Report date
May 2019
Learning Log

As I write this, I'm filled with such beautiful feelings about the last two years. I'm overcome with joy at having made new friends--people whose journeys I intend to follow and admire for eternity. I feel the most passionate about my own journey as I've ever felt. I came into this fellowship with questions about my own courage as a leader; I was admittedly unsure about so many things as I began to feel greater responsibility and demands on my leadership, especially as I saw the work I was doing become more meaningful and important. I was anxious to learn how to be a more balanced leader, how to make space for my personal creative projects, how to navigate the space of being a woman of color in an industry that centers whiteness. I felt expansion, in both myself personally and professionally, all the while birthing my daughter as I entered this precious and amazing new phase of becoming a Bush Fellow. Rich. I have to describe this experience as rich. The monthly stipend challenged me to question what I had previously identified as "barriers." I'm surprised with this knowing I now carry that money is not truly a barrier for so many of the things that I had delayed, prolonged, or designated as beyond reach.

The thing I wish I had known prior to starting this journey is that I didn't need to stress about all the things I wanted to experience and accomplish. There were things I just absolutely prioritized as "musts" that I didn't get done. And yet, there were so many unexpected surprise experiences that I hadn't planned for that turned out to be so much better than my planned experiences. I had wanted to go to the London Book Fair because it was something "important" in my industry. Scheduling conflicts and family commitments didn't allow for the London Book Fair. But it was replaced with other experiences that enriched me. I don't feel like I "missed out." I feel like the journey was exactly what it was intended to be and so much more.

I'm surprised to learn that I was hard on myself as a leader going into this experience than I ever needed to be. I'm hopeful that I have made a permanent shift away from critiquing myself harshly and without gentle understanding. I felt inadequate on so many levels. And yes, while I desperately needed leadership training, better practices to sustain my leadership, and to focus on my bigger picture. I also find myself knowing at the end of this journey that I was braver than I thought, wiser than I gave myself credit for, and more deserving of grace and rest than I ever allowed myself to have. The fellowship was truly a path I needed to be on to see that I was more courageous than I ever gave myself credit for. I began the journey believing that training, resources, and tools would be my source. I thought, "With the fellowship stipend, network, and the things I'll have access to, I'll be better, and have renewed confidence in myself as a leader. The stipend, resources, network, and access to tools have all been remarkable and amazing, but my source of renewed confidence, joy, and passion for my leadership has actually come from most unexpected of places--other leaders, time by myself and with my family, self-honesty, and having fun creating work without pressure to publish or share it at all.

I'm surprised by how my definition of "courageous leadership" has evolved and developed. I went into the fellowship believing that courageous leadership was almost synonymous with fearless. I wanted to be riskier. I wanted to lead with my heart and creative aspirations without feeling tethered to the bottom line. Saying no to wrong-fit projects and clients, claiming more time for personal development and creative time, and pursuing projects that feed my soul was only part of the picture. There was so much more when I delved in deeper. Looking at the things I did during the fellowship--attending the Yale publishing course, graduating from the Academy of Leaders at the Center for Courage and Renewal, taking a month-long sabbatical in Jamaica, traveling to Kenya, attending SXSW & Dent, and investing in my writing projects--I discovered that I am the greatest investment in this leadership journey. Before the fellowship, I thought it was my business, my team, my family, and my projects. These elements of my life are so key and important to me, of course I should invest everything into them. However, those other elements of my life only work if I'm whole. That realization is the most courageous mindset shift I've had on this journey. I'm at the center of this journey. Not the books I publish, or storytellers I help to elevate and amplify, or my daughter, or my company. Me. I'm the first and most vital component of my leadership, dreams, ambitions, and goals.

Once I owned that, I shed the feelings of not-enoughness, self-doubt about whether my work is truly making an impact, fear of failure, insecurity about being an ineffective leader. Once I centered myself on this journey, I could take a hard look at where I was truly failing and needed to do better, but also where I'm healing, empowering, affirming, and reimagining myself in this next phase of my life as a publisher. I've never felt more powerful, whole, content, and able than I feel right now. I'm where I never knew I needed to be and exactly where I should have been. The work is good. The team is fine. The family is ok. Me? I am amazing. And here's the cool part. I measure how I am and where I'm at not based on how those other spokes on the wheel are doing as I had always done. I base how I am, not on what I've accomplished or the money in the bank as I had always done. I also don't base how I'm doing on what I think external gazes deem "successful." I think a courageous leader is free. I measure how I am on how free I feel to be ME. If I'm not feeling free, I know that something needs to shift. Freedom is following your spirit, your ideas, your passion even when you feel like shit, and especially when you don't know if anyone will listen to, affirm, or support the work you're doing. I have confidence in myself that is liberating and not tied to others' opinions, demands, or limitations. This fellowship helped me arrive at a place of security in myself, confidence in my impact, and I've arrived in love with this journey I'm on.

So now what? I'm a black woman publishing the stories of those I believe should rule the world--the survivors, the teachers, the faithful, the young voices, and the rebels. I'm writing stories that tell the truth. I'm clear about who I am and the work I want to be doing and who I want to be doing it with. I have boundaries, clarity, and joy with me on the path.