The clock ticked past 1:00 a.m. I sat at the desk and continued plugging away at the calendar design. I was working on a new project for the 2008 year, a calendar featuring our schedule, including featured works among the presenting artists. I was excited by the project but feeling completely exhausted and overworked. I had the last four months of the year left to finish in the design, and it had be done by morning to be ordered and ready in time for the next opening.
I started second guessing everything—not just the calendar, but the gallery itself.
Feeling unappreciated and maxed out, I wondered: Why was I working so hard again? For whom again? For why? For free?
I had to be back to my day job by 9:00 a.m., so this was my only window to wrap this up. Try as I might to concentrate, my thoughts kept returning to my bed. My warm, cozy blanket. My fluffy pillow. The thought that if I could at least get home within the next hour, I would be able to get at least three hours of sleep before I had to wake up and head towards St. Paul for work.
And then there was the next exhibition to think about. Emails to answer, the tags, the brochure. Ugh, and the artist statements still needed proofing. Oh, and I remembered we still needed a few more volunteers for the install. I took a quick “break” to send out a quick email. “Hi! Is anyone available help hang on Tues?”
I was tired. Exhausted. Spent. I couldn’t. This was me in my “can’t even” moment. Defeated, I finally relented and decided to head home . . . but not before doing one last thing.
People respond to stress in different ways. Some people shut down, some people become angry, some people drink. For me, even though I’m not a big crier in general, when I’m both stressed and tired I cry. And with tears streaming down my face, I drafted an email to my board. I took a deep breath and hit send on a digital plea for help.
I tried to find the original email and couldn’t—but it went something like this:
“Where are my board members? I am working more than full time, here ALL the other time, and I am unsupported and overwhelmed. The board is supposed to be helping me and I’m totally alone. If I keep going at this rate I’ll probably die of a heart attack before I’m thirty—HAAAAAALP!”
I drove home and crashed for a few hours before heading in to work. Over the next twelve hours the responses chimed into my inbox, a series of responses to quite the emotional plea. Exhaustion now frosted over with shame, I couldn’t help but think to myself: “Sigh. What have I done?”
This post is adapted from It’s Never Going To Work: A Tale of Art and Nonprofits in the Minneapolis Community. Book includes illustrations by Athena Currier. ©2019 Jamie Schumacher.
It’s Never Going To Work is a light-hearted, illustrated book that offers real-life insights on founding a community space and nonprofit. It provides tools, tips, resources, and camaraderie to community organizers and anybody attempting something new.