On June 19th, we were instructed to come together and work on our own individualized work plans for WWG3. I came (late, due to work), and when I got to the space, a conversation around Jeannie’s family history project for WWG4 was underway. From my perspective at the time, it seemed like an appropriate use of our time. It seemed like a study session used to help each other with our projects. Looking back, the most prominent problem that I saw was that time wasn’t made for everyone to have a chance to work on their own projects and ask for feedback. I can only speak for myself, but in that moment, I focused all of my energy into “helping” Jeannie, and none into thinking about my own project. In the moment, I didn’t really take the time to think about how Jeannie felt about the amount of help we were giving, or if she needed a break from the intense spotlight put upon her all night. And if I’m being really honest with myself, I used the moment as an excuse to avoid doing my own work. And in thinking about accountability, how can I hold anyone else accountable to doing their family history work, if I’m not doing it myself?
There was definitely a case of helping/fixing/saving going on in myself, as well as some intellectualism (i.e. finding way too much glee in knowing the “right” answer to a question about Southern Italians). And, really, there was also a lot of defensiveness and denial when I received this prompt to reflect on that night – my first thought was an angry “we were just doing what we were told!” And recently, I’ve been having some complicated feelings of opting out, mixed with exhaustion and over-scheduling. I’m in the thick of a busy season in my life and have been neglecting this work, sometimes due to lack of time and sometimes due to conscious avoidance. So after thinking about this prompt for awhile, I asked myself, why was I so eager to focus on someone else’s project, and so unprepared to work on my own? I had approached the night thinking that I would make good headway on my own, unstarted work, but then I jumped at the first chance to not do that. The truth is that I should have had at least some of my work done by that time. I should have been working, or at least thinking more about my project’s next steps, but after I presented it, I compartmentalized it and didn’t touch it again. And that’s just white lady avoidance and opting-out.