I just marked four years as an executive director. Every day I learn more about myself and how this position within the entire non-profit industrial complex (to read more about that I recommend the Revolution will not be Funded) brings out the worst in me.
Every day is hard in it’s own way. There are too many examples of people dying as a result of capitalism and colonialism and the myriad ways that manifests (addiction, houselessness, chronic illness). Within the non-profit structure – the cozy relationship with electoral politics, the competition for resources/cash, and the celeb status held by some people with my title and the organizations they run – I am reminded at how and why this system was created and how easy it has become- especially with fear of losing money/access means the real reason a lot of organizations -including the one where I work- is all too easily lost/forgotten.
I am also reminded how I started – as an organizer- not an administrator and how I wasn’t paid for that work and how I hustled at a bullshit super capitalist job(s) then hustled for myself. It was hard as fuck – I was always behind on my rent, the gas got shut off but I was way happier and less conflicted and I could be myself- something I really feel I have lost (and continue to lose) in this work.
I’m not as close to leaving as I would like. I don’t want to do the people I work with and for like that (although there are probably some people who want me to leave- which is fine). So in the meantime I need to find ways to be connected to community outside the npic, I need to draw clearer boundaries, and there is a part of me that wonders if I just need to shut the fuck up, put my head down and just work. I’m good at working. Not so much at shutting the fuck up.
When I first moved to Los Angeles the problem, according to my pareja, was that I wasn’t getting enough freelance work. I had a column charting my move from Caribbean centric single mami’hood NYC life to Mexican/Central American centric cohabitation in Los Angeles. I was writing posts for political websites and blogging for my own sites. But it wasn’t bringing enough checks and I, seemingly, wasn’t pulling my weight economically or in terms of caring for a home my pareja owns to warrant my existence with my two children. So I begrudgingly took a job in retail – selling men’s shoes and suits in a national department store chain. Something not that unusual I guess. Just last week in meeting with a freelance marketing/branding expert I learned that she had begun working the overnight shift in another national chain to pay her bills. She is a single white women with better educational credentials than me. When I was able to get out of what a young, single, childless person within the “movement” gave me passive aggressive grief about, not always “working” in “movements”, I thought that would ease the tension. A long term freelance gig working with immigrants with an org I knew meant more money. It also meant I could go back to school. But then according to my pareja, I wasn’t studying enough. I wasn’t saving enough, and I still wasn’t paying enough into the household or doing a good enough job keeping house.
Now I’m an executive at a non-profit organization. I work more than 40 hours a week. I make a decent salary and my pareja can no longer say I don’t pay my fair share. But the complaints have shifted to other areas tied to my gender. I’m not a good enough mother. I don’t take good enough care of myself. I work too much and may not even be that good at it. The house is still not clean enough and I’m the one who does the bulk of the cooking, cleaning and food shopping.
It’s too easy to think yes I’m the problem, internalize that message that no matter what I don it’s not enough and I have to do more. But deep down I know better. I know I’m trying the best that I can and that’s good enough pero igual. Duele. It hurts and it’s not the healthiest way to live/work/be.