Report date
November 2020
Learning Log

As I look out my living room window today, I see five new inches of snow on the ground and I forget for a second that it's not still March 2020. It makes no sense how quickly and slowly time is going during this pandemic. At times I feel guilty for being worried about how my Fellowship will be affected by this virus while others are going through tragedy and heartache that will change their lives forever. I'm lucky to have this opportunity to figure out how to be a leader during these unprecedented times and I don't carry that torch carelessly. I will not come out of this unscathed; my stress and anxiety over the unknown has manifested in physical symptoms and unhealthy habits. One of my friends poignantly stated that she's thankful for her body's adaptation to the stress. The new curves and extra padding helps to soften the harsh realities of COVID - a view I hadn't considered but now remind myself of daily.

I think that the most important thing I've realized is that despite my ability to be classified as a "Bush Fellow" I am still wholly vulnerable to everything around me. I envisioned the second year of my fellowship going completely differently. I had plans to travel internationally to take part in experiential workshops and enroll in a three-day leadership course at Georgetown. In September, I was planning to go to Boston to take a day-long writing course and take a vacation with my partner. I was going to read 100 books this year (I may still accomplish this) and travel South Dakota and talk to LGBTQ2S leaders. Instead, I've done much of this virtually, sitting on hard chairs and worrying if others could hear me when I shared my thoughts and I'm nearly 30 books behind schedule. Despite all of the things that were not ideal, I am here piecing this fellowship together as best I can. Having the fellowship on the periphery of this pandemic has helped keep me afloat. It's been a reminder that I had goals prior to this virus and when this is all done, my community will need me and the leader I've become during the last eight months. The last time I completed a learning log was six months ago. At that time I had no idea how the summer and fall would shape up; I was hopeful resolution would come quickly and I could pick up my in-person plans in October, maybe November. I wonder what I'll be thinking six months from now? Where will we be?

Thankfully, the opportunities I have taken advantage of have given me experiences that I was hoping for thanks to Zoom and high-speed internet. I've been able to meet people from around the world and confidently talk about myself, my work, and ask for what I need out of these experiences. I've said this before but it's worth noting again that I have always been a quiet person. At conferences or workshops, I hated having to do ice breakers or work in small groups. I didn't know how to effectively communicate my wishes or speak up when something wasn't quite right. I can see how much this fellowship has helped nudge me along in this regard. I am learning to be a better facilitator and host conversations that are meaningful for my community and work. I no longer find myself contently sitting in the background, but inserting myself in spaces I've never been, sharing my thoughts on Zoom calls with 30 people I've never met before. Being a Fellow has 100% changed how I lead; it has become the glue that holds me together and in place every step of the way.

I want to talk a bit about self-care because it's something that is hard for everyone I know. It's easy to put self-care on the back burner, forgetting it until it begins to bubble and boil over, manifesting in a week-long migraine or insomnia. The idea of self-care is easy and I've always encouraged those around me to take care of themselves. It's becoming easier to recognize when I need to take a break and sleep in on a weekend or keep my evenings meeting-free. There have been multiple instances throughout this fellowship that I've put self-care to the side and the result is never good. I'm meeting with a new leadership coach focused on social justice issues and we're coming up with a plan to recognize these instances where I slip up in my self-care and how to correct without over-correcting.

Overall, my life has changed because of this fellowship. I still can't believe I'm among this group, let alone more than halfway done with this experience. I don't know what direction things will go but I'm confident that it's going to be phenomenal.