Simplifying My Volunteer Life

I’ve known for a long time that I needed to take a good, hard look at where I dedicated my limited time and energy resources. And that doesn’t just apply to the stuff in my house. It also applies to my time.

And I’ve been doing some soul searching. Some dig down deep soul searching.

Before I was injured and before I woke up to the whole idea of simplification, I was not only working a demanding, high powered job, I was also doing a significant amount of non-profit work. I served on the Board of Directors of several organizations, was a committee member of three more, and was the Chair of another committee.

Every summer I also participated in a variety show as a performer. As part of the variety show, which raised money for diversity scholarships at my alma mater, I would sing, dance and perform. I also wrote scripts for the show. Parodies of songs, mostly. It consumed my life from January to April for the marketing side of the production and then from May to June for rehearsals and performances.

And it was a worthy cause. I dedicated more than 15 years of blood, sweat and tears to that organization. And when I say blood, I mean literally. Blood, a couple of broken toes, a sprained wrist and I performed one night with food poisoning from some bad shrimp. With a smile on my face. I was a nauseous, sweating mess laying down backstage. My friend would help me change costumes and then wake me up when it was time for me to go on. In turn, different years, I’d drive her to the Emergency Room when she tore muscles. Yes, two different muscles, two different years. Good times. What can I say, we were dedicated. And those injuries were minor to the broken ankles and wrists some of our compatriots suffered. For realz.

But it’s time for me to take a step back. Not from the friends I’ve made through all of these organizations. Most definitely not from the friends. But from the commitment.

Sometimes you have to really analyze where your time is going. Is your passion for it still there? Are you coming up with fresh, exciting new ideas? Are you putting the organization’s best interest before your own? Or are you bending the organization to benefit yourself in some way, even if it’s not in the best interest of the organization? Those are questions I’ve been asking myself. And when you’re too exhausted, or too set in your previous ways, to infuse the organization with the new life it deserves, it’s time to move on.

And that’s where I am. So, I’m stepping out and letting new, energized, excited, dedicated people 15 years my junior take over. I’m passing on the gift that these volunteer opportunities were for me.

I’m hoping that in the blank space that was previously overflowing, I’ll be able to find what I’m meant to do next. I don’t know what that is. I only know that I need to find it. And I’m confident that I will.

12 Responses to Simplifying My Volunteer Life

  1. Nicely written….the idea of just slowing down and having a closer look at the things that inspired you fifteen years ago. Asking yourself if they still inspire. I like how you are just letting the space open up to see what happens….not rushing to fill it.

  2. Amen! That took a lot of grace on your part. We can sometimes fool ourselves into selfishly thinking that if we leave, rather than having the wisdom you did to see it’s creating space for new ideas and energy, that said organization will fail without you.

  3. Hello Kandice, You are doing the right thing, and I am sure that you will figure out what’s next! I’ve enjoyed tutoring at a few of the local elementary schools. I also helped with a kids’ cooking class at one of them, Cheers!

  4. Kandice, I like how you are looking at this. When we are so over scheduled, and boy were you ever over scheduled, we don’t have the time to notice the new opportunities that are waiting for us to find our way to. For now enjoy some new free time, the next opportunity will arrive.

  5. Yes! I remember joining PTA when I moved to this small city 35 years ago, and being seriously put off by the fact that the folks who were running things were: (1) a lady whose kids had graduated years before, and (2) HER MOTHER. I resolved not to grow up and become that person

    What I DID grow up to do was get over-involved in League of Women Voters work. A worthy organization, but not worth destroying my quality of life. Several years ago, a dear friend said to me: “You could walk away from the League tomorrow, and no one would find any fault with you.

    Last year I first set a goal of cutting my League work back to a reasonable level, and to start training my replacements. It helped a lot, but this year I’m still working on it — with the proviso that I don’t do anything that doesn’t involve a training component.

    Since setting (and working toward) these goals, I felt a noticeable upsurge in my creativity.

    Best of luck to you.

  6. I am completely in awe of what you did, how on earth could you manage all that? I am not on any committees, nor have I ever been and I still find it hard to get everything done and find quiet time for myself. You must have been Superwoman and if I had a tenth of your energy I would be happy! Did you ever sleep?! πŸ™‚

  7. I’ve been slowly simplifying my commitments for the last few years, too. I’ve discovered how nice it is to spend that time with my favorite people – my husband and kids. The time we have to pour ourselves into our kids while they’re home with us is SO short! I can always volunteer for others when I’m an empty nester, but this is my only chance to spend these precious days with my kids.

      • Sarah, your comment reminded that I had heard good things about 168 Hours. I just got on audiobook and have been listening to it. Its very thought provoking! Thank you.

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