Notes from the ELLA Retreat

Monday, October 8, 2012

Check out the Sadie Nash Leadership Project by clicking on the image above!
Whenever I get out of the city, I feel a mild distress - I'm missing so much! I have so much work! - but upon arriving at the ELLA fellowship retreat location (a kindly staffed but rather creepy church in White Plains), that feeling began to gradually ease back.

I had planned for disappointment about this fellowship. The decision announcement deadline had passed and I didn't get any 'yay' or 'nay,' so I sent off a shy follow-up email. It was like easing off a Band-Aid; I knew that my disappointment would heal, but I had wanted it so badly. Imagine my surprise when I received a prompt reply: they had misplaced my application! They wanted to do a phone interview! The next day. And their retreat was on Saturday, so could I make that?

Needless to say, I received the fellowship and had to race away this weekend, packing a small backpack for the night. My project - on connecting Asian American social justice activists and youth online - was added to the melange of projects on everything from surviving police brutality to resisting gentrification through public art.

But as much as I was happy and excited, I still found myself nervous cleaning our kitchen late the night before. My thoughts went on the familiar track: would I have enough time and was my project good enough and when would I finish all my homework!? I feel confident now, but would I be in a few months?

When the newly minted fellows got to our rooms in the mildly-Exorcist-reminiscent church with its tiny low-lit rooms, we approached each other very cautiously. By the end of the first day, we were bonded in worksheets and sharing the struggles that our projects hoped to address. By the next night, we were already making plans to hang out beyond that weekend. Why was I nervous again?

I love meeting down folks and learning new skills, so it's a wonder. The Band-Aid had already come off. But I also owe my regeneration at least in part to being out of the city - I could eat shepherd's pie till my stomach burst and not have to care about cleaning dishes afterward. There weren't any meetings that I had to run too after the long day was supposed to be 'done.' Although it's a cliche, the tense energy of my city life wicked itself away even after just a night away. And most excellent, my kitchen is spotless.