No Selfless Deed

One of my potential Wadadli Pen volunteers confessed to feeling overwhelmed when I broke down what was involved in what she’d have to do. I told her to think about it and let me know, and remember to only do what felt manageable to her…even if that meant I was down one volunteer. I’m not mad at her; I’d rather she tell me the truth up front than not do what she promised to do.

And I do understand how she feels.

As I write this, my eyes are bleary, I have a low grade but persistent headache and I’m trying not to drown in the to-do-s by focusing on what I can-do right in this moment. I’m trying to be okay with some things falling through the cracks because I’m not super woman. Wadadli Pen is actually one of the areas in which I’m trying to delegate a bit more by spelling out to potential volunteers what would be required of them and letting them decide if they can hack it. Because the other thing I don’t have time for is running after people to do what they said they were going to do but need me to remind them of. My head is too crowded to remember for two and three and four and more people.

The way my life is right now it’d make more sense to let go of Wadadli Pen to be honest, reduce the stress; but…not yet… I still believe in it too much, and honestly the hassles notwithstanding,  I enjoy it…I enjoy receiving and reviewing the stories, I enjoy the looks on the winners’ faces, I enjoy posting the stories and reading people’s responses to them, I enjoy feeling like we’re giving a young writer a bit of encouragement.

Writing all that reminds me of that episode of Friends where Phoebe says there’s no selfless deed because even if it’s just feeling good you’re getting something back from giving. I guess that’s the case with me and Wadadli Pen. It stretches me thin (though not in the right places) but it feels like one of the most meaningful things I’m doing with my life right now. It’s not about paying the bills – in fact as a voluntary activity it hurts more than helps in that regard; it’s not about hitting deadlines – though we do have to hit our marks if we’re going to pull it off; it’s not about the hustle or the routine – though it’s got its own hustle and routine (I wasn’t kidding when I told the potential volunteer that I understand where she’s coming from…so much so that right now the only way I’m able to leap into planning it is by not thinking too much about doing it).

What Wadadli Pen is about is nurturing and promoting the literary arts and encouraging younger writers. It was that when I thought of it in 2003, while I was still a young writer needing guidance and encouragement myself. Ten years on, I don’t know that I’ve changed in that regard beyond getting a decade older and being kicked out of the Wadadli Pen targeted age range by a handful of years. But when I look back over these 10 years, if my books feel like something tangible that I’ve added to the cultural and artistic space I inhabit, Wadadli Pen feels like something worthwhile. I don’t yet know what will become of the ones who have passed through it, I don’t know looking back what value they placed on it, I don’t know if it helped them really on their journey to becoming a writer, I don’t know if they will be writers. And yet it feels worthwhile.

So, though overwhelmed, I press on with this project. I appreciate all who help me take it a little further down the road. And I do understand when someone says, I can’t anymore. Eventually, if I realize my dream of solidifying the Wadadli Pen foundation, I will be able to do the same, confident that it can (and hopefully will) go on without me. Hopefully by then it won’t be a case of if I’m too overwhelmed to work up the energy to do it again for another year; it will be am I ready to realize that my baby is full grown and let go.


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