I did something this week that was long overdue: I stepped away from all of my volunteer and extracurricular activities.
I stepped back from volunteering* with an organization I’ve been heavily involved with for more than 25 years.
I officially resigned from a nonprofit board position, stepped back from a few other nonprofits where I’ve offered assistance or volunteered and said no to some recent asks for my help in other activities.
And it feels good.
(Continue reading below the Instagram post.)
Being forced last year to pause so much helped me take a hard look at what I was spending my life doing. Like a lot of you, I said “yes” far too much.
I’ve been going hard at volunteering for nonprofits for way too long. For many years, I tried to keep track of my hours spent volunteering and I easily racked up anywhere from 1,800 to 2,600 hours a year volunteering.
I’ve put so much time in, and I just needed to take a break — something I’ve been trying to do for a few years now. But every time I found myself with extra time, I found some nonprofit group or activity to fill its void. I’ve said “yes” too often just thinking it would be a simple ask, and it usually wasn’t.
The ongoing global pandemic has taught me that I need to slow down and live my life.
The nonprofit groups will continue. The other activities will go on.
When I’m ready, I’ll find my way back into volunteering — either for groups I’ve recently hit pause on or new endeavors.
There’s a song from one of the greatest musicals — “Avenue Q” — that I often am reminded of: “For Now.” The lyrics go: “Nothing lasts. Life goes on, full of surprises. … Except for death and paying taxes, everything in life is only for now.” This pause is only for now.
What led me to this decision that, from the outside, seems drastic? As I said earlier, it’s been a long time coming. When doing any kind of volunteering, I think of another “Avenue Q” song that goes: “When you help others, you’re really helping yourself.” Helping nonprofit groups began to feel like tasks mounting with no end in sight — and I started to feel as though I wasn’t helping myself.
A friend suggested that nonprofit work should still — at the core — be fun and fulfilling.
The other day, I ran across a post on Facebook with the quote posted above. I found Yasmine Cheyenne’s Instagram account to give her proper credit. But that quote (“I don’t have to apologize for letting go or choosing things in the name of my peace and healing”) really resonated with me. It’s OK to let go.
* Besides, did you really think I could completely step away? I’m still going to raise some money for the American Cancer Society because I signed up as a team captain and don’t want to have a zero-dollar team. But I’m going to do it with as little effort this year. And I still plan to help with a journalism group.
Of course, with an ongoing pandemic, there is little to fill this large chunk of time with. And maybe that’s for the best for now.