My Fellowship journey from the application process to this writing has been life-changing in so many ways. It has taken me from a place of reactiveness to a place of reflection. It has broken me out of my little, sheltered home/work bubble and has catapulted me into a giant new world, full of possibilities. This Fellowship has also helped me figure out not only what I want in this life, but what I NEED to do. For the first time, I know what I want to do when I “grow up”, and I am now knee-deep in a successful path to achieve it.
Over the last five months the phrase, “Being Open”, has kind of been the theme of my Fellowship life.
• Being open to new possibilities instead of being scared of every worst thing that could happen;
• Being open to change and new ways of thinking instead of being an immovable, stone statue listening to a record on repeat;
• Being open to giving up old ways of doing things and being excited about creating new ways;
• Being open to learning and to growing in all ways, no matter how old you are;
• Being open to letting some things just happen and working to make other things happen;
• Being open to new opportunities even if it means departing from a safe, stable, and comfortable way of being;
• Being open to creating a new path and being brave enough to leave the old trail;
• Being open to planning and setting goals AND being willing to scrap it all when a new opportunity comes that was what you wanted all along;
• Being open to being balanced even when your work-life is drop-kicking your home-life or vice versa;
• Being open to connecting with new people even though you feel that you were a past world-record holder in rejection;
• Being open to always seeing the best in people, even when they may be at their worst or when their worst IS their best;
• Being open to elevating and mentoring others even if it means they end up moving on to bigger and better things somewhere else;
• Being open to getting out of your head and leading with your heart even when that little voice says “You are an imposter! You do NOT measure up!”
• Being open to being brave and putting your whole authentic-self out there even though you may get nothing in return, or you may get something that you wish you COULD return;
• Being open to saying “YES!” even though the risk of failure is reflective of Everest;
• Being open to always giving people a chance or maybe even two or ten, but never to the point of being taken advantage of, NEVER again!
• Being open to seeing the “Holy” in every moment even if it was the day from “H”, “E”, “Double Hockey Sticks”; and
• Being open to just “Being Open”.
In addition to these changes, I have a sense of calmness and wellbeing that I have never felt before. This is quite a switch from where I was before the Fellowship. There was a period from the time I was granted the Fellowship in March to the time I started in August; an excruciating but necessary 5 months.
During that time, I began to get all worried about doing this Fellowship the RIGHT way, the BEST way. I felt that it was such a huge responsibility, and I didn’t want to screw it up. In May, I met with one of my mentors, and she gave me some great advice, “Get out of your head and lead with your heart!” She told me that she has worked with many Fellows and has found that those who focus on what they want to change or do in the community do not come as far as those who focus on growing/changing themselves, which, of course, is what this Fellowship is all about.
My mentor also advised that I should continually ask myself what I want to learn and where I want to be by the end of the Fellowship because my needs will change as I grow. Such great advice, but at the time, I wasn’t sure how to go about wading out of the doubt-filled pool swirling in my head. It wasn’t until after that first meeting with my new coach, that I started to RELAX and began thinking and seeing things differently.
In Being Open, I listened to those around me and paid attention to my instincts. When I started in August, my coach told me that we were going to work on building a strong leadership foundation for me and working out from there. This was the second time that I had heard that I needed to work on me and not on what conferences I would attend, certificates I would obtain, or things I would change. Deep down, I knew that going to a conference or getting a certificate wouldn’t change me if I wasn’t ready for it AND if I did not make space in my life to reflect on it afterward. I knew it also wouldn't change me if I didn’t know how to incorporate the concepts into my everyday life.
I relaxed some more and got into the process of building a strong foundation, so I could make more informed decisions. I did not rush and start signing up for conferences and certificate programs. Instead, I completed assignments with my coach and read various leadership books such as “Daring to Lead” from Brene Brown. I completed exercises to figure out my life goals not just my Fellowship goals. I plotted everything into a calendar. I attended a few local seminars and social gatherings and began to broaden my network. I started putting myself out there more than ever before and saying “yes” to new opportunities. After each encounter, I reflected on what I had learned and started incorporating new concepts into my life. I started journaling consistently for the first time in my life. This process has helped me to reflect on my learning, as well as, to look back and remember what I have done when completing my Fellowship writing requirements.
It is now ingrained that the priority of this Fellowship has to be about developing me first because if I am not where I need to be leadership-wise, wellness-wise, etc. then any project I touch will most likely not be where it should be either. It is analogous to the airplane rule where you put your oxygen mask on first before helping others, otherwise, you will be useless.
That said, this way of being doesn’t mean that I am not working to make effective change in the community, because I am. It means that I am making sure I remember where the focus should be and periodically changing the speed, moving the needle, changing the record, etc. For example, when a learning opportunity comes up, I am asking myself, “how is that class or conference going to help me to help others make change in the community?” I am also not going to get down on myself when other Fellows and leaders around me are doing wonderful things. I am going to admire them, learn from them, and remember that I am on my own unique Fellowship/Life journey that I am designing for MY needs. There is no way to compare, and many times it is very difficult to see the change because it is internal, only visible to those who know me well.
This foundation I am creating is based on not only what I need in the area of leadership and my Bush goals/plan, but also what I want for my future in the next 5-10 years and how am I going to get there. I now have a tentative life plan with the next steps plotted out. Some of these steps include obtaining at least one certificate from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and taking trips to learn what others are doing in the area of assistive technology, nationally and internationally. I made a space in our home to create art AND to work, which I absolutely love being in. This Zen-filled room has been a daily reminder for me to be balanced. Due to this, I am more productive at work, and I am creating more art for family and friends. I am spending more time with family than ever before because I am actually “present” when I am with them. I am practicing to be “All-In” no matter what page of my life I am on at a given moment.
Although I still struggle daily, the minute I started Being Open, incredible things started to happen. My self-doubt started to melt, and I began to feel braver and speak up in places I would not have dared and do things I normally wouldn’t have done. Things started to fall into place, and I started to “really” figure out my Fellowship path. People who I had on my list to meet with just suddenly appeared in my life with no initiation from me. Opportunities that I had on my goal list and amazing prospects that I could not have imagined unexpectedly showed up in my life ready for me to act on them.
I think the growth that I am experiencing with this Fellowship is causing a cascade of extraordinary things to happen. Sometimes it is just so overwhelming that I catch myself smiling. My coach said that the Fellowship gives us the license to connect, to push, to take that next step, more than before. I am finding that she is so right! I am feeling braver each month and doing things I never thought I would do. It feels pretty remarkable, to say the least.
In Being Open, I have learned some brilliant insights. One of my favorites is what one of my new mentors said to me. He said (much more eloquently than this) that in your 20s you should question most things, in your 30s question a little less, your 40s a little less, but in your 50s the “time is now” and “there is no time for second-guessing yourself”. He said, “if you do not tell them what they need to hear than who will?!” Well, I am 52, and my time IS now! Peace and Be OPEN!!