There’s a parable I’ve heard (which appears to be a longer poem) that goes something like this:
Life in 4 Chapters:
1. I walk down a street and fall into a hole.
2. I walk down the street, see the hole, and fall into it anyway.
3. I walk down the street, see the hole, and walk around it.
4. I take a different street.
The message remains clear: even if you see a pitfall, that doesn’t always mean you’re able to avoid it.
I have fallen down a hole.
When I worked at a non-profit several years ago, I would often sit in staff meetings, taking notes as was my job, and listen as the folks with higher roles discussed what was upcoming and what needed doing. In these meetings, I observed one person repeatedly taking on multiple roles. This person was already in charge of a whole host of things, but what would happen would be a task would come up for someone to take ownership of, and there would be crickets.
In those crickets, it was a two-fold happening: this person was now expected to jump in to take that task on and they would jump in to take that task on!
It became a bit of chicken and egg: Were people stepping back because they knew this person would step forward, or was this person stepping forward and then everyone would step back?
In either case, the result was that at the end of each meeting, the list of tasks for this person was egregiously longer than the list of tasks for everyone else.
And this person was harried, stressed, and a bit manic all the time!
Yesterday at my weekly meeting with my supervisor I realized… I have become that person.
She reflected back to me that, considering my Type A personality wanting things just so, I have begun to take them on. Further, people in discussions of who can do what now throw my name in the hat because … I take them on!
UGH! I have become the harried, stressed, manic woman!!!
It’s a bit ironic to me, as someone who is a recovering wallflower. When I was growing up, I had people snide at me, “Don’t you ever talk?” or like the first high school party I ever went to where I kissed a boy and later overheard him say: “She’s cute, but she’s too quiet.”
So you can imagine my own SMH (shakes my head) realization that the wallflower has become a tornado.
During our meeting yesterday, there was more irony — this of the, “You spot it you got it” variety: there’s a student who has a lot of trouble working together in groups and wants to be the one to present to the class instead of learning as a part of it. This student raises my hackles. Sit down, yo, and learn like the rest of them; you’re not better. Learn some humility.
As I listened to my boss reflect some of what she was seeing back to me, all I could see was this student: chiming in, making “suggestions” which were really orders!
Dude. No wonder I’m not sleeping well … again.
I used to view my old coworker as a glutton for punishment. If that person would just step back instead of step up, they would have a little more breathing room, a little more time to not be a whirling dervish.
Oh god, that I am a dervish now. And apparently, I’m not the only one who sees it.
Before it becomes too ingrained, my boss suggested that I practice, basically, letting things go — and saying, No.
Just after that meeting, someone asked me to lead something, someone else wanted to have a “standing meeting” while I was running to class, and someone else asked me to share a resource with them that was accessible to them without my having to do anything.
So: I said no to leading the thing (though I suspect that it actually really is something that belongs to me — still learning); I told the standing meeting person that I wasn’t available right then (though they told me the synopsis anyway as my hand was on the doorknob out of the room, and I repeated I couldn’t hear that right then, and they gave me a grimace/smile, because hearing No can be hard when all you’ve heard is Yes from me); and the person who asked me for the resource, I told them how to find it themselves, instead of what I had started to say which was that I would find it and share it with them.
Va voy. 3 people in 30 minutes asking me to take things on. If it were 3 hours before, would I have said yes? Probably.
My attempts at stepping back are bound to be awkward and graceless. I will probably push back at places where I need to say yes and say yes where I need to say no.
But I am pretty sure (hopeful?) that one day, I will find the balance and presence of mind and humility and stability to take another darn street.