To be honest, I have mixed emotions as I reflect on my Fellowship journey. Of course, I am as honored as I was the day I received the news that I would become a Bush Fellow. It has been an amazing two years of growth. In fact, it’s almost impossible to express the gratitude I feel for this opportunity. Since my fellowship began I have been: introduced to a network of inspiring and amazing people; grown as a leader; explored my Lakota culture; traveled the world; participated in incredible leadership workshops; and most importantly learned how to take care of myself.
But, even after all of these amazing experiences, I am ready to move forward. I am ready to just be myself and do the work I love. Another fellow was able to capture my feelings perfectly, “I had the once-of-a-lifetime opportunity and complete rationale and justification to dedicate a good portion of protected time to work on securing my sanity, building my emotional regulation and heightening my esteem by pursuing artistic and expressive, creative passions. In some ways, I failed miserably and in others I’ve had a significant triumph in self-awareness, self-expression and self-improvement which is now helping me shape the next chapter of my life.” ~Tami Jollie-Trottier.
As a Fellow, one of the things I truly valued was the Bush Foundation’s effort to provide opportunities that include me and kept me engaged beyond my fellowship goals. In all our gatherings, the Bush staff was supportive and made me feel so special. However, I also felt at times that an overwhelming obstacle for me is my geographic isolation. I have always been aware of this, but during my fellowship is when I fully realized how much the isolation impacts me. It will be very important for me to be intentional and find a network of groups/individuals who are supportive and that can continue to keep me inspired. A critical part of my growth can be attributed to interactions with my peers at the Bush convening’s and through engagement with mentors.
One of the most significant misconceptions about my fellowship is that I assumed life would be placed on hold for me (silly I know) while I pursued this amazing opportunity. But life intervenes and always will. I found myself more challenged, and at times, more stressed. It was during these times when I started to question if I was failing myself; failing the fellowship?
When these initial moments of panic occurred, and eventually passed, and my ability to employ reason and logic returned to me. I would breathe, reach out to a mentor, a friend, a colleague or another fellow. It was comforting to connect with other fellows. I found that many of us were experiencing similar concerns. This processing with my fellow Fellows, again reminded me of the need to find that circle of support beyond the fellowship. One thing that stands out but that I did not initially comprehend is how concerned the foundation was about making sure I learned about self-care. As leaders, we overlook ourselves and focus on the work, our staff and the people we serve. In my community the people and youth I serve are so important to me and have such great need that it is very easy to dismiss my needs and to consider my issues when compared to theirs. But I understand that I am important too. Not more important but as important.
My fellowship pushed me to step outside my comfort zone. It also sparked a curiosity in me to seek out new and to revisit some old experiences. The great thing about this journey is now that the race is over I get to take my time, pursue my interests and continue to grow. I really feel I learned to be more self-aware and to trust my instincts. This fellowship confirmed the most importantly thing for me. It reaffirmed that I love being in service to my community. Although the last two years were challenging, it was completely worth it because I feel grounded again.