Breaking ground in a relatively undeveloped area can be one the best and worst things you would have to do as a field director or in any other grassroots operation. Breaking ground in North Carolina has challenged me, pissed me off, as well as brought me great elation. I know that I’m saying may not make any sense but allow me to explain.
When breaking ground in a new location you are typically on your own, and you are responsible for everything. In the picture above you see me with a voter registration clipboard. Behind me is another Field director. We were trying to break ground at UNC-Chapel Hill where we do not currently have a network. We spent about three hours in freezing temperatures on our own, with little fruit to show from it. Moments like these can be the most frustrating times there are.
Another issue with breaking ground in a new location is that you are out of the loop for most things. When you are breaking ground you don’t get many tips from people on events or school alerts. I know personally, I had to do a lot of leg work, go to different halls, check the bulletin boards, go to the student union and read the announcement boards, and ask around.
Some cloning required
The final issue is that you can’t be in two (or three or four for that matter) places at once. When I am scoping out a new university I find a lot of times, that many of the events overlap because there are only so many days a week that work for college students. Without that network I am unable to attend all the events for maximum coverage.
Now I don’t want you to think that I am having the worst time in the great state of North Carolina. Through all the hardships that come with being one of the people to break ground, there is a great elation that comes from your accomplishments. Not only that, since you are breaking ground you are able to do things your way. So allow me to offer some bests that I’ve experienced.
You are your master
I can go wherever I want since there is no difference one way or another. I set my own schedule and I go where I deem it to be the most necessary. Not necessarily where a student is asking me to go.
You get to build your team
When I go to new campuses I already have a type of student that I’m looking for to start my chapters. With this in mind I am able to actively seek them out and court them to become a student leader. This helps me build a team that I am happy and comfortable with, and that I know will be effective and trainable. This alone will lead to a number of successes.
Satisfaction in bringing life to something
When I look at all the drawbacks and setbacks that I face being the one to break ground in a location it can be disheartening, however there is something so satisfying in the little wins. You can look at your small victories and know that without the work you put it, it would not have happened organically.
It takes a special kind of person to break ground in a location. You have to be moldable to be able to take a lot of pressure without cracking. You need to be prepared to take failure after failure without getting discouraged.
In the month I’ve spent breaking ground in North Carolina I’ve gone many sleepless nights and 7 day weeks. I’ve sent more response-less emails than people probably send in their lifetime, and I’ve put enough miles on my car to require an oil change in a little under a month. I also wake up every morning excited for work, and take each campus with new resolve to start something that won’t happen without me.
I love what I do and I do what I love. Not many twenty somethings can say that.