Do you ever read something and find it really resonates with you? In a recent Lifestyle piece for this very paper, the writer looked at some of the trials and tribulations of being on a society exec, as well as the high notes that come with it. And it really struck a chord with me – I’m not on exec at the moment, but I had been for the four years before that. I was looking forward to finally stepping down after so long but, now I’m no longer on exec, my opinion has changed.
I miss it – I really do.
In my final year, I was the President of the Student Cinema and the TV Editor of this paper, and it really forced you to organise your time and make sure you got everything done. I’m the kind of guy who loves being busy, and having to juggle these two very different and very intensive positions as well as my degree was (incredible as it sounds) perfect for me. And now? I’m a postgrad student, and you’d expect that that would mean you’d be far busier – yet, I start my day early and there’s only so much reading you can do before you’re done. It’s a complaint that I don’t imagine many will share, but I get bored. I’ve gone from having tons to do to essentially nothing, and it’s dull.
I didn’t tell any of them, but I had to go to one side afterwards and stop myself from crying
Coupled with this is the loss of the comradery that exec brings with it. You work with a very close-knit group (even leading it) and, despite some inevitable clashes of heads, you do really grow to care for them. At the cinema, we have official exec handover at one of our events – that night, I’d distributed gifts to all of my team and thanked them, and I felt genuinely heartbroken after the handover (I didn’t tell any of them, but I had to go to one side afterwards and stop myself from crying). It was like a strange form of grief, losing your second family just like that.
And then, after you’re off, what do you do? If you’re in your final year, presumably you focus on exams and leave – circumstances can be handy in making the choice for you. But what if you’re still about? Do you still try to play an active part, and run the risk of annoying the new team? Do you just linger, like the spectre at the feast? How do you straddle the line between still being part of the society that you love, but adjust back to just being a member once more?
Use a night that would’ve been for the society for extra reading or going to the pub instead
Often, the new team wants you at first – you’re a source of knowledge and, as they try to settle into their new roles, having their predecessor around in the event of questions or trouble is invaluable. But this honeymoon period is quickly over, and you’re no longer needed as your successor finds their feet. You don’t see the exec chats and emails, and you don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. You try not to judge the new team, but you always have those little thoughts when things happen – ‘I wouldn’t have done it quite like that’ or ‘I don’t think this is the best idea’.
So, what can you do? Obviously, this depends on what type of society you were part of, but dialling it back is always going to be tough. Look at the events and socials your society runs, and try to be there and be supportive. Presumably the new exec will be your friends, so talk to them – let them know that you’re there, and you’re happy to help out if need be (even if that takes the form of going for a drink every once in a while – I’ve known some stressed exec members who could really do with it!). And try to ween yourself away from time to time – use a night that would’ve been for the society for extra reading or going to the pub instead.
It’s hard being on exec but, if you care about your society, it’s arguably harder not being on exec afterwards
When you run for exec, you’re told that it is one of the best experiences of your university life, and that much is true. It gives you so much in the way of personal development, and you get to do something really valuable in the process – you help enhance the time that other people spend at Warwick. It can really be hard to let go of that (as proof, I’m still struggling, half a year later), but you can’t do it forever. It’s hard being on exec but, if you care about your society, it’s arguably harder not being on exec afterwards.