As I reflect on the first five months of my learning journey, many thoughts, recent memories and key conversations come to mind. Having the opportunity for fellowship and to get to know the other fellows at the launch retreat added fuel to a fire that was already burning deep inside. To surround myself with twenty-three exceptional individuals all uniquely placed and chosen was an experience that can not be explained or replicated. I left the retreat overflowing with positive energy, new ideas and guiding principles for the next twenty-four months. One principle that easily rises to the top is the practice of intentionality. Preparation, execution and reflection have been the key ingredients of my intentional journey. I have come to know the practice of intentionality in a way I have not known in the past and I am still enamored with this precious gift I have been blessed with. Being a new Bush Fellow has definitely created a new road for me to travel, one I have thought of for years. However, with any great opportunity comes great challenges. The reoccurring question for me becomes, “how do I fully maximize this opportunity without allowing the challenges or barriers to hinder it?” Instead, I have come to see challenges as part of the growth process that should be embraced along the way and, in some instances, it is the challenges that stretch me the greatest. The process of becoming a fellow required me to deepen my understanding and hone in on “why now?” This is the question I was asked throughout the application process. I often asked myself this very question and my answer remains a moving target or shall I say my “why now” has expanded.
It is amazing how life has its way of aligning and putting your world into perspective, even when it is unsolicited and least expected. I came into this Fellowship eager to embrace the next two years of my life like never before. My primary learning goal is to deepen and broaden my ability to be an effective black female executive. I sought out to connect with successful black female executives to gain a better understanding of strategies that were effective in facilitating their leadership success, particularly in the public sector. Over the past several months, I have encountered a series of difficult events at work related to racial obstacles. These obstacles have challenged every ounce of who I am as a person, as a leader and as a black woman. Secondly to my faith, it was the recently developed relationships I relied heavily on and developed within the context of my Bush Fellowship. This brings me back to the practice of intentionality, more specifically intentional relationships, not only with others, but with myself. Who I was as a leader six months ago in August when I started my Fellowship is only a fraction of the leader that I show up as today. I have learned who I am as a leader when stakes are high and when my personal integrity is being tested.
By far, the exposure to new environments and introduction of new relationships have been the most rewarding. Designing my plan with both degree and non-degree components has provided me with traditional and non-traditional learning spaces and have complimented one another well. My first semester as a doctoral student went especially well. I genuinely enjoyed learning from, sharing with my peers, and look forward to the next semester journey we embark on together. Likewise, I’ve appreciated meeting extraordinary people and delving into dialogue that speaks to the core of who I am. I cannot put into words the feeling of support and empowerment that comes along with being in relationships with individuals who share and understand my story. I have come to see these relationships as not only as a source of support but also as a form of self-care. Allowing myself to be vulnerable and share openly with those I trust allows for a healthier me.
My experience with self-care before Bush was not given priority and was not done with intentionality. Therefore, prioritizing the practice of self-care has been challenging at best. It is easy for me to become consumed with work, school, other Bush related activities and lose sight of the importance of taking care of myself in the process. Doing homework while watching Netflix is not exactly self-care. I have had to learn to see self-care as the fuel that keeps my engine running and not as a squeeze-in task. I have made a more conscious effort to include self-care into my life by: planning self-care in advance; making self-care a daily practice; and holding myself accountable to my self-care goals. My hope is, as I incorporate these principles and integrate self-care into my lifestyle, self-care will be done with ease and become less of a forced concept.