Reflection is a helpful thing even though it hurts.
As I’ve traveled and lived in Europe for the past year I have, at times, been a typical American asshole. Demanding things be a certain way, getting frustrated that people don’t think through problems the same way I do, and in general wasted a lot of my life yelling at things that really aren’t worth losing sleep over.
Lets put it this way, I’ve lost a lot of sleep.
In dealing with the bureaucracies of the trifecta of an Academic Institution, in the committee driven United Kingdom, that has 800 years of precedent to uphold I have lost a lot of sleep trying to make things ‘better’. I put better in air quotes because I want to make it better for me (and I assume other consumers) but recognize that I am not the only stakeholder or arbiter of what ‘better’ is.
I have been frustrated that the housing officer has taken vacation the week all the new students are meant to move into their housing. That my college hasn’t been aware of the longer schedule of the MBA vs. other degrees (despite having had MBAs for over a decade now). I’ve been frustrated at the lack of feedback for essays and the arbitrary grading system that takes months to get back. I’ve been frustrated by service staff who don’t bring me my check fast enough because they could turn another table if they were snappier about it.
In all of these encounters – and many many many more – I’ve found myself at times asking for the impossible or unreasonable given the limitations of a system we are working in. Be it asking for something that the person I’m speaking to doesn’t have the power to grant me. Or requesting something be done right this second while I wait instead of giving someone time to accomplish the task.
Today there was an issue and I was taking the lead on getting it resolved using many of the lessons in getting things done vs. just ranting that I’ve learned over the past year. As I was approaching the end of the exchange with an action that we would be back shortly and expected a solution, I saw someone I know very well step in and start exuding some of the behaviors I’ve tried to curtail in myself this past year.
Who is to say which of us was right or wrong? Which of us would accomplish our goal of getting a solution to an all around admittedly shitty situation? In the end all was taken care of and we will never know whose methods were better, however as I saw who I once was it was very interesting to see the difference between that mindset and the more relaxed, peaceful, “this too shall pass” mindset that I’ve been working on.