Why I left the most awesome listserve I've ever been on
A few weeks ago, I learned about an amazing listserve. All of the movers and shakers of the progressive movement, Millennials and X-ers, are on it (like, 700 of them). A lot of my superiors at work are on it.
There were threads about self-driving cars before it was even on the news. And lots of inside baseball.
It felt awesome to be invited to join. I ravenously consumed all the emails coming through the list into my Inbox. But within a week, on Friday, I had unsubscribed.
Rewind. Four years ago I was pushed out of an advocacy organization (I technically resigned — twice — but I was effectively pushed out) by the Executive Director, someone I had considered a friend and a mentor for five years. For a while, though, I was still on a listserve of privileged folks leading that organization and others in our cause.
Outside of my former organization, I still felt like I could leverage the information on that listserve to feel included and empowered — to feel important. I guarded it jealously and did everything I could to make sure my former boss didn’t realize I was still on it — which he eventually did, at which point he immediately removed me. When I was finally kicked off, I felt isolated, alone, and like a nobody. I tried to get back on it but was rejected. No more inside baseball and privileged information. I was just like everyone else.
But in the years that followed, that painful separation from a community I had identified as my own — full of people my senior who were knowledgeable, savvy, and smart — ended up being liberating. After taking up meditation and connecting with the real pain of people, relationships, and projects I had lost in my time working in that sphere (a school shut down, friends locked up in prison and tortured), I learned what it was like to truly grieve for real, human losses. That’s a sadness I still carry around in my heart. But negative feelings about being kicked off a listserve because of personal politics, ego, and pride? I don’t carry that around with me. I am gratefully free of that burden.
Last week, something that I won’t elaborate on happened that made me feel very emotional about this new, awesomesauce listserve. Self-driving cars. Inside baseball. And a lot of very smart people ahead of me in their careers.
Suddenly, being on this list felt like a liability — it could get me in trouble; there were things I’d really rather not know. Because to know it was to want to take action on it by sharing, replying, leveraging. And sometimes that gets me in trouble.
So there was fear in my wanting to leave, and resentment. There was also arrogance: “Some of the people on that list are real jerks; they act like bullies and nobody in that supposedly “safe space” really calls them out for it. They’re not worth my time.”
I hovered over the unsubscribe button and felt a strong clinging to all the inside baseball I’d be missing out on. What cool person, idea, or trend would I not know about before it was big news? What breaking news would I not be able to bring into conversation?
When I hit the button, the unsubscribe felt so final. Thud. The room suddenly sounded quieter, and I had a sense of the four walls around me. By cutting that tie, I was in my body and in the place in which I stood with a little more awareness.
It used to be that that silence was frightening and boring — like death. Now, I realize that the quiet and stillness is actually the most marked indicator of truly living.
Since unsubscribing from the most awesome listserve I’ve ever been on, I feel more “in” the small Midwestern town I’m living in. I feel more “in” a life that’s a little boring and a little simple. And there’s one less weighted thing for me to carry around with me. It feels nice.