Don’t ask me what my next step on my leadership journey is.
In the last month, as our final program days for the Leadership Ballarat Western Region Leaders Forum slid by, I was asked what my leadership plans were for next year, and I didn’t know how to answer. I still find pinpointing that goal elusive. At our graduation from the program, I felt none of the elation that my colleagues felt. I was not proud, I was exhausted. I was not excited, I was terrified. And here’s why.
Right now, I am one week into being separated from my husband and am now a single mother of two preschool aged children.
As I watched the graduation video I fought hard to hold back the tears. I was crying because this program has helped me understand myself and my behaviours, and the more I learnt about myself, the more I noticed about others. I noticed how much of my husband’s behaviour could not be excused by mental illness, and came to the realisation that I was in fact in an abusive relationship. I was crying because that very morning the negative experiences within my 10-year relationship had reached critical mass and I had made the awful decision to break my family apart.
So what’s next for us as newly minted LF alumni, you continue to ask? I have a million options for things that I could do with the skills, knowledge and networks I have gained in the program. I could focus on getting published work or running workshops as a writer; I could return to study and finish my Masters in Arts Management, or commence some other course like the Masters of Fine Arts (Theatre) at VCA that I’ve been eyeing off; I could join the paid workforce in a job like the recently advertised director of the Ararat Performing Arts Centre; I could do more volunteer work in causes that are close to my heart; I’ve recently joined a gym and focusing on my health could be my new goal.
But none of these things were easily done until a week ago. They’re still not easily done, because I am now a single mother. But now, I only have myself and my children to worry about – and we aren’t impulsive and uncontrollable. I can plan with certainty and know that I can spend the majority of my emotional energy on the things that are most important to me without diversion. I can be proud of my work and not be made to feel guilty that I put myself first.
So when you hear me say the Leaders Forum program was transformative, I’m not talking about some minor change that made my team at work more productive (although have been many small things I have implemented when interacting with my children. And yes, being a stay-at-home parent is work). This program has changed me so dramatically that I have to reframe the last ten years of my life.
So please don’t ask me what my next step is. At the moment, I’m not taking any more steps. I’m standing right here, giving myself a great big hug and breathing in the possibilities.