A while back I decided to take up the practice of de-centering. That is, trying to be less the spotlight at events and such. I wanted to see if I could be a conduit, rather; a holder-of-space that would support the people who came to events. I worked just as hard, if not harder; I just tried to do it ninja-style, so fewer people would notice.
Part of that was withdrawing from an event that I’d conceived and made real with the help of several friends. It was a camping gathering and open space, where people could come and explore the things they were passionate about, share their practices and tips and tricks with each other, and generally have a good time.
In withdrawing, I passed on my part of the job – facilitating – to four trusted friends who I thought would do a great job. The people who created the event with me continued to do their part (more of the logistics and operations) and the facilitators would do their job and the event would go on without me.
I should note here: it’s not that it took four people to replace me. Actually we’d had four people plus me in the past, and things had gone easily; it was likely that they would be fine on their own.
And They Were!
The event came and went, and I kept myself busy enough that I mostly was able to keep myself away from the thoughts of all that I might be Missing Out from. I even managed to stay away from my Fear of Irrelevance. Occasionally on social media I’d see people having a good time, and I was happy for them.
A few days after the event, I came across a writing by an attendee who had been to the previous years, and was writing about how different this year was.
Of course a part of me was hoping it would go something along the lines of Dear Diary, Camp just wasn’t as much fun without Gray… but it didn’t.
I don’t have permission to quote them directly, so what follows is paraphrase:
This year was different from the very beginning, but not in a bad way. Instead, the campout seemed more open…more welcoming, as if it was making room to become exactly what we needed, a place where we could be who we needed to be.
That Was Crushing
They’d had a better time without me there. My worst fears – that my innate showmanship can tend to intimidate or repress people when I’m “on” at an event – were realizes. When I was gone, they had not only had a better time, they had been able to do more, be more, explore more, than the years when I’d been there…
…which was exactly why I had decided to withdraw in the first place! I was stunned for a moment: my plan had worked! Then I just about chortled with glee; I had created an event, and it had gone on beyond me, even better than when I was guiding it! Is there any other measure of success for a Man of a Certain Age!
But Now What?
After the surge of triumph, a weird, stranger feeling came over me, and it’s one that I suspect – that I hope, in fact – most men like me have to deal with.
If I’ve gotten out of the way…where do I fit now?
I don’t know the answer. I can’t just start another event – well, I could, but that would just put me right back in the cycle of being the center of attention, and there’s enough middle-aged white guys doing that these days.
But everyone, regardless, wants to find a place where it feels right, where they feel they are contributing.
I’ve been the lead in the dance of my life for a very long time…I don’t know yet quite how to be the follow.
It’s going to be an interesting – and very disquieting – time figuring it out.