It's hard to think of where to begin when it comes to thinking and reflecting on my fellowship in its entirety. I definitely did not expect the two years of my fellowship to be impacted by the global events that ensued during that time. I read through my fellowship application so many times over during the time of my fellowship to remind me of my initial intent and goals with my time as a fellow. Looking back, I do think that I have achieved the big picture goals of my fellowship, which was the exploration and strengthening of my leadership at the intersection of identity, civic leadership and spirituality. It didn't play out exactly how I planned, but I definitely did achieve the end goal. If there is anyway that I could shortly summarize my fellowship journey, it would likely be "leadership baptism by fire".
I don't think there is anything I wish I would have know when I started. Reflecting on what most stood out to me or surprised me... I had absolutely no clue that I was about to embark on a journey of deeply exploring my leadership and all the areas of interest in my application in such a fast, intense and sustained way. There were a handful of times where I feel like I had hit rock bottom, and the only way to get out of it was to live and lead from a place of deep spiritual strength, authenticity, and knowledge of self. Sometimes I told myself, "be careful what you wish for Maria", because man, I have learned so many lessons on how to genuinely lead and my life has completely transformed for the better because of it. But the past two year have been nothing less than tremendously difficult.
Another thing that I've been surprised by has been by ability to really grow the strength, power and leadership of other women around me during my fellowship. This was also an important and foundational part of my fellowship. Being able to listen and support to other young women and women of color leaders, has been one of the biggest gifts I've received in this process. I've been able to share my learning lessons with leaders being brave and vulnerable, going through stages that I too had to live through. As a leader, I've been so used to leading at a large population scale, and now I've experienced the impact of my leadership in supporting others one on one. Both are necessary and both have brought me distinct levels of gratitude. It's been such a joy to be able to engage in the one on one support of leaders.
I am tremendously thankful for the fellowship. As I stated in my application, these past two years have been a period of tremendous leadership, influence and power. Little did I know what would like ahead when I submitted my application. Every single day I reflect on my gratitude for the support and resources this fellowship has given me to navigate during one of the most challenging times in my life as a person and leader. This fellowship has catalyzed my growth, spirituality and leadership in ways I never thought possible and for that I will forever be grateful.