I began last year envisioning my Fellowship as a bridge-building exercise. Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge during my January trip to San Francisco solidified the imagery in my mind. I pictured myself beginning at one end of the bridge, rooted in my past experience in the nonprofit and public sector, and that I was using the Bush Fellowship and MBA program to get myself across to something new, as yet undefined, but likely to include a fabulous new job and career prospects.
I had imagined that after a year, the other end of the bridge would come into focus, and that I would move more quickly towards it. I acknowledged a slow start, a time and place for reflection, and then thought I would be stepping briskly ahead, with a clear vision of my destination.
Honestly, I thought by now that I would know more about myself and where I was headed. But I’m still in the middle of the bridge, and the other end remains out of focus. Instead of deriding myself for lacking movement, I’m acknowledging the middle ground, refocusing my efforts, and searching for a new guiding image.
Acknowledging the Middle Ground
Saying that the end of the bridge is still out of focus doesn’t mean that I haven’t been working. It just means that there is still work to do, and I’m in the middle of it for good reasons. “The middle” is taking longer than I thought it would because “the middle” has grown. I see more options available, more possibility and have approached my journey with more imagination now that I’m in the middle of it.
Refocusing My Efforts
In the beginning, I admit, I focused a lot on what I would do, and I focused very little on how I would feel. I thought I would start an MBA program, and at the end of it, I would get a new job. Bridge-crossed. Sectors-crossed. Done. That was wishful thinking. In real life, I felt out of place and stretched to my limits. I felt stressed, tired and unsure of my original plan. So I changed it. I thought bigger, and I thought differently. Now, in my second year, I’m finishing the MBA program, but refocusing the rest of my time to prioritize my own self-development. This includes quitting my job, going to Rockwood, and (hopefully) joining the Shannon Institute.
My adapted plan feels better because it’s a plan that addresses how I am feeling, not just what I am doing. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to change my plans in “the middle.” Spending dedicated time on my feelings (as expressed through my values) is the way for me to move forward.
Finding a New Image
The bridge metaphor suggests movement that directly connects two places, a past and a future, or a beginning and an end. It’s a direct journey from one fixed point to another, and doesn’t much honor the middle ground, or the mixed ground, which is where I find myself now.
The bridge metaphor also led me to focus externally instead of internally. I was searching for a destination instead of searching within myself. I’m not abandoning the metaphor or the image altogether, but I’m looking for a new guiding image. I’m ready for the second year of my Fellowship to turn inward, to bring myself into focus. I’m less worried about what’s at the other end of the bridge, and more content to get to know myself better during the journey.