Before I applied for the fellowship, it could be confusing for me: Am I really a leader? There was plenty of evidence to support such a claim. But it didn’t mean I FELT like a leader. I suppose part of it is how different I thought I was from practices most often labeled as “leadership” within my community. Some of those examples made me genuinely question whether I was meant to be a leader or should pursue larger-scale initiatives.
Once I began on my Bush Leadership Fellowship journey, however, I felt better and better. The program’s emphasis on process not only helped me look past end products or outcomes but also helped me realize that if it’s a process, you can be all kinds of person and still be a leader, still have a role in nudging a process along. When I was selected and got to know the other fellows a bit, it was so reassuring and encouraging to find they represented the full spectrum of personality, interests, skill sets, and leadership styles. Some are very, very shy, while others are on the most intimate of terms with a camera or a microphone. Some are studious and have done well in school, others have taken on this roller coaster ride called life as their main teacher. Some are the types who thrive in a humming command center, while others need to be cyclones of action in the wildernesses out there.
All right! I can be me. My poor limited, fumbling self! And still grow to tackle larger things than I have been doing. This isn’t about becoming someone else. And it turns out there is a lot I need to learn, about myself, who I am, what I really want to do, wherein lies my true calling and deepest source of strength and joy. My trajectory so far is very suggestive of what may be ahead, yes. But the fellowship is like the pruning or purging you sometimes need to do with certain plants so that they can really blossom afterwards. It’s still the same plant, and you could leave it be, let it rest on its first blooms. But the pruning part, it really makes a difference.
With that in mind, so far, it still being early days of my fellowship, I’ve been doing a lot of casting away. On the surface, this is because I need time and room during the fellowship period to pursue my studies and fellowship activities. That necessarily means casting away many gigs I was doing before, my commitments, and so on. But on a deeper level, it’s casting away some themes that now seem to be in the way or serve as long-term distractions. That’s the real pruning. Asking myself searching questions. The fellowship allows me to take myself out of all the interwoven demands I was wrapped up in—where some things would seem to be more important than others just because of how those demands and current trends work.
And those demands, I now realize, also came with built-in fears. Such as the fear that if I said no to something, I would be missing out. Or if a job didn’t really fit in with what I really want to do, how would I make a living? Can I really pursue my true agenda and live? Those unspoken fears can make me forget what’s most important or who I really am, what I’m all about, where I have the most to give. It’s truly a blessing to have this opportunity to step out of that kind of space, with demands and fears whirling around.
Although I’ve begun with my planned studies—which are going great!—I am still in this more emotional or inner plumbing place. So the studies are a bit peripheral right now. It’s this pruning thing, and it’s still going on. It is still transition time, you know? But I am excited for what will come during the rest of my two years with the fellowship!
My studies will continue throughout that time and are the easy part. Maybe it’s like one lane among other lanes. That lane is full, no problem. Very stimulating readings, conversations with experts and mentors, study groups, classes, retreats. Another lane is networking and developing partnerships. I sense that is where I am turning toward on a deeper level. Another lane is self-care, and I suppose this emotional realignment stuff is part of that, though I’m afraid I haven’t really gotten into the more physical parts of self-care yet. Ha. Gotta get to that soon! It is so important, for the body is indeed the house, and you do need the house. Can’t neglect the house!