I want to write again. Today, I had to write about planning for people (not cars) for a proposal, and it reminded me of this blog, which I haven’t revisited since graduate school. I have spent the last seven years working at a civil engineering firm. I prepare its proposals and design communications documents. I occasionally do some planning work, updating Parks and Recreation Plans for smaller communities.
I’m sitting here trying to sum up seven years of change, and it’s silly. When I read my writing, I mourn my passion from that time. I cringe at my naivety. But I’m also aware of all the things that happened in these years and it makes sense that I’m this way now.
And the kinds of changes I was championing here from 2009-2012 … they’re happening now. There’s an entire blog dedicated to what I am passionate about. My role in all this isn’t what I expected, but I’m also not done yet.
In 2011, I had a disastrous internship interview with the City of Detroit, and they asked that cliche “describe yourself with one word” question. I couldn’t think of one word. I finally landed on “motivated,” and all I was really thinking about at the time were my school projects and advocacy with classmates. Now I would say “empathy.” The thing with empathy is that it works for and against me. I can easily identify with other peoples’ suffering, but that’s not going to necessarily lead me to productive action. Seeing so much suffering in these years, and feeling so helpless about it, has made empathy into a curse.
The shame of not being able to fix things (an unreasonable expectation to have of myself) and of possibly bringing sorrow to other people made me build some very thick walls around myself. No more sharing; no more writing.
So, my new goal is compassion, which is a more intentional trait. Empathy is a feeling that takes hold of me and makes my insides hurt sometimes. Compassion, on the other hand, is the choice to use that hurt to focus on the suffering person, and to accept that suffering is a part of life. Vulnerability is a part of life. I’m grateful to those who make themselves vulnerable and I want to return it with compassion. And I want to make myself more vulnerable again, too, just more carefully.
Is it worth it to stick out your neck and write? Is it even smart for someone like me, who constantly questions herself, to set out thoughts for people to critique? Something I hate about writing is the temptation to leave out the ugly and muddy ideas and pretend I’m a put-together person, so I won’t try to do that. As someone with seemingly no ground to stand on, I guess I have nothing to lose.