I had a moment when I was sorting through photographs on Sunday – part of the home-purging process – when I realized that my national union convention was starting right about at the same moment. These conventions being a big deal in the life of a union activist, our National Convention only comes around once every three years and it’s where we elect the president and so forth – it’s difficult to become a delegate, but I’ve been the past two times despite that (fighting my way into place).
Checking in with myself – “how do I feel about the fact I am home instead of in Ottawa right now?” – the unmistakeable feeling of relief tingled through me. Relieved that I was not embarking on a week of nonsense, self-importance, irrelevance, heavy drinking, and emotional drama – I realized that everything I set out to do a year-and-a-half ago when I made the decision to leave higher office in my union – has come to fruition and I am so much happier for it.
I am no longer on the road every month, nor subject to the insults and insinuations by people I barely know. I no longer spend my weekends in meetings that make me want curl up and weep from boredom. And most of all, I no longer have to pretend that I respect the other people who run my union, just because they are in some positon of importance. I have nothing to lose now that I’ve given up my “aspirations” – and that makes me a lot freer to say and do what I think is right.
And instead? I had the time and mental energy to go back to school part time this year – which has been one of the best decisions ever and where I have made awesome new friends and connections. I don’t feel so frantic and I have more time for my family and my home life (my garden and studio and sewing!). I feel less manipulated by others, and less subject to the empty ego-stroking that I have found so alluring in the past. But most of all – my energy is not continually divided, and a great deal of everyday stress is just gone from my life.
Every once and awhile I am asked to consider running again as people look around and realize that our leadership is all one step from retirement – and I still feel at least a little drawn to the idea (it’s nice to be courted after all). But when I really look at it, my interest is entirely based on some notion of “success” that would actually make me quite miserable on a day-to-day basis. Not only that, I have way more fun and interesting things to do with my time than sit around with a bunch of self-delusional people and fiddle while Rome burns.
I still think my union is important to the working conditions and political fights before us – as a shop steward I am beholden to the people who I work with and directly represent, and I this work is rewarding to me even as it is sometimes frustrating. But the structural flaws in my union (and others), just like the structural flaws in our overall political system, pretty much guarantee that those venues will never be ones in which I will exercise my political, emotional and intellectual agency. I’ve only go so much time on this planet, and I can’t imagine spending another minute of it in a windowless meeting room with a bunch of people I don’t enjoy or respect. And that’s a lot of politics unfortunately. I’ve got this other awesome life to live instead!