August 26- Identity negotiations and exhaustion

The last few weeks have truly been a whirlwind of activity and craziness.  While there isn’t time to explain it all now, let me say I’ve identified two common themes in my work on the OEIB RAC Summit in Bend and the Healthy Democracy Citizen’s Initiative Review Panel in Salem.

First, I am recognizing the difficulty in negotiating my identity as an “intern” and all the sometimes lowly tasks that come with the title and my identity as a professional with a decade of existing, relevant, professional experience.  I knew coming into these roles that I would be asked to perform very basic tasks (photo-copying, errand running, coffee delivery, etc.) and I was totally fine with taking care of this necessary albeit unglamorous work.  The RAC Summit, in particular, was a (at times frantic) dance of helping people get to where they needed to go, making and posting signs, pointing people to the restroom, collecting and distributing and collecting again paper, markers, etc. Ultimately, I was still able to meet and talk (however briefly) with some major players in Oregon’s educational leadership landscape.  I was thankful for this opportunity to gain face/name familiarity and felt confident that I was planting seeds for future networking, even as I hauled easels around and organized name tags.  That said, when one conference attendee complimented me and referenced how splendidly I had performed along with the rest of my “hotel staff” I had a sinking feeling of demotion.  In being a logistical helper, I realized that this individual saw me as a part of the hotel event staff, not a part of Laurel’s facilitation team. 

Perhaps this was a lone misinterpretation and perhaps I was hoping for too much in trying to align myself with people like Laurel already.  Regardless, it brought my attention to the challenge of moving from what feels, at times, like little kid mini-practice work at facilitation to actually PRACTICING (read “doing”) facilitation.  I definitely realized the struggle of moving from being an intern, to being taken seriously as a colleague.  I would be the first person to admit that I still have MUCH to learn in this field and that these opportunities to watch and support skilled facilitators is priceless.  That said, I am unsure how the process will go in moving from the shadows of support to being “on stage” myself.

Talking with Sarah Giles was both helpful and discouraging for this.  With our Healthy Democracy work she felt very strongly that Mariah and I have a rich learning experience through the process and that we NOT be relegated to minor tasks like running errands and making copies.  That said, she herself has had to move slowly through the this professional world gradually earning a reputation for herself while completing tasks that likely often felt well below her actual skill set. 

The last point I want to make was just how tired all this work has made me!  It has been utterly exhausting to move from one intense event with 12 hour work days to the next with only minimal breaks in between.  Being on the road only adds to the stress of this.  I have only eaten dinner with my husband twice in the last two-three weeks and it is getting really old.  While this particular intensity is unusual, it is worth keeping in mind in looking ahead for how I schedule myself professionally.  The time to recover, re-group, and plan for the next event will be all the more critical, particularly as my responsibilities increase in my own practice in the future. 

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