I work in the corporate world with an odd schedule. I work Saturdays but not Fridays (except 1 Friday a month where I pull a 6 day week.) I get ten days of vacation a year. That’s it. And I’m pretty confident I’m not the only Unitarian in the world who a) has a non-standard work schedule and b) has 10 days of vacation – or a hell of a lot less. I’m fortunate to get 10 days of vacation a year. Most people in my company don’t get any paid days off.
I’ve just been appointed to my first denominational committee. And it’s going to be exciting, challenging work ahead. I’m really thankful for the opportunity. And we’ve been trying to schedule our first meeting, and sure enough, it’s going to be a Thursday to Saturday. Which sounds bizarre to me, but there are ministers on the committee as well whom I imagine that makes perfect sense to. And I’ve decided that this committee appointment takes top priority in my life right now, right behind work.
But this first meeting, of which there will be more, takes out two of my 10 vacation days. And as I was drafting an email to bosses to let them know the dates I’ll need off for that, I also tacked on two more Saturdays I have to miss because of Youth Group related retreats at the beginning of the year. Then I looked at my calendar, because I wanted to take a vacation to San Francisco this year to finally get out to this big fundraising gala for National Novel Writing Month in November, and it’s the week after the committee meeting. And two or three more vacation days.
So, I could end up using 70% of my vacation days for the year in the span of about 10% of the year. And I know I’ve already used a couple because of being sick as crap earlier in the year and other churchy stuff. If I had gone to GA, I’d be up the creek without a paddle right now. And as much as it makes me want to cry, I won’t be getting out to San Francisco, because even if I could manage the vacation day deficit, I just couldn’t take two weekends off in a row with the weekend after being Thanksgiving. Not with my job in my company. So goodbye vacation to something I’ve looked forward to for about 4 years – I’ll try again in a year or two.
It’s a battle of doing work to pay rent versus doing the work that my soul calls me to do.
And despite how I’d love to take the summer off from my job, take a week off here and there to hit up a summer camp, hit up conferences that I want to go to, etc. etc. it’s simply impossible to do for me and so many other lay leaders like myself who work a 40+ hour work week on top of 20+ hours of church stuff a week. No study breaks for me.
I can see why it’s mostly retired folk or self-employed folk in positions of leadership, either in Congregations, Districts, or Denominationally. They’re the only ones with enough vacation days to make the meetings.
So how can we make leadership more accessible to working joe schmos who want to change the world like myself? How can lay leaders do what I hear ministers call “self care” when work + church eats up 60+ hours a week, often more? How can we evolve past where you have to be a minister, retired, a student, or self-employed to be a denominational leader? Hell, how are lay leaders able to have outside-church interests or events without going nuts from lack of time?
I’m beginning to feel that the only way for me to do what I want/can do within Unitarian Universalism is…to be on staff somewhere in some capacity, so I can spend that 40-50 hours a week currently designated towards “job”and put it towards “church.” And how sustainable is THAT for our greater faith?
We do such a great job of eating up people and spitting out the burnt out leftovers.
So, remember that committee that I’ve been appointed to? It’s the new Appointments Committee of the UUA. So hopefully I’ll be in a position to do something about this and help change this culture of leadership that demands things that people like me have a hard time providing. I look forward to helping to change this culture of leadership.
It’s just ironic that this appointment is what’s causing these feelings of frustration I have right now.
(Don’t take this as bitching about the committee – it’s not – and I will be at said meeting with bells on, and I really am thankful to be on the Committee, and can’t wait to start the work ahead. The other folks on the committee look to be pretty awesome, and I’m not holding this against the committee or anyone on it – I’ll be coming in grudge free. This is just symbolic of what I’ve felt and seen out there in greater UUdom and a little vent of frustration.)