“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." - Anais Nin
In the midst of a major transition in my career is when the Bush Fellowship opportunity came. Such perfect timing. For a long time I dreamt of being a cultural worker that serves as a bridge between the different generations in my community (Somali) as well as across different communities. It took becoming an artist and finding my own voice to push me forward. I started the fellowship journey with two core objectives, first, to develop a framework that uses storytelling, poetry, proverbs and art from the Somali community as a tool to teach leadership. The second, develop my own capacity as a professional and a leader.
The first six months of being a Bush fellow have been filled with negotiations and reflections to make sure this major opportunity is built on a solid foundation. I’ve spent time building a network of individuals that can contribute to my mission in guiding me, strategizing with me and helping me plant seeds for the future. The term of my fellowship plan is twenty four months and I want to spend much of the time creating and experimenting.
I went to Europe on October 2014, particularly London to learn from a Diasporic Somali community that’s has more of a cultural and artistic infrastructure than those of us in Minnesota. The trip was mind-blowing as a new world that profoundly impacted my fellowship approach and the original plan opened up. I learned so much about organizing, met many scholars, artists and activists that introduced me to different Somali narratives. And in so many ways introduced me to myself. I was left to unpack the question—what are the narratives that inform our actions and thinking, collectively and individually? I started surveying the different subcultures of the Somali community which led me to think a lot about the safest ways to have group conversations, especially when participants in a group are triggered and want to share sensitive or traumatic personal stories.
Upon coming back to Minnesota I’ve started a series called, “The Crooked Rib?!”, a space meant for women, in particular, Somali women to unpack their stories. The approach has been to have private group sessions where everyone shares stories around many themes as a well as a curated public performances where people share their artistic talents. I’m hoping to set a similar space or youth as well as elders. I hope this will allow me to also collect stories for my leadership framework.
I had somewhat of a difficult time writing this six month log as a flood of powerful moments come to mind. I’m realizing that, “We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.” This quote by Anais Nin has given me much perspective the past six months as I’ve reflected on my fellowship journey. It has been really profound to have the freedom to dream and do something about my dreams. I have learned two major lessons, first, to advocate for my dreams and goals and to acknowledge that seeking balance is a daily duty. Sometimes growth happens even though we’re not aware it’s happening.
The question I continue to struggle with is around the specific skills I need to grow professionally and do the work I’m setting out to do. Also, how do I best learn? Since starting my fellowship plan I’ve met many inspiring individuals that have generously provided me guidance. I’ve decided to take some of them on as teachers and become their understudies. Also, because we live in a time where much of the world is virtual and most people get their information online, I’ve been learning more about the skills I need to have do podcasts & videos and overall online presence. I’m on a accelerated track to also gain the knowledge needed to build an institution and sustain the work I start during the fellowship period.
In pursuing my fellowship goals I have also been learning how being comfortable with uncertainty is a crucial component of any deep journey and how I have to leave room for changes and experiments. My travel to London was a huge part of teaching me to be comfortable with uncertainty and being open to new approaches. I’m also getting comfortable with asking for help.