Often, people make me question what the words “above and beyond” mean in an age when we’re obsessed with overworking and overstating. When Carmen told me that she will not go above and beyond in her activism, I started to think about what that meant based on what I knew about her. When someone approaches her about her hair, her dress, or her passions, she’s not likely to say, “Because I feel like it.” She’s more likely to give the questioner a set of bullet points deeply rooted in her research, her passion, and her experience. She doesn’t have to, and one might argue that the questioner might tune her out too (though that’s probably not going to happen based on Carmen’s tenor). But, because she does extend herself far enough to explain the reasons why her person is, she’s doing more than just being.
Above and beyond.
I don’t know what that looks like for the rest of us case-by-case. Sometimes, it’s a matter of how much we vocalize. Other times, it’s whether we actually make our presence felt. However it looks like, it’s usually a break from a status quo that says, “This is what we believe and we’re not going to take your crap anymore.” Above and beyond oftentimes means that the person most affected by whatever interaction there is has to “school” someone because if they don’t, then the status quo is perpetuated. In a matter of 10 seconds, the person questioned goes through a series of emotions: “Why do I always have to be the one to say something?,” “Why don’t people know this is completely unacceptable?” and “I’m frustrated by this already.”
The status quo says “Don’t say anything; just let it be. They’re never going to get it anyways.” The “above and beyond” is “excuse me, but there’s no such thing as a crack baby, there’s no well done research that says charter schools work better than public schools, and we have to be careful with how our boys treat our girls!” But if I just sit there, ignore it, and continue with my work, assuming the work I’m doing has no context, then yes, I am doing exactly what I shouldn’t be doing.
Above and beyond.
Jose, who has every intention of above and beyond-ing …
P.S. – I’d also like to say that bosses sometimes use the phrase “above and beyond” to make their employees do the work of three employees for a cost-cutting measure, but that’s not above and beyond; that’s absurd. The end.