[Editorial Note: Amanda's blog is the latest in a series of reflections from our recently graduated 2015-2016 fellows. After you finish reading about Amanda's experience, be sure to read Jake and Dan's reflections, too.
We heard over and over during the 2015-16 HFA fellowship that diabetes management is a full-time job. No weekends, no holidays, no paid time off. It’s a rest-of-your-life kind of undertaking that I can barely wrap my twenty-something brain around.
But for every person we met who was involuntarily hired for the job of living with type 2 diabetes, we met someone else who voluntarily signed up to help. These are good people, folks. They are the people who pack their compassion alongside their lunches when they leave for work in the morning and grab their determination off the same hook as their keys. They open their hearts as they turn on their computers, and they pull their grit from the same file as their humility.
My time as an HFA fellow has convinced me that these are my people. Or, rather, that I aspire to be one of theirs.
Over the past year, I’ve watched with fascination and gratitude as my ‘vocational family tree’ grew. That's what I’ve come to call the people who’ve had a hand in shaping my professional path. After my time as a fellow, there are new branches on my tree: certified diabetes educators, nurse practitioners, hospital administrators, entrepreneurs, people living with diabetes, leaders of local food banks, and more.
And there is, of course, a colorful hodgepodge branch occupied by a biomedical engineer for whom big ideas are like oxygen, a business brain whose engineering background brings a meticulous attention to detail, and a designer with public health smarts—the perfect ingredients for impact.
Though the new branches that grew this year are diverse, I couldn’t be happier they’re part of my tree. Why? Because they all have one thing in common. The work they’ve devoted themselves to? The rest-of-your-life kind of undertakings to which they’re committed? It’s the kind of stuff you’d be hard-pressed to find on a job application or performance review. It’s work that knows no boundaries of discipline or field. It’s the work of caring—deeply. It’s the work of creating change—courageously.
And beneath those new branches are new roots, too. I came in to the fellowship with roots in the arts, public engagement, and community health. I’m leaving with new foundations in health, design, entrepreneurship, and leadership. Because of these roots, I am a stronger, more stable young professional. I can absorb more diverse kinds of information. I am grounded (one could even say I'm "WellRooted"), yet my capacity to reach has grown ten-fold.
So off I go. Down a path I hope will lead to more deep caring, courageous change making, and continual reaching. I can’t escape the feeling that I owe it to my tree—to the compassion, determination, grit, and humility I’ve witnessed in the people who make up its branches and to the knowledge and experience newly built into my roots.