I am about 5 months into my Fellowship now and I can say I feel much more calm and focused about it all, as compared to when I first started. The whole application time and publicity time was a little overwhelming for me -- I'm not used to being in the public eye. I had some good ideas about how to continue my work once the Fellowship started, so some of my network was already in place. Getting a coach was a godsend! I am learning new skills from her, new ways of conceptualizing my goals, and new ways of better understanding myself. She is serving as a kind of foundation for me -- someone with whom I can talk and get refocused and regrounded. She also helps me to see my strengths and gifts better, thus my confidence continues to grow. Thankfully, my coach also knew of someone who works as an organizer for people. I'm not the most organized person in the world: I needed to create my home office, get a new laptop, and get more organized where the financial piece is concerned. Her assistance if priceless for me, since she keeps my financial books for me and also advises on time-saving strategies and tools. Without these two people, I think I'd be a lot more nervous!
One of the best things I've learned, and continue to learn, is from my cohort members via our monthly postings. These are incredibly intelligent, creative, and gifted people, and their posts typically contain good ideas for me. I don't have the time to read them all, but I do try to read the posts of different cohort members each month: this helps me to get to know them better and also to learn more from the excellent diversity we enjoy. One gem in particular has been to realize that this Fellowship is not just about what you can do or accomplish -- it's primarily about your development as a human being and as a leader. When I finally embraced that truth, I was able to relax more. Not that I slacked off on my work -- no -- but it helped me see my inherent value as a person first, and what I accomplish is second. The Bush Foundation really does want to help us develop and grow as people and as leaders, not only during the time of the Fellowship, but also from then on. So I realized that my self-care plans are just as important as my networking plans, etc. When I first started, I plunged right in and got a lot done...but did not attend all that much to self-care, though I did do some. Now, I'm finding more of a balance -- and it definitely makes a difference. I have a very strong work ethic, and self-care has been a growing edge for me for a long time...and still is in some ways. My default reaction is: more work...work harder. Now, I'm trying to talk things over with my coach and mentors, and find ways of scheduling in times for rest and play. In addition, I'm coming into a key area of my Fellowship work right now as I'm striving to create a graduate-level curriculum and teach in Seminary next fall. This is very exciting for me, while also being stressful -- as I have a lot on my plate right now. What is coming to the fore in my mind and heart is, in addition to adequate rest and play, I need to strengthen my prayer life. I'm realizing I need more quiet time with God: to hear God's voice better and know my path forward in this work. This doesn't necessarily mean more time spent in prayer, so much as being more intentional, quiet, and listening more. I firmly believe that God is guiding me in this, and that I need to create quiet space to allow God to fill me with wisdom, love, and clarity -- for myself and for the work.
Another lesson learned is that, with all I am hoping to accomplish, it does not all have to happen within the time frame of the Fellowship. In fact, it likely won't happen that way; perhaps for some projects I'll only plant the seed or get things in place to progress in the future. The network I'm building now will serve well for the future as these projects mature and more doors start to open. Timing is so important, and I'm learning that I can't force doors to open if it's not right, and/or if the timing isn't right. I'm also learning about the need for solid support from friends and colleagues who have some understanding of what this is like, and what I'm trying to do. They also help keep me focused, they help remind me about self-care, and they also provide much-needed encouragement. These are people who authentically know me and care for me -- so they give it to me straight when I need it because it's for my best interest. This is a big change for me. All my life I've essentially been a loner. I never really thought much about the need for supports from others. I am so grateful for these kind of friends/colleagues and their support and love. This also plays into my self-care practices, since I am intentional about spending time with them to nurture our friendship. I can trust their feedback too, which helps a great deal. I'm learning to communicate more, be more open about my experiences, and ask for help more. In addition to my coach, I have a few mentors who also support and help so much. I've learning to be intentional about scheduling time with them to help keep me on track, and to receive their encouragement.
I've learned that when the Bush Foundation people tell us that "life happens" and that sometimes changes will need to be made in your plan, that the Foundation does all they can to help support and guide you. They understand. I just recently changed jobs, due in part to seeing greater opportunity to reach my goals in another workplace. This has been very difficult, as I loved where I worked previously; I'd made many good friends and was comfortable there. But I knew in my heart that this change was right, so I've done this. Now, I may need to adjust my goals, or the timing of my goals, to reflect this major change. I know that Bush stands behind me in this. This leads me to probably the greatest learning I've had to date: I have grown immeasurably in terms of my self-confidence, self-awareness, capacity to risk, capacity to network and be "seen" in the public eye more, capacity to trust God, myself, and this process more. My self-respect has also grown a great deal, as I see myself saying no to certain people or dynamics that I once allowed to hurt me. I'm better at setting boundaries toward this end. There is no way I would have taken this job-change leap before this Fellowship, or even when the Fellowship first began. Now I'm believing more in my own potential and power to make changes and do what needs to be done. I'm believing more in the power of my cohort and my growing network of colleagues and friends. It's amazing how doors can open sometimes because of this network, and because of people's good will and desire to help.
I think that last paragraph contains the learning that is most incredible to me. I knew that in some ways this Fellowship would be formational for me -- that I would grow and learn a great deal. I guess I didn't realize this Fellowship process would be transformational for me: that I would grow, strengthen, and heal in such deeply personal and essential ways as a human being, all of which inherently contributes to my effectiveness as a leader. I know a greater sense of freedom, strength, and trust than I ever have before. I see myself differently and allow myself more grace for mistakes...while also allowing that same grace for others. I'm less concerned with competing, and more drawn to collaboration for the common good. Quite frankly, I see my own value more -- not only in terms of what I can accomplish, but in who I am as a person. I don't know that I could have learned this without this experience of jumping into the deep end of this Fellowship, meeting and learning from my cohort, and expanding my views through my growing network. It's hard work...yes...and definitely worth it!