There are several things that stand out to me and, I have had some surprises about my leadership development through this date. After being a Bush Fellow for a year, I feel like so many opportunities have been made clearer to my minds eye. I have traveled to many places and learned so many things. I feel so much gratitude, but it feels hard to describe with just mere words.
So many things stand out to me, one of those things or areas, is my own growth and knowledge of self. Having the opportunities to be silent, meditate, and listen to the stillness, have helped me understand myself in new ways. Some of those understandings and knowledge spurts have sometimes been very difficult. Understanding that you, and by that, I mean me, that I, myself, am complicit in my own design, that my health and well-being are for me to nourish and understand. That, I am responsible for the energies and all things really, that come in my circle. One area around this, that stands out for me are the lessons, some of them hard, regarding boundaries. I learned that I haven’t had a lot of boundaries. I would describe my boundaries after talking to therapists and reading lots of material as- porous, maybe even soft or spongy. I thought I was being flexible, and I discovered that I have not set many boundaries for myself personally in many areas and this has led to a feeling of discontent. I am working on developing and practicing boundaries. After doing lots of work around this over the last many months of discovery, I am practicing what those boundaries really are for me, where I need to set them and why. I had no idea how important boundaries are, I guess I thought I didn’t need them or thought of them as confining. Maybe I thought I didn’t deserve boundaries or that they might prevent others from connecting or even liking me. Now I understand that boundaries, good, defined, flexible boundaries, actually make it safer to connect and interact all the way around. I think it surprised me to learn that I had somewhat of a negative context for boundaries, that I thought of them as limiting.
My time in Hawaii learning about wellness resiliency, indigenous healing, and aromatherapy created a new and revived zest for a long-dismissed, desire to go back to school. I have gone over in my head and heart all the many reasons, barriers and excuses why school just wasn’t obtainable. The opportunity to be a Bush Fellow, helped me see over those barriers to acknowledge some things. I know that I like learning, and I have a thirst for new information. But I was holding onto trauma I experienced in prior formal learning situations. Being in Hawaii gave me a new perspective. My teachers, many of whom earned the title doctor, thought my ideas and opinions were valuable. My classmates, most of whom were studying for the privilege of the title doctor, wanted to hear what I had to say. The indigenous folks and people of the island that we connected with taught us so many things about being, well being and resiliency. I think the thing that surprised me most about Hawaii was how peaceful I felt. There were somethings at home that felt so scary and out of my control, yet I had a sense of peace and contentment. I saw all around me path-markers, illumination of what I need, why I do what I do, and what it actually means to me. I was made to feel confirmed that cultural context and heritage can have a major and positive affect on health outcomes. That we all need to feel safe about who provides care for us, that they care and consider all wellness options especially those that our elders and ancestors used. I did good work while there on myself. I learned new things about my body, and confirmed things I already knew, but did not want to look at too closely. For example, I don't like milk to drink right from the glass, there is a reason for that. It actually hurts my body, I've known for a while that drinking milk or eating ice cream bothers me. But while I was there I didn't have milk or ice cream or really much dairy at all. I felt better. It's a simple thing really, don't do dairy- but I was in the habit of telling myself things, that were not really my truth. Some of those things I make up, usually based on an insecurity or fear, some of those things I re-tell myself based on others interpretation of what's good for me or what I should do. Like drink your milk- it's good for you. So I tell myself that milk, aka ice cream and other such yum things, are not what is making me feel rotten, because milk is good for you, right? But in all honesty I for the most part haven't really been in the habit of questioning what I tell myself and why. I believe that having the opportunity to make time for self has helped me see and understand that my truths, I have often allowed, to be hushed. I am working on discovering myself and all my truths and even understanding how and why they have changed and developed over time
Another standout for me, is the connection and sense of pride I feel about being a Bush Fellow. I mean I knew it would feel great and everything, that it is prestigious, only a few get chosen, and that is awesome enough. AND It feels so exciting to see other fellows carrying out their plans, making headlines, practicing and modeling self-care, getting sometimes long overdue recognition for their innovative and creative solutions for our region. I am really in awe of the ways we are making great strides, working collectively for the equity and vitality of the upper Midwest area, and as individual people growing our own personal characters and strengths. Wow, what a great honor to be part of and really see the impact playing out in real time. I also feel somehow more connected to Fellows who came before me, not only to those who offered conversation and feedback along the way but also to those Fellows I have yet to meet.
I am somewhat surprised by the way in which folks who don't specifically identify as LGBTQ have shown interest in my Bush Fellowship goal that vital, visible transgender leaders of color can make our communities stronger. That folks are interested in helping me shape and create places where LGBTQ people thrive. I say only somewhat surprised because I know that the Twin Cities in general feels pretty comfortable to lgbtq folks, I think that is largely due to progressive people who value diversity. I am excited by the questions folks are asking and the assets they are offering and bringing to the table. I am thrilled with the feedback from community even the harder points spoken and sometimes not spoken. It stands out to me as one of the path markers that feels illuminated by this year. That although creating safer space and changing narratives around trans people, and lgbq folks in general is a big lift folks in this region are ready to push up their sleeves.
As I travel the county and learn about other centers and the work happening creating opportunities for LGBTQ folks to thrive, people in other places are often really surprised there is no community center/space in MN for lgbtq people. I was surprised to learn my hometown has a thriving space and a large pride celebration, one that boast numbers larger than the population of the town and I look forward to heading back there for Spencer Pride in June. I was surprised to learn that Minnesota and North Dakota are two of three states in the continental US that don't have some sort of LGBTQ center. Us the blue state, us the state full of progressives, us Minnesotans who applaud ourselves for diversity and being lgbtq friendly, us here in Minneapolis who have elected two out trans people of color city council members. It stands out to me that this is a realness that folks seem excited to work on.
I am surprised by how much I still want to do with the remaining time. I still have several cities to visit and learn about. I also have some self care and love to attend to. I am looking forward to taking at least two, maybe three classes this fall, and I feel pretty sure about my plan moving forward with education. Since I am often called upon to offer opinion or advise, sometimes to listen and just be present to affirm someone, and I like it, I am also pretty good at it I want to explore coaching and wellness/resiliency more.
I think one last stand out for me has been about the application of lessons in a variety of areas. The kind of circular ways in which lessons I am learning can be applied across many intersecting parts of my life. I might met someone through art or work and learn something from them and be able to apply it in my personal life. Or I might learn a lesson in my personal life, and be able to apply it professionally. I am sure it was always been so, but I can see things a little clearer, or many just differently as I am able to listen to nature meditate and breathe differently.
I have been surprised by how quickly time has moved. I am surprised by the vast emotions that I felt. When I pause and recount the steps I’ve taken, the people I’ve met, and sometimes the number of cities I’ve been to in a months’ time, it seems almost unbelievable. When I look forward I can't believe how much more I want to do, and how many more places and experiences I have left during this time. I am excited and a little overwhelmed. I am trying to stay grounded in the present and acknowledge that transition time will be here soon.