Reflections on High Road, ILR, Myself
Last week, Dean Katz and the High Road Advisory Committee asked us to explain the impact that High Road has made on each of us. I began to say that the program gave me a place to pursue my love of research and to surround myself with a community with heart. But after thinking on it for another week, I’ve realized that my answer falls short of what I wanted to say.
Matt Nagowski, along with Lou Jean and several others, spoke to us about the importance of reflection. I think that is what, truly, has been the most significant aspect about the High Road Fellowship program: it has given us all a time and space to reflect on ourselves and in turn, to find productive ways of pursuing our goals. I think reflection involves two processes: first, of looking inward and seeing the significance of your actions, and second, of bouncing that perspective with another and forming a multi-faceted idea of what you’re attempting to see. Our journal and blog posts give us a chance to reflect by ourselves. However, it is the reflection and dialogue between us all that makes High Road such an amazing experience.
I spoke earlier about the heart of the Buffalo community, but I think it is more accurate to point also to the heart of the High Road community. My supervisors have consistently encouraged me to pursue whatever I love, letting me know of arts festivals and galleries and meetings that they think would interest me.
ILR speaks often about its community, but it wasn’t until now that I could really understand what the school meant: a group of students all stumbling towards the same goal with the same core values and beliefs and heart. I remember struggling in the beginning of the summer with my career dreams and aspirations. I wanted to be a poet, an artist living off of the beauty in the world, a traveler and visitor of beautiful countries and places, an inspiration to students and to readers, an owner of a café-gallery-bookstore-wine bar. Being an unconventional ILRie, I was caught between doing what I should do (doing what most other ILR students did) and doing what I wanted to. I started my summer firmly thinking that those dreams would be pushed to the side, held in the back of mind until further notice, until I could find a job to fund such living. When I mentioned this to the fellows, I heard a resounding: “Just do it.” Don’t stop yourself. Do what you love.
It isn’t the affirmation of my dreams that makes me call my colleagues a community. It is the fact that they turned those words of encouragement into tangible steps. We visited museums and art galleries, stopped by small non-profits that worked with artists, took time to reflect on our dreams and what we could do to turn them into reality. Breanna and I began “to art” – we bought art supplies from a local art store and started to paint and draw, sitting cross-legged on our dorm floor.
High Road has a special place in my heart – as cheesy as that sounds – because of what it’s given me and the rest of the fellows. It has been a summer of firsts and lasts and many in-betweens, but it has also been a time to learn and to reflect and to find a way towards something I should have done earlier. So thank you, everyone, for making this summer happen.