How and why I became a doorman

If you have read some of the “living deliberately” posts, you know that I’ve divided up my day very carefully in order to ensure that I am not wasting my time.  3 hours a day for reading, writing, and exercise, 8 for work, another 8 hours a week for my secondary list of things to improve on.

That 8 hours a day was allocated for work on this schedule was a choice predicated by the assumptions  that a) I needed this thing called food to continue to live, and b) that my work would be devoted to helping others.  While I do, as a doorman help the rich and the comfortable enter and exit their frivolous apartments, and help solidify their upper class status (as the doorman really functions as a very elaborate and complex status symbol), this type of “help” you might guess, is not quite what I meant.

So how did I get here?

I spent the last two and a half years of my college career working to become a community organizer, studying it, and working both on-campus and with large national activist organizations.  I could tell you the day (though I won’t) when I decided to become an organizer, and I still remember that elated feeling of shared and collective power.  That sense of being able to clearly see the steps from being able to change yourself to being able to change the world and how exciting, right, and goddamn do-able that seemed.  I’ve felt it once or twice since then, when it seemed something went really right or was going to go right in the world. When Obama won, for example.

I also remember learning the hardway the difference between being an organizer and a mobilizer.  When you work in the not-for-profit world, one of the first things they teach you is the difference between “mobilizer” and “organizer”.  An organizer asks “how can I help you?” A mobilizer asks “How can you help me?”.  This is easy enough to define, but I would argue that the majority of self-proclaimed “organizers” are truly “mobilizers” asking the far more subtle “What can you do for me that I think will help you?”

While these organizatiosn were very supportive when I was working for them, the minute I stepped out the door to go do the work I was trained to do, I felt abandoned.  Suddenly it was harder to get in touch with people.  Resources were unavailable.  The local efforts I was involved in were no longer aided.  It was the short-term effect of mobilizing.

I am not criticizing these organizations outright.  They do incredibly necessary and important work, and priorities must be had.  I am merely elucidating how my experience and my evolving view on community organizing changed.

My heroes in the world of community organizing were those civil rights leaders you may have never heard of-Ella Baker, Hollis Watkins-people who worked to work themselves out of a job, who only led reluctantly and until they could develop better leaders to replace themselves.  They did not do it “professionally” as a career choice like a doctor or a lawyer, but because it needed to be done.

And now for something completely different:

When I decided to run for president of the environmental organization on campus, I was very nervous about doing it for the right reasons, not for or because of my ego.  In the end I was reasonably sure that I ran for the position not for whatever glory was attached to it, but because I hoped and felt confident that I was doing it to develop next year’s leaders and would have a positive impact.

I essentially applied the same thought process to my post-graduate career choices.  If I was truly passionate about the environmental movement, I would do it anyway, and not expect a title, a salary, and paid vacation to do it.    And I would do it as an organizer, in it for the long term, not as a mobilizer in it for the short term I would be like Baker and Watkins and those even more local leaders, the barbers, the church women, who were the true organizers.

So, I ended up a doorman.  It was a hard choice that left me feeling lost, but the right one.  If I choose to go more full time as an organizer, or in some other capacity helping others, I will know that I have done it for the right reasons, chosen deliberately.

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About Big Adam

A NYC doorman, a community organizer, wannabe ape, sometimes blogger, sometimes writer, always crossword puzzle incompleter, I will ride bicycles with your papa, dance Bhangra with your mama, take you on dates that cost nada.
This entry was posted in Doormanning, Living Deliberately and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to How and why I became a doorman

  1. celtwitnes says:

    There are many things I’d like to say, but the foremost being is that your state of mind is in the right place, I think. You’re conscious of your impact on others, aware of your surroundings and conscientious of your actions and choices.

    I once sat on a Greyhound bus a few years ago and looked curiously at the driver. I thought to myself, “What inspired him to become a bus driver?” Although I never answered my own question, I came to the conclusion that whether it was inspiration or need that landed him this position, he was in fact helping the community. He brought people to people, forged connections and enabled one sister to see her brother, for a mother to see her husband, so on and so forth.

    Your blog won’t fail if you don’t let it, and whether you’re a doorman or a bus driver, a Republican or Democrat, if you continue to follow your heart, think good of people, choose actions with good intention, genuinely work toward global peace (I’m an idealist, unfortunately) and keep your mind open as you’ve clearly done, then you’re leading a life many wish to follow and setting an example for years to come.

    • big Adam says:

      Thanks, dude for the encouragement! And may we all be pragmatic idealists. I always like asking the question that you asked about the bus driver…need to remember it more often though!

  2. Amanda says:

    I like that these entries pop up via fb now and then. Two thoughts:

    1. I’d like to emphasize that you DID in fact organize yourself out of a job; you did it well all year, Mr. macro-manager. I can’t wait to see what GEO churns out next fall.

    2. I’m just to the point in Malcolm X’s autobiog where he discusses the who’s who of shoes he shined at a dance hall in Boston. You never know whose door you’ll open.

    Whoops, third thought: Since moving back to my parents’ house (the new American Dream?) I’ve found we have 6 sets of tweezers among 4 womenfolk and there’s just not enough stray, un-arched brows to go around. I’d be happy to send my gently used pair along as a house-warming (city-warming?) gift if you like.

    • big Adam says:

      hmm…I think I’m actually good on tweezers right now, but I might hit you up once I have a permanent address. You know how concerned I am about my eyebrow tidiness…
      how is the autobiography? I was thinking about giving it a read (having started it once)

      See (hear) you for the call-in day!

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