My whole Bush Fellowship experience, so far, has been one of tremendous change. This is why we applied to be a Fellow after all but the depths, types, and levels of transformation are still sometimes hard to describe. As I think back to the application and selection process, there was so much change and struggle in thinking bigger and differently. Dreaming big dreams with no limits can be hard in day to day life. Once I became intentional in calling out my reflective self these dreams became easier. But even as they became easier and more realistic they still brought excitement and mostly good anxiety.
Thinking back to the world shutting down with COVID-19 and all the things life has changed since March of 2020 I and others would think that if I could change anything this would be one of them. Honestly in my recent weeks of preparing this reflection I have thought a lot about my early Fellowship dreams and then now what my reality has been. I had HUGE dreams and plans of flying in a plane for the first time which is a huge risk and struggle many times for wheelchair users due to lack of access and broken wheelchairs by airlines. And I was going big- not just one trip but 4, and one of them was to be international. When the pandemic ceased these dreams from becoming a reality due to my immunocompromised systems, there was a time of grieving for what could have been. But now today as I look forward to my future days of being a 2020 Bush Fellow I am excited for the ways I was able to use this opportunity. I found a local space that is accessible physically and also financially every few years to visit and restore at. I have devices, equipment, and resources to make life more accessible right here in my backyard, local trails, and more connections to friends I would have never met without these experiences. I have transformed my leadership styles with multiple coaches, certifications, and experiences in stepping out as a local leader. I started this fellowship in a career I loved and was called to (music education) but hard circumstances pushed me to a deeper love and calling to my new adventures (disability advocacy and accessibility education). All of our life experiences are a part of the tapestry of our lives...each season is a thread woven to create the map of our story. Also in this journey I found my niche and joy of writing. I have written the rough draft of my life story and write for my local newspaper about the “Local View from 4 foot 2.” There are many gifts, skills, talents, and relationships I would not currently have if my fellowship was mostly focused on travel. I know someday I will get to these places if that is a part of my plan but my goal is to appreciate and celebrate the gifts in each day.
Change takes time, intentionality, patience, resources, forgiveness, and time! I am so glad that once we are a Bush Fellow we are always a Bush Fellow. Our work here is not done, this is just the beginning. I am excited to stretch, flex and continue to learn how to use these new muscles of leadership abilities, of self care, of being responsible and accountable to our communities and our identities. I look forward to more times of struggling with the inner struggles of living out justice while confronting bias and privilege. I look forward to learning and growing from difficult conversations and experiences while being a servant leader. I look forward to seeing how these seeds of knowledge, exposure, and perspective change grow, flourish, and produce a harvest. I want to intentionally be open to new challenges and to make myself continually dream bigger.
My biggest surprise during this Fellowship is how wide and vast our world is and yet how small, intimate and connected it truly is as well. I have learned a lot about the disability trailblazers who went before me and the next generation of disability justice champions who are moving forward. I have learned a lot and yet I still have a TON to learn, feel, and respond to. I have experienced the power of my story to impact and change perspectives and actions of people, businesses and agencies. I have learned that time is the greatest of gifts we are given but how and when we use it is the greatest of factors in our progress as a community and culture. In all of the changes and struggles of the past two years the greatest new script in my life is this: I matter. Each of us has unique lives to lead and purposes to fulfill. We each have an impact on each other and the world around us and when we do not live into these roles, for whatever reason, the world around us is less than.
My most pressing thoughts are this:
Go to bed earlier so you can be your best self tomorrow.
Be Curious and Be Courageous- ask questions respectfully.
You are worth the investment.
Get outside and be “naturely.”
Everyone has needs so get over it and share yours.
Think Bigger, Think Differently…and then GO DO IT!
Thank you for being on this leg of the journey with me. I hope our paths intersect so we can learn more together and share our stories together…adventure awaits!