The topic for the February DSMA Blog Carnival is: “Advocacy is a topic that is often discussed in the Diabetes Online Community. Can you be one and not even know it? What is your definition of an advocate?”
Until recently, most of my thoughts about advocacy were laced with guilt. I’ve spent a good bit of my life “talking the talk” and not “walking the walk”. I’ve been reluctant to advocate publicly for fear that the continuing responsibility of taking a stance would be more than I wanted to handle. I have been quick to criticize myself for being one who rides on the coat tails of the Real Advocates in the Diabetes Online Community (DOC).
Early November 2013 was a low point for me. November is Diabetes Awareness Month and many members of the DOC undertake huge projects to show their commitment to advocacy. As a relatively new blogger, I was totally unprepared for the onslaught of informational posts, photo projects, and tributes to diabetes heroes. I felt like a total slacker. By mid-month, my self-criticism mellowed a bit and I took a realistic assessment of what I had done and what I was doing. My 11/15/13 blogpost convinced me that although I wasn’t an established leader in the DOC, I was slowly becoming comfortable participating in advocacy projects.
I think that “advocacy” is taking something you believe in out into the world. Beliefs are easy. Sharing them with others is harder. Crusading to turn your beliefs into reality is harder still.
I find advocacy terrifying. In his “What is an advocate?” post, Stephen of Happy-Medium stated that “An advocate is not someone who is afraid of the word “advocacy“. I disagree with Stephen. I am slowing morphing into an advocate and I’m still terrified of the word. Once you move your convictions from the comfort of your brain and the safety of your soul to the outside world, there is no going back. The doors are wide open and you’re out there to stay.
On November 1, 2013 I would have said that I was not an advocate. People like Scott Johnson would have tried to convince me that I was wrong with the argument that telling my story as a blogger was enough to grant me membership in the “A Club“. My two co-bloggers, Sue from New York and Sue from Pennsylvania, would have called me an advocate because of the behind-the-scenes work that I was doing to help them with blogposts, graphics, and logistics. Many of my friends, both D and non-D, would have awarded me advocacy status because of my active lifestyle showing what is possible with and despite diabetes.
Frankly I think that I became an advocate on February 11, 2014. That is the day that I sent a letter to my family and some of my friends asking them to participate in the Spare a Rose, Save a Child campaign. My first blogpost about Spare a Rose was easy to write because I knew that most of the readers would be members of the DOC. That’s not advocacy. They already knew about it and supported it. I wrote a good post, but I was just going through the motions. It was advocacy when I pinned a scarlet “A for Advocacy” on my chest and wrote a second post to spread the message to the larger world.
I disagree with people who say that I have been an advocate for a long time despite my opinion that I wasn’t. I was a believer; I was a follower; I worked on projects. In my mind I did not become an advocate until I was able to look in the mirror and say “You are an Advocate.” I did not become an advocate until I was brave enough to say to others “This is what I believe and I am proud and strong enough to share my beliefs with you.”
This post is my February entry in the DSMA Blog Carnival. If you’d like to participate too, you can get all of the information at http://diabetescaf.org/2014/02/february-dsma-blog-carnival-3/