The ego of public life

For a long time, I’ve thought that I should start blogging. Indeed, I have started and stopped many times in the past.

With the start of my participation in Tisch College’s Summer Institute of Civic Studies I saw an opportunity to start blogging again. Rather than jumping at the opportunity, I forced myself to commit to blogging at least once a day over the next two weeks (weekends are under negotion).

I like the concept of blogging because I find writing helps me transform the muddled medleys in my head into somewhat coherent thoughts. Doing so in a public forum (rather than, say, a personal journal) is beneficial because it forces me to really own my opinions and, ideally, opens up an opportunity for broader deliberation and dialogue. Rather than talking to myself in some dark corner of my room, I can hear what other people think and use that as a mechanism for strengthening my own thinking.

So why is blogging such a challenge?

The obvious reason is that it’s very stressful to have to present oneself publicly. My tendency is to fall into worrying about fully formed sentences, completed thoughts, and fully researched and understood facts. All of those are good things, but it turns a “quick update” into a process that takes too much time and thought to complete.

But more deeply, my struggle with blogging is that…in many ways, it requires a lot of ego. Well, I would say ego, but another may generously say “agency.” It requires standing up and saying, “I do have something to say, and I believe it’s worth your time to listen.”

And that can be a lot to muster.

I see this challenge more broadly in the idea of being an active citizen, of truly engaging in public life. People wonder why so many politicians seem to be so full of themselves – I wonder how someone starts out thinking, “I could govern others.”

Even in smaller acts of engaging. To actively contribute to your community means believing that you have something to actively contribute. There’s something fundamentally egotistical about that belief.

That’s not to imply that egotistical is bad. I only mean to say that you need to have some faith in your capacity to act (a sense of agency, perhaps?) before you can do so publicly.

I’m not so good at doing that. I prefer to work on the sidelines, move behind the scenes. I like to take it all in, helping where I can, but ultimately acting in private, rather than in public, to make change.

So, I’m going to try to change that. I’m going to start blogging. Forgive me my bad grammar, misspelling, and occasional misstating of facts. Forgive me my half thoughts, poorly structured sentences, and endless narrative. And forgive me my ego when I say that yes, I write for myself, but I also write for you.



3 thoughts on “The ego of public life

  1. ellin barret

    Thanks, Sarah. I am no longer articulate enough for blogging but I agree with your sentiments. Both courage and diligence are required. I will enjoy your posts!


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