Making Myself Useful


Image courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

This is the fourth time I’ve tried to write this blog post. I had a couple of ideas for topics, mostly centering on this John Green video about becoming an adult, but they all wound up mopey and self-absorbed and awful. They did not begin to approach the level of fun of, say, my piece on bears on leashes.

Basically, I am aware that being 22 sucks for a lot of people, but that does not make it less terrible for me, right at this moment. I feel like I’ve screwed something up by being in Atlanta rather than New York or LA or Tanzania, and even though I know that nothing about this is permanent, and that my life is likely to change more than I can possible imagine in the next 10 (or even five) years, there is a giant gulf between what I know objectively to be true and what keeps me up at night feeling somewhat adrift.

However, it is also totally possible to autopilot my weird bout of self-loathing and sadness–that’s part of what makes it so boring to read about. I am able to realize that I’ll probably feel that way no matter what I do, so it is easy for me to rationalize getting back out in the world to make myself useful. To that end, I went out to volunteer over the weekend.

I’m glad I did, because you know who’s super-nice, particularly after you’ve spent most of your weekend talking to no one but your cat and immediate family? Volunteers.

They are the actual nicest. Rather than being frustrated with me for not knowing what I was doing, every single person who was working with me over the evening thanked me for coming out, helped guide me through what I was supposed to be doing, and then made perfectly nice smalltalk about how I wound up volunteering there. It was really pleasant to be surrounded by kind people who were also not talking about tech support.

Plus there was free beer and cupcakes, which is not a bad volunteer perk.

During the reception at the end of the volunteer gig, I was left to my own devices until folks cleared out. This led to me tracking down an old coworker who had been a part of the event, and talking her ear off about my life (I’m super-fun). Topics included feminist burnout, the ennui of the first couple of months after graduation, and how I’m pretty sure my cat tried to kill me in my sleep by covering my face with his torso.

She, in turn, shared office gossip and talked about having hobbies and generally reassured me that things were probably going to get better. It was lovely, and also a reassuring reminder that there are women who I like, who lead what appear to be satisfying lives, out in the world. Talking to them is like my own little It Gets Better ad.

At the end of things, the volunteers all made sure that everyone had a way to get home that didn’t involve them being murdered. Escorts to cars were arranged. One of the other volunteers invited folks out for Mexican food, and–though I was the only one who took her up on it–things seemed to go well in terms of making reasonable small talk for an hour. The whole experience left me slightly more sure of general human decency than I had felt in the last month or so, which was fabulously reassuring.

4 thoughts on “Making Myself Useful

  1. Oh, I’m so glad I found your blog.

    I’ve been looking for a church to join (which is strange enough, coming from me) but for the same reasons you volunteered this past weekend. I recently moved to Chicago and I’m having a hard time meeting new friends (and I can only handle so much theatre-talk/advice at a time) – so I’m seeking a church in the Unitarian faith. Teen-me would be appalled, but then comforted by the fact that I’m in Chicago. Many more options for UUs in Chicago than in Tulsa.

    Volunteering is a good suggestion – I’ll have to keep an eye out for opportunities. And volunteering with free beer…? Where do I sign up?

    • I had actually considered starting to attend services at our local UU church before I started volunteering–apparently, great minds think alike! I definitely understand the impulse.

      Arts volunteering, man! They know how to party. Hopefully you’re liking Chicago!

  2. Pingback: Out with the old | Dances With Nerds

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