This holiday season, aside from hitting me with a terrible cold/stomach flu combination, was about delegation. Specifically, around a gift that I’ve been avoiding.
I have an odd relationship with my time in academia. I’m glad I did it, I doubt that without the student newspaper, the friendships made, or the opportunities a new city afforded (I certainly didn't think I’d be an arts administrator when I moved away from home), I’d be where I am today. I had some wonderful supports, including my graduate school supervisors who helped me trudge through what I used to call my “endless MFA,” but it has always felt like something I survived rather than I experienced with joy in mind.
There’s this wonderful poem that’s sometimes quoted in disability circles, written by the late Laura Hershey, called “You Get Proud by Practicing”. In it, she writes:
“You do not need
a better body, a purer spirit, or a Ph.D.
to be proud.”
And, just a little later on:
Cannot make you proud,
or a doctor.
You only need more practice.
You get proud
We often talk in disability circles about building and maintaining pride in the word disability and the identity that comes alongside. We talk about invisible labour, about the tasks we do for each other to keep our circles alive. We don’t talk as much about how you take pride in choosing how to navigate something that—on the scale of things—isn’t significant to very many people besides you.
For example, I finished my undergraduate degree in English in 2016, and my MFA last year. My diplomas have been gathering dust as I figure out what to do with them. I couldn’t bring myself to buy a frame, to put them up, to take that step to celebrate for myself.
So, I made someone else do it.
Or, more accurately, I asked a family member who loves the process of gift giving if they would buy the frames for me. I needed someone else to break that inertia, to be kind to me in ways they wouldn’t necessarily know they were being kind, I needed to delegate.
Now, delegation is almost always focused on work, but mutual aid is delegation in the sense that you’re sharing a load. Body doubling, where you work alongside someone else (often in digital space, is delegation. You are saying to the other person—even if they are a YouTuber a country away who is holding a study with me space via a video they uploaded months ago—I trust you to carry this executive function for me. Not forever, but just for a little while, just to make things a little lighter.
So, today’s question: How can you delegate in this way? In a way that doesn’t cost you (or the other people too much? How can you make that weight a tiny bit less noticeable?
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