My name is Adrian, a participant of the BoldLeaders program. I went to South Africa with BoldLeaders in 2013 and it was an experience that an email, or even a in person meeting could not do justice. The South Africa team was actually supposed to go to Kenya. I was a part of a group that was going to be in a rural part of Kenya, where I thought I was going to get the “real Africa experience.” After a U.S mandated halt on all travel to the country, our trip to Kenya was cancelled. This was specifically important to me because after a training from Michael about our expectations v. outcomes, I realized that it was OK for me to live in spaces of ambiguity. I’d worked up an idea about Africa, and Kenya, and an experience that I thought I would have – and the fact that it turned out to be something I did not expect, broke me. It broke me and then it put me right back together when I started to shift my perspective on how I was approaching not only this small part of my life, but all aspects of my life.
I had done a lot of learning prior to departing for Kenya. While preparing for our trip to Kenya, I learned a great deal about myself. I knew that I was intelligent, and determined, and that I understood how to get good grades and make my teachers happy. What I didn’t really understand, was how to relieve myself of the constant stress of trying to be #1 and excelling, and connecting to folks. BoldLeaders focuses on understanding that although it is great to be on a path of knowledge and understanding, and rationalizing what we do, that there is a second path that will build character and connection to others in ways that are unimaginable: BoldLeaders calls this “being.” A part of being, is being able to connect and use our basic human resources in order to do that: things like our voice, tears, movement, laughter, and more.
I went into BoldLeaders introverted and detached from people: I left BoldLeaders with friends that I will keep forever. More than that, I left BoldLeaders understanding that if I can combine a couple of my basic human resources I can create compounds that allow me to connect to other people. For example, as I was leaving South Africa, I felt an urge to cry. I got on the van that was taking us back and it was my instinct to hold my hand up and say goodbye to my host mother one last time. As I did that, she did the same from the other side of the glass, and I saw tears in her eyes.
It was a moment like this, where I understood what BoldLeaders was about (or at least a small part of what it was about.) I used my movement, chose to raise my hand up. I was vulnerable: Felt like crying, and did that. And in turn, another woman from a completely different part of the world, did the same and for that small moment we really connected. Since BoldLeaders (and throughout the program,) I have been more reflective of myself, of how I am listening to people, serving people, collaborating with people, minding “gaps” with folks, how I use language, and how I am interacting with folks in ways that make me uncomfortable, and open.
This was a wonderful read Adrian! Thank you for sharing.
Like you, I also participated in BoldLeaders exchange programme in 2013. I identify so much with your story especially the charge to ‘be’. At times we arm ourselves with materials and ideas in pursuit of the top position and to maintain in that post that we loose parts of ourselves while getting thrre. Or worst off, don’t know who we are though we have attained. Being vulnerable and embracing touch were my biggest challenges. I remember crying like a baby in the arms of the BL team and my peers on the last night before we returned home. Then, in that room, I realized how stolid, hurt and withdrawn I was. My personal journey was not smooth since but I definitely learnt over the past 4 years.
Cheers from Guyana!