My First AIDSWatch

I just had an awesome experience in Washington DC at my very first AIDSWatch, and I plan to share my experience with you in full honesty, though I'm a little ashamed to do so. But in order to benefit you, should you ever get the opportunity to speak with your legislators as a representative of your community, and I hope you will, I will share my humiliation with you.

The thing that I'm ashamed to tell you is that I committed an advocate's greatest sin; I went in less prepared than I should have.

I went to the plenary and the workshops, I read all the materials and talking points, I planned and strategized with a few of my team members, but I still felt unprepared. This was my first AIDSWatch so I didn't know what to expect, but as a Policy Fellow trained by The Positive Women's Network USA that's no excuse; I should've known better. So what happened?

I suppose put honestly, I got lazy. I got busy and distracted with everything else that I was doing and failed to put in the time to really research and prepare for my meetings. I thought I'd be ok though, I thought surely I know enough off the top of my head to talk for a couple minutes anyway. But then there was another issue that handicapped me as well: stage-fright anxiety.

This is an issue that has plagued me my entire life, no matter how much I try to work on it and tell myself that they're only human, same as me, that they have insecurities too and have experienced many of the same human experiences that I have, yet when I open my mouth to speak my body heat feels like it rises sharply, I start to sweat, and my mind goes blank, everything that was on my mind to say completely escapes my brain and I feel like a deer in the headlights, and it's one of my greatest fears to be standing there looking stupid, lol.

Don't let me make this sound too bad though, I think our meetings went really well; we discussed the issues and gave our ideas and the staff were receptive. However, when it came to commitments, we got politics, and even though my anxiety struck again, I pushed through it and spoke about what I thought the transgender community needed in our state, but I forgot my specific ask, the anxiety hit me again, my mind went blank, and my team had to help me out. Maybe this is a common experience among first timers, I wouldn't know, but I felt humiliated, and I will never feel this way again.

Maybe if I had better prepared myself beforehand, done my own research, and not leaned so much on the organization of others to prepare me, or maybe if I had gotten enough sleep the night before, or if I had practiced role playing with someone, or if I had studied more, if I had done this, that or the other; so many things I can think about I wish I had done differently. I can be pretty critical of myself, but these are lessons learned for next time.

These meetings can happen quickly and you need to know exactly what you want to say in a short amount of time, sometimes you may not get the materials from the organizer until the day before or the day of your meeting which gives little time to study and really commit to memory, so you really need to do your own research long before you go. You should know your congressman's stance on your issue, their history and situation, their apprehensions and their passion, their hard lines and their areas of possible persuasion, their allies and opposition, and have a plan… and by all means, don't forget your ask!!

I was lucky I had a great team with me who had my back, but I shouldn't have needed them; I was trained to be better prepared and no matter how busy or distracted I was with other things I should've been better prepared. It was my responsibility and I didn't do a good enough job of preparing myself. Sure, we all get busy and have lots of things that demand our attention, but I'm sure I'm not the only advocate with lots to do, and I also know that some things only come with time and experience. I have no doubt that I will learn, and evolve, and become a better advocate with time, but I'll probably keep beating myself up over everything I did wrong, it's how I keep it from happening again, I try to really drive it into my brain, lol.

So, let me leave you with this: do your own homework, don't just rely on the organizers to prepare you, don't let the moment overwhelm you or intimidate you, we all fear and have insecurities but courage is action in the presence of fear and anxiety; and they're only human too. You can do this, never doubt that, but you need to prepare yourself with your own work. It will give you the confidence you need to speak without fear in the face of power.

I really didn't want to write this blog. I didn't want anyone to know that I didn't prepare myself as well as I should have as someone who's been trained to prepare herself well, but the best way I can prepare you is to share my experience with you honestly. Maybe I'm just being too hard on myself, I'm guilty of that a lot, lol. I exaggerate my shortcomings to myself. Everyone tells me I did fine, but I wasn't happy with my performance. I know I could have done better, and next time I definitely will, and I hope that by sharing this with you maybe you'll be able to avoid my mistakes. There's no substitution for doing your own research and knowing exactly what you want to say. Your voice is important and deserves to be heard, so fortify your voice with your own preparation.

My next blog will be more about the upside of my experience, so stay tuned.

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Soooooo...

Red40something's picture

May I stop you for a second? Just my two cent.

Whether you felt fully prepared or not, whether you had to rely on your team for help (which is what a TEAM does, help each other), whether you had stage fright or not, YOU did what many others WONT,  which is STEP UP and try to make a make a difference. YOU tried to use your voice to help your community and a community of people overlooked and ignored and often silent. Thank you for that.

 Like Mr. Gump says, "thats all I got to say about that"

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Red40something

KatieAdsila's picture

Thank you sweetie, I really appreciate that, I suppose I got a upset because it’s kinda like being on a first date and being so nervous that nothing comes out of your mouth the way you intended it to, you forget to do simple things, and you go home feeling like you looked like a fool . You don't get forget many opportunities to sit at certain tables so you have to take full advantage of the opportunity while you have it.  But this won’t be my last shot, I will definitely be back!!

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Your voice was heard

ForeverTrue24's picture

Hey Katie/my roommate for this conference, I just want you to know no matter what you were present and your voice was heard and you came to the table. This was and is an opportunity a lot people wish they had and or choose not to take a stand for but you took time out of your life to stand in the gap and if nothing else that’s enough to pat yourself on the back for! Love you #LIYT 

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Your voice was heard

ForeverTrue24's picture

Hey Katie/my roommate for this conference, I just want you to know no matter what you were present and your voice was heard and you came to the table. This was and is an opportunity a lot people wish they had and or choose not to take a stand for but you took time out of your life to stand in the gap and if nothing else that’s enough to pat yourself on the back for! Love you #LIYT 

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Your voice was heard

ForeverTrue24's picture

Hey Katie/my roommate for this conference, I just want you to know no matter what you were present and your voice was heard and you came to the table. This was and is an opportunity a lot people wish they had and or choose not to take a stand for but you took time out of your life to stand in the gap and if nothing else that’s enough to pat yourself on the back for! Love you #LIYT 

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You are AMAZING

Lovinglife101's picture

Katie,

As I read your blog, I thought back to the first time I attended AIDS Watch.  It was the first time in my life that I rode a subway, so I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going.  I stumbled over my words and forgot what I was saying; I was a mess.  Luckily, I also had wonderful people with me who guided me through the day and made sure I was okay.  That is one thing I love about our community, we support, guide, and love each other along the way. 

I also beat myself up, so I can definitely identify.  A dear friend suggested I make a list of all the good things I did, the things I did right, no matter how small.  Instead of focusing on the things I did wrong, focus on the things I did right and improve on those things, adding in a few of the lessons I learned along the way.  

Sometimes my lists include all the new things I learned.  Like, "I was able to finally figure out the subway map".  I also congratulate myself for overcoming my fears and stepping out of my comfort zone.  I am the kind of person who would much rather stay behind the scenes.  I am not comfortable being seen.  So when I do take action, I celebrate and am proud of myself.  We don't celebrate our victories enough, and we should.

You are an amazing person and I am so grateful we know each other.  Sometimes you feel a connection with someone and I knew the moment I met you that you are special.  Your spirit shines in all you do.

Take a moment and write a list of all the wonderful things you learned and did while you were there.  Celebrate your accomplishments and victories.  Celebrate the wonderful gift you are to the world.

Lovinglife101

 

 

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LovingLife 101

KatieAdsila's picture

Thank you sweetie, this was beautiful and perfect and totally lifted my spirits. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one to feel this way at the big moment that we had been waiting for for so long.  I hope one day we’re able to sit together and talk, I’d love to hear more of your story, all my love sis

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