Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Threat of Obligation

I like to volunteer. I've been doing it since high school, when I far surpassed the "service learning hours" required for graduation. I used to volunteer at Hosea Youth Services giving sewing lessons to any of the street kids who wanted them. I volunteered as a "tutor" at Nuestro Lugar Teen Center which mostly meant hanging around with teens and shooting the breeze, playing Clue and learning to juggle. I sometimes would come to the youth group organized by my church leaders to help out. I'm learning to run the planetarium at the Science Factory so I can be a volunteer presenting planetarium shows.

But this weird thing happens when I sign up for something. I get exhausted. The stress of something on my schedule makes my neck and shoulders hurt so bad that all I want to do is lay in bed and act selfish. There are tons of people who work through pain and serve themselves to the limit and they love it, but I just get cranky. Also, things that I want to do for fun always seem to pop up on the days that I've got to do volunteer work, so then I'm cranky because I wanted to go have fun.

Maybe there's really something up with my body that needs rest, but I'd like to work on my motivations. I'm passionate about all these different things, but I can't expect all my wishing to fix them. I also can't expect to fix them all myself. "Obligation" is this dirty word that makes me bitter; so is "commitment". I don't equate relentless volunteerism with being amazing, more like a responsibility because I've got it so good and there's so much work to be done that I can't bear not to be a part of a solution. I don't really care about being amazing. So what is it about my optimism that turns sour once I sign my name to the clipboard? There's no epiphany here. Just the tension of 24 hours in a day.

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