Spacefem (spacefem) wrote,

track and organizations

If there's one thing I learned from running track, it's that you have to get things done on your own, learn what you can from others, and don't let things you can't control keep you from doing the first two things. Maybe it's pouring down rain... who cares? keep your feet moving. Maybe your coach is a neurotic bastard who can only talk in "scream", but the guy coached three hurdlers to state last year... how many are under your belt? So you learn to deal with him, even though he's not perfect. He won't help your self-esteem but he will help your times and that's worth something.

In a way, track was the first volunteer organization I was in. I wasn't required to be there. I knew it'd be more rewarding to run as part of a team, but definitely had things I wanted to get out of it. The same rules have applied to every political group, professional organization, and church committee I've been in since.

People would come and go in track, and often on the way out they'd blame the organization. Say it's a mess, say they didn't get to do what they wanted to, say the coach was mean. But as Jim Rome says, "Quitting because of the coach says a lot more about you than it does the coach."

I've been part of a political group locally for years now, and I've seen scores of people go through the revolving door, often throwing their hands up on the way out with something like, "You guys are a mess." They all wish we were more organized. The problem is that they are the organization. None of these people go on to found their own wildly successful grass-roots organization, because when it comes down to it none of them are that motivated. You need incredibly dedicated people just to have monthly meetings, trust me. So I think if you find a group that's got some foundation, and work within it, you can really make a difference... but that means you've got to deal with some of the craziness. The personalities, the drama, the laziness that seeps in... all of it.

I used to take it really personally in the 2005 election, the first big campaign I worked on, because there were all these people at my church just staring at each other saying they "wished our side was more organized and well-funded"... I almost freaked one day, asked pointedly where they thought organization and funding came from. I was knocking on doors every day after work. Yeah, it was slow, it was one door at a time, but that's what I can do. I was doing more than the outsiders, who looked up at the sky and wished some magical unicorn would come change the world for us. Part of me always wished for a faster easier way, but another part of me thought, "Look, other volunteers in this group are getting me address lists, partnering me up with another member, printing me flyers. That's worth something! I'm getting something out of this!" And I made some incredible friends, who went through all that hardship with me.

People will always be flawed, days will only be 24 hours long, wind will sometimes be in your face (especially in Kansas). But you can take responsibility for what you do. Trust me, it's worth it.
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