I'm struggling with myself over a few things. And I have a few important personal administrative tasks to do this week.

It's Andy's birthday this week. He's been dead (how odd the present perfect continuous tense) for nine months now. Long enough to be born. We had only a few short weeks to grieve together and then it's been this liminal state of living. I guess that's fitting, but it fucks with the process of grief.

Had an in-person conversation today with a friend I've not seen since the funeral. He stopped by to pick up a thing, stood on the sidewalk in front of the house; I stood back on my porch. I forgot to grab a mask on my way out.

I still feel like an asshole.

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8/31
 

It was late in life--and even later in my career--when I realized how little people "liked" me at work. Not that I was disliked or unpleasant or unreliable or irritating, but much more than I was reserved and unknown. It was some time after that when I realized how that retards progress in my projects and how intricately that's connected with traditional metrics of success. It's probably very good I got away from the firm track early because I can't make that sort of emotional and personal committment to my professional self.

In a larger context, I've been thinking about counting wins. How "wins" are often small, frequently don't look anything like what you expect, easily discounted. Small and incomplete wins--as well as the sorts of progress that don't look like wins--are frequently critized as a defense against people thinking it's enough or that they're done or, more importantly, in order to resist pressure to compromise where compromise is not warranted. 

Progress is slow and incrementalism both insufficient and effective. Look at how the GOP got us here; that was an inch at a time. The GOP misogynist and racist rally cry that giving Them an inch means They'll take a mile has given them the federal judiciary and probably the nation as a whole. Encroachments breach walls and leave legions of bodies behind them.

Everything is hard.


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8/6
 

My mother taught me not to have loyalty to institutions or systems. There was no specifiic one moment that she taught me that--no curriculum to advise me against institutions or systems. I don't recall her ever using those words or making such an assertion. But it was certainly there in the beliefs she shared.

Institutions and systems have the same flaws people do. Like people, they do intentional or unintentional harm; they have unexamined biases. Beyond that, institutions do not have a vested, emotional interest in you as a singular individual. Systems can't give and take. Ultimately, they can't or won't adapt easily.

None of that is groundbreaking thinking. But it's interesting personal context I never thought of. I don't have a sports team I always root for. I've never joined an alumnus or affiliate group. I guess I've had some brand loyalties over the years, but those have always ended badly. 

Now, as a middle-aged professional, it's my job to show institutions and systems where they are doing unintended harm, what their unexamined biases might be, what sort of adaptations are overdue. I find that my basic distrust of loyalty to specific institutions--rather than sympathy with their goals or valuing their role--is useful. 

A theme of all my work right now--professional, politcal and volunteer--is how the pandemic is laying bare all the failures of our systems; all the biases and harms built into our institutions. This is such an opportunity to fix things. I wish I had hope we would.

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8/4