My time at CPL gave me the courage to try to showcase my creative work. I’ve been making art for a long time and have never really been good at sharing it with others. CPL encouraged me to share my work and be proud of my art. I believe that leaders share of themselves for the betterment of many. Being able to share my art makes me hopeful that others will see my work and feel seen in some way. I want to let people know that they are not alone.
Author: Avii Van Praagh
Leadership as Surrender
I face the new semester with great trepidation; my own experiences with burnout, my mental health, and the brevity of the past winter break have all set me up for a very daunting academic chapter. I feel myself needing to breathe, to relax, and not take everything so damn seriously. Leadership is difficult for those who have charisma; it’s tempting to feed off of the accolades of others and never ask for help. I can’t afford to do that anymore.
Recently, I’ve chosen to do something different. Asking for help has never been easy for me, but at this point, it is vital for my continued health. I have resolved to ask for help when needed, to give myself breaks, and not crumble in the face of a mistake. In this journey, I have found others who have trod this path before me and now help others by sharing their own failures and mistakes. It takes great humility to be able to be vulnerable with those you barely know in order to help them. To me, those folks are true leaders; non-hierarchical, lead-by-example, vulnerable, authentic leaders. I am so honored to be among them and to have found people who have been where I’ve been and gotten through it.
Making Change in My Community
Changing a community can seem a lot more difficult than it actually is. First and foremost, it is important to expand one’s definition of change. Sure, it can be tempting to believe that the most effective changes happen in a 5-minute montage, but in reality, change happens when things shift bit by bit over time. Thinking of change as water eroding a rock rather than using a bundle of dynamite to blast it to pieces can be helpful when trying to shift a community to a specific vision. Remember that those in your community also have voices of their own; it is important to get a consensus before pushing for a change that will affect more than just you. Changing your community can look like many different things. Getting an idea of what sort of changes your community feels are important is crucial to affecting a positive change in your community. If there is something specific that you feel needs to be taken seriously, but isn’t being heard, it may be beneficial to educate those around you. My neighborhood has a community-build center where we host free Sunday night dinners, movie nights, food pantries, and educational evenings where people can spread awareness about issues they feel are important. By facilitating and supporting spaces like the one I am a part of, you can create a space where others feel welcome not only to learn about your ideas but feel safe enough to share theirs. Once you have a crowd that is comfortable sharing ideas with one another, taking action is only natural. Keep a line of communication between everyone, speak to local businesses to gain support, and get the ball rolling! Community action takes a community; building your community and empowering them to speak up is the first step toward effecting actual change.
I am an expert on…
Fostering authenticity, passion, and joy in others! I’ve found that it can be difficult to get groups of people to get along and communicate with each other, particularly when discussing topics that require personal vulnerability to join in. When people find it difficult to join a conversation, it can be because of many things. The initial assumption might be that they are standoffish or don’t like the topic (or the speaker, for that matter). A big part of beginning a true dialogue is offering an open-ended question and then listening, really listening to what the person is talking about. Response without judgement is also vital. Chances are, at some point in life, most of us were talking about something we really like or enjoy, and someone shut us down, either verbally or nonverbally. Being shut down can sit in our minds subconsciously for years and inhibit our ability to really be ourselves. I pride myself on being able to put myself out there first to facilitate a space in which others can feel safe to do the same. Encouraging people to talk about the things that bring them joy or fulfillment brings me joy and fulfillment. When I see the light turn on in someone’s eyes as they talk about something they are passionate about, I feel as though I’ve been honored to see this very vulnerable and beautiful part of another human. Too often are we encouraged to not rock the boat or maintain the status quo, but when I am able to help someone else consciously become who they already are, I think the world becomes a better place, one human at a time. It just takes the ability and patience to see past someone’s defense mechanisms, an open mind to changing the course of a conversation and perhaps learn about something new, and the self-esteem and confidence to enter a conversation that has no set agenda. It can take some time to see a markable difference in others, but sometimes the outside messages have shrunk them so much that they are afraid to grow again. By showing outgoing compassion and enthusiasm for connection, I can foster the same in others and allow it to spread from person to person, exponentially improving our ability to connect and demonstrate kinship and community.