Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Passion, Power, Purpose?

Passion. Power. Purpose.

That was the motto for the 2010 Roche Social Media Summit, held in Orlando that brought about three dozen members of the Diabetes Online Community together to have fun and also advocate our passions.

Let me simply say that being in the presence of such awesomely passionate people, some who I've been reading online for years and interacting with on a daily basis during the past year, was an honor. They are fun. Intelligent. Caring. You name it, the word fits. They are family, and they've had an incredibly positive influence on my own D-Management as well as gotten me back into the advocacy role that I'd largely stepped away from since my early college days.

But there's another side to this experience. There's a feeling that's been clawing at me more in recent months. I've debated posting about this, because it not only illustrates some of my uncertainty about what lies ahead but also because it's something that also has the potential to significantly influence the career I've spent my life pursuing.

Aside from drowning in inspiration and admiration about those I had the privilege of meeting and hanging with for a couple days in Orlando, there were more pressing concerns on my mind. Feelings of inadequacy. Insecurity. Uncertainty. Depression. All because I am unsure about where I fit into this larger Diabetes Online Community. It didn't help that at the summit, I was largely quiet during the main events - a great combination of having too little sleep, too many work deadline and real life stresses on the mind, and overall nervousness about being in the same room as such D-Leaders. The Roche folk described those attending as "thought leaders," a designation that I'd aggressively dispute for myself but wouldn't hesitate to use in describing any of those fellow DOCers who came to Orlando. They are the leaders, the ones with the "power," and so many of them embrace an obvious purpose in what they do. That's not clearly the case for me, and I'm still trying to figure out and shape where I fit into all of this.

What do I want out of it? Is it a tangible effect or one that must be confined to the emotional realm? Can this passion for advocacy become a larger part of my life? How do I balance that passion with the economic realities and struggles that I'm facing? Where does this fall on the priority list, when it's all laid out on the table?

These are issues I'm struggling with at the moment. I feel as if I'm playing Uno and getting slammed with Draw 4 cards, unable to hold onto every card and being forced to drop some. These and similar questions have been building up during the past several months, to the point where I've even started questioning whether my journalism-driven life is truly the place I'm supposed to be. What makes this incredibly difficult is that I love my career. Aside from family, my passion in life has been newspapering as long as I can remember and it remains a key driving force in my life. I am a newsman, and I don't have any desire to leave that behind. This field is a calling for me, something I'd admit to having some skill in doing well enough to make a living at. My purpose is greater than myself, because it's not about me - it's about other people. That is what we do as part of the Fourth Estate: tell stories and help people make informed decisions for themselves. Keep people honest. Chronicling history. Doing our part to affectuate change. (Seriously, can you hear the violin playing in the background here...??)

But Facebook, Twitter, and the Blogosphere are changing my perspective. I've become more interested and involved in that aspect and the social media scene is allowing me to finally embrace something that feels so long overdue. After 26 years of Living With Diabetes, this is really the first time I haven't felt alone with this chronic condition and found some avenue to tell that story in a way that may help others. Connecting with the DOC has been a large part of that, but it's led me to engage in advocacy offline in ways I hadn't done before - with the JDRF, the ADA, the Diabetes Youth Foundation of Indiana's Camp Until a Cure. Support groups. Meetings with lawmakers and Congress People advocating for change.

These new adventures have made it more difficult to balance my workload, though. My days are spent doing journalism, and I spent most of my nights and free time doing some type of D-Advocacy, blogging, or even just reading. I've slept a lot less, and drank much more coffee (the two aren't mutually exclusive...)

Now, I wonder whether some gig like a "social media consultant" might be where I'm heading. That's scary for me, to even think about leaving the field of journalism but also a newspaper and company that I truly love and am so lucky to be a part of. What are the possibilities, the hurdles? I want a family, I want to write. I want to be happy. But I want to be able to afford a lifestyle that doesn't take away from my happiness and leave me without necessary health insurance to fall back on or a paycheck to make the monthly vultures stop circling overhead.

Let's face it: Money talks. Life is expensive, but we have our own financial woes that just make me put more stock in the stability of a career. This by no means feels like a "job lock," because I'm truly fortunate and humbled and excited to be a newspaperman. Especially at the place I'm at now. If I was 10 years younger, not yet married or even newly married, the decision-making process might be an easier one. That's not the case, and I'm lucky to have the wonderful wife and life that I do. But it does make me more grown up, and those ideals and risks of youth have started (just started) to fade. I'm not a kid anymore, and career and lifestyle changes aren't easy.

Could I combine these two passions somehow? I see people like David Mendosa, Amy Tenderich, Gretchen Becker, and Riva Greenberg, and Kelly Rawlings who've done it successfully in their own ways. But could I? Do I even want to?? What has to be sacrificed and what might be gained?

I don't know what path to take, or what lies ahead. I'm passionate, but what passion will win out - journalism or diabetes advocacy? Is there a mix? What is my purpose? What kind of power and purpose do I want, do I need, do I not need? So many questions swirling around up there in the mind, in the heart.

We'll see how this all plays out and what path I end up traveling, once I get past the huge fork stuck in the middle of my road.

7 comments:

Penny said...

It's all so risky, isn't it? But that is what life's about. I know you will find your purpose and your power using what you know about the D and the DOC and your journalism nature. It's bound to happen. Good luck with the fork :0)

Brenda F. Bell said...

Kelly Rawlings' success, among others, shows that there is a market among PWD and their {mates, caregivers, friends, and family} for diabetes-related journalism. In "new media", this includes sites like Yahoo! Health, Diabetes In Control, Endocrine Today, and -- of course -- dLife. In more traditional media, Rodale Press publishes a periodical aimed at the PWD audience, and there are a number of magalogs such as Remedy Health and publications of that ilk that are freely available at most major drugstore chains.

And, of course, there is always the "health" column of your local newspaper.

All these are places you can look to expand into, moonlight with/at, and/or develop your journalistic career.

Barb (Diabetes Advocacy) said...

I hear you and completely understand your struggle. I seem to spend many days wondering what I will be when I grow up (and sadly you would think I would have that figured out at my age!). We want to change the world..or the diabetes world and yet we need to live. Tough balance but I am sure that you will find your way as the face of journalism also changes with the force of social networking. Let your heart guide you and I am sure you will easily continue to make a difference and finally begin to feel it yourself as well.

Jacquie said...

I think journalism is scary period, just because everything is changing so much these days.

And social media is, too -- especially in my field (advertising) where it's looked upon as sort of a stepchild.

I go through similar phases of self-questioning a few times a year. It's hard to get that bee out of your bonnet once it's in there.

Renata said...

Questioning your path is a right of passage into middle aged adult hood. If you didn't question what you were doing, I would question what you were doing. I agree with Penny, you will find the path that suits you and you might have several forks in the road before you get there. Keep digging...it's there.

Gretchen said...

Michael, you can do it. You have the experience living with type 1. You have the journalistic skills. You just need to figure out how to use the latter to reach the people who need help.

Talk to your parents. Ask what kinds of help they would have most wanted when you were Dx'd. Talk to parents of people Dx'd today.

You're young and tuned in to the various new media. What types would reach the most people?

Would there be a place for a type 1 magazine run by patients, not professionals? ARticles on the sorts of things people blog about rather than articles about foot care and the importance of exercise.

Whatever, start small, part time, before you throw your regular job over.

Good luck. As I said, you can do it.

type 2 said...

Hello
I have type 2 and use insulin. I challenged the Canadian, British Columbia, driver's medical examination that i'm forced to take if I want to drive. That was in 2002, Human Rights Tribunal Discrimination Complaint #1954. Not online as I agreed to changes to the diabetic policy and agreed to settle out of court. No changes yet or diabetic policy. I still write. In Canada if the gov't is to enter into our lives it must prove the act is bona fide and a real need. It has not nothing and base the policy upon their need that diabetics need managing. However, the modern science, mostly from the USA proves there is no difference in driver mishaps between non-diabetic and type 2 drivers which are ninety nine percent of diabetic drivers.
As the supposed consequences of diabetes are used to force the policy the consequences of the policy must be acknowledged. They are not and they are horrific. They are easy to follow in a country such as Canada with a Universal Health Care system; something the USA is now trying to implement.
The Press in Canada publish about the long waits to see a General Practitioner, Overcrowed Emergency Hospital facilites, and the subsequent unexpected and unexplained deaths other than Overcrowding, and long wait times for surgery. However, the Press goes no further than that even after Emerge doctors call Press conferences and inform us of the above and that fifty percent of Emerge clients should not be there. I respond by sending them my writings about this policy and its consequences and they do not even acknowledge my contact. The consequences are too horrific. I don't believe the Press is allowed to write about this.
My writings are about rights for diabetics, human rights, constitutional rights, and in defence of illegal demands upon our health care system.
My questions about the policy were good enought to be heard by the Human Rights Tribunal, when no change came about after two years I lodged another complaint, #5791. The other complaint, #5699, is a Representative Discrimination complaint concerning why other diabetic drivers, disabled drivers, did not get reimbursed their Drivers' Medical Examination fee. Within #5791 the gov't produced 185 scientific articles to justify the policy, however, without permission for Copyright, Intellectual Property, and Intent of Use Permission Forms means the documents were stolen.
All this is at my blog site, 2diabetes. blogspot. com. I have just come to understand that I could put pages there. So, today I pasted my official response to the stolen documents and will paste a couple more lengthy, seventy page papes I sent to the Press and American Press as if policies such as this are not challenged then your new medical system will not work either.
I have just recently sent papers to the World Human Rights Watch in NY and to the UN Dept of Prevention of Genocide.
There is something else you should no, I reported the theft of research to your Dept of Transportation as its research had been stolen to justify a foreign countries social policy that absolutely endangers and kills naive bystanders.
And our nice democratic society is not supposed to do that.
Again, I think you need to read what I have discovered and found myself within because I don't think you will be able to write about it.
Maybe you can fulfill your passion for writing online, but will you be able to write about what I have found myself within?