I know what you’re thinking – “wow, this is a good looking crew.” That’s very kind of you. We appreciate it. However, there is a lot you might not be able to tell about us from looking at our picture. We are a very mixed bag. Assuming I’ve counted correctly, we’ve come from 6 different states. Our talents range from a surprising amount of brass instrument skill to artistic prowess and ice skating. Actually that last one is just me. Our majors range from Plant Science to Geography to Journalism. But for context, I suppose I should start by giving a brief summary of who I am for the first Season 6 Fellows blog installment.
My name is Caleb Miller and I am the tall lanky guy on the right side of the picture. I went to Hope College in Holland, Michigan, and studied Business with German and Organizational Leadership minors. I was one of those people who had no idea that Kansas City was in Missouri until May of this past year, but to be fair, there are more logical ways of naming cities. Do kids from this area have to grow up questioning what state New York City is in? These are things you think about when you move to a new place. Moving to new places is something I’m used to – I grew up living in Dallas, Prague, and the suburbs of Minneapolis, so change is something I have typically been prepared for.
I must say, the transition to Kansas City has been my smoothest one yet, and the primary reason for that is the collection of people to the left of me in that picture above. COVID has led to a whole lot of isolation for a whole lot of people, but we are fortunate to have 10 others to spend time with at any time. We all lost out on walking across the stage for graduation, we all had stressful job search processes, and we all have had to change how we wanted to start our adult lives in some way. Despite this and thanks to the Fellows Program, we now consider ourselves among the most fortunate of our graduating classes. How many other recent grads have a community of like-minded peers to do one of the most challenging phases of life with right now?
The activities we have done together are a great representation of how much of a random collection of individuals we are. As you can see above, food is often involved. Aside from Thursday dinners, we have also made rounds at the River Market downtown and begun our assessment of which spot in Kansas City has the best barbecue. We have gone indoor skydiving, drank rosé for communion during online church, attended brass band concerts, and (mostly) successfully attempted camping in Arkansas.
In addition to making the move to Kansas City easier, this new community has also made the rest of the experience fulfilling. Some of us work from home every day, and others will regularly be going in to work. Thankfully, our last semester of college prepared us well to work with people we may not see in person, but it has still been quite a transition. The first days, weeks, and months of working at our new jobs have largely been a feeling-out process. What is expected of us? Who should I ask about this? Can you explain how to do this again? And these are all things that people who are new to a job or company experience. What has made it difficult during COVID is figuring out what ‘normal’ really is. I work fully remote at this point in a marketing role for an industrial software company. One thing I struggle with is figuring out what our culture is like. During a meeting this week, someone sent a picture of everyone dressed up for Halloween last year. It makes me wonder what I am missing out on from how my company normally operates. On the other hand, there could also be some things that have gotten far better since COVID. The hard part is not really being able to tell.
In spite of the change and unpredictability, the Fellows Program has given us something that is constant. I have already spoken of the community of Season 6 Fellows, but thanks are also in order to Kevin, Carol, Kris, and Christ Community Church who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to make sure this is all possible. Not to mention the generosity of our mentors, those who graciously provide meals for us for dinner on Tuesdays (even when COVID prevents them from hosting us in person), and those who come to share their wisdom during our Friday Lunch and Learns. Every day it astounds me how in a time of isolation and seclusion unlike anything my generation has experienced, we are lucky enough to be surrounded by a host of people who continue to pour into us. We are only two months into our program, yet it is starting to feel quite a lot like home.
Caleb Miller, Hope College 2020, BA in Business and Organizational Leadership