Sunday, July 3, 2016

Clearing I: Sometimes you just step away

A couple of months ago I wrote that lots of home projects were calling to me, but I couldn't get to them because of my obligations to the nonprofit group that rescued and now cares for Cafesjian's Carousel in St. Paul's Como Park. Peter and I founded the group in 1988 and have led the work since then. There was no other group exactly like it, before or since. We were hugely successful in saving the carousel, restoring it, housing it, operating it with volunteers, and engaging one individual mega-donor and hundreds of others. It has been a major part of our identities, individually and as a couple.

We had begun to plan for others to succeed us, and we had cleared much of the paperwork and memorabilia that we'd amassed at home. Most important papers were already filed at the carousel office, but we moved anything we thought necessary and tossed the rest. It felt good, and it began to change our thinking.

We had initiated a succession plan, but we'd begun to fret that it might not be working, that people we'd identified could not or would not step up. We were feeling trapped--how could we leave if there were no clear successors for our roles, Peter as president and me as board secretary and marketing-communications director? And one day it came to us:

We had done all we could, given everything we could, for nearly 30 years. It was up to others to figure out next steps. It's not like this was a surprise; we'd been saying for two years that we were looking to retire. So in June we sent a letter to the board of directors and other key partners of the carousel to say that our current term of office, which ends in February 2017, is our last. We said we hoped candidates for our positions would surface by early October, and if not the board would need to find new people or new solutions. We said we'd be around to provide advice or information to anyone who asked for it. (We promised each other to keep our mouths shut if nobody asks!)

Whew. A huge burden lifted off our shoulders, simply because we realized we can't and DON'T HAVE TO solve every problem. I think that realization was helped along by clearing things out: reading old papers that reminded us of 29 years of hard work, taking pleasure in what we've achieved, knowing we no longer have that kind of energy and no longer want either the responsibility or the recognition. In short, we were processing our departure.

I'm still working on a couple of carousel projects, and we will have things to deal with as we move forward. But we've made our decision and the date is set. It feels right.

And now that I'm clearing this big responsibility from my agenda? There's already a new activity taking its place. More later, I promise.

P.S. You can find more about the carousel here.


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