From Boy Scouts to gaming groups, online communities to business organizations, community service to philanthropic endeavors, I have always found validation through driving measurable, meaningful change in my environment. I believe this is a large factor in my being drawn to leadership positions; it’s difficult for me to belong to a group or association only as an idle member.
Feeling that I am actively engaged in helping something greater than myself grow, adapt, and better aid those under its purview is a big driver when I gauge whether I am or have been successful in various points of my life, and I think this past week has brought the reason behind a long-lasting malaise I’ve been feeling into sharp relief.
Years ago I was helping lead a long-lasting improvisational theatre group at a local college, involved at the highest levels of the local Freemason Lodge, and no matter how stressful or demanding work got, life never seemed to weigh as heavily on me as it does today.
Even after I had long passed the mantle of Lodge leadership to others, and found myself walking away from the theatre group which had been such an important part of my life for nearly fifteen years, work was challenging but manageable. My role was to direct and manage a team of employees, to help establish policies and procedures which would become a template for other IT business units across the country. Keeping everything afloat was a struggle, but I felt like my contributions were really making a difference.
A little over three years ago however my role changed significantly, and I was no longer responsible for—or beholden to—the makeup or direction of the department. My responsibilities solely became the parts of my former position I liked least, and when I asked management what changes they were implementing in order to drive more success, I was met with silence. Things became harder, but at least everything was managed at the local level and I was known as someone who had good suggestions.
Over the past year however I’ve observed my mental health steadily declining, for reasons altogether divorced from the pandemic. With my local job department being absorbed by a nation-wide division where I am neither empowered nor encouraged to help improve the work in which we are engaged, and zero extracurricular groups or activities to help develop and grow, I have spent a lot—a lot—of time stuck inside my own head, sorely missing that sense of feeling valued for my contributions and of being a valuable member of a community.
Unable to take the strain of being powerless—often actively so, my suggestions met with a stony “that’s not your job” or similar—any more, I finally took a full week off of work, to try and refocus, to center, and to regain some happiness which I feel my life has been largely devoid for some time.
And yet, here I am on Friday morning, having felt not one iota of rest or relaxation this week. My days off have been empty, and my evenings just as devoid of greater meaning as they have been for some years. I haven’t had anything outside myself for which I can ply my talents and inclinations, which means there’s nowhere productive I feel I can put my energies.
It’s important to me that work—whatever employment that is—provide satisfaction and a sense of furthering my goals; I can’t simply punch in and turn off my brain for forty hours a week. What this week has shown me however, is that whatever issues I may have with my workplace are deeply exacerbated by not having anything outside of work to which I contribute.
In short, I realize now that there simply isn’t any aspect of my life—at the moment, and for a while—that fulfills the particular needs herein described. I don’t have an organization for which my efforts feel respected or impactful, and maybe that’s the crux of my ineffective time away from the workplace.
Switching to a job where I feel I am actually making a difference would go a very long way to alleviate this issue, but I also think I need to find other opportunities, groups and associations, where I can contribute and hopefully see improvements, if for no other reason than to make sure all of my mental validation isn’t tied into one source.
Honestly though, I don’t really know where to go from here. I’m hoping to poll a few close friends for their thoughts and ideas, but I also want to open the offer to those precious few who read this semi-private part of my blog as well.
Do you know of a group or association where my drive for improving an organization or community may be appreciated, and where my twenty years of managing IT might come into play? Please email me your thoughts—know that I very much appreciate any and all suggestions.
Thank you as always for reading these words of mine, and for your compassion and support, even if you can’t personally relate to the feelings or situations I’ve expressed herein.
Header image from Pixabay.com; a wonderful resource for royalty-free stock images.