It is hard to believe that I am eighteen months into this great process of growing! While some things have continued the same; such as still working with the same agency managing the same program at work, it has been marked with unprecedented progress in self-awareness. It has also been a period of great growth and challenge in my development in community engagement leadership! This has happened mostly through commitment and vulnerability to a few trusted mentors/peers who have my permission to speak into my life, call out what needs attention and changing, but also celebrate with me the accomplishments and victories on the way. In June I attended a retreat that focused on creating and nurturing communities of grace. Being intentional in creating and nurturing meaningful community has meant reevaluating those in my circles that are that draining and pruning them away so that I can invest time and effort in those relationships that are adding value and are mutually beneficial.
Another aspect that I have sensed movement in my leadership growth has been the grappling with pursuit of social justice as a way of life. After attending Urbana 2018, a triennial students’ mission’s conference, I am challenged to grow as a person who sees the injustices that others in my community, then follows through and does something about it. While during the conference I was overwhelmed by feelings of self-doubt at what just one person can accomplish in the face of such monumental challenges, I have committed to growing in my ability to organize and advocate for the “least of these”. Practically this looks like reading up on resources available to help me grow; seeking out people that are further along in this practice than I am and learning from them, and then the baby steps of lamenting moments where I have failed to rise and stand up with the oppressed, seeking to identify with them and seek to be a better advocate.
Focusing on my leadership has surprisingly given me the courage to be more forthright yet do it peaceably, growing in the capability to gently prod people to be doing what we should be doing. I have not been afraid to submit big ideas and help members of my team work together to achieve set goals, yet I am consciously learning diplomacy in the process. In the past not been proud of my “blurting out” my thoughts, but I have come to appreciate the feedback that my team has given; that it is a strength given the cultural context we are in, it opens doors for us to tackle issues that others might have had difficulties bringing up, but once those issues are raised, we then can work collaboratively to address them. I am therefore embracing myself more for who I am and seeking ways to grow in the same to be a more effective and productive leader.
A profound change in my leadership growth efforts has been from the practice of just being, as opposed to doing. Halfway through my fellowship, I had a health challenge come up that stopped me in the path of being always on the go. With this challenge came the experience of just being. Taking time to be present with myself. Taking time to reflect rest; be rejuvenated. This is different from the ambitious, result-oriented life that I have actively led up to this moment. My approach has taken a more reflective aspect where it is not so much the quantifiable products that I churn out at the end of a given period, which are important, but the process in which this is happening, the impact it is having in me and those around me, and lessons that I am learning in the process, that will change or facilitate what I do next. Creating time for reflection has been both scary and enriching. As a result, there has been the bringing to the surface and dealing with some aspects of life that I have previously just glossed over and not acknowledged their existence. At the Dent conference that I reflected on in my previous entry, conference participants were given the “Happiness Journal” a simple book with a quote or two to center one’s reflection, a tool that has been very helpful in my slowing down enough to reflect on each day’s happenings and seeking to see what good has happened and celebrating it, seeing what ills have happened and what to learn from them and being grateful for the ability to do so. As someone who does not routinely journal, this exercise has been helpful as it has allowed me to further grow in being present and someone who practices gratitude…even when the going gets tough. It is from this place of self-awareness and practice of gratitude for all that I have been blessed with that I can go out and be salt and light to my community. As such, looking forward into the remaining time as a Bush fellow and beyond, I am filled with gratitude for the growth opportunities this fellowship has afforded me. I am thankful for the training in and expectation for self-care, and ultimately, for the chance to dream bigger and dare to believe that I can do bigger!