Warning: This is one of those posts where I’m going to dig deep inside of my head, grab a collection of thoughts, and try to make some sense of them. It’s completely unstructured, and as I start typing, I have no idea how it will end. My grade-school English teachers hate that sort of stuff.
It’s about advocacy. Or more specifically, being an advocate.
It’s a word I struggle with all the time. I can’t quite understand what it means or what obligations come with the name. Is it a role that a person chooses? Or is it a title bestowed by others based on how he or she is perceived?
Is it a privilege? A responsibility? An achievement? Maybe it’s just a self-proclamation — a sash that anyone can pick up at their local 99-cent store and sling over their shoulder. (Before you ask: I’ve never actually seen a sash that reads “Advocate” — it’s just a metaphor, and a poor one at that. But it does give me an idea…).
The term gets tossed around a lot and, to be honest, I’ve been reluctant to include myself in the group. The reason I came to the ‘net to talk about diabetes was simply that — to talk. To exchange thoughts and ideas with people like me on-line, because I really didn’t know of other Type-1’s off-line. I sought companionship and understanding, and maybe an exchange of some tricks-of-the-trade along the way.
When I sought my way into this online community, my goal was to become one friend in an established circle of friends. That was expectation, and to some extent, I’ve accomplished that. Saving the world was never on my mind.
Doing anything on a grand scale was not my ambition; I’m the type who tends to avoid the spotlight, not attract it. Never did I consider myself an Advocate.
So it was somewhat awkward when Medtronic invited me to an Advocates Forum. That word stood out on the page like a sore thumb. “Advocate.” Is this really for me, I wondered? What is it that they expect from me, and what could I possibly offer? Nobody would ever offer me an Experience-Of-A-Lifetime, then release me on my merry way with no further obligation (for the record: it was, and they did). Someone must think differently of me than I think of myself.
But despite my apprehension over “fitting in” with the true hero-Advocates who I assumed would be attending, I knew this: It would be an experience of a lifetime, I would get to see the still-image profile-picture faces – that I’ve grown to know so well – as full-motion 3D living people, and maybe … just maybe … I could get that pet-peeve of mine where the temporary-basal adjustment on my pump wraps around from ‘none’ to ‘double’ taken care of.
Does the term describe me? Do I really have it in me?
Before I sat down to write this blog, I read Kerri’s post on Six Until Me, aptly titled “What is a Diabetes Advocate?”. I read it about eight times, closely scrutinizing each excerpted Tweet and trying to see how it applied… IF it applied… to me. I’ll probably read it eight more times before I’m through writing.
Over the last few days, I’ve been told by more than one person and beyond a reasonable doubt, that I am an Advocate. I have no stated cause or mission, and my name and face hasn’t become synonymous with any particular campaign, but they call me an Advocate anyway.
Yes, I will support, publicize, and participate in a bunch of Advocacy campaigns. I’ve written to my politicians, raised money and awareness for JDRF, spread the word on “Spare a Rose”, and put my own personal spin on the need to Strip Safely. I even created a You Can Do This video. But I did these things as a follower, not a a leader. It’s much easier to follow.
What I am doing – what I enjoy doing, (and think I do quite well) is communicate – on a smaller scale – directly with the people who live with the same challenges I do. I encourage people to think in a way that, perhaps, they haven’t thought before. I share my lessons-learned so they can benefit. I recognize their triumphs, no matter how big or small, and validate their defeats in the context of some of my own. Hopefully, someone out there is feeling a bit more comfortable about themselves because of something I’ve said or written. I’d like to think so.
But my face is not on any particular Advocacy mission, just this silly little blog that’s named after a song that hardly gets any airplay anymore. That’s just me yammering, not advocating. Am I right?
Or am I wrong?
Perhaps that’s the reason that this Tweet got me so choked up when it came across my screen at the Medtronic forum:
Sara (@saraknic) January 11, 2014
Maybe helping one person at a time is enough. Maybe I don’t need to change The World all at once to be an Advocate. Maybe just changing his world, and her world, and someone else’s world is enough.
I can do that.
But that Advocate sash still doesn’t fit quite right. And it keeps getting caught in my pump tubing.
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Since I brought up the #MedtronicDAF event again, I should probably reiterate that the event sponsors invited me and picked up the tab for food, shelter, and transportation. They did not buy my thoughts and have no editorial control over what appears here. I wrote this thing all by myself.