In the architecture world, I am a project manager. Once I get a new project I distill goals, I define the deliverables, I figure out how I will solve the problem (every design project is a puzzle to put together or a problem to resolve), I make a work plan, and I execute that plan. To no one’s surprise, I approached the fellowship journey in a similar way. But as with every design project, I built into the plan contingencies for unforeseen circumstances. I built flexibility within that plan.
While I had done everything I needed to do to get started with my outlined formal education plan there was a snafu with transcripts and I missed the deadline to enroll. An unforeseen circumstance.
For this first ‘semester’, I pivoted my plan to concentrate mostly around myself – a lot of introspection personally and professionally. As part of my fellowship plan, I engaged three coaches. I chose to include guided and formal human interaction (coaching) to ensure that what I was learning through the process I was also internalizing. One of the coaches is specifically working with me around intercultural relations. The second coach works with me in bridging the fellowship work and professional work. And the last one is the Executive Coach that is required by the fellowship. Each serves a different purpose.
Working with my intercultural relations coach, I have come to understand that there are some specific cultures that I struggle bridging or connecting with. The cultures that I am most challenged in bridging are cultures that I am surrounded by or sit adjacent to but are in some way starkly different than mine. The most notable ones include white-male-Midwest culture and military culture.
Being selected as a fellow made me bold – at least that’s how I chose to see it. It was reassurance I didn’t know I needed. It was a message that my voice and my work are valuable. And with that boldness, I took up hunting and golfing, which I wrote about on my first month’s reflection.
Hunting has been much more interesting than I had expected. It has been as much about self-care as it has been about learning a different culture by being immersed in it and learning formally about it. I took a ‘Hunting 101’ course in which we learned the mechanics and safety measures, discussed the ethics of hunting, and defined where our personal ethics around hunting lie. The intercultural bridging work that I am doing has brought focus to hunting – why I chose to do it and how it is actual part of my learning journey. The experience of hunting so far has been as much about me, my growth, and my power in making a choice, as it has been about understanding and practicing customs that are very different from my own.
So much that I am learning in the leadership journey is about self-awareness, choice, and the weight of our words. This last part has been formidable – understanding my voice and to be aware of the power of words.
Before heading out into the hunt several friends asked me what I would do if I got grossed out or panicked. The way I chose to see thing is that hunting isn’t a rollercoaster – I can get off the ride at whatever point I want to – or need to for my self-care. I also had friends who saw hunting as a very violent act and couldn’t fathom why I chose to immerse myself in that part of the culture. All were hard conversations that brought more clarity to the work I am doing.
The rollercoaster approach has been freeing – as I look at signing up for the first round of academic course, it is clear to me now that if the courses offered aren’t aligned with my intended journey, I don’t need to sign up for a course just for the sake of getting the credits and achieving the credit count to get the certificate I want to attain. I can pivot and concentrate on learning in a different way.
This is just the start of the marathon. This is not the whole length of the race.