if I would give the go-ahead.
I knew this kid. He was a sweetheart. A little unsure of himself (but that’s fine), and someone who wanted to find a place. It seems as if he was dealing with more than that. But I really liked him!
But in that context, my feelings didn’t matter. I had a responsibility to hundreds and hundreds of kids who would never hear about this decision. I had to ensure that their homes would be here tomorrow, and Zane seemed like a small price to pay for their security. So I said yes. And he was evicted days later. From what I heard, he spent a few nights sleeping on friend’s couches. He found a new place, at some point. He’s not allowed back, anymore.
I could say more about this. But I am so ashamed. I take zero pride in that decision. We did the easy thing, we threw one person away who didn’t fit, to keep the rest. There was no justice there. We hadn’t done the right thing.
Anyway, I don’t think I’m going to be able to finish my extended missive about my cultural isolation from the rest of the Board. They have had their experiences, which I can’t access. It’s possible my experiences have warped me into a useless shape, good for nothing more than policy corrections and historical context. Or maybe I’m the only one who understands. Probably neither extreme. But I’m past the point where I can ingratiate myself into the zeitgeist. I can’t force myself to feel the excitement of the moment. I’m apart, in my joy and sorrow, and to try to mimic the feelings of others is to lie to myself. I knew this would happen–from the start, I knew I would find myself at the margins.
I’d like to return to this theme. This is the most I’ve ever written about this, and the first time I’ve spanned so many events at once. I feel as through I can be very direct with my feelings.
Edit: I reviewed this after a few days perspective and made cleaned up some language I wasn’t satisfied with.