This Fellowship is more than can be described in words. It has brought me to places that I could never have imagined. I have deep gratitude for this opportunity.
When I received this Fellowship, at the very beginning, it was as if I was in a dream. I could not believe it. It all began with my long-time mentor sending me an email with the application and encouraging me to apply. As I thought about what I would write, to answer those questions about why me, why this time and what aspect of my leadership I wanted or needed to develop, I found myself dreaming bigger and bigger. Each step of the application process I was encouraged to explore bigger. The application process itself was challenging. As I look back, I realize that it was a preview of what was coming.
My leadership and personal development through this Fellowship has given me a greater sense of confidence and fulfillment in my chosen path. I have met wonderful people who have been encouraging and supportive. Through my Fellowship doors have been opened that I did not know where there. These brought opportunities to continue developing myself.
I have also felt incredibly challenged throughout this process of two years; personally, emotionally and at times physically. I have experienced every possible emotion multiple times. I have learned to let go of specifies and follow. This has been humbling and has brought me to a place of deep learning about myself. Who I am, what is important to me, and how I want to lead in this world.
Through this unfolding process I have become much more content. Stopping internally took some time. I can reflect on the beginning of this Fellowship and recall creating three-month goals that I outlined, in five different topic areas. It probably took three months for me to realize that was not how this was going to go. Letting go of specific outcomes was challenging and beneficial once I let go. I kept reflecting on hearing the Bush team speaking about how this Fellowship is about personal leadership development, not a specific topic. It has taken me some time to understand this and I realize the depth of this truth and the opportunity that is unique to this Bush Fellowship because of this focus.
Many times, I found myself wanting to have a specific end point to achieve, that would be “easier” than creating and adapting to this unfolding of leadership learning. I realized a large part of my growth has been to stop and listen internally. All my hours meditating, exercising, reading and meeting with people helped me to let go of specific goals and follow into the unknown. Although this was difficult it was also the most rewarding. Taking me to places that I could not have predicted.
The mandatory focus on self care has been critical. Even though I have been a long-time meditator and a person who exercised, having self care be an important component of the Fellowship brought me to a different way of thinking about time for myself. Initially it seems strange to be forced or encouraged to “slow down.” After going through the layers of questions wondering if this was being productive, I found a deeply quiet place of stillness. From this place I could reflect on where I had been, where I thought I should be going and then coming to a place of allowing myself to follow as I was learning, about me, my leadership and what our culture was and is ready to change.
My passion to help create a systemic shift around end of life is no small desire. When I began this Fellowship, I thought that universities and colleges would be eager to learn culturally, spiritually and religiously defined needs as end of life approached. I would interview individuals who have many different belief systems, create a curriculum and then teach their health care students. Sounded so good! The interviews were phenomenal. The open-hearted conversations I had with individuals sharing their beliefs and needs at end of life was profound. I learned so very much and valued the depth of connections that occurred in those interviews.
As I came to realize how my personal and professional experiences led to my desire to teach health care providers end of life skills along with finding many research articles that came to the same conclusion, I also found that at this time there is not an openness in the academic setting for this information. When I realized this, I was deeply disappointed and took this personally. I questioned myself; had I missed something, had I not approached this in the correct manner, etc. Progressively, I began to understand that it was not about me but that systemic change is slow moving. Fortunately, I was also exploring other areas to share this information within the larger context of community. There I have found support and open doors.
Being flexible and adapting has been an important skill that I have developed through this Fellowship. Trusting in my leadership in multiple settings has come through these two years. When I meet people for the first time, and they know that I am a Bush Fellow there is an understanding of how steep the criteria are to become a Fellow. When our cohort met for the first time two years ago, we spoke about the imposter complex. This has been a part of my two years, challenging me to not feel as an imposter but to step into acknowledging that what I had done previous to the Fellowship and my passion to keep growing, learning and expanding who I am is a large part of why any of us are chosen to become Fellows. This is what I wish I had known and understood at the beginning of this Fellowship. Yet, I am confident that the Bush Leadership team did say that, to all of us. It has taken me this experience to understand that it is me and my leadership that will continue developing beyond the formal two years of the Fellowship.
As this Fellowship comes to a formal close, I am aware that the unfolding has only just begun. That I have multiple areas where I will continue to grow, explore and lead, for the rest of my life. I know that there are many things that will unfold from this experience. I look forward to them evolving.
What stands out to me about this Fellowship is the people I have had walk this path with me. I feel ever so fortunate to have met the other Fellows in my cohort, as well as Fellows from previous cohorts. My Bush Coach, Heather, has been an inspiration and guide to me throughout this time. I will miss collaborating with her. There are seven other Fellows from my cohort that I have had the opportunity to get to know on a more deeply personal basis. This has been a gift to me each step of the way. They have been there to share the ups, downs and joys, encouraging and supporting each other. I would encourage everyone who is a Fellow to seek out a group of Fellows to walk next to you during your Fellowship. I also hired an executive coach for the entire two-year period, Barb H. She has been an enormous guiding light to me. She has helped me hold the totality of the Fellowship, been with me when I have questioned myself, supported me through every twist and turn, and has celebrated with me as I have grown my leadership. I have also been fortunate to have my mentors, family, colleagues and friends who have been supportive, encouraging and present each step of the way.
There is not a way for me to have a conclusion to my Fellowship. I understand that this is just the beginning of the next phase. I am forever grateful for this life changing opportunity. It is a gift of a lift time and I have been fortunate to be a receiver of the Bush Fellowship. Thank you.