If there's one thing I can explain about my journey so far is that I have done as much (if not more) UN-learning as learning.
My un-learning journey started at the Fellows' retreat. I had no idea how much I would alter my 2-year fellowship plan within a few hours of participating in activities, conversations, and deep listening. I remember when it really hit me that I had to make a lot of changes to my plan. We were listening to a panel of recent Bush Fellows, and one of them was relating her story. It was like she was speaking to me directly when she told us that she realized one thing: "I had to get quiet."
Get quiet. That sounded so foreign yet so necessary to my life. I'm a professor; I'm literally paid to talk about stuff, all the time.
I realized in that moment that I hadn't experienced real quiet in a very long time.
That night I started rewriting my plan. I looked at my original one with more honesty about myself. I got real with myself: I had (have) some serious workaholic tendencies, tendencies that I needed to examine, to explore, and to unlearn. In order to develop my leadership, I saw I needed to learn new ways of relating to work, taking on responsibilities, and planning for the future. I had to examine how I defined work and the routines I'd created for myself. I had to figure out wasn't working for me and the ideas I want to pursue.
So, I cut a lot of the activities, classes, and trips I'd stuffed into the first draft of the plan, and eagerly took advice from my cohort members who looked at my revision ideas. First lesson: front load the reflective, creative learning experiences before going into the more directed modes of learning. Second lesson: Build in MORE time to reflect than you think you need.
My new plan of (un)learning was designed to prepare myself to receive new knowledge from a different perspective. I needed to prepare myself to be process and present-oriented rather than goal and future-oriented. To incorporate new experiences to enrich my stores of knowledge rather than to accomplish a very particular set of work goals--this was a way of learning and being that I haven't allowed myself to engage in since, since, well, in a really long time! One thing I am looking forward to most now that I have jumped in with both feet to unlearning is my classes in soma yoga teacher training. I was encouraged by members of my cohort to actually learn a healing modality rather than just learn about healing modalities. And I learned how glad I am that the Bush Foundation encourages us to be a cohort, to stay in touch, and to read each other’s monthly logs. Being part of this community, touching base every month, allows me to recharge and to take joy in what other fellows are learning out there. I’m inspired, and humbled, and grateful.
Once I embraced unlearning as a necessary process, lots of things started to happen. Lots of serendipitous things. I ran into people I hadn’t seen in years, and found out about other workshops and trainings that sound perfect for me. I stumbled across books in the library that contained just what I needed to read, right at that moment.
I applied for the Bush Fellowship to give myself the opportunity to learn more about modes of intergenerational healing and learning. To really be able to absorb the lessons of the experts and sites I will visit in year two, my learning journey has to start with "heal thyself." I’m learning (through unlearning) how to build a work life where I don't feel stretched so thin (or, like one of my favorite fictional characters says, 'like too little butter scraped over too much bread'). As my coach said, the work life I had and its habits and routines got me to where I am. I can be proud of those accomplishments, she said, and still want to change my ways of thinking about, planning for, and experiencing my work.
I’m learning to plan for experiences, and let go of expectations for what those experiences will bring. Of course, I want every moment of my two years as a Bush Fellow to bring insights I can use in my community, to foster healthy spaces of intergenerational learning. But I have learned that I won’t (and don’t need to) be able to predict exactly how these experiences will weave together into something bigger. For someone who has been an academic, expected to find answers to questions in a methodical, replicable fashion, this has been already been quite a learning (and healing) journey to loosen up more, to take time to allow questions to linger, and to play with them rather than fight to find an answer right now. To let myself get quiet.