In a "normal" year, this process would occur in January; for 2021, it took me until the beginning of March. What happened in March? I received an email from a past NAA Next Generation of Afterschool Leaders honoree that said, "I miss you. I hope you are well." In response, tears started slowly rolling down my cheeks.
To help me process, I took to my journal. Instead of writing, I read and I found this from 2020:
Thursday was hard.
I woke up wanting to talk to my dad, but no, just another reminder that he's gone.
I woke up trying to right what seemed like a mistake of taking too long to send the NAA membership a message supporting BLM.
I woke up trying to learn more and be more.
My brother texted me and asked how I was.
"Angry," I said.
"Why?" He asked.
"World events, racism, dad's death, and all of the other stuff in my head. All of this is so much and makes me feel lonely. And then there's the rain ..." I replied.
"Think of resilience as a rubber band. Stretch it a reasonable amount, and it springs back to original form when released, but if you keep stretching it, it will snap."
Pause. Listen. Reflect.
"Include yourself in your compassion. Create boundaries even if it distresses others."
Loss of mobility, loss of Don Ham, loss of space for alone time, and loss of connections.
With disease, death, and violence, what is one value you hold that keeps you going? No doubt, it's connections. Connections of ideas and with people and many times with people and ideas together.
It was then I realized that my tears were big drops of grief falling from my eyes. And then I let myself mourn for all that has been lost—by everyone—in the last year.
I tore out several pages from my old journal, folded them and put them in my new one—these are the thoughts I want to take with me. The rest? I put them in the recycle bin, hopefully repurposed into something valuable and sustainable.
That's how I now feel about my 2020 lessons learned. How can what I've learned and experienced be used personally and professionally—with gratitude and connections—for humanity and the greater good? I'm not sure, but I'm excited to find out.
P.S. I miss you. I hope you are well.
Written by Heidi Ham, Vice President of Programs and Strategy for NAA.