I close my eyes, breathing in the scent of nature around me, the air distinctly fresher and crisper than in the bustling city of DC. A shiver runs down my spine as a frigid breeze somehow penetrates my many layers of clothing. My ears strain to hear distant birds chirping, the only sound cutting the almost eerie silence that engulfs me. I open my eyes, and a sea of green washes over me. Tall and strong, yet seemingly nimble, the fluffy moss-covered trees provide a safe and comforting company. The extrovert in me dissipates, and I want to lean into these wise, old trees and listen to all their secrets. The solace that finds me in this space warms my heart, as I sit crisscross-applesauce in the dirt, craning my neck to admire the lanky green columns with leaves that graze the sky. I am at peace.
I had the pleasure of having this scenic experience on a fellows gathering in Olympic National Park. There is no packing list that could have prepared me for the forty degree weather accompanied with constant rain, but the memories made and connections created on this mystical trip will stay with me forever. This trip brought together assistance program fellows and mentors from across the country for a week of professional development, learning, and community building. Each day was filled with adventure, but since I can’t fit the entire trip in this blog, I’ll tell you about the moments that made a significant impact on me.
One of the professional development activities we did shed light on the way one leads, with each leadership style linked to a direction on a compass. In this scenario, North leaders typically take charge, West leaders are more detail-oriented, East leaders seek the bigger picture, and South leaders take the emotions of others into account. We were asked to stand with the leadership style that we resonated with the most (North, East, South or West), and have a discussion about working preferences, compatibility with other leadership styles and how we like to be supported at work. These were all questions I had never asked myself before, and it was validating to talk to people similar to me. From this exercise, I learned that right now, I am an East, someone that likes to see the bigger picture. I now know that asking more questions or seeking extra guidance brings me the clarity I need to be more confident in my work. The beauty of this activity is that the direction one most resonates with may change over time as one changes as a person. Understanding one’s work style is an activity that can last a lifetime as we continue to evolve.
While I enjoyed the moments of self-reflection peppered throughout the week, getting to know fellows across the country was one of the best parts of this trip. As much as I appreciate the benefits of teleworking, it can be challenging to truly get to know one another. Thankfully, opportunities like this gathering help to bridge that gap. I am grateful for the chance to explore a magical, secluded place with people that slowly became friends over the course of a week. I will cherish the memories of canoeing for hours on a (luckily) sunny day, telling spooky ghost stories huddled near the fire under shelter amidst the rain, losing my breath hiking up slippery, snowy mountains in clunky rain boots, feeding friendly raccoons popcorn and making fun of Twilight’s poor acting. These are the memories that will stay with me past this fellowship.