Sustainability & ME: Bucking the rhythm

Posted on April 28, 2014 in Perspectives
By USM Free Press

By: Tyler Kidder

I had a short lunch with a close friend and mentor at USM, and like all conversations these days, our dialogue drifted toward the changing face of USM, what that means for us and the state in which we find our mental health, financial security and emotional stability. My friend suggested that USM has a rhythm, up and down, positive and negative, caring and not-caring, engaged and disengaged, on target and off target. Effectively, we all are riding together these crazy wavy waters together, students, administrators, staffers, and faculty, and we allow ourselves to sometimes be swallowed in a trough.

Let me give you an example of a few troughs that I’ve found myself in: the ‘I can’t (or won’t) make a difference because nothing I do seems to matter’ or ‘how am I supposed to do anything with no _______ (fill in the blank: time, money, support, buy-in, technology, tarps, chairs, etc)?!’.

We are a big organization and have lots of opportunities to chat and collaborate, so when one of us is feeling swallowed and expresses it, it is easy for others to go down in the trough with them. It is much harder to resist the rhythm and stay riding high on a crest.

Like everyone here, losing colleagues has had a real effect on me, one that I would not have been able to name previously, having never experienced it before. We have all been asked to spend less but accomplish the same amount or more as before. Students are rallying, organizing, sitting out of classes, getting pissed off. For someone who always runs around like her hair is on fire, all this excitement has just about pushed me over the edge. Because I operate at a level ten all the time I rely on the world around me to be peaceful and make sense so that I can maintain my idiotic schedule and expectations of myself. But it hasn’t been making sense to me recently, and weird things have been happening ,and it makes me waste a lot of time and energy on worrying. I’m about done answering the endless flow of questions about my job from family and friends who read about our dirty laundry in every newspaper in Maine (and New Hampshire).

Thus, I fall into the hole of negativity. And I’ve been here for a little while, feeling sorry for myself and shaking my head at what ‘they’ are doing. Maybe you are here, too. Alas, that is the current rhythm of our sea. Why plan when we don’t know if any of us will even be here next fall? Why go above and beyond when layoffs are based on the position, not performance? What are the incentives for doing well, creating new traditions, being innovative? Should I be job hunting?

But I’m here to get myself, and you, out of the trough. Because it’s dark and stupid down there and there isn’t any spring, or apple trees or increasing recycling rates or ocean breezes or new crops of eager students. Those things are on the crest. In fact, they are on a pier, free from the ups and downs. It’s time. Climb out, the weather’s great. Let’s watch the community garden fill up with organic miracles, listen to the birds who visit our campus, enjoy simple time together with each other as people, work hard to make ourselves proud, rejoice in record-setting waste reduction events, and sympathize with those around us. There is much to celebrate and so much more important work to be done. If not by us, then by whom? If you need a pep talk, please drop me a line. You’ll just have to put my hair out first.

Tyler Kidder, Assistant Director for Sustainable Programs and eternal optimist. She can be reached by email at tkidder@usm.maine.edu