First things first, as a Bush Fellow you'll be asked 'where you going next' with such regularity that you'll have your Expedia itinerary readied awaiting such prompts, and if you're completely dedicated to your journeys, you'll have the accumulated air mileage calculated as well, for myself I hope 'a lot' justifies as a reasonable answer.
That's the thing with being a Fellow, you're always on the way to the next conference, the next class, that next community meeting, the next dozen things you've always done, but with far more urgency, and perhaps a bit of a longer commute too. We have just two years as a Fellow to accomplish our goals, our efforts; but even the best thought out plans require adjustment, a near constant tinkering, and of course, abundant energy and focus, all while learning the local transit systems while standing on yet another platform, with hopefully the right ticket. When you do find yourself seated coach on your next flight, or aboard the Empire Builder, or walking 40 blocks of lower Manhattan at 11 at night, you'll have these moments of reflection, a self-realization that this time as a Fellow is something inexplicable, and yet something that seems just right during this moment - and perhaps that's the underlying lesson, that being a Fellow finds you when you can make the most of it.
And I say that a Fellowship finds you, as you'll be doing the day-to-day work you've always just done, probably completely unaware of the prospects of a Fellowship, and after being told to apply, and perhaps even after neglecting to apply, while being told yet again by another respected mentor - you'll listen and follow through. Then, it just happens. You'll be blindsided. It will be beautiful. You'll be completely overwhelmed by this opportunity and question, what exactly should I be doing? What if I mess this up?
But, here's the thing, you can't mess this up any more than any of the other Fellows, and there's a lot of us, and somehow, we've all managed to do really incredible, inspiring, and yes, even the ordinary things we still do. Perhaps there's some sort of gained super power we're employed with as Fellows, which although would be cool, isn't that likely either, unless that Bush cap we received enables such feats - to be safe, I'm wearing that hat during every Bush trip.
For myself, I've tried to make the most of this opportunity. I've enrolled in an MFA program at Lesley University College of Art and Design in Cambridge, MA, to gain a more thoughtful and disciplined approach as an artist, which has been incredibly rewarding and has furthered my own understanding and relationship as an arts advocate and administrator too. There's something about lifelong learning that is incredibly attractive to me, let alone the challenge that graduate school presents, and of course, there's those 'ah ha' moments of insightfulness.
I've also made my way to a few conferences, we all do these as Fellows, from Americans for the Arts in Chicago to Independent Sector in Miami. We get around as Fellows, often finding each other in sessions or luncheons. There's always a tap on the shoulder awaiting wherever you end up, if not a whistle.
So now, I'm off to Art Basel in a few days, then back to school in January, then another trip to NYC in February, and Aspen in the summer. Between this and that, it's all kind of grand sounding, but just between me and you, I really do prefer a nice conversation and a coffee in South Dakota, so let's do that next time we meet.