Before the pandemic, I felt like my life was in full gear and I spent most of my days outside. I had forgotten what it was like to stay indoors. My life revolved around studying, working, and then meeting new people. I did not realize how disconnected I felt from myself before as it was my way of being for the longest time. I was achieving more, going from one fellowship to a degree to another thing. I felt like had everything and nothing at the same time.
The lockdown made me stay indoors for the longest time and pushed me towards this reflective process that I was reluctant to engage in. Slowly and irrevocably, I started immersing myself in my thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. I decided to do something meaningful with my time and learned to value it in the lockdown.
I started looking at different projects and fellowships which required fieldwork and will help me immerse myself in the community. I had my eyes on the AIF William J. Clinton Fellowship because it fit the bill for everything I wanted to learn, and it seemed like the path that would help me grow as a person on a personal and professional level.
I was fortunate enough to get selected and I was placed in my home city which gave me the opportunity to immerse and get to know the community I am living in more depth. Everything picked up pace during the pandemic and I was slowly learning to embrace this different pace of my lifestyle amidst the pandemic. I was able to engage with my fellows and team during the orientation and I felt my intuition kicking and telling me that these are the people who have their heart in the same place as mine and I would like to connect with them more. The virtual format allowed me to get to know the fellows at a personal level and though it did not compensate for the in-person meetings, it was enough to initiate a connection.
India is a country rife with diversity and I was ready to embark on this new adventure. This was something incredible novel for me and I was very intimidated. I was allotted my host location in Delhi, and I worked with tough geography in prisons in Gurgaon. I worked on designing modules that work towards preventing gender-based violence.
I believe it is hard to describe the impact of such experiences in words. I did not anticipate the emotional, mental, physical, and financial toll this work took on me. I never thought that designing a single case study on consent, domestic violence, and sexual violence can make such an impact on me for the rest of the day.
I learned about “co-regulation” which taught me how my emotions and energy impact those around me and how important it is to manage them. I developed empathy for others and most importantly myself by working with vulnerable groups. I understood a need to harmoniously work with others and manage my own feelings and emotional energy around others.
So now at the end of the fellowship, I ask myself “when was the last time I did something for the first time?” What did I learn to do for the first time in my life?
Here is what I would like to tell you: I learned to manage my emotions, to sit with them, to be with them, I understood how my emotions impact others and how it is important for me to communicate them to others and ask for help.
This experience taught me that I do not have to leave my home to do new things. The scope for development was always there and now I have found a way to actualize it.