Report date
May 2018
Learning Log

I write this final reflection from a place of gratitude. Throughout the Fellowship, I have contemplated on the reception of the Fellowship itself. I felt that something was recognized from my life story. This recognition has turned into my own determination to navigate this Fellowship as fully as possible. Ultimately, the purpose for my Fellowship was to become a stronger person, specifically, focusing on the part of “becoming.” I developed detailed plans knowing that plans will change, but the part of navigating the unknown alone and collectively would not. Reflecting on the entire Fellowship period, I do feel differently about myself today. I am not entirely sure how to describe this sensation. My mindset and focus have shifted to think through processes entirely; I rarely think about the results. I trust that the processes can be contained in a certain shape, which ultimately leads to results. This understanding has served me and will continue to guide me in my future practice. But it is not something that I could have wished that I had known in the beginning of my Fellowship. I started the Fellowship with no expectation for learning outcomes, but with full curiosity to see what I was going to learn.

In this final learning log, I would like to reflect on the most memorable process I experienced, which happens to be my first Fellowship activity. I attended a 5-day dance workshop entitled Empowering Creativity through Movement & Dance led by the legendary 96-year-old modern dancer, Anna Halprin, and Rosario Sammartino, a psychologist and researcher in Ken Field, California in June, 2016. I wrote what I learned from this workshop. But in retrospect, the most impactful part was the process of getting there and showing up everyday. I would have never signed up for a workshop such as this had I not been selected as a Bush Fellow. Besides the cost, I would have said that a workshop like this was for real dancers. But I turned my fear into determination, and in the name of being a Bush Fellow, I signed up. I bought a plane ticket, rented a small house, rented a car, and traveled to San Francisco alone. As I drove and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, I thought to myself that I was crazy to do this. I didn’t know what kind of people were attending this workshop, and what was expected of me. I knew I was going to be asked to dance, and this reality was terrifying. I didn’t know if I had the ability. I thought about turning around many times, but reminded myself why I was going. I wanted to meet Anna Halprin. She had stepped out of the modern dance world in her forties in the 1960s and dedicated her life as a dancer to work extensively with communities. Her dance addressed social issues such as poverty, racial division, illnesses, etc. She also firmly believed that everyone’s movement was beautiful and unique, and that dancing was for all people. What would it be like to be in her workshop? How would I respond to her? I wanted to find out.

On the first morning, I drove to the dance studio, which was located on the top of the hill. On my way up the wavy road, I ran into three women with backpacks, slowly walking up. They waved at me, so I stopped and opened my window. They asked if I was going to Anna Halprin’s workshop. I nodded. They looked relieved that they were on the right path. They said they had been walking for 45 min, and they thought they would be at the studio by now. I told them that the studio was perhaps another 10 min. by driving, which meant that it would easily take another 45 min. if they walked. They looked horrified. So I offered them a ride. They were delighted. They were dancers from Switzerland, Austria, and Spain. They didn’t know each other. They rented a room near here, took a bus and got off at the stop at the bottom of the hill, which was where they met. They began walking together. They were surprised that the workshop organizer did not secure any housing for dancers. When they googled the map, they assumed that it was walking distance from the bus stop to the studio. I could not believe their approach. I never would have shown up in a strange town, hoping for the best. I would have found out all the details, especially transportation. I realized how unbold I was. They also had a good point in that the organizer hosted an event without considering the attendees. I was used to the way of life in the United States where we were responsible to secure our own housing and transportation. These dancers were experienced traveling internationally. They were confident that they could figure it out once they arrived. They also expected a certain amount of kindness and support from the event organizer. The event organizer did not arrange transportation, so from this moment on, I became the driver for these three dancers. I would pick them up in the morning and take them home after the workshop. This responsibility was one of my founding memories. Every day, I learned why they came, and by the end of fifth day, I received a gift from each dancer -- a shell necklace, a poem, a drawing -- as moments of our time together.

The workshop was just as uncomfortable as I imagined. I was asked to move “freely” and explore certain ways of stretching. I had to put away my self-conscious being and focus on myself. I tried not to be intimidated. It seemed that other dancers were comfortable with this kind of activity. I constantly told myself that I had the right to be there just like everyone else. Anna Halprin was an influential figure and a strong woman. I am glad that I had a chance to meet and work under her guidance. But for me, throwing myself into the mix of dancers alone to do such vulnerable work was an act of courage. I knew how to attend academic conferences and present in front of strangers. But such skills did not matter at this setting. I also met many dancers and listened to their life stories, why they had decided to come. Most of them had the same desire as I did, to meet Anna Halprin. Meeting these dancers reminded me how careful I had become over the years. I was glad that this workshop was my first Fellowship activity. I became committed to push myself and be bold. If I wanted to try something, I would simply do it. This was the attitude I wanted to carry throughout.

“Being bold” may have been difficult for the medical community where I held most of my Fellowship activities. In order for me to create a space for creativity at the psychiatric unit, I constantly presented my ideas and boldly navigated the discussion. I waited for my collaborators to join in the process of thinking, but for a long time, I felt as though I was pulling a rope alone. I often became self-conscious with a question, “Am I the only one who sees value in this?” This sensation was similar to my self-doubt during the dance workshop in California. It takes much longer than it should for a new idea to become part of a culture. I needed both my boldness and patience as well as the trust that my work was going to become something. The focus became to do the work I needed to do today. The accumulation of this became a greater understanding and the discussion of a longer term plan at the psychiatric unit.

At the interviews for the Fellowship, I mentioned that with any changes I wanted to see in my community, the focus must be on myself. If I want others to change their practice, I need to change myself first, This philosophy remained my guiding principle so that I always take responsibility and accept all conditions as they are. My own growth comes with its own growing pain, which I expected. But I could have not quite imagined that I would feel this solid. Learning must accompany reflection. And I happen to embrace a reflective practice. I feel that to do any work for others, we have to be in touch with a deep part of ourselves first. This is ultimately the self-care we need to do. I end my Fellowship period with a deep understanding of what it means to work on our inner-self, gratitude for this opportunity, and strengthened commitment to continue my work as a writer and community leader.