Looking back at the last two years of my life as a Bush fellow, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I would be part of this great organization and that my life would change in such a profound way! Each of the multi-stage levels of the application process had helped us focus our desire for change and for growth that at the final interview, I sincerely told my interviewers that I was grateful for the growth that had already taken place as I moved from one phase to the other. I felt that my goals were so focused that I would implement them regardless of the interview outcome. Getting to know that I was a 2017 fellow was surreal; meeting the other fellows at the start of our journey, I was impressed by all their charisma and vision, and I questioned whether I belonged. What I should have known then, and I know today is a resounding yes, they were all part of my tribe. The distinguishing mark for each one of us was the passion for our communities and desire to make a difference where we were at. What I should have known was that when I was called to stand among these great people of our time, I was in every way a legitimate member of that group.
At the beginning of the fellowship, I remember hearing a constant refrain to my stated plans, “but what are you going to do for Alice, how is Alice going to grow through this?” What I should have known is the truth that the focus we were expected to pay to self-care was to enable us space to grow despite the feeling that we had so much to do. It reminds me of when as a parent, the many fights I had with my children when they were who did not want to take naps which were necessary for their well-being for the fear that they would miss out on some irreplaceable action if they slept. I should have known that self-care is not just a buzz word; it is a significant ingredient to think bigger and differently so that we can do bigger and differently.
Several things stand out as I think of the past two years. Starts with the Bush Fellowship staff, who believed that there was something worth investing in within me. They have been there all through and were willing to accommodate life’s curveballs in the duration of my fellowship. In the 2017 cohort, I have a group of leaders who I consider friends, some even family. These are people I did not know at the start of 2017 but have expanded my horizons more than I can put into words. Thank you, 2017 team! You have spoken into my life, believed in, and cheered me on. My Bush Coach, Pam has also been phenomenal! Not only has she walked me through the fellowship process, but she has also been inspirational and encouraging. The relationship fostered is one that will continue beyond the two years, thank you, Pam! Then there is Steve P. and his wife who have been mentors in life that have asked the hard questions, then sat back and listened as I processed them, encouraged me and stood by my side. I have also been very fortunate to have my family and friends that believed in me, challenged me, were real with me, and accepted me for who I was and who I am growing to be.
Other things that stand out are the impact simple rituals of becoming self-aware have on one’s life. Taking moments to reflect on how the day has gone; what you would wish you had dealt with differently; what you would not change, and for what you are truly thankful. Doing this daily, weekly, and even monthly adjusts the focus to what you can do to make a difference in your life, and that of those you interact with. Taking time to breathe, even amid chaos…in my case, being a full-time employee, student, and family woman has at times called for a time to take a break and be. I realized that if I did not proactively create the time, my body would force it on me, and then it was not as enjoyable. Scheduling rest and fun into one’s busy lifestyle is one piece of advice I would give to a new fellow, and a truth I wish I internalized earlier on in my journey.
As I conclude the formal part of this journey, I am thankful for the opportunities that have presented my way. I am grateful for the pain and loss that have been part of this journey. I am thankful for the growth I have experienced as a result, and I am confident that the journey to the realization of my full potential has just begun. Thank you Bush Foundation for investing in me.