By Ben Cartwright
Each year when we change calendars, many of us spend time reflecting on what we perceive as our faults and how we can improve upon them in the coming months. I’ve written in one of my January columns in the past about how I don’t make “New Year’s resolutions,” as they are, in my opinion, almost meant to be broken.
We all know the stories of the packed gyms the first couple weeks of January as all of the “resolutioners” are hopeful they’ll meet some new fitness goal, only for most of them to fall back into old habits by the middle of the month.
While I certainly did a lot of reflecting as 2017 turned into 2018 — I made my share of personal and professional mistakes last year — I decided to spend more time thinking about things that I have going for me, which are really good, and it’s really hitting me right now as I write this column (a couple days before press time).
I just completed a really long work day at the San Diego LGBT Community Center and it dawned on me how fulfilling the myriad programs and projects I work on here are for me, along with the many other services The Center provides to our community that I may or may not be directly involved in.
Today I started wearing my HIV test counselor “hat” and was able to spend a good deal of time listening and talking to a client who needed the strength to regain confidence in himself sexually, after being in an emotionally abusive relationship. All I really did was listen, but I could tell this man needed someone to share with. After our half-hour session together, he left with his results, some new knowledge, and the feeling of a weight being lifted off his shoulders, because he was able to unpack some of the baggage he’d been carrying around inside. I could see a difference in his posture as he walked out of the room. It felt good.
I spent the later part of the morning compiling the applications for our 2018 Young Professionals Council (YPC) Academy class. The YPC develops young leaders (ages 21-40) and providing support to this program continues to be a highlight of my career.
We received a record number of applications this year and it was amazing to skim through the essays and read about people’s diverse backgrounds and why they want to get involved. There was definitely a lot of passion in these applications and I look forward to working with a committee to select the 2018 class.
Later on, I communicated with some members of the LGBT Veterans Wall of Honor Advisory Council, which I serve as staff liaison to. Working with this committee, I’ve learned so much about the struggles of LGBT veterans — especially as we go further back in time — and it is such an honor to be a part of this project, which highlights these true American heroes.
This afternoon, I gave a tour of The Center to a group of college students. One of my absolute favorite parts of my job is showing people around The Center, talking about all the wonderful things we do and sharing pieces of the organization’s dynamic 45-year history.
I especially love seeing people’s eyes light up as they walk into our beautiful auditorium, having not previously known that this grand space exists for our community’s major events. I also always love asking people to take a guess as to what The Center’s building was before we took over the space in the late 1990s.
I ended the day with a huge smile on my face after working with an amazing group of volunteers who help me put on our monthly GGG: Game & Trivia Night. This group is so passionate about this fun social event, where we open our doors to any and every one to just come out and meet, hang out, play games and socialize in a safe environment.
Whether 20 or 100 people show up, we continue to put on this event each month, and it really is a good time. After four hours of setting up tables, pouring beverages, serving pizza, talking to dozens of community members, and then tearing it all down, I’m exhausted, but smiling. I’m lucky to be a part of this work.
The things I described above are just a part of my overall job at The Center, and just a tiny slice of all the services and programs my 50-plus colleagues provide year-round, but I wanted to give a little glimpse into my working life, since I usually write about personal things as we start out the new year.
I’m really lucky to be here and as I always say, my door is open. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you’d like to know more, or just want a tour of our space.
Oh and speaking of tours, the building at 3909 Centre St. that currently houses The Center’s main building was built in 1946 as The Craftsman Hall — a labor union headquarters.
Getting out with Benny
After the holidays, we’re all a little worn out, but there’s never a shortage of great things going on in our community. Here’s a few that I’m excited about:
Monday, Jan. 8, 7–9 p.m. — San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus Open Auditions and Info Night Party — I’m a big supporter of the SDGMC, even though you’ll never have to hear me on stage singing (be thankful for that!). As they do before each concert season, the chorus welcomes new singing and non-singing volunteers to their ranks. At the upcoming info night party, prospective members and volunteers will learn about the chorus, have a chance to audition and meet other members. SDGMC is a really fun group, and I highly encourage anyone interested to check them out: bit.ly/2E2hUKT.
Tuesday, Jan. 9, 6:30–8 p.m. — YPC’s First Tuesday Series (on the Second Tuesday) for January — The Center’s YPC holds an event on the first Tuesday of each month (although they opted to move it to the second Tuesday this month, due to the first Tuesday’s proximity to the holiday).
This month, YPC invites members and anyone else interested to join them at Mama’s Kitchen for an informative tour and presentation on the agency’s work to provide food to people living with HIV and cancer, followed by a mixer: bit.ly/2lHtfcL.
Saturday, Jan. 20, 5–9:30 p.m. — San Diego Gulls Diversity Night — My good friend Eddie Reynoso of the San Diego LGBT Visitors Center, along with others, has worked really hard to bring a “Diversity Night” to Valley View Casino Center for the San Diego Gulls Game (they are our city’s hockey team, if you weren’t aware). After speaking with him about the event tonight, despite the fact that I’m not a sports fan, he got me really excited about this event. The evening will celebrate diversity while the Gulls play the San Jose Barracuda. Tickets include admission to the game, a pre-game tailgate, and the first 500 purchasers will get a free Gulls hat: bit.ly/2CUfQVZ.
Happy New Year!
— Benny Cartwright is the director of community outreach at the San Diego LGBT Community Center. He can be reached at 619-692-2077 ext. 106 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Note: Byline photo by Rob Lucas Modern Aperture Photography.