Monday, January 20, 2014

A Day of Service

I didn't used to get Martin Luther King Jr Day off. I have no particular habits for this day (today), but last year I learned that many people take the day as a day of service. It's an awesome way to memorialize a man who worked so hard for peace. 

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'" 
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This year, in my current job, I do get Martin Luther King Jr Day off, and I thought I would actually participate in a service project. You know, try out a new organization, meet new people, learn about a new issue.

I emailed my family and asked who would want to tag along, and through the United Way my Dad found a school that was looking for some help with a construction project and that sounded just right to him. My mom opted to go with him, which is lucky for this school, because the two of them are like a construction machine when they get going. I ended up not being able to participate, but they stopped by afterwards to let me know how it went (and get some help on another project my Dad is working on for me. Thanks Dad). They spent 8 hours (!) climbing ladders, sawing framing and generally building windows. Awesome. 16 hours added to the thermometer... and just like that the 70% mark was crossed.

I still want to find an excise to join someone else's service project, but in the meantime, I've got another date for dinner at Friend's of Youth, an both AWIS and HiveBio events on the calendar.

Monday, January 6, 2014

We just surpased $20,000

Just when I was starting to wonder if I could get the focus to finish out this project, I am feeling quite renewed. My mom reminded me about all the OTHER giving that has taken place in the last month (who can resist the $10 bag of groceries that Safeway just gives to the foodbank. It's so easy!), I made a big ol' pot of chili for the shelter, and I spent Sunday in the lab getting ready for some very exciting classes and Voila! $20,000 mark.

Actually, today's total is $20,206.

What's nice about a project like this is that there are milestones. It's trackable, and fairly obvious to me that progress is being made. Big numbers just keep rolling past! There is less than a third of the project left.

I am, perhaps, ready to let go of the illusion that this project might ... how do I put this?... make sense to anyone else. I've had a hard time explaining why I am doing this, what I am doing, how other people should do this with me. The number ($30,000) is arbitrary. My particular way of measuring it is arbitrary. I've come to realize that I'm not the sort of person who is going to organize pub crawls, charity events, or major work parties where I need buy-in from a lot of people anyhow. Although it's not what I expected at the outset, it's actually pretty wild to see what a big difference a relatively small number of people can make without a lot of major sacrifice. No one is $20,000 in the whole. My dad has become a regular blood donor. My brother has a standing tutoring appointment at a middle school. My friends were easily convinced to run some charity 5Ks with me. I got to spend some evenings cooking with my mom. And good work was done.

 I'm trying to think of something cool to do on MLK Day this year. I like the notion of a day of service, and I'm hoping I can find an excuse to try something new. More updates as that comes together.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Re-resolving to Meet This Goal

Being 30, I'm starting to warm up to the parts of myself that aren't going to change. I tend to think of it more in the context of recognizing my strengths, but these come hand in hand with weaknesses. For example, I'm a starter. I love starting new projects, getting new things off the ground and the experience of diving in to new experiences. It makes me a bit bold about novelty. But in contrast, I am not such a great finisher. The top of my desk (and most of my office) is littered with projects I have started, that I have sunk too much time on to completely abandon, although I have quite clearly done just that.

I knew this about myself going in to this crazy project. I was particularly attracted to the craziness of it. But I also knew that at some point I'd get far enough along that I could see the end coming along, and just sorta bail, confident in the knowledge that I would get there eventually. Id join a few groups, and then forget to track, and... well, whatever. To prevent this behavior, I was looking for things that I could engage in regularly, to help me keep up the momentum.  Dinner for Friend's of Youth has been one of those. 5Ks were another. But... I've kinda lost momentum on the other aspects. Finding small ways to stay engaged (and tracking them), getting my friends and family to help with these things, and putting it on the blog has fallen by the way side a bit. 

This is in part because I'm busy. But even more so, it is probably because I need to find volunteer activities that are a good fit for the kind of life I want to be leading. That was (supposed to be) at the core of this project, that I could use this as an excuse to get involved in my community in a way that feels natural.

And maybe I should get a bit more honest with myself about the life I'm realistically going to lead, instead of the life I think I should lead. Let me be honest, the work I am doing with HiveBio, which is very cool, and exciting, and novel is SO hard on me. It turns out, I HATE being in charge. I stress out about decisions, I'm reluctant to tell people what to do, and I would rather talk about venereal disease than money. These are all tasks I'm called on to do fairly often in my role. I should probably figure out how I can transition to instead doing something I'm good at, so I'll feel better about the work. Moral of the story- don't kill yourself doing something you suck at when it would be better for everyone if you did something you were good at instead.

As I enter the new year though, I don't just want to be shirking my responsibilities and waiting for this thermometer to rise on it's own. Instead, I'm going to get back to blogging, which requires me to have something worth blogging about. I'll be getting back to bugging my friends and family to helping me raise the last $10,000 on the thermometer, hopefully before I turn 31. That's something to feel good about.

Happy New Year!