Initially I thought I would have the greatest growth as a Bush Fellow traveling the US and to Sweden. As a wheelchair user who lives on the Northshore of Lake Superior who is working towards making our area more inclusive and accessible to all people, I wanted to learn how others have made the world around them more accessible to people with a variety of mobility needs. I shared previously how the pandemic has changed all of these plans due to my medical conditions and how there was an internal struggle of dreaming big and pushing myself beyond my own limitations as well as those of the inaccessible world around me. To my surprise, I can see that I HAVE covered many miles even through isolation, virtual worlds, and reading books of other advocates and activists. I have had to dig deeper and work harder to find out more about myself, how I work, why I believe what I believe, and to sit in the discomfort of knowing I have a lot to change about how and what I think and act on.
I have learned throughout the years that much of life is spent in the waiting room. We are waiting for the answers of what life is going to look like or what changes are forced upon us. We are waiting to see if certain doors will be opened. But here is the thing, waiting isn’t passive. To be successful at waiting we must be active. We must actively be seeking to make a better version of ourselves. We must be willing to look in the hard mirrors to truly see who we are, what we stand (sit) for, and what has to change because our words and actions are not matching to the self values of who we are at our core.
This last year has not been easy but it has been good. I can now say that it has been good because I have had time to truly reflect and to truly learn what self care is. I am also continuing to explore what I am most passionate about in life. I have learned to put more concise words to these passions in my life. Don’t get me wrong I am still being refined and need more words BUT there is power, purpose, and passion in the words I have so far. I have learned that it is ok, better than ok, it is greatly needed to ask questions when you are curious. It is ok to ask for help or advice on ideas and the needs of our community. I have learned more about my disability culture and locational culture. I have learned more about the variety of people groups and cultures around me and my area. I have a desire to push myself to learn more deeply about the people around me and the authentic connections that make us similar AND different.
Through the courses I have taken and the certifications I have completed, through the books I have read and the conversations I have started, I know that I do not know enough as a leader. I know I need to know more, do more, change more, and share more. I have learned that our stories hold power and when you can share your story in powerful ways change begins in the hearts and lives of others. I have also seen this year that change is hard within systems and organizations. Authentic change takes time but I also have learned again that every change worth happening starts with one courageous story that made a ripple, and then a wave, and then changed the landscape of the shoreline. At times this year I may have doubted myself because I wanted a new shoreline but what I have to look back at and be grateful for are all the little ripples that are now making bigger waves and someday soon there will be a new accessible and inclusive shoreline for us all to enjoy the beauty of this place I call home.