…oh, we’re not? Never mind.
You probably aren’t aware that I was President of a Student Union society at University. The reason why you aren’t aware of this is that I don’t talk about it very much, for very good reason.
I joined this society at the start of my first year. Initially it was quite busy, but over the course of the year the number of active members dwindled to a level that wasn’t unhealthily pathetic, but could be described as “intimate”.
The majority of these members were final-year students. The *vast* majority. Oh, okay, all but three of them were final-year students. This is how I became President – because I was too stupid to realise that the most sensible course of action would be to run, very quickly, in the other direction, and the other two evidently weren’t quite as stupid as me.
At the start of the following year, we, like all societies, were allocated a stall at the Societies Fair, where we were to woo new members from the fresh instake of first-year students. And we would need a lot of them.
However, the pitch we were allocated couldn’t have been any worse. Our immediate neighbours were a society with the following notable properties:
1. They were a big society, and very active. Current and prospective members spilled over onto our pitch like you wouldn’t believe. Due to a shortage of notice boards, we had to share a notice board with them. They, being a highly active society, had many more photos and much more messageboard propaganda than us, and over the course of the fair they gradually sneaked more and more board space. I guess this one’s my fault – I shouldn’t have left a square inch of unused space on our half of the board from the outset.
2. Their society’s activities were of a similar nature to our own, and they were targeting the same kind of people. Their stall was thronged with existing members, whereas we could never muster more than three, for obvious reasons. It’s obvious which stall is going to be more alluring to a first-year.
3. One of our three existing members was actually the President of the other society. So you know when I said we could never muster more than three existing members on our stall, just now? Well, I actually meant two.
4. Due to the above points, I was plunged completely into despair, and spent most of the time sat there with my head in my hands. As far as advertisements for Student Union societies go, I think I may have hit upon a right humdinger there.
If I felt like using optimistic language, I could say that we doubled our membership at that fair. Sadly, we would have needed to triple or quadruple it to be even remotely viable for another year.
We didn’t completely give up, and we still scheduled activities for that academic year, but when June arrived we allowed the society to quietly die in peace.
There’s a lesson here – don’t let people palm their albatrosses off on you. Don’t invest your time and energies into a doomed project, because not only are you setting yourself up for stress and grief, but you’re also wasting resources that could be used in the pursuit of good times.
When I look back on my time at University, that particular year stands out as being one in which nothing really positive happened. Sure, I could convince myself that it’s someone else’s fault, for any number of reasons, but fundamentally I know the truth – it’s because I let myself be pushed around.
Not, I hasten to add, that I would go back and change anything. I’ve seen [Back To The Future], I know how these things work. Ultimately, that year got me where I am today, which is something to be thankful for. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that I still look back and am ashamed of myself. For being weak, for being aimless. For just basking in the environment of the University, rather than making an effort to get the most out of it. For being a bit of an asshole at times. Okay, a lot of an asshole. And I can’t help wondering if it might have been different, if I hadn’t always had the Society of Damocles ((that’s not what it was really called, I’m just trying to be clever)) hanging over my head.
[back to the future]: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088763/
Either way, it’s nice to have this out of my system. A bit like the story about the [guy in the wheelchair].
Maybe one day I should tell you the tale of Kate ((NB not [this Kate] – another Kate, whom you almost certainly don’t know)). That’s another one of those stories which makes me bite my knuckles every time I think about it. I’m just worried that you’d think less of me if I told you that one. It was also actually only four years ago, which is just a leeetle bit too recent for comfort.
[guy in the wheelchair]: /blog/2003/06/things-i-would-never-blog/
[this kate]: http://thekate.net/blog/