My fellowship journey has been extraordinary and rewarding the past two years and will continue an additional 6 months so that I may experience some of the opportunities that were put on hold due to the pandemic. I started the fellowship journey with the intention of changing other peoples lives and quickly realized the opportunities before me through the fellowship were changing my life through leadership development in my Doctoral studies, pre-covid and post covid travel, the monthly leadership coaching sessions, establishing new relationships through networking, interacting with leaders I admire and documenting the fellowship journey. My world prior to the fellowship was focused primarily on the communities I work with and the people in those communities. Through the fellowship I have expanded my connections by reaching out of my comfort zone. I have documented my journey so far with short videos, coaching notes, journaling, and hundreds of pictures. Even though much of everything came to a stand still during the pandemic, a great deal of my leadership growth happened during the pandemic. For more than a year, many of us were all very isolated from each other with none to rare community gatherings. This isolation gave me a rare opportunity to really do some self care and learn about myself as a leader. I have done some real growth these past two years which mostly reflected in the way I led my team through the most difficult times we will experience in our lifetime. I want to share with others that to be a good leader, we must begin with self awareness. During this time of isolation, I was able to become aware of my strengths and shortcomings and build on those as a new starting point for improving my leadership skills. The learning and self care over the past two years through ceremonies, networking and reflecting on my leadership progress has built up my confidence and I see the benefits of this development in the community and in the people around me. I am still working at taking one experience at a time. There were times during the pandemic where I felt like I didn't accomplish much. The monthly reflections allowed me to focus on the smallest of changes and successes through the opportunity I have been given with this fellowship.
The biggest surprise for me was how much I enjoy being a student in the Doctoral Program. I didn't think I would like college classes after being out of school for many years. I just knew it was something I wanted to do and had it on my bucket list for a long time. During the past two years I wavered about my decision to complete the program and finally decided I would take my time and finish as time allows. Another Bush Fellow gave me insight on taking my time and not rush to get it done as quickly as possible. Once I made this decision to slow down with the doctoral program, my decision to take it slowly felt like the right decision. The plan you submitted will change slightly or it may change a lot and that is to be expected. If I were to follow exactly what I planned, I may not have received the most out of this journey because reality has a way of making the obvious more clear.
Make the most out of your leadership coaching experience. I feel the need to stress the importance of the previous statement loud and clear. I was very skeptical when I learned that we were required to have a leadership coach. I am old school and a very social person with face to face experiences where I am able to have eye contact, read facial expressions, and see what they look like while making a connection. I thought I wouldn't need a leadership coach because I felt I could be a leadership coach. The leadership coaching experience has been very successful for me. With these coaching sessions I have gained some connections to some valuable leadership tools. I always looked forward to the time I spend with my coach. The coaching sessions became very valuable to me for reflection, guidance and assisted me with realty checks and kept me focused on my plans.
At one point during the pandemic, I had a meeting with the fellowship staff and discussed options for redirecting my goals for the remainder of the fellowship. I needed to determine what I should let go and what I could keep to continue building my leadership moving forward. During my coaching session I was challenged to think about what matters most to my leadership development with the time I have left. I pondered about what legacy I wanted to leave for those that will come after me for the remainder of the time I have as a community leader. I really wanted to engage younger people to share what I have learned. I am pleased to see how much work is being done by the younger generations to preserve our medicines and revive healthy foods and healing practices. The work I thought needed to be done is already in progress and it is exciting to see many younger people learning and teaching these ways. This exciting development will allow me to focus on being the conduit for bringing these practices into the indigenous healthcare systems in this country. I have not been able to travel to all the places I wanted to so I have chosen the travels I will get the most out of and reach out to the other locations virtually. This fellowship experience has allowed me to grow and develop towards becoming an accomplished and successful leader long after the fellowship journey ends.