It’s a funny thing, but at school I never volunteered for anything. I didn’t join or join in, I kept my head down, I sat at the back of the class and rarely spoke. It was partly acute shyness, but I was also pretty disengaged and had no inclination to participate in anything organised. I was the opposite of a team player, but not because I wanted to shine alone, I just wasn’t interested. Outside school, I joined no clubs or teams – although I was a Brownie for several years. I mentioned this once before on here, I joined under completely false pretences, because they went past our house once on a nature ramble and I thought this would be great – and in the next three or four years, this was never repeated once, we just did boring things and were expected to be keen and outgoing team players in really silly games and activities. I didn’t quit, of course, I didn’t know that you could stop doing something just because you didn’t enjoy it*.
My parents did voluntary work and often had coffee mornings, garden parties and so on to fundraise for good causes, so I grew up with an expectation that this was what you did. One had obligations to help those who are less fortunate than oneself, and in any case, doing something selfless was a Good Thing.
So that’s the background, really. Looking back, I was always governed by a sense of duty**. I remember when I was fifteen being phoned by a boyfriend and invited out, and I apologised that I couldn’t, my parents were having a social evening for school governors and they would want me to pass round canapés and so on. It didn’t occur to me to ask them if I could be excused, I didn’t even mention the invitation. I’m not sure why I thought my presence would be so useful, I had no expectation of enjoying the occasion – I mean, I didn’t mind but I didn’t actually *want* to be there. I’d rather have gone out for the evening with Jim.
And now, when I offer to do something I don’t actively want to do, it’s often because someone has to. I’ve been in the situation many times when I need someone to volunteer and it’s lovely when someone offers, cheerfully brushes off thanks and just gets on with it. And sometimes I’ve looked round at the people available, seen that they are busier than me or have less specific experience than I do, and so I’m the one who needs to do the job.
The day job is the Sage’s business and it doesn’t engage me all that much. He’s been an auctioneer for 50 years and he still loves it, but I just do the admin and, whilst I don’t mind that, I’ve done it for too long to find it very interesting and I find sale days exhausting nowadays. I’ll not miss it when he retires, whenever that will be. I do love the china, that certainly interests me, and it’s lovely to have a business that we can run together. It’s worked very well all these years, working together and we’ve made a lot of friends and had fun and had the privilege of handling many beautiful objects that we would never buy. I’ve learned a lot and I really admire his knowledge.
It suits me, spreading my energies in several directions, I don’t want to do only one job. If I’m not stretched, however, I do find that I start to cut corners and go through the motions if I can get away with it – if ‘good enough’ will do, that’s what I’ll be. So it’s a good thing for me to drop one thing and start another once in a while.
Talking about going through the motions, this is what children are encouraged to do around here.
*Flash of revelation there, this is news to me.
**I’d never quite appreciated before how far back my sense of duty goes. A bit thoughtful now.