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Erin Howard: Transformative, Grounded Coaching

By December 8, 2014Coaching

I had the honor of being coached by Rusia for 6 months. For 10 years, I have dedicated every aspect of my life to the immigrant rights movement and to efforts focused on educational equity and youth leadership development in Lexington, KY. While my passion drives me, there have been many times that I have felt lost in the work and consumed in the many needs. I would wrestle with guilt when I physically could not give anymore, and I would feel a deep sense of restlessness that I, in my leadership, was not enough. I struggled to find balance, prioritize efforts, and respect my own humanity.

Rusia challenged me from our very first session to integrate two new practices into my day – meditation and journaling – as well as to shift my mentality on movement in order to embrace the vision I had for my leadership. The one outlet I have always practiced was movement: working out, dancing, yoga, gymnastics, sports. But more as an effort to stay healthy, not as an means through which I could cultivate my creative, authentic and radically hopeful leadership. By integrating mediation and journaling and embracing movement as a conduit of connecting my mind and body, I experienced and continue to experience a tremendous amount of healing, appreciation, and love for myself, the work I *get* to to do, and those with whom I lead.

I am a commitment to empowering those directly impacted– the youth and their families– for the sake of an inclusive and just community. I forgive myself when I don’t get it right; I seek understanding and keep an open mind when I need to be grounded. I am a commitment to creative leadership, to selfless listening, and to radical hope because my dream, my purpose is to help those that I meet become all they have been created to be.

Until my coaching with Rusia, I had not fully appreciated and embraced the creative, peace-building, and innocent manner of my leadership. I had not imagined and created a vision for my leadership, either. I even went as far as discounting major components of who I am to work within the system of education. Yet, she helped me find the words to articulate my presence; I can say unapologetically that, for this moment in my life, I am committed to working from within higher education to bare witness, to leverage resources and to create spaces for all who the system by nature and structure leaves out. Because this is exhausting and often times a mismatch of values and purpose, Rusia also guided me to ask those closest to me for the encouragement and affirmation I needed to keep going. I found peace and power in seeking this encouragement, and the vulnerability of doing so has deepened not only my leadership but also my friendships and collaborations.

Her coaching has helped me become a better mentor and supervisor. I cannot claim that I no longer struggle with taking on too much and losing myself in the work. My passion still gets the best of me. Yet, I have learned to identify the imbalances and conditioned tendencies that drain and degrade me. My awareness of the needs of others has increased; my concern to seek understanding has deepened; and I have begun to embrace my deep sense of empathy as a strength as opposed to an uncomfortable or embarrassing shortcoming. It takes strength to bare one’s soul and emotions- shared joy, shared tears, shared frustration, shared hurt, shared hope- this helps a community grow.

I have stepped into the mantra that I will fiercely defend spaces, resources and leadership roles for those directly impacted by the issues I passionately work to address. I am a commitment to empowering those directly impacted– the youth and their families– for the sake of an inclusive and just community. I forgive myself when I don’t get it right; I seek understanding and keep an open mind when I need to be grounded. I am a commitment to creative leadership, to selfless listening, and to radical hope because my dream, my purpose is to help those that I meet become all they have been created to be.

Rusia’s coaching helped me articulate this vision. I found my center– my sweet spot, my super powers. And while the struggles are many still and the injustices hurting and dehumanizing our communities seem to be overcoming and overwhelming, the movement, mediation and journaling I practice help remind me that I am connected to a loving, powerful people. Our connectedness is our existence, and even though I can’t fix it all, I have an important part to contribute that depends on my creativity, my humanity, and my passion to mold a rising generation of leaders.

Thank you, Rusia, for teaching me to breath, for teaching me to honor my humanity, for encouraging my creative, movement-based leadership and for empowering me to find the words to embrace and speak life to my commitments and my story.

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