What a journey. It feels surreal as my Fellowship comes to an end to sit down and reflect on it in its entirety. It seems like it was not too long ago that I was just beginning and trying to wrap my head around what it all means. In some ways I am still trying to understand it. But, overall, I still feel the way I did when I received the great news—I am full of gratitude and I find it difficult to express how fortunate I feel to have had this opportunity.
When I consider about what I wish I would have known when I started, I think about how isolating some of this work has been. The combination of academic work I have been focused on and the recognition I received during the Fellowship created extended periods of time where I felt very alone. As an introvert who has always appreciated quiet periods of focused energy and longed for more of them, this was more challenging than I had anticipated. And while I am grateful for what I have learned about the importance of self-care during this experience, I wish I would have invested more time and energy into cultivating supportive relationships during my Fellowship. This is definitely a lesson I have learned that I will take into my development moving forward.
I had a pretty focused goal when I began applying for this Fellowship—to work toward my PhD in social studies education. It grew into so much more and what really stands out to me is how much more it became. While I finished my PhD coursework and put myself in a position to realistically finish the degree within the next year or two, I am most impressed with the learning and growth I experienced outside of my academic work. Because of this Fellowship, I traveled and learned around the country and around the world. I was able to learn from great minds both in and out of my field—connections were made that I’m not sure would have been possible otherwise. But most surprising of all of this was how much I learned about myself in the process. About the how much people believe in me. About what I am capable of. And about what I want to accomplish in the future.
So a part of me is sad that this Fellowship is coming to an end. But I am also excited. When I think about the big picture, this is really only the beginning of my leadership journey. As much as I have gained from this Fellowship, it is now up to me to take the experience and grow it into something even more. In that sense, it’s not over at all. I came into this opportunity with a lot of ideas and many of them remain unchanged. Others have developed and new ones have come into focus. Seeds have been planted and I look forward to the work that I have in front of me. What I have started here will be cared for with the gratitude I have for this opportunity, the optimism I have for our future, the lessons I have learned, and the confidence I have developed in myself and others around me. The challenges we face are great, but my hope in the future is greater. I am committed to taking these two years and building them into something amazing during the next fifty. And I am eternally grateful that the Bush Foundation has given me this opportunity.