What a strange time to be a Bush Fellow. What hasn't surprised me about my first year in the Fellowship? When I applied for the Fellowship, I pictured lots of conferences and courses and travel. Barnstorming the state to meet people, make connections and shake hands. However, we are living through a global pandemic which, while things have improved since last fall and winter, will likely continue to shape my upcoming year as a Fellow in a myriad of ways. There has also been significant political and social turmoil, making the need for drastic changes to our social safety net system - including health care - feel even more urgent and more difficult to achieve. Staying focused on a Netflix show - let alone my own development - can feel impossible. Yet, I try.
My capacity for growth and change comes in waves. At times I feel like I can change the world and at others I feel like I want to hide from it. I am grateful for the Fellowship's continued support, which has allowed and encouraged me to grow, learn, explore in ways I never would have considered otherwise. I have written op eds and other articles - some of which have actually been published. I have had long discussions with friends and colleagues - some old, some new - on ways we can improve people's health. What haven't we tried before? What hasn't been considered? What are we good at? I have thought deeply about what it means to be an Indigenous female leader and how, if at all, I need to worry about how others perceive me. I have worked closely with my coach to examine myself and my potential. I think, a lot, about what I want my life to look like and how I want to lead. I still care deeply about improving access to healthcare for all, but I am more unsure about the most impactful way I - with my unique skills and talents and faults and shortcomings - can help our country achieve health equity.
I am still surprised by my lack of direction with this experience. Much of my life has been, while occasionally winding, a fairly clear march from one achievement to another. Hoops, I call them. I am very good at jumping through hoops. I assumed that my time as a Bush Fellow would be similar: I may have more choice in what hoops I would jump through, but there would still be a clear direction or purpose to them. It really hasn't worked out that way. I look for opportunities that seem interesting or feel right, not for ones that I think are expected. It feels more like floating from one thing to another than like jumping through hoops. It's not aimless, but more fluid and easier to change directions.
After a year as a Fellow, I would have anticipated having a clearer path - knowing exactly how I was going to spend my time. But, I don't. I still know the general ideas, values and skills that are of interest to me, but have less of an idea about how to fully embrace them in my life. This uncertainty is good for me. Learning to sit with it. It is in this calm where I have more creativity and ideas. Also, not knowing what is next allows me to consider even more next possible steps. If the path is not clear, you can make your own.
This year has been difficult. We have lived through national and global trauma. As a public health professional, every day has been consumed by COVID-19 and the pandemic response - my personal and professional time. Developing my leadership while trying to lead in the public health response is challenging. I have found myself focusing my efforts on self-care and relationships as ways to strengthen my leadership more than I had considered before. The basics like rest, healthful foods, exercise and laughter have become even more important. I am more forgiving of myself when I make mistakes and working on practicing more self-kindness and grace.
Moving forward, I hope that by continuing to learn more about myself, I will become a better leader. I will be able to better articulate who I am as a leader and what I need to be successful. I will find the spaces and people that are not only passionate about the same things I am, but are also supportive and appreciative of me and my skills. I am excited for the next year of the Fellowship. This first year has brought so many surprises and unexpected insights, I can't wait to see what I learn next.