Since I left London, I’ve been struggling a bit, both mentally and emotionally. I am so SO grateful for my time there, it was truly the place where I grew up, starting at age 23 and leaving at 33. It’s where I learned many of my crafts, most of what I know, and I got to be in the company of true visionaries – real special people.
However, a lot of my time there was actually really difficult, especially over the last 8 months to a year. I don’t think I really realized the impact that negative experiences in London and in my final months in London had on me until I left as they are kinda biting me in the ass emotionally now that I’m having the space to process and feel emotions I thought I successfully squashed. I am struggling a bit with anger, resentment, and a bit of sadness these days, and trying my hardest to “let go” of the things in my London experience that I couldn’t change then, and can’t change now. Letting go of this deep sense of regret that I have in my stomach is so hard when what were to be positive and empowering experiences were overshadowed by damaging people; when strong efforts to make a difference got constantly squashed; and I’ve left the city I loved so much for so long feeling generally defeated because I tried so hard to do good for our city, but just couldn’t.
During the last 8 months, I worked alongside some incredibly wonderful and supportive people, yet I had 2 men in my professional circle that I didn’t have much experience with before (aka none), but from the moment I started to work with them, they decided they hated me and set out to make my life a living hell. Having not known these men from Adam, I just couldn’t understand why they thought so negative of me, as I had only positive experiences with EVERYONE in my working life so far.
Over the course of several months, these men took on VERY obvious strategies to damage me professionally – setting up expectations with moving targets, keeping me out of communications, telling me that I wasn’t liked in the community, letting me know that I wasn’t of a “level” that warranted being listened to, accusing me of having malicious intents in my work, withholding information I needed to get my job done, making me go through long approval processes before I could do anything, telling me that my quality of work was poor, and on more than one occasion, bringing me to tears with the sheer amount of energy they were putting into making my life a living hell. On one occasion, one of the men crossed a very big line, and the other man justified his behaviour and protected him against any recourse and made ME feel bad for wanting to speak up to protect my own safety. These 2 people held positions of power in our community, and they are damaging our community and the vulnerable people they are claiming to serve.
Through these troubles, I sought the support of my employer, and without their help and support, I wouldn’t have gotten through the remaining months, but I instructed them not to take action for fear of retaliation, which was wrong for me to do. I wish I had been more courageous in speaking up when I could, and I wish I could have seen action taken where it was warranted.
Certain news channels and certain insiders who have been long-time critics of these individuals tell me that finally, one of them is leaving the social sector, while the other, I am not sure has any affiliation with the city or organizations within any longer, which I think is good for now.
I find myself lashing out a bit on social media as I am feeling this giant catharsis, which is not my style usually, but part of it is because I am noticing that my mental health has severely been affected, and I did not take the proper steps to ensure my mental stability following my traumatic experiences with these people. I’m honestly a bit of a mess and I am thinking and acting in ways that give me warning signs that I am not of my most sound mind. I am in a space of wanting them, and everyone else, to know how horribly I feel having had to witness 2 men standing on the shoulders of the vulnerable to find their own power. I am seeking revenge in some way, which is weak on my part, because I think I’ll only end up hurting myself in the end. Maybe part of me is waiting for an apology, or an explanation for why I was treated the way I was, that I know I’ll never get. I am feeling a big sense of loss, and am in a true grieving process, because I once had feelings of positivity and empowerment about my former city, and now all I feel is negativity and defeat. I find myself trying to look into my future, but just generally feeling bothered by the cobwebs of my negative London experiences. What a shame.
“Letting go” is something I’ve always struggled with. I took myself far, far away from the negativity, moved to a new part of the world, and I have a beautiful life ahead of me, yet I can’t help but feel a bit jaded as I reflect on my last year. I have even stepped away from volunteerism, because I am honestly just scared. How can I allow myself to let go of the negative experiences of London and remember only the great experiences, opportunities, and people I come across in my decade in London? How can I push on with my own core values and not allow these bad apples to spoil anything in my life?
I do find some awesome comfort in staying tuned into the positive things that will be going on in the city in the future, and hope that these 2 men find it in themselves to attend, namely a few sessions about moving from “ego to eco” that talks about these issues exactly. I also know that there will be several engaging public debates that will be raised in London over the next year that seeks to address how people think, communicate and interact with each other. I also know that there has been a group of women in community development come together with a promise to have each other’s backs, and work to break down the male dominance and cruelty that can often happen within the social sector in London. I hope London not only continues to have dialogues on WHAT they do as a community, but HOW they do it together.
I hope others hear my story, and recognize that this is a huge problem for community development and those who are actually trying to work to make a difference. I’ve been so happy to have people connect with me following my “Community Development Bully” post; funnily enough, they were able to identify who I was talking about right off the bat — turns out I am not the only one who has been negatively affected by these men, or men like them. I was saddened to see how many came forward of stories of bullies in the social sector – my chats with other community developers tell me that the sector is rife with these types of characters. I was not alone in my experiences, which is both comforting and incredibly tragic. Furthermore, I’ve been able to notice how the circles that many refer to as the “London Elite” all work to protect each other. They often know that what the other is doing is wrong, but put personal alliances above what is good for causes and the community. I hope that those who are emerging as “London Elite” reconsider their positions and attachments — their first priority should be London and the people of it, not the powerful who often stand like sticks in the mud for important community issues.
We see people like @mikelondoncan on social media and his confidants who are VERY tough critics of the London Elite and many of the characters I describe in these posts, and I often agree with a lot of his criticisms, but I don’t agree with the methods he uses to call those he criticizes out. He uses cruelty in his messaging and goes a little too far in his quests to let people know what he thinks of them (I’ve told this to this social media personality many times myself), but I’ve recognized there is a strong reason why he, and his friends, lash out — they are hurt. They are hurt by systems, and more importantly, the people who run them. They have been trying to have a voice for a long time, with such a strong desire to see change, but they have been constantly negated, always squashed, and are not listened to — and I think this is what makes people lash out in not so productive ways. They are tired of not seeing change because the wrong people are at the table, not letting any new ones sit with them. I never thought I’d admit it, but I actually find myself being a bit sympathetic to these sentiments because I feel the hurt too.
London needs to work a bit better to protect those who are genuinely from the bottoms of their heart, working to make a big difference. These are not the people that you see in the headlines or constantly having their name recognized for their “amazing community contributions” or the people launching new initiatives with big dog and pony shows – these are the people keeping their heads down, working hard, trying new things, never asking for attribution, and have true visions for how change can be made and humbly bring them to the table without pomp. Sadly, they are rarely allowed the opportunity, or the space, to shine.
London is such a beautiful city – full of art, culture, education, a strong social sector, and a population of citizens so full of energy and passion that more should be possible. London can do better, and it starts with recognizing where damaging alliances exist while working to take away a bit of the power from the people who abuse their positions in the social services, and prevent change from happening in our city. London needs new rules of engagement if it is ever going to progress, especially when tackling the city’s toughest issues.
For me, I have to let go of what I tried to do, what I failed to do, and what I wished I could have done in London, and work towards letting go of the negative stains on my life caused London in order to let the positivity come through. I know with some time, reflection, and efforts towards my own healing, I’ll feel that sense of positivity and empowerment about London that I once felt again. Maybe I’ll return someday, but likely not. Not until I know things have changed.
I love you, London. Go forth in kindness and love for each other. It’s time for me to really go now…