When I first started, I did not fully accept or realize how much this Fellowship was to help me grow personally. Yes, to grow in leadership, but also to grow in self-awareness and stronger balance between work and life. I was in a production mind-set: I kept thinking that I had to accomplish so much within these 2 years and that if I didn't, then I would have failed. I see how this has been a lifelong mindset -- that my worth is tied to my accomplishments. But the messages I continued to receive from all of you associated with the Bush Fellowship team consistently emphasized the importance of self-care and growth. I'm very grateful for those consistent messages. I just wish I had been able to "hear" them when I started. If I had it to do over again, I'd spend more time planning for the balance and self-care activities from the very start. I'd load up on those activities and get a rhythm going with that, while also pondering the more tangible goals I wanted to accomplish. Then I'd gently merge those together, and keep that balance. I have made progress on these tangible goals: assisting a church toward being trauma-informed and on the verge of helping another church of a different denomination do the same; teaching a graduate-level theology, trauma, and pastoral care course at St. John's University School of Theology and Seminary (fall or spring of 2022); began a Doctor of Ministry program and Boston University and am half-way through; and continuing work with the Catholic school system within the Diocese of St. Cloud toward becoming trauma-informed. For my D.Min. project/thesis, I hope to put together a "how-to" text for Christian Churches toward becoming trauma-informed; either that or I will create my own graduate level course to teach at St. John's. The how-to text would be quite helpful and would expand the reach...widen the circle of influence; my teaching will do the same, as my students will go on to various ways of ministering and teaching of their own. I'm very excited about this, and could not have done these things without the Bush Fellowship. The Fellowship gave me the confidence to try, along with the money to support myself. But again, I think the self-care message and maintaining healthy balance is primary.
Given the pandemic, what stands out is how my leadership goals shifted somewhat. My focus necessarily moved toward helping hospital staff as much as I could, along with family of patients with COVID-19. The height of the pandemic was most trying and exhausting for all the staff, myself included. I think this is where I needed to balance pandemic stress with self-care, and allow the other goals to be on hold for a time. This is something I eventually did, but perhaps a bit late. I was so exhausted, mentally, physically, and emotionally, and found myself in a depression during that time, that I needed to take a break from my schooling. I forgot that just because I was beginning this awesome Fellowship, it did not mean I wasn't also bringing along the traumas and pain from my recent past that still needed tending. The pandemic sort of broke the camel's back. I am still on-leave from my academic program and that's good for now. During this leave I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and have begun chemo. I see myself in a space now where I need to tend to these traumas and wounds, and have found a way to do that with support, partly because of the work and connections made within the Fellowship and in working toward my goals. I've made good progress on my tangible goals, and have even more good progress pending. It's in this pending space where I will do more inner work and healing.
Maybe finding myself in this pending space now that is most surprising, and the role that the Fellowship had in making this possible. The Fellowship helped me build my connections with others doing similar work. I've made some excellent new friends this way, several of whom are now supporting me in my journey with cancer, along with the further integration work on which I'm currently focused. So the Fellowship has played a key role in also getting me more connected, and widening my sphere of influence, while also allowing myself to receive from those in this sphere. All of the above has served to strengthen my self-confidence and self-worth -- and that is priceless.
Thank you to all who made this possible within the Bush Fellowship team!