Note: I wrote this reflection three weeks ago but life got in the way and I hadn’t remembered to publish it until now.
The program is over and I am back in my parents’ apartment with my dog and awful Lifetime movies my mom insists we watch during our ‘bonding’ time.
The last seven weeks have been hard and I have a lot to reflect on. This time I decided to go with the positives.
Building A Network: There was a relatively small cohort and we were not all friends. It is not at all a bad thing because I personally don’t feel the need to be best friends with every individual I share space with. We did, for the most part, respect each other. Our experiences and philosophies differed (as noted in the other post) but I did feel that there was a bond between us. We lived together, ate together, went to class together, partied together, and much more – we were a community. It wasn’t the typical community environment I’m used to. Honestly, it isn’t one I would have chosen had the decision been up to me.
We know a lot about each other, probably more than we know about some of our closest friends. Many people have shared stories that they never wanted to remember let alone share to a group of strangers. This is a network of people who are going to give back to their communities and the world at large. These are truly amazing people who have made a difference in lives, and they will continue to do so. Even if some of us never speak to each other again, there’s no denying that this cohort challenged, motivated, and encouraged one another. It would be great if we were all on the same page but it’s also okay that we’re not. The fact that we listened to each other is a start towards something great. My only wish is that those that felt that they couldn’t speak up are able to use their voices for good.
Making Friends: Shockingly, I did make friends! I was absolutely terrified I wouldn’t be able to connect with anyone on a deeper level for many reasons. Thankfully I found some pretty radical folks. They’ve opened up their arms and hearts in ways I didn’t know were possible. They are fucking incredible. I don’t know what else to say. Even with similar ideologies, we’ve taught each other new ways to look at certain issues as well as ourselves. The collective snaps and eye-rolls, bonding over lots of beer and hangovers at breakfast the next morning, introducing each other to important people in our personal lives, making plans for the future, and simply loving each other. This is what I came here for. Knowing that we are all in different parts of the country and will be all over the world come next summer is depressing, however, there’s comfort in knowing that these people exist.
Returning Home: I absolutely love the Bay Area. Being in Chicago the last couple of years has changed me for the better. The way I see and interact with my surroundings is completely different. I feel the need to smile all the time, brighten people’s days, and more importantly, redistribute resources in any way possible. As much as I love being back in the Bay Area, my connection to Chicago is much stronger. It is where I started to grow into adulthood and it is where I found and was encouraged to use my voice no matter who felt the right to deny it to me. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I would miss Chicago. Chicagoans taught me how to love the idea of possibilities, how to fight, and how to build. I brought that with me when I returned home and I plan to take it with me everywhere I go from here.
What I’ve Learned: The world of public policy is most likely not for me. At least not until I have a better idea of where I fit in. The best and most challenging class was economics. Let me repeat: I took a course on economics. Now I can say that I disagree and how I disagree. As infuriating as the practice of economics can be, I appreciate being more familiar with it and having the necessary tools to strengthen my arguments.
I learned that I do not take kindly to being told how I should feel. I learned that I will encounter the use of professionalism as a silencing tool again when and if I enter public affairs. That certainly defeats the purpose of public affairs; if we are picking and choosing voices to be heard, we are not doing our job and helping those harmed by dominant ideologies. I learned that I live in between as someone who gains more and more access to the professional world and as someone whose existence is still not valued in it. How to navigate that is a skill I will be mastering along the way.