Wisdom Tip #1

bdeisI learned this lesson today.

When you read an e-mail and feel really angry about it…

  1. Vent about it to people who are not involved in the situation
  2. Try to figure out why you feel angry; what in it provoked you so
  3. After many deep breaths and giving yourself time to cool off, re-read the e-mail and re-evaluate what is says

This method has a great success rate. Often, when you reread it you discover new things you hadn't originally seen, and you even hear it in a different tone of voice. If this does not work for you, try purposely reading it in a different tone of voice to see alternate ways it could have been intended.

Downside: This is not as helpful when you need to respond to an e-mail within a short period of time (i.e. if you're organizing an event and have to figure out logistics, provide advice, etc.), since it really does require space and time. But, those e-mails suck anyway.

Notes from a Tired Brandeis Activist Upon Hir Last Day of School

Hey guys,

I've spent the past 7 semesters doing activism at Brandeis. Even while abroad studying comedy in Chicago, I did activism at Brandeis. In fact, I was more active from afar because it felt more manageable. And that's what I want to write about now: managing it. Because trying to change Brandeis, Waltham, Massachusetts, the Northeast, colleges across the United States, America, the Western Hemisphere, the world, the universe…. can get pretty exhausting.

So, here are a few lessons I've learned. I'd appreciate it if you shared with me whether you've experienced similar or different things, any advice or empathy you have to give, and words of inspiration.

1. Burnout

From my first exposure to Brandeis activism (which came in the form of Sahar Massachi recruiting me to write for Innermostparts in Upper Usdan midway through my first semester here), I was warned about the evils of Burnout. It was built up into this big scary thing that would happen to me without my knowing it.

Examples of things I have heard about burn out:

  • "Don't invest too much energy into this project or you'll burn out"
  • "Activists at Brandeis tend to burn out quickly, they have great ideas but then they drain themselves and give up on them. Don't do that."
  • "I've been working to make Brandeis more sustainable for the past 2 years and now I'm a junior and I'm going abroad and I don't care anymore. I've been burned out."

Despite all these warning and words of caution, despite seeing my friends burn out, I couldn't figure out how to avoid this trap. I say "trap" because Robert M. Pirsig refers to things which block our gumption (read: energy, motivation) as such in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the most insightful book I have ever read. I fell into this trap upon returning from Chicago to Brandeis, second semester junior year, and I have not been able to recover since. I went from planning numerous events and leading multiple clubs to maximizing the amount of time I could spend by myself in my room, because I realized that was what I really needed. I am just now re-learning how to do come back from a burnout. 

Which leads me to my next point..

2. Overcomittment

I reached my peak of involvement sophomore year. Here's a list of what extracurricular activies I was involved with that year:

  • reviving Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance
  • writing for the Justice Arts
  • serving on the Brandeis Pluralism Alliance Steering Committee
  • being a Waltham Group Kids Connections Coordinator
  • writing for The Blowfish
  • Tutoring through English Language Learning
  • Serving on the Freeplay Theatre Board
  • Trying to start a Brandeis Improv Club
  • Boris' writer contributer
  • Co-founder of Little Hands video sketch comedy group
  • Interning at Second Step Domestic Violence facility
  • Acting and filming things around campus
  • Working at Einsteins
  • Managing Innermostparts

While this may seem like a normal schedule to many Brandeisians, looking back I realize how exhausting it was. I never spent time in my room, I spent little time with many of my closest friends, I was a mess. I felt I had no control over my life, since I was so devoted to making these groups work, and doing everything I could to "make a difference."

I would spend hours thinking and debating with friends over whether you should feel guilty for not "doing enough." As though there's such a thing as enough….As though anyone has a right to make you feel guilty for not trying to make a difference…As though guilt is a good motivatonal tool.

I realize now that while splintering myself all over the place and doing everything I was interested was great for broadening my horizons, it was my ego driving me to do as much as I could, and not my passion for change.

3. Messiah Complex

Andrew Flagel talked about this at the Club Conference at the beginning of the semester, and it really stuck with me. I went through most of my time at Brandeis with a Messiah Complex, subconsciously thinking that needed to do things because if didn't do them no one else would, and that that would be a problem. While that kind of thinking can drive you to do effective, productive things with your time, it can also lead to Points 1 and 2. And, perhaps the larger problem, it is simply not true.

Repeat After Me:

I am not the only person who can plan an event.

I am not the only person who can lead a meeting.

If I do not do this, it will not mean the end of the world.

Brandeis can exist without me.

These steps are not meant to devalue your significance- if you tell me you play a vital role to your organization, I believe you. If you say that if you do not submit those forms to Finance Board, no one else will and your club will get no money and then no one will come to your events since there's no free food and then everyone will sign off the list serv and then your club will be dechartered for lack of activity then perhaps you're right. The thing to realize is that just because those things may happen does NOT mean you must be beholden to your club. As much as your club does for the world, there are things that are more important. And there always will be.

So do your club, your friends, your roommates, and especially yourself a favor and admit to yourself that YOU ARE NOT BEHOLDEN TO YOUR CLUB.

 

NOTE: The terms club, cause, campaign are used interchangeably throughout this post. I also use the concept of club and social activism interchangeably at times because that has been my experience at Brandeis (I think every club I was a member of was arguably a proponet of social change).

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Well, that concludes this post. It turned out a bit differently than I expected, and it was a good reason to avoid finishing my 10 page Shakespeare paper. I intend to write 2 follow-up notes before the semester ends- one on Lessons from a former Finance Board Representative and one on Most Important Things to Know When Planning an Event at Brandeis

If anyone is reading this and would like a note targeting something specific they have encountered, feel free to let me know.

 

State of the Union- Dec 11, 2012

Pre-SOTU Intimate Group Conversation with Todd

  • RPF's being sent to other food providers- product of Strategic Planning Review, new administration open to new things
  • Strategic Plan- enough student involvement?
    • Planning Steering Committee, 26 people (incl. 2 grad students, 2 undergrads), meets once a month
    • Core Committee- 6-7 people (incl. 2 grads, 2 undergrads?)

SOTU

  • Student Accomplishments
    • BADASS rankings
    • Men and Women's soccer wins
    • Course Evaluation Guide student editors, whoot
    • Carlton's Secretary e-mails (Todd knows how hard it is)
    • Campus support services who helped people in wake of suicide at the beginning of the semester
  • Union achievements
    • Usdan Bulleting Board
    • Senate Meet and Greet
    • Outreach
    • Hurricane Sandy bracelet sales
    • Turkey shuttles
    • Midnight buffet TMRW (first time actually occuring at midnight)
    • DeisLaunch Pad SU radio show
    • Extended study spaces
    • SU Dining Services Committee (new this year…used to be University committee?
    • Treasurer Clements says this is the "most efficient Treasury ever" and that all forms have 24 hour turnover rate
      • improved communication between Treasury and FBoard. Shoutout to Nathan Israel (whoot Nathan)
    • DeisImpact happening in spring- 37 events
    • This feels like Parks and Rec-local news
  • SU Future Steps
    • Will look into puppy rub (sp?) event for next semester- puppies to relieve stress during finals
    • Take better care of off-campus students (this year has most numbers students living off-campus)
    • Fix SU election by phasing out of BigPulse and creating new guidelines for next semester
    • Looking into "Deis Day" to express Bdeis pride- formal recognition ceremonies and pot. a parade
    • Do more to promote Chums and Stein so don't need to rely on coffeehouses
    • Brandeis will be looking into new dining services providers
      • Last renovations to dining buildings occurred in 1998
      • Kirkland will be meeting biweekly with Dining Services admins to work to better hours, variety of food
    • Collaborating with Graduate Student Union (40% of Brandeis student pop is graduate students)
  • Other things Brandeis should be proud of
    • 97% (check?) Brandeis fauclty have highest degrees in their fields
    • FML first Brandeis pres. to reside full-time in Waltham

Questions

  • Did Justice articles impact Kirkland's speech? (off-campus students, stein/chums usage)
  • Treasury how do you measure efficiency?
  • SU looking to limit number of clubs being chartered?
    • Want to make clubs coordinate more, have hierarcy so under one umbrella group
    • "Providing resources" vs. "making sure they become more effective"
      • Club Support committee has to juggle roles of helping clubs and limiting clubs re money
    • No "concrete ideas" right now about restructuring. Treasury and FBoard involved
  • Student Involvement in…Everything?
    • Students don't feel physical attendance is necc. because of social media — shift

Yet Another Prisoner Proven Innocent!

"Today [January 4th] in Dallas, Texas, Rickey Dale Wyatt was cleared after spending 31 years in prison for a crime that he didn’t commit."

I love getting these kinds of e-mails from the Innocence Project.

They tell me about their clients, prisoners serving time, who they have helped exonerate through the use of DNA evidence.

Oh, our criminal justice system….

Read the full text of the Innocence Project's e-mail below:

Continue reading “Yet Another Prisoner Proven Innocent!”

10 Years at Guantanamo Bay

Amnesty International reminded me about something today.

That our country has a secret prison where we 'detain' people for indefinite amounts of time without trials.

It's called Guanatanamo Bay, and it's been open for 10 years.

According to the New York Times, in January of 2009, Obama issued an executive order instructing the CIA to close down Guanatanamo within the year, calling the secret prison camp "a damaging symbol to the world."

Three years later, the New York Times reports that 171 prisoners remain there now. You can read a docket listing the prisoners' full names. Many of them have been held since 2002, when the prison opened.

Help put an end to this unfair treatment by signing Amnesty's petition to Obama, participating in Amnesty's National Day of Action Against Guantanamo on January 11th in D.C., or simply becoming better education on the situation, for instance by reading Poems from Guantanamo Bay, poems written directly by the prisoners and edited by Marc Falkoff.

The full text of Amnesty's e-mail is included below:

Continue reading “10 Years at Guantanamo Bay”