Civics Lessons

Hello, friends! Long time no see; it’s been about three months since I sat down to work on this blog, and I’m so excited to be writing it again. I needed to take a breather and sort myself out – I was like an Adderal-addled octopus for awhile there, flailing my tentacles, getting stuck on eight things at once, shooting ink in frantic spurts, and baring my teeth unnecessarily. I’ve spent the past twelve weeks engaged in a few things that also took me away from writing:

1. I completed two rounds of training for my ICF Coaching Certification, thanks to a little revelation I had & shared in January – now I’m on the my final supervision piece of my studies, and should have my final certification by the fall! In the meantime I’ve started picking up more clients, and shifting my work towards my goal of 100% coaching, which is thrilling beyond belief. More on that later!

2. I took stock of all the volunteering I did since moving here a year ago, and am working to sort out what I want to continue and what I need to put aside for now. I’m still working through the list, and will definitely be sharing my thinking/asking for feedback here, so more on all of that later as well. For now, let me just say that I am so grateful for the experiences I’ve been afforded by each of these organizations, and really appreciate the open doors that have met me here in Philly. A big thank you to:
Junior League of Philadelphia
Washington Square West Civic Association
Spruce Foundation
Mercy Hospice
Morris Animal Refuge
Graduation Coach Campaign

It’s been nine months since I started Civicization. Writing a blog for the first time was both the recording device, and the chemical catalyst, for so many personal & professional changes; through writing this, I’ve made new friends, committed myself to a new career, spoken about subjects and questions I hitherto would have never dared to offer an opinion on, volunteered extensively and compulsively, and shared my writing with strangers for the first time. It’s been awesome, but also extremely vertiginous.

I started writing Civicization because I wanted to learn more about current events, and I felt confused, embarrassed, and dizzy when I found myself blogging more about my own experiments in volunteering – I was afraid that it was navel-gazing, and that before I knew it I’d be uploading pictures of my half-eaten sandwiches into meme generators and writing anemic semiposts about how weird it is that people go out for lunch in the middle of the week. I was getting into a weird K-Hole about the ever-life-or-death question of blog topics, and needed some perspective.

American Flag 1, 16
So, now that it’s a new month, I’m excited to get started again, and see where this takes us. I’d like to write out what I feel are some of the major learnings I had in Civicization 101, as I gear up for “summer school” and what the new year of learning will bring. I’d love to hear whether any of these resonate with you, or if you’d like to add to them. Please let me hear your thoughts, impressions, wonderings, & questions in the “reply” box!

Major Take-Away #1: The News

1. If you read the paper/online news sources/ listen to the radio/ watch the news on TV with some regularity (and making sure you go to more than one source) you probably know more than you think, and your anxiety around overstepping the bounds of knowledge is does more to censor you than protect you from sounding like an idiot. It’s fine to enter a conversation without 100% of the information – that’s what questions are for.

2. You don’t need to have “a cause” when it comes to the news. Just being well-rounded and informed is enough – you don’t have to have deep ethical stances on every issue, or care intensely about everything (which would make you really exhausting to be around, honestly) or even understand the minutae of why everything is unfolding the way it does. Just make sure you know enough to be able to explain headlines to a precocious fifth grader who asks good questions, and you’re fine.

3. People don’t follow international news, which is crazy. Know what’s going on outside of our country.

Major Take-Away #2: Being involved locally

1. Here, it’s important to have “a cause” – or at least some organizing principle for what you say yes to, and what you decline. What is it that makes you volunteer for one organization, and not another? Is it connected to your work, and/or will it help you professionally? Is it the cause that is closest to your heart, and which you need to speak up for in order to feel connected and committed? Is it an organization where you will meet people whose company you enjoy? All of these are valid reasons for volunteering, and they all will steer you in different directions – so know which one fuels your motor.

2. Be clear about your boundaries from the beginning – most importantly with yourself. How much time can you really commit? How much are you willing to be an evangelist for this organization/cause? Being upfront with yourself & others around this is, I think, key to making sure that nobody (yourself included) feels disappointed.

So, my readers & friends, tell me this – what have you learned about volunteering, civic engagement, and/or current events in the last nine months, and how did you learn it? I’d love to hear from you, and I’m glad to be back here Civicizing it up with you, too!

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