Thank you so much for writing and sharing this Michelle. It is super nice to have it highlighted that EA is super freaking hard sometimes, even for people right in the thick of it surrounded by like-minds! Personally, I kinda struggle with the fact that I don't always agree all the way on some of the long-termism stuffs, and sometimes I feel just so darn confused that everyone else just seems to be on board and do it so easily. But these techniques, and the reminder that there is a whole community of people to reach out to, all with such a spectrum of beliefs and values and difficulties, is exactly what I needed to read today!
I second the 'not feeling smart enough to contribute' - I am also 6yrs old and still get overwhelmed by the incredibly thinkers, the jargon, and the philosophical arguments that become so abstract my head hurts. I was pretty happy being a 'generally knowledgeable cheerleader', but now I am without a local group, so I guess I'll let your leap inspire me and try grow a bit myself.
I have changed how I interact with EA since moving countries and starting my PhD. I think mostly because I am no longer in a place with a local group (having a role on local committees was my most direct involvement before), but my move also exactly coincided with Covid lockdown - so, suddenly those normal things stop existing anyways and life online was bigger, which turned out to be pretty great for me (I have some small amount of guilt at being happy about that, but at the moment I think we are allowed to take those silver linings where we can find them!). I have been engaged with EAN through online meetups/email, but also attending virtual events more globally, and volunteering for whatever I can get my hands on (that still fits within the time and brain space I have to spare). This has got me interacting with EA in ways I hadn't before; meeting a wider spectrum of people, reading resources more (including this forum), trying more actively to keep up with the ways the movement is changing. I guess I don't feel like I have become more deeply involved exactly, but something about my involvement has become reinforced, it's survived enough shifts, in my life and in EA, that I feel more confident I am staying here for the long haul.
I disagree that 'giving cause it feels good' isn't an EA reason to give. It's about the head and the heart right? I give because it feels good, and it feels even better knowing that where you give is high impact and if giving makes you feel good then that's encouraging to others as well :)
And I also started giving when I had my student loan to pay off - maybe if my loan was bigger I would have thought about starting with smaller donations like with The Life You Can Save, but my main motivation was that if the debt is an excuse now, then buying a house will be an excuse later, and then all the other life excuses and I will never do it. So I leapt. People live really well on less than I did even with the donations and the loan repayments, it does mean thinking more about 'fun' activities' though I found that I could still do all those things and where I spent less was on 'stuff' - things you buy but don't really need anyways.