Last week, I met once again with my supervisor to discuss the details of my Community Engagement course and talk about my personal objective for the course. I said it was to complete the projects I had begun.
After bouncing on all sides for years, from new York to Mexico, from art school to social sciences, from political activism to agriculture, I though for once I could settle down in Montreal for another year, and finish my diploma. I would take the time needed to do it, concentrate, engage, work on it, reach the objective, be proud of myself for accomplishing something.
I was not prepared for my teacher’s answer: “Why do you feel like you need to complete anything?”
Failure. A feeling that I had accomplished nothing in recent years, because I had always left behind projects half done. The sorrow that maybe I had made bad decisions, had not faced difficulties or given enough to the projects I was involved with. A fear that all the time given would not yield the expected outcomes.
It made me think about the Le Milieu and the work I had done for the project. I had, like others, felt burnt out - guilty of feeling I was doing so little to help change this messed up world. For a while, I thought it would be better to do less, so we can stay longer without burning out, and be more productive.
But should our aim be productivity?
When I think again about Le Milieu, I wonder if it is something that will be, or that already is?
To imagine and create the future is crucial, but incomplete if we don’t appreciate the process of creation. If we do not acknowledge the lived process of creating together, then we only conform to the current capitalist system that says that value is found in the end product rather than the learning process.
Moreover, we miss the moments of discovery, friendship and creativity in between. And finally, we feel like we have failed when the outcomes are not what we expected.
Last week, I went to help another volunteer close the café. She looked stressed, because the shift had been crazy that night. People had many demands she couldn’t meet, she had been short on bread for the soup.
I was grateful she had stayed so long after her afternoon shift, until the 6pm to 8pm workshop had finished.
But I wanted to tell her, and maybe she will read this - not to worry. Not to worry about the bread, about not knowing the answers to participants’ questions or about someone who will come back later to pay their café because they did not have cash.
My point is not to get my readers and the coop volunteers to listen to this Bobby McFerrin song, but to let them know that coming to the coop should not become another burden.
We are all in the process of growing, and ultimately, it is the process that matters and not the result of our work.
So, let us enjoy the process of creation with the renewed excitement that yes, we are imagining and dreaming for the future.
And we cannot fail at that.
Blanche discovered Le Milieu when she first moved to Montreal in 2013 and has been a volunteer sporadically since then - sometimes she cooks soup, sometimes she writes emails, sometimes she shows volunteers how to make coffee and sometimes she just passes by to hang out. She is currently finishing my degree in Anthropology at Concordia, but in her dreams, she is an odd travelling artist and carpenter who build kids' houses in community gardens...