If I must say so myself, I tend to be a sweetheart as pertains to dealing with people 90% of the time. Because I want people, my people, to do well – I share information, opportunities and resources. I send “checking-in” notes as well as birthday, encouragement, congrats and thank you cards, to people with whom I worked in the many collaborations that I had in my role as director of ACT Roxbury, In being so energetic in my championing of others, I have left some people with the impression that I’m a pushover or that I do not know about their shenanigans behind my back.
I am going on record here to say that this is not usually the case. I almost always know who cares about me and who doesn’t, who values my work and who feels that “all the stuff she did really didn’t matter.” I generally know when a relationship is strictly based on proximity or mutual need and not on true affinity.
Since I left my last there are people who have definitely showed me that I was “out-of-sight” and, therefore “out-of-mind.” I expected this. As we used to say as kids, “forget you, forgot you, never thought about you.”
A recent encounter got my ire up and so, I’m using the blog to share. I sent a checking-in email three times over a four month period to person with whom I had to work closely while director of ACT. Let’s call her M. I didn’t get a single reply. In the email I wasn’t asking for anything. I just said, “You came across my mind and so I thought I’d drop an email to say how are you? I know this is deadline crunch time for you and wish you the best in getting through them.” (Or something to that effect.)
I became concerned after the third email didn’t get a response because this was not M’s previous communication style. We’d actually gone out for lunch near the end of my tenure at ACT and left, I thought, on good terms. I asked another mutual colleague if everything was alright in M’s life. He said as far as he knew, it was, but that there’d been a lot of deadlines.
I picked up the phone for the 2nd time, and left a phone message. Finally, I got a reply asking to get together. We did. M told me that she hadn’t been in touch because there “could be a conflict of interest if her agency had any dealings with me until I’d been gone for at least a year.” She went on to say that she valued my “skills, work, blah-blah-blah” and hoped to one day be able to offer me some consulting work,” but that her hands were tied.
This is an agency that used to trot me out several times a year to talk about the cultural economic work I did. Now, while I must say I’ve been surprised at how I seem to have dropped off the face of the earth with so many of the people and agencies that I used to interact with (for whom I was often the only representative of color I might add) I didn’t contact M for that reason at all. I’d felt an affinity for her and when she popped into my mind, I wrote as I’ve done with lots of other people. For her to insult my intelligence by running that weak crap offended me. (Can you tell?) There is no conflict-of-interest rule.
Don’t piss on me and tell me its raining! I had to tell someone in the universe that I know the dealio. I know people who pretended to be friends – some of whom I’ve invited into my home and shared my hospitality (and home-cooked food). I am sometimes slow on the uptake in realizing that everybody isn’t worthy of personal contact outside the realm of the work.
I will have to become more discriminating about who I offer my olive branches and information to. I will have to learn better how to let sleeping dogs lie. I can and will pull back from folks who don’t deserve the extra-specials and who think I’m so stupid that they can lie to my face and expect me not to realize it. I am also mindful of those who try to cut out my contributions to the work from which they continue to benefit.
I read once the best definition of reciprocity I’ve ever seen, in the novel 2000 Seasons by Ayi Kwei Armah. “Give only to those from whom you have received and receive only from those to whom you have given.”
I’m gonna learn… (While I refuse to change my core values I will give less freely.)