Passion, Power, Purpose?
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.