I've talked about how I hate to make mistakes, and commonly let it get in my way. I've recently wondered if this is making me into an awful advocate. I mean, I attempt to advocate, though a lot of times, I don't do a very good job. If it's just me, I feel fine, and can talk to professors, and even school officials if need be. I'm happy to make reasonable requests, and if I notice problems, I try to bring them up courteously. But recently, I've wondered if I'm doing things right. I.E., can I really make a difference? Am I doing anything good, or making things worse for everyone? I'm always afraid that something I do will set things back light years for people with disabilities. I'm always afraid, for example, that I will do an inadequate job of educating people about RSD and chronic pain in general. I want to make things easier for others, and help pave the way for others so that they can have a smoother experience in life. I want to increase equality for all people. In short, I want to change the world, or at least change something for the better.
But that really makes me nervous. What if I fail? Will I make things worse for others who come after me? Will people think Man, that weird/mean/insert-not-so-nice-adjective girl really didn't know what she was talking about. Then, will they be less receptive for others with disabilities or chronic pain?
It's not even that I go into situations wondering about advocating all of the time. It's afterwards, when I analyze situations and wonder "Did I do that right?" I look at the actions of others, and I wonder if I will ever have the skills to make that impact.
And then, some days, I have my head together. I realize that no one is perfect. I realize that I might make big mistakes, but that isn't always the end of the world. I realize that, in general, people are fine with advocacy efforts if good communication is used. I realize that not all efforts are successful, but many are. I start to realize that perfection is really a myth. I should strive for the best, not the perfect.
I'm realizing that advocacy is a process. I'm trying to get involved at some level, even if it's just trying to make others aware of issues. I'm watching how others advocate, and starting to realize that advocacy probably isn't spelled with a capital A. Most importantly, I'm realizing that advocacy can be built out of hope and faith that things can and will get better.
It's hope that causes me to write about struggles and ideas that I think are important. It was hope that caused many of the petitions and advocacy efforts I watched this past year. It's hope that lets me make suggestions to people at school. And it's hope that makes me want to learn how to be a better advocate. I'm hoping that there can be better tomorrows, and that maybe I can have a small part in them.
I've heard the theory that hope and fear are somewhat of oposites of each other, but can exist in a person at the same time. I think that's true here, as well. The fear of doing the wrong thing, and messing up things for others must be balanced out with the hope that things can get better and that good communication and respect between people can make a difference. The fear that I will fail must be overcome by the hope of success. It's just my theory, but I hope I'm onto something.