I took my first radical step a few days ago. I stood down from my main volunteer role and it feels like a weight has been lifted.
I was the Regional Coordinator for the NCT in the North West. It was a role I had taken on by default, in the absence of anyone else and initially, I was just helping organise a training day for volunteers but I ended up taking on the whole role. It hadn't meant to be that way as I had wanted to stick to helping other branch treasurers, sharing the experience I had picked up doing the same role in my own branch.
I've been doing the job for two years. Some of it was hard work, some of it was a doddle. I became part of a fantastic, if disparate, group of ladies who do the same role in other parts of the UK. We regularly swap emails and occasionally met up at quarterly meetings; something not so easy for me due to the distance and the difficulties of arranging childcare if my husband was working the weekend (and there's a 50:50 chance of that).
I experienced some great highs and some awful lows. My high was organising a training day which was attended by over 40 people in March. We'd never had that many people turn up to such an event. Forty fantastic volunteers giving up their Saturday; barely a negative comment and lots of positive ones about how well it was organised and how much people had got out of it. My low point saw me in floods of tears over an email I received, which berated me and everything I stood for. Luckily, that low was a one off; it was soon dealt with and forgotten.
The problem is, as I've blogged before, I'm moving on now. I hinted at it, but didn't directly mention that I was thinking of giving it up. But it was becoming too much effort, and I have a growing interest in doing other things, like this. Tasks I was supposed to be doing were being left. My enthusiasm to get them done was waning.
And yet I felt guilt. I'd taken on the role because there was no-one else doing it, and hadn't been for some time. There wasn't anyone else coming forward to help me that could take my place. However, I knew from my experience as a volunteer, that guilt alone is not a good enough reason to stay, and that it is the wrong thing to do - to keep doing something that you're not paid to do, to which you are no longer fully committed. Far better to create a vacancy - because others will step in and cover - than to mess it up royally by being half-arsed.
I have always known that the treasury work is my strength. In NCT circles, I am famous for it, strange as that may seem. A lot of it is about how to use an accounting application, which I've used for years now, and I worked for several years supporting accounts systems. Some of it is training - again, something I have done in my working life. Some of it is just common sense, although you wouldn't believe that sometimes. I can help other people in other branches quite easily, without thinking too hard about it. In other words, I can still make a difference without putting in too much effort. That sounds perfect to me! I decided I would ask to step back and just do that.
It didn't make the process of resigning any easier. I had let it drag for a while. I attended a training weekend last month, which was enjoyable and useful but at the end of the first day, I was returning to my room feeling very emotional without knowing why. I got back to my room, lay on the bed, and just cried. I knew at that point that stepping back was inevitable; it was just a matter of when.
I finally decided to do it this weekend. I had wondered if I should stay for a few months, hope to find a successor and hand over to them neatly. I don't like leaving people in the lurch. The risk was that I would let it drag even further. I arranged another training day and I couldn't attend for childcare reasons. I could have booked a babysitter but it was all day and I wasn't comfortable with that, as it would have had to be a stranger. I lay in bed one morning thinking about when I should go when I realised that there was no point in delaying any further. I was making a hash of it now, so why stay?
I got up and I composed the email. I had tears in my eyes as I typed the words. It isn't a full resignation - because I offered to do the treasury work. Other parts of the North don't have any extra help with their accounts and so I can reach further than my own region. I said that in my email; that I still want to help with that, because that is what I'm good at. I told myself I wasn't completely walking away whilst I was writing it. I delayed hitting send, using Twitter as a distraction for a while until I could delay no further. The moment of truth. I cried. Whether it was with relief or with sadness, I don't really know.
I got a reply back the same evening and I even delayed reading that too, but the reply was polite and positive, if regretful at my decision. It asked if anything could be done or could have been done differently, but the answer is no. It's not that the role is horrible, it's just that it's no longer for me. My offer of helping with treasury stuff has been accepted and after a chat on the phone with someone yesterday, I've handed over pretty much everything else I had on my plate. I'm still helping my local branch too - although I am naturally moving away from that now that the children are at school and I don't regularly go to activities. The relief is enormous but I'm still feeling emotional about it all. To blog about it last night would have been a step too far and even writing this today has been hard.
It's been fun and I had a ball at times. It wound me up at others, and it made me cry just once - except for the process of making the decision to step back, which has been one of the hardest things ever. I achieved some things of which I will be forever proud. I will miss being part of the fab team that is Karen, Helen, Joanne, Elaine, Geraldine, Miriam, Lonnie, Claire and Hayley (and just recently, Caitlin) but for now, I am still allowed to play alongside them. If you read this, ladies, thanks for the support and the laughs (and late night wine-fuelled chats at conferences). If truth be known, I still feel guilty about going now, but I know that that will pass.
As one door closes, another should open, right? Let's see where this one leads.