No, Nyet, Nein!

How often do you say “no” to things that would interfere with your goals?

I’d like to say I often say no to things that interfere with my goals. However, I must say that I often decide to do things that I think fit in with my goals, and they then turn out to be a distraction, or a wrong turn. I then wind up wasting time, and need to try to find a place to turn around and go back to the original road.

Case in point: my last campus had a thing called Humanities Day back in the 1990’s. Students would come from various high schools and compete in the arts and humanities. There were vocal performances, story and poetry readings, and competitive foreign language translations and recitations. College professors served as judges and awarded prizes to the best in each category, and the day was a celebration of the humanities.

When the faculty member who organized it retired, the event ceased. No one took up the mantle. Why? Because it was time consuming. Wrangling professors to give up their free time is harder than herding cats. Finding the time when high school students are available is a nightmare—it can’t conflict with testing, prom, and a host of other activities. Oh, and how do we get them to campus? No administrator is paying for a bus like in the old days, or letting them out of a school day, so it needs to be on a weekend. And who’s giving up a weekend day?

I know all this because one year I said, “I’d like to bring back Humanities Day.” My division chair tried to wave me off, but I was adamant. This would be part of my legacy! I had T-shirts and mugs designed and made, elicited the help of faculty colleagues and student volunteers, and scheduled the campus rooms and dining hall. And then: hardly any students and high school teachers showed up, for some of the reasons I cited above. It went okay, and I decided to try again the following year, on a different day. There were a few more people, but it was not a resounding success. I decided to pull the plug. One of my colleagues felt we had made a good “proof of concept” and “were gaining momentum,” and that it should continue. I told him if he thought so, he should take over. I did try to get someone else to continue it, but it died that year.

I still have the T-shirt that’s a reminder not to volunteer for such things. We have to evaluate those things that come up, and see if it is to our advantage, because people are often ready to waste our time for us, and we have to guard against that. And against ourselves taking a road we should instead glance down, look forward, and drive on past.

Published by stephenschrum

Associate Professor of Theatre Arts; interested in virtual worlds, playwrighting, and filmmaking. Now creating a podcast called "Audio Chimera."

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