Report date
January 2021
Learning Log

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” These words by Anais Nin, capture the complexity and beauty of my time as a Bush Fellow.
While my formal Bush fellowship began in June 2020, the application process actually started in September 2019, when I began working on the first application for the Fellowship. As a recovering perfectionist, I lamented, I researched, I spoke to colleagues, friends and family members, I froze. Two days before the first application was due I shared a meal with my graduate school professor, who told me that he was also applying for the fellowship. I broke down in tears and admitted to him that I had written exactly one paragraph. I was embarrassed and terrified that I could not complete the application. He said to me, “Kirsten- I want you to write the answers for “you”, not for those reading the application. Not only can you do this, but you will do it because that is who you are”. So, I wrote the truth: the tender parts, the messy parts, the resilient parts, the exquisite parts, the losses and the wins.
Becoming a fellow was surreal. While I have been a Mayor, a regional leader, a non traditional student, a single mother of five. I am most comfortable out of the spotlight. That is changing.
My first response to this once in a lifetime gift, was rigidity, was my comfortable place, was spending my two years getting a PHD, remaining “tight in the bud”. The Bush Fellowship Team encouraged me to think outside the box, to focus on radical self care and acceptance, to “blossom”. I got a life changing coach, I chose to forgo a PHD and focus on immersion, experiences, graduate certificates, holistic leadership, people centered policy making, adventures, while growing into a global leader.
Ours has been a unique fellow experience. The COVID19 pandemic forced us to face beginning our journey without the weekend fellow gathering, the in person meeting and and loss of freedom of movement in our country and beyond. Yet, we continue to find ways to connect, even when Zoom or Teams glitch, even when our best laid plans are postponed, even when our Country is facing unrest, hate and violence not seen in my lifetime, even with our Kristallnacht. We rise.
As a Bush Fellow you become part of an extraordinary group of individuals, who come together from different fields, different cultures, different styles who each bring their unique professional and personal experiences and gifts, who are intrinsically tied through a shared journey.

So, what have I learned? Life happens, sometimes one’s heart gets broken, sometimes things fall apart, sometimes plans change, sometimes things are imperfect and it is all part of the magnificent paradox called life. It’s called being human. This fellowship is transformational; you will grow, learn, understand and heal in deeply personal ways, each inherently unique to your leadership exploration.

For me, all of this is happening while I am navigating the long goodbye to my father, Knut Hagen. Last week I spent the night in the psych ER, then watched my father be transferred to a geropsych unit with acute paranoia and delusion associated with dementia, who will never return to his beloved farm, who will never return to his homeland, Norway, who will spend the rest of his days in a locked memory care unit, who was shaped by his experiences as a child, being starved and hated during the Nazi occupation in Norway and later served with Norwegian intelligence fighting the dark force of Russia. I rise.

I rise, with the nurturing circle that is the Bush Fellowship. I have expanded my network to include global thought leaders. I’m midway through my
Holistic Management coursework. I’ve completed fundraising coursework. I am attending virtual conferences around: climate change, global food security, sustainable systems, regenerative food systems, food sovereignty, equity, racism, shame and belonging, diversity and inclusion. I’ve completed writing coursework at the Loft. I’m working on trauma healing through EMDR therapy and group work. I’ve immersed myself in sustainable system work in my region and state. I’ve made sustainable practices around my radical self care that includes: Ziva meditation, journaling, adventuring around water (yes, I am dipping in the frigid Mississippi and Lake Superior), paddle boarding, studying Buddhism, bodysurfing, surfing, hiking, solitude, bodywork, massage, whimsy and farming. I am working on my first novel, “Willi Hagen and the Bok of Lis (Book of Light). I am working on creating a podcast and I am traveling on a regular basis to spend time with people and places I love. My learning journey is only starting, I look forward to the next eighteen months; the places I will go, the people I will see and the changes I will make inside and out.
So, my parting words for you as a new fellow are- just do it, all of it, with grace, grit, compassion, awe, acceptance and humor. You got this.