Wow. It’s only been a few months into the fellowship, and I have been able to make significant strives into my learning journey.
When I first heard the good news, I re-read the email multiple times. It’s amazing and crazy and exciting (all of the emotions!) to be able to commit 24 months to my leadership journey. There are so many things to learn! So many people to connect with and share resources! Out this fellowship, I want to build a toolbox that I can always return to as I continue to learn and grow as a leader. Be the “boss bitch” as my friend and collaborator, Saymoukda Vongsay describes.
But I knew one of the first things I had to work on was burnout. Like so many people, the pandemic, the uprising, and our current political climate affected me deeply. This along with the pressing needs of my Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) community, the increase of anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination, as well as my career in the arts – burnout was the first thing on my list to tackle in order to build my capacity as a leader.
So, I took four weeks off from work. That was a tremendous privilege, and one only available because of the Bush Leadership Fellowship. I watched a lot of baseball. I cooked more. I slept in. I began swimming again. I went on dates. I went to therapy. I hung out with friends that I haven’t seen in a long time, and we didn’t talk shop. Doing these activities were important because I realized I had a lot of complicated feelings with myself, my career, and my community. I have always viewed leadership not only as an act of service but an act of sacrifice. I saw this most in my personal life, where I sacrificed a lot of my free time and did not allow room for self-care. I was in a constant cycle of “work, work, work.”
However, taking four weeks off from work whenever burnout strikes is not sustainable. Plus, you only get the Bush Leadership Fellowship once in your life. And even towards the end of my hiatus I got bored and was itching to get back to work on creating equitable solutions for APIDAs in film & television.
Working with my therapist and my leadership coach helped me realize that one of my patterns is to operate in an “all or nothing” mindset. I joked that was my Korean coming out in full force. We began working on strategies on how to move beyond that mindset. It’s been difficult, but it is a necessary part of my leadership growth. I cannot sustain myself being at 100 all the time. It’s determinantal to my mental, emotional, and physical well-being (those late-night fast-food trips were real bad). It also doesn’t allow room for growth, creativity, and opportunity. As I write this log, I still struggle with this. I grew up in a culture where if you didn’t give it your all, you were lazy. I’m learning how to be and do good enough.
It feels counter intuitive to focus so much of my learning journey on self-care. You might be thinking, “Naomi, how in the hell does watching baseball and going on dates gonna help you create equitable systems for APIDAs in film and television? How does that help create generational wealth for APIDAs in Minnesota?” Don’t worry, I’ve thought about that too. But leaders are human too. Our culture and the current systems we operate in have emphasized that to succeed means you must be a robot, in constant operation. Not only are these thoughts rooted in capitalism and white supremacy, it also isn’t effective. I don’t want to be a robot; I want to be.
The learning journey that I’ve embarked has changed my course for this fellowship. I see this as a positive because I want to evolve and learn things that I’ve never thought to learn before. I’m excited to reflect and think with intention. I’m excited to grow.