I am three months into my fellowship journey. The process for me was invigorating and nerve-racking. As I began writing on my fellowship application, I realized I needed to do something different from previous attempts. My process started with asking for help. Before, I always assumed that somehow everything was within me, but I had failed previously. I can be shy about asking for assistance and many times think I should have the answers. Two things I realized as I started the process of asking for help, I became vulnerable. It was scary and enlightening; other people could see my blind spots and lift my thinking to new heights. The other lesson was that so many people cared for me and wanted to help. They were often individuals I had a short-term relationship with, but they willingly listened to me and shared their thoughts and are now some of my biggest cheerleaders as I navigate my Bush Fellowship.
As I went to each subsequent round, my anxiety increased, but the anticipation that I could become a Fellow became real. I started thinking about those vulnerabilities that I experienced in the writing process and began identifying activities. I had a carefully laid-out plan and knew that I would hit the ground running once the fellowship started. I did precisely that. On day one, I was in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the Real Black Wallstreet Tour. We spent the next four hours with Chief Amusan, hearing a story not covered in the news or books. The power of the community was significant; it was a combination of preparation, grit, and resilience. But the tragedy is painful and speaks to the length American institutions will go to disenfranchise and limit communities of color.
I left Greenwood inspired and ready to keep learning and working on myself, then life hit me. That is the primary lesson I learned on my short journey. As carefully as I thought I had planned, life has a way of changing the plan. I have been in housing transition for two months, and I have spent significant time caring for my mother, who has been in and out of surgery at the Mayo Clinic, traveling back and forth to Rochester, MN, frequently. Programs I identified participating in have been postponed until the spring or indefinitely.
With all the challenges, there have also been excellent outcomes. The plan may be changing, but the values I established through the process have held. I purchased a new home in a neighborhood that is a majority of people of color. My house is within half a mile of multiple projects that I am working on in my architectural practice and is urban and walkable. I have been working out at a gym owned by black men in North Minneapolis and have lost over 10 pounds. Great opportunities keep presenting themselves to me, and I am filtering and finding a way to focus on crafting my leadership journey. Lastly, my mother is recovering, and I have gotten to spend quality time with her over the last few months.