Making time and balancing your fellowship is extremely challenging if you are not focused and deliberate and intentional about your personal growth and investment in yourself. I am excited that I have so much opportunity but channeling my energies and focus is a task itself. I always said the things I wanted to do and make time for, but being intentional about it takes a real shift in my personal journey and thinking. The first few months, was planning and gathering and looking at opportunities truly setting up my work life to make sure it is a position to allow me to leave. This fall I started a course at John Hopkins that is really exciting. i love love to learn and meet new people so the opportunity collaborate and learn is exciting. It is also positively reinforcing some of the strategies and tools I already use. It is a fine line between humility and confidence. In my past life as a soccer player the salary and stats matched your productivity. Now, I am using this time to realize I am lucky, blessed, but also talented hard working and a Bush Fellow. I was chosen because of a belief in me to grow and do better not just for me but for our community. In class I realize there is a lot to learn, and a lot to teach. I can absorb and gain in my growth areas from others while supporting or helping through my own journey. I take pride that the work we do is important work and people generally get excited when they hear about it which fuels me on the tough days. I also really make time for meeting new people that also gives me a boost knowing I am not alone in this work with so many people all trying to tackle our systemic shortcomings from different avenues.
I have decided to start classes at Wisconsin Milwaukee this spring semester as well, to study Urban Education and keep growing my network as I look to develop and build models for more access for people of color with opportunities and reduced barriers for people of color to become teachers. I have been able to move the need in that work with various school partners willing to work together for new programming. One challenge is proof of concept versus a funded program. Having run a program as proof we know there are other opportunities I am looking at but with long term funding up in the air it makes it difficult to look long term until funding is in place. At the same time funding because difficult with our a fully baked out plan with committed partners. Learning to go slow to go fast is something this fellowship is helping me with. How to focus and not get distracted but things that move or sift focus
I am working with a peer mentoring group and a Mentor. I am questing my choice a little because I must be the driver in this process and the group which is not my strong suit. I function better in structure chaos. Meaning, I work well with deliverables and a plan. Having to take on the administrative lead on the peer mentoring group is something I need to improve on if I am going ot get the most out of it.
Party of my journey means becoming one with my past. As a 6 year old I flew by myself to The Gambia West Africa to live with my Aunt for 6 years without my mom. I grew up really quick. Since then I went back to once in 2005 and now I can go back and not only revisit my childhood, face and accept some of the harsh realities of being a 6 year old virtually kidnapped but strangers to me, but officially family. I am going back to give back and take back. I am giving away 1000 bicycles to young girls in rural areas to increase their access to schools. I plan on visiting the soccer association and sharing what I can. I plan on relaxing visiting the beach. My father is very old, and to be honest no one knows how old he is, but we are assuming between 85 and 90, with diabetes and a heart condition, if that is not a wake up call for me to care care of me today because the end is not decided, but I do not want to go from those two sicknesses. I am planning on a series of interviews of my father and family. In The Gambia, much of the info is passed orally so I have bits and pieces but not the whole story. Knowing the full story of my roots and a descendant of the great Kelefa Sanneh is important to me, and I believe will give me some balance and direction in fulfillment of my destiny.
This week I am in Bahrain, working with the Department of State teaching soccer, leadership and some CVE sessions. It is a special time, as not only am I missing the cold but I am also getting to wear shorts and kick a ball. One thing that has left me with my current role in my organization. I am doing direct service here, with youth and adults. I plan to go from here to Africa, and this will be the longest I was away from work in 10 years because it is important I take this time to further develop and do it for me.
This journey has been exciting, scary, challenging, motivating and a blessing. Understanding it is a commitment to myself was and is the key to put myself in position for growth and change.