Looking back to last March, I still remember exactly how I felt when I received the email informing me that I was a 2017 Bush Fellow. Just like that, this big thing that I had been working on and hoping for over the course of nearly a year was a new reality. It took a long time to process and I was grateful for the time between the notification and public announcement as it helped me wrap my head around things before I started talking with people.
Going into this, I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do with a Bush Fellowship—I don’t think I could have made it through the application process without one. But a major shift for me after finding out that I received the Fellowship was the realization that this is so much more than I thought it would be. Earning my PhD in Social Studies Education has been a career goal of mine for as long as I have been teaching and that’s really what drove me to apply. Now I get to pursue that and so much more. But I didn’t really spend a lot of time thinking about what that so much more would be until after I received the Fellowship and learned that the possibilities are beyond where my mind was at the time. So, I spent a lot of time in the months after I was notified reflecting, planning, and really maximizing this opportunity to, in the words of the Bush Foundation: “Think Bigger. Think Differently.”
Beyond dreaming bigger, I spent time between March and August taking a thorough inventory of the projects and commitments I had already been involved in and made some difficult decisions to step away from some of what I was really passionate about. I this was hard because I felt like I was letting people down, but each time I made that decision, it was met with support and understanding. Life was already busy and it was about to get busier, so I had to create space. This process has continued as I try to balance this opportunity with work, school, family, etc. It’s important to me that I not only get what I can out of the next two years, but also set myself up to make a difference for at least another fifty.
Being back at grad school has been everything I thought it would be and more. The learning has been intense and I am happy with the progress I am making as my ideas develop and my research advances. It has also been amazing to be on this journey with 23 amazing individuals who I am fortunate enough to learn from and grow with. I enjoy reading their reflections and hearing about their experiences and from each of them I pick up new thoughts about my own development. I feel incredibly supported and encouraged, both by my fellow Fellows and the Bush Foundation.
Since my Fellowship began, I have often gone back to read the essays I wrote for my application. When I submitted it in September 2016, I had reached a new level of clarity about what I wanted to do with my life. Reading them keeps me both inspired and grounded. Inspired because as things have felt overwhelming, they remind me what I believe is possible. And as my vision expands to the point of losing focus, they keep me grounded in what I’m really trying to do here. This experience has highlighted for me the importance of reflection. Moments of clarity are not constant, so when I’m lucky enough to capture them, it’s important for me to revisit them to fuel my growth. It also means I have needed to create space to pause, think, and write so that I can capture as much of this experience as possible.
Finally, I cannot understate how important it has been to prioritize dedicated time for my family and myself. The last four months have been the busiest of my life. My family is incredibly supportive and has graciously made sacrifices and I am working at a pace that would be unsustainable without some purposeful pauses to focus on those who are closest to me. This has meant further scaling back of commitments that have been important to me and also being okay not taking on every new opportunity that has come my way since receiving the Fellowship. I have learned so much in the past six months and I am really looking forward to seeing what the next year and a half brings.