The AIESEC US Leadership Team Meeting occurred this weekend in New York City. I had many waves of differing expectations for it: the ultimatum meeting, the desperation meeting, the opportunity meeting, the just-another-worthless meeting (kind of like the just-another-worthless US election).

Ultimately, I was very frustrated by the meeting, as were most students there. Luckily (if my spider-sense hasn’t failed me), the deep-seated issues of mistrust and “versus” began to be eroded, thanks in largest part to Missy’s general change of modus operandi in comparison with her predecessor. She is actively trying to create trust and participation rather than deliver ultimatums. The frustration however came from the entering mistrust and the format of the meeting itself – a large plenary with a single straight agenda, in which there is no way that everyone manages to have even a single comment for the duration of the weekend. People pay what it takes to come up to NYC and then are infuriated by the definite lack of their input, because that format just doesn’t allow for that. I felt it very much and began to get kind of demotivated by it, but I think that based on some conversations that were had at a remarkably affordable BYOB Cantonese restaurant called Phoenix Garden a model to reshape the leadership team can be implemented with the right hand-shaking. There was more frustration on some people’s parts as they were brought in a separate small meeting to talk about their frustration in the meetings according to the comments they had made – I would say, rather, that it was because they exhibited leadership in the room. The weekend did end on a positive note with a sweet new financial system unveiled, and the creation of a committee to deal with “how AIESEC US relates internationally.” I am on that committee, of course, and it will turn out to be a significant thing I hope.

I had to deal with some problems in my team today as well, but those will have to be explained later.

New York, for its own sake, was a great time. It is so much better than Atlanta in every way (except in the general prices, it devoured my wallet). It was great to stay with my old friend Mischa in Astoria and to see friends from around the nation currently in AIESEC as well as Dagan, who I hung out with a good bit especially on Saturday night. Friday I arrived at a fresh 9:10 AM into LaGuardia, from which I took the M60 to the Astoria Blvd. metro stop on the NW and rode that horse into Manhattan and got out at the Plaza Hotel right next to Central Park. After wandering for a bit I called my West Coast people who I knew were in town since 6 AM, and they came to meet me in the park. We then had a decidedly unauthentic Italian lunch in Little Italy, the girls went shopping while Colin (LCPe Bay Area) and I had a couple of pints at a local cafe-bar and talked about everything from his time in Norway to IT systems (he is a software engineering master student). We then checked out Ground Zero, followed by a ride up to Midtown to meet Dagan and sit at some random restaurant-grocery store where you can basically sit and buy nothing. Then at 9:00 it was off to Dallas BBQ for Emily’s 21st, and I have to say I was impressed both by the size of the margaritas and the quality of the “wings” (actually real Southern fried chicken). Then myself and Sarah S. and Colin went to a pub in the Lower East Side called the Blind Pig to have one beer, which turned into more, and I went to bed at 5.

The next night was less crazy, but equally fun. Several of us, after dinner at the Cantonese restaurant, went on a lifequest and eventually found, after two false prophets, a bar called simply “Karaoke” on Avenue A. A fun time was had by all as we tried the local Brooklyn Lager and waited a worthy hour-and-a-half for me to sing “Sweet Home Alabama,” and Shannon and I sang “Beast of Burden,” and Sarah arrived just in time for everyone in the bar to sing “Don’t Stop Believing” with Amanda. After that high point we walked in search of someplace quieter and found an amazing Afghan place called Khyber Pass with great ambiance and, most importantly, shisha. We closed the place. Needless to say I am exhausted from all of this because I got in at midnight on Sunday.

But tonight I was glad to hang with a currently domestic nomad, none other than Burbs. He was in town for an HIV/AIDS conference and we had a great evening of conversation about people and experiences and communities at Mellow Mushroom and then the bar next to Slice. It is always excellent to mind-meld with the great people that inspire you and your vision from time to time.

Culture Generation

Yesterday was my Executive Board teambuilding day. Everyone on the 2008 EB had committed to go, which was too good to be true. Sure enough, thirty minutes before we left Atlanta on Saturday morning I get the call that Bryan, my future VP Infrastructure, is mad sick, and completely incapable of even moving in his bed. But the other six VPes and I still made that trip out to Leesburg, Alabama, for a day of getting to know each other and planning for the year ahead.

It exceeded my expectations far beyond what I could have believed them to be. Even for what little time we did planning for our team, it was the most efficient meeting I have ever been to in AIESEC (except the German conference meetings which trump it all, but then again, they are German). The personalities that came together and the visions that clicked and the words of action, not deliberation, that were spoken gave my soul a big-ass jump-start on AIESEC in general, and especially for the Georgia Tech LC. I contrasted it with the ebb of motivation that has been going on, our low(er) conference registration numbers, the sometimes defeatist attitude in our leadership team meetings, and I see a bright and shining sun charging on the horizon, that is our Executive Board 2008 and a new era.

At tonight’s leadership team meeting, my heart just about exploded out of my chest when I was offended by the stark contrast between yesterday and today’s meeting. I value everyone in our leadership team. I found – and find – myself wishing I could sweep it all away though and begin with January 1. That is a hard confession to make, but that is how I feel, and that is what this outlet is about. Life with others is not about sweeping things away however, and we will all be better for working towards January 1 in the current situation because you learn more with challenges like this. I learned that a long time ago, and dammit, I just keep on learning it harder and newer.

It is three days before National Novel Writing Month 2007 begins and I have done no plot or character outlines.