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Feet dangling over a bridge, hoping my boots don’t fall off into the slow-moving water, I sat peering at a sight mimicking my young professional life.  The water kept moving in one steady direction, gliding across a landscape of rocks strategically placed to change the water’s course. This past week I joined 22 young professionals at Rock Springs 4-H Center located in the heart of the Flint Hills. Participants of the Kansas Leadership Center’s Art and Practice 20’s and 30’s program, we are learning and practicing skills to facilitate leadership development with future generations of Kansans. We gathered for two days to reflect on how to change our habits to consciously take care of ourselves and apply this practice to our purpose. The practice of reflecting was not challenging, but stopping long enough to do so felt like riding a bike for the first time. Pedal, pedal, pedal, glide, crash, repeat. As I ate on a worn white plate, marked with a 4-H emblem, memories flooded back from years past; 12 years of 4-H, the beginning of this desire to succeed. The reality of ribbons returned to boxes, symbols of hard work and service still linger in my present reality. In a society where young professionals are continuously asked to consider what’s next, pausing to think about what’s now, and how to stop the urgent race to the future, was energizing. Surrounded by talented educators, marketers, advocates, Kansans, all young voices of change, I realized I’m not alone in feeling the pressure to create the perfect résumé and push toward an unknown future we’re tirelessly working to achieve. Along this journey to a “to be determined” destination one steady desire remains: to find and hold to a purpose greater than ourselves, grander than we could possibly imagine today. This retreat was structured to help us imagine this purpose in a setting removing urgency, distractions and worldly pressures to work toward unrealistic and undesirable definitions of success. Some of us left with a clear picture of the story we’re hopeful to slowly write. Others left with more unanswered questions equipped with journals of blank pages waiting to be filled with dreams of Kansans eager to continue working for the common good in whatever way this will continue to be defined. Returning from this place of solace to my normal hurried life, I am different. The stream will continue to rush, but I will consciously pause to overlook the path purposefully determining the steps along my journey.     

Amy Nichols2

Amy Nichols Kansas Leadership Center Alumni are encouraged to attend a Take Care of Yourself Aligning Purpose and Practice retreat. For more information and to register visit www.kansasleadershipcenter.org/takecare or contact Julia Fabris McBride jfmcbride@kansasleadershipcenter.org, 316-712-4947.