Have you seen those youtube videos that cut to screaming goats during the chorus of a song? I hate them. The first time I watched one I had no idea it was coming – I was confused as to why my friend would post this vaguely fuzzy version of Call Me Maybe on my wall instead of the original. Then a goat screamed and I freaked out. Their bleating is just so jarring, and when paired against pop hooks, it seems so unnatural. Its not only surprising but overwhelming.
That feeling I get from the screaming goat videos, I’ve been getting day to day and calling “misalignment”.
It’s a feeling that grips me in the pit of my stomach, and a voice that hisses “you know better, this isn’t right”. I don’t like to admit that I’ve gotten pretty good at ignoring that voice and shaking away that feeling – but I have.
It happens when I tell a lie. When I say “I’m fine”, instead of using a descriptor that actually means something. It happens when I buy a cup of coffee that isn’t fair trade. When I buy new clothes from H&M. When I go silent instead of sharing my opinion. When I interrupt someone. When I don’t ask questions. A feeling of misalignment happens when I’m not being myself, and more than anything, it feels shitty.
Sometimes I do something about it. Like when I got in to a fairly accusatory and passionate (and naive) argument with the outgoing Corporate Engagement Manager at a gala for the organization I now work for. The other time being calling out a friend on his often misogynistic language, that leaves me feeling uncomfortable and leaves me questioning if he knows he’s being disrespectful. In both cases I certainly didn’t change anything, but at least I was “doing” something about the feeling (voicing it, learning more about it, etc.).
Despite this though, I don’t believe in perfection in people. I don’t believe that there is a universal standard of perfect for me to strive for,or to self correct to. I believe in delivering near perfect work, I believe in being the best you can be, and I definitely hold standards for right and wrong, but they don’t all amount to a definitive understanding of perfection. So what if I feel this misalignment once in a while?
I see something in the people I work with, and who I’ve had the benefit of meeting through a commitment to social justice; they have values. Values that guide the decisions they make, the way they move in the world, they way they approach problems and people. These values act almost as a point of accountability – are you being true to you? true to the world you believe is possible?
Ultimately I think the discomfort I’m grappling with is a question of what my values are, and how can they guide who I am? Being a part of the social justice community might already come with a set of assumed or implied values (justice maybe? equality?), and so the next step as I see it is to name those for myself. Against my natural tendency, the thing to do might also be to use those feelings of misalignment to indicate hidden or emerging values.
What it comes down to though is this – there are moments in my work when I feel this and that is uncomfortable. I wrestle daily if it’s to be expected, or if it’s an indicator of something else… like maybe I don’t belong in the organization I’m in. These fears are purely personal, not based on the people or organization I have the privilege of working with, and are at the root of values and alignment. There might not be a golden fit, there is no perfect, but there might be a moment of understanding where the goats screaming won’t sound so wrong but instead will be a part of the song.