I have dreaded writing this entry for the past several weeks. Knowing that the fellowship was coming to an inevitable end brought a sadness that I did not expect.
So much has happened in the last two years - my journey has taken me to unexpected places with unexpected experiences. To me, our first fellowship gathering in April of 2018 (in the midst of that huge snowstorm) was just yesterday. I remember the excitement and anxiety of starting the journey. In a way, despite everything that I have experienced since, I am surprised that it’s over. In a way, I feel like my journey (the journey that the Bush Fellowship launched) is just beginning and that I am back with my fellows in that snowstorm.
Looking back, I think the one thing I wish I had known was something that was reinforced multiple times at the start of my fellowship by my conversations with Anita and at our kickoff. It didn’t really sink in until much later on but I wish I fully understood that this journey required flexibility and pivots. That in my exploration of self, leadership, and community, I would learn that some of my strongly held beliefs should be let go and that I needed to open my mind to thoughts, feelings, and beliefs of all those teachers (formal or informal) around me. I wish I fully understood that expected pivots were the beauty of the fellowship - the freedom to explore and grew (for me) was not borne from a rigid path of academics but a personal journey of exploration and out-of-the-blue twists and turns. That my best teachers were the unexpected moments and interactions.
These last few months really gave me pause. Between COVID-19 and the social struggles for equity in all aspects of our lives (including the academic / healthcare world I live in), the flexibility I had nurtured over the past 20 months really came in handy. As “planned” courses were cancelled, “planned” trips were shifted, “planned” explorations were put on hold - the freedom of the fellowship gave me the ability to move resources to areas of need. I discovered “off-the-beaten-path” online experiences, participated in local movements for equity, and even served on a panel for a webinar on health equity. Without the inspiration, guidance, and confidence I’ve gained through the fellowship, I think the person I was two years ago would have been paralyzed by the unexpected.
What surprised me the most after 2 years are two things: 1) I am surprised by how fast and how slow the fellowship was - it goes by so fast, I can’t believe it is over. Yet, I felt like the last 2 years have stretched for years when I reflect on all the experiences, courses, people, and everything else that the fellowship has given me. 2) I am surprised by how incomplete the journey is currently. I think at the beginning of the fellowship, I thought there was going to be a nice end - a bow at the end of my fellowship signifying a end of an experience... something that showed I’ve accomplished something. In my life, each progression - school, training, whatever it may be - all ended with a “something” (degree, piece of paper, something...)
However, at the end of my fellowship now, I realize that the Bush Fellowship is not something you complete. It is, at best, something you start. I see it now as fuel for me as a person (a leader, a follower, a husband, a father, a co-worker, a member of my community). It has filled me with knowledge, compassion, determination, and inspiration. I realize now that the Bush Fellowship is a lifelong journey and I have been blessed with a great start.
The world is far from perfect and I have been so privileged in my life including this fellowship from the Bush Foundation. As I continue my journey, I hope to be able to live up to what I have been gifted and to give back more than I have received. No words can effectively express the gratitude I have for having gone through these amazing last two years as a fellow.