“Get involved” is the mantra of any college or high school advisor. “Set foot on campus and become fresh meat for clubs and organizations that need new suckers to do heavy lifting” is a little long to fit on motivational posters.
The mantra stays in the background, like those ‘buy shirts’ songs that play in Kohl’s, but it never quite leaves. After nobly resisting, the boredom of the previous semester fueled a desperate application for a Växjö International Students board member position, which I got.
New suckers? Check. Did I get some heavy lifting or tedious jobs shoved onto me? Yeah, that happened too.
Since I was expecting it, I thought a preemptive volunteering gig would be less risky. Turns out the trip I volunteered to arrange got its date changed, so instead of a month to arrange it, I had two weeks.
Thankfully, last semester’s crew did a lot of the legwork on the trip so I just had to pursue their old contacts to renew some old deals the board had going. Still rather stressful since I hadn’t done something along these lines before and everyone just flapped their hands when I asked for help, saying, “Oh no, you’ll be fine.”
Since that failure in preemptive volunteering, one would think I learned my lesson and stopped doing it. That didn’t happen. Instead, I sign on for being secretary, leading a week-long trip in March, being toastmaster and managing a crew at the Welcome Dinner.
Volunteering generally means you, at some level, want to do whatever it is you volunteered for. The only one of those I wanted to do at any level is the trip in March.
The rest came about because board meetings happen once a week, usually lasting an appalling three hours. This time could easily be cut in half if every question regarding “who wants to do…” didn’t end in ten to fifteen minutes of staring in awkward silence.
If someone does volunteer, they generally sound as enthusiastic as voluntarily providing target practice for a firing squad. The toastmaster position needed one male and one female; none of the girls wanted to step up to the plate. I certainly didn’t because it was my first board meeting, why should I be a toastmaster representing the board?
Ten minutes of awkward staring and “I guess I can do it” finally came to an end when my patience snapped and I said, “I’ll do it. Sign me up. Yaser, we should meet later for details.”
Two days later the meeting resulted in me getting the boot and the girl who kept repeating “I guess I can do it”, Erika Egonsson, getting it. I was thrilled; toastmaster was a lot of work that I didn’t want to do, so she could have at it.
The annoying bit was the five-minute lecture on the benefits of letting other people get the jobs they wanted, because Erika had really wanted toastmaster but got swept aside. This bit of culture clash completely blind-sided me: when I raised an eyebrow and asked, “So why didn’t she say so?” Yaser Hadi, fellow board member, informed me she had.
Maybe it’s the American in me, but my impression of “I guess I can do it” is one of reluctance and unwillingness. Those two features are not desired traits in a toastmaster candidate for a sponsored dinner and party that’s supposed to be fun, dynamic and exciting.
If you want to do a job, say, “I want that job”. No guessing required.
The lesson was learned though. In later meetings as soon as someone hesitantly put forth their name for a job, I shut my mouth and doodled for the now twenty minutes of hemming and hawing about whether they should really be the ones to do it.
The people who went on Facebook and annoyed me the first few meetings have my utmost sympathies. At least I’m only here for a semester.