Pam’s Pictorama Post: It is a remarkably wet start to the July 4 weekend here in Manhattan. The coffee is perking, Kim is reading a heavy tome (Thomas Wolfe) on the other side of this table, Cookie was last seen curled up in an odd small corner between a closet door and the entrance to the bathroom, and Blackie is snoozing on my desk chair, curled up with my black sweatshirt which has grown greatly tatty with use over the past 15 months at home.
This simple hoody was originally purchased with for the specific purpose of being a warm layer, easily washed, to protect me from the elements when coming home from the gym sweaty. While I have not employed it for that use in a very long time, it is frequently pulled on against the apartment chill of all seasons which, along with a much-worn pair of Addidas sweatpants, I will probably look back as the uniform of home pandemic wear. (I sport a looser sweatshirt – better for many layers – with my alma mater, Connecticut College emblazoned on it, when running. In fact I was wearing it when I fell a few weeks ago and was glad I had the presence of mind to change before going to the ER so that I didn’t need to cut it off to get around my heavily bandaged hand later in the day. I opine on the comfy sweatshirt as part of a post on running to be found here and of course my fall and subsequent broken fingers here and about my nascent running career here.)
Blackie blends into the sweatshirt, his white chest badge tucked under him and his glowing eyes shut. He is in danger of getting sat upon when perched here and we spent a lot of time this week fighting over this chair. He doesn’t trust my weekend defection to the other desk and computer.
Rain or shine, in my fundraising life this holiday weekend has always marked the close of one fiscal year and the fresh start of a new one. Since taking on the role of head fundraiser the battle to meet an income budget has become paramount in my mind. At the Metropolitan Museum and during my many years there, it was also a busy time which combined tying up my own program income and in later years working through compensation, performance reviews and tracking the progress of the other fundraising programs, but the ultimately responsibility did not fall squarely on my shoulders as it does now – and the responsibility of the past two fiscal years has been, to say the least, substantial. (A post written upon leaving the Met after 30 years can be found here.)
So for me, this holiday is always about considering the prior year while starting to shrug it off in order to start over. Raising money is a sort of annual miracle which has to be built from the ground up every twelve months where we rise from the ashes of the prior year and build the new one. And although I always say it is at least as much science as art and of course good planning helps, I suspect it is a bit different than, let’s say the supply and demand of making and selling widgets. No one has to give money and fundraising is mercurial under the best of circumstances. And, as for many people and industries, the past 15 months of raising money for a shuttered performing arts organization have been extraordinary and stretched my creativity in ways I didn’t suspect I had. (Prior posts about my first year at this job and my pandemic work life can be found here and a recent one about contemplating the return to the office, here.)
In addition, like many managers I am facing a staff of folks who are trying to figure out how they will shake off the exhaustion of these long months at home and re-imagine the next phase of their professional careers. I think for many the difficulty of morphing back to the pre-pandemic world is so hard that instead they are deciding that instead they will open a new chapter somewhere else and start the story over. I can appreciate the inclination although I also believe that in the end you take your problems with you so you might as well face them where you are. Nevertheless, they are peeling off in record numbers and heading to graduate school, to support other causes, or to remain near family they have spent the last months with or caring for.
It isn’t just my staff obviously – we are reading about it constantly in the news, and I am also being asked to serve as reference for many of the colleagues I have remained in touch with over the years as they too shift and morph.
I was reading a response to a friend’s post on Instagram which addressed the overwhelming lassitude of returning the world and how she, as a busy professional had once balanced so many competing needs daily, now found herself exhausted just by making a grocery list. While the pressures of my job only increased over the last year and a half, it has all been performed from a command central here aloft in a high rise apartment on East 86th Street where I forced myself out the door just to get some exercise after the first six months were spent with virtually none.
As we begin to plan for a rapidly approaching season of revived live music, events and related travel, I look askance at my now moth eaten wardrobe, assess the excess weight I am still in the process of losing, have endless discussions about what a return to the office will look like, and a pre-emptive exhaustion rolls over me. I try to exercise the weak muscle by making in-person appointments, first with friends and increasingly for work. Part of me is also trying to figure out the next chapter too – do I need to travel in the coming January? How many nights a week do I need to work? Which of the tools I was employing was actually working and which can I let go of? Does any of that matter now as we all rethink our world and try to form it in a new image?
On the other hand, I arrive on the shores of the new world with a renewed sense of purpose and appreciation for my capabilities. Damn, I am good at this and have achieved against the odds, albeit certainly not alone, but with the undeniable hard work and commitment of so many colleagues. Still, I will return to the world with a new sense of my own capabilities and resourcefulness, more confident than before with less of a tendency to be apologetic. As I relax over this wet holiday weekend and allow the sense of relief to roll over me briefly, goals finally met, year closed, I will relax with Kim and kitties, grab a (fake) hotdog, pour a drink and gently cultivate thoughts of the coming next chapter and what I chose to make of it.