Why I do what I do

So I’m no longer the MFL president, hallelujah hallelujah.  After NCFLs, I was totally wiped; the week prior work — largely, me — had organized a two day workshop and symposium that required my full attention, and then immediately afterward (during, in fact) I ran off to Albany, for another five days requiring my full attention and energy, where I was seriously dragging ass by the end.  We had a raucous if orderly MFL meeting thereafter, wherein the torch was passed.

Everything since has felt like a quiet denouement; days spend quietly restoring chaos to order at work among the systems, and nights spent doing things like reading and writing out on the porch deck, where the breeze never stops.  It’s been a bit lonely, but also a bit lovely.  This little window is my chance to think and contemplate for the past year.  I’ll be headed down to NFLs again soon, and EXL is soon thereafter, and then the cycle begins again at Yale and beyond.

This spring I’ve been forced to question where my efforts are being spent.  The flat out sprint that was the week leading into Albany has brought into sharp relief the fact that I do too much.  The NFL will be my 23rd tournament this year, and only my third not manning the tab room, together with TOC and Harvard.  I’ve spent a entire month, 30 days, in tabulation rooms since Yale last September.

Most of them have been fun events with fun people, but that’s no longer enough to keep me running like this.  The damage to my professional life (yes, I have one) has been nonzero, and the damage to my personal life (no, don’t really have one of those) has been complete.  This spring and my tour of the MFL also both ended on a sour note; the folks who said so don’t know I know, but apparently I’m anti-educational and an elitist, and my leadership in the MFL has pushed the league to the edge of collapse.  Mother would be proud, that a Fitchburg boy could grow up to be an elitist.  It matters little that the venom was spread in context of an unrelated political dispute, and that the aims of that dispute were, I strongly suspect, self-serving and competitional, not educational; if you fight dirty, there are consequences.  If the dirt works, which it did, the consequences become universal.

I’m going through a period of asking myself where my limited efforts can do the most good.  On the broader Northeast circuit, the reward for effort is immediate: as JV said at dinner last week, we’re in the middle of a interesting period, where technology, openness, and mutual trust throughout the Northeast has lead to rapid and healthy change in the way we run our activity. We’re no longer content to run the same tournament year after year; we’re questioning every assumption and keeping only the truly necessary ones.  “That’s the way we’ve always done it” is never a good enough answer.  As a result, we’ve created a flexible and cohesive tournament staff where new ideas are vetted, tested, and if they succeed, made universal in the course of a few weekends.  And we don’t sacrifice much in doing so; each individual tournament has run fine, even as new things are tried in them.

That Northeast circuit involves, for me, going to six tournaments a year.   Yale, Princeton, Columbia, UPenn, and the two Lexington tournaments.  I won’t give those up.  I might chance a couple more this year; there are rumblings out of northeastern Pennsylvania to be considered, and I’d be curious to see one or more of Scarsdale, Bronx Science or Hen Hud in action.  I’ve already dropped Harvard, to much relief, and I’m sadly dropping Florida’s University School too, since they’re up against the tournament at my own school this year — Chavez will go instead.  And of course I’ll be there for Newton South’s tournament.  Despite having friends on both sides of no-man’s-land, I won’t skip the NYSFL tournament, where I’m always made to feel welcome and appreciated, and which is a lovely time of year for a drive across Massachusetts.  If JV wants me back — I had a genuine blast this year with Scarsdale, modulo the exciting logistics of the last day — or my own kids qualify & want to go, there’s the TOC.

That’s 8 guaranteed, with a few options.  This year, I did 23.

For the rest, well, I simply can’t do this without strong motivation, and these little whispering voices, or the times I’ve had vast responsibility coupled with zero authority, sap that motivation.  This world of forensics is not my career, job, or obligation; I derive no benefit aside from the psychic, and so the time has come to eliminate everything that’s become a mental net negative.  My team has suffered for my service.  I’ve also had several long term ideas and projects stall out doing all this operational stuff, anyway; some of it forensics related, some of it not.  And from home, I can debug and control most of what happens on Tabroom anyway, better from many schools in fact.

So everything else is on the table, and most of it’s going to land on the floor.