Gotham Fellow, Class of 2018
*Photo by Anthony Artis
I was born and raised in New Jersey and moved to Seoul, Korea when I was ten years old. I moved back to the United States for college and started a job in the financial district in NYC right after graduation. Currently, I am a doctoral candidate in the Adult Learning and Leadership program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Prior to my studies, I taught leadership to undergraduate students in Seoul, where I discovered a passion for teaching and leadership development. Before teaching in Korea, I was living in NYC and working in the non-profit sector in the area of international criminal justice reform, which was also incredibly meaningful.
I heard about Gotham through friends who were alumni or current fellows. I would run into friends in the city, and they would ask if I had heard about Gotham. They would tell me about their formative experiences in the program and suggest that I consider applying. Friends who were fellows would also invite me to gatherings with other fellows, or I would see fellows participate in CFW events together. Whether through people sharing about their experience with me or what I observed, I could sense there was something special shared, by way of experience and relationships, among the fellows in community.
Before Gotham, my identity was in my work, and work was a way to prove my worth. This drove me to focus on my performance as a way to earn approval or acceptance, which frequently caused stress and anxiety and drew me away from community outside of work. Through Gotham and after Gotham, I now see work as an expression of loving God and God's love and grace working in me to bring renewal. This has allowed me to approach work and community from a place of love, deeper rest in my heart, with greater purpose and freedom, as well as with a clearer sense of calling and vocation. I am also now more intentional about infusing prayer and seeking community support and accountability in all that I do for work, for that is where I feel faith will be sustained and ongoing transformation can happen.
Thinking back on my Gotham class, the experience of exploring idols of the heart and going deeper in community at the retreat in January stands out for me. In Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer discusses the practices of confession and communion as a way to "final breakthrough" to community. I felt the retreat provided a space for the beginning of such a breakthrough for me and other fellows. Here, we were able to let our walls, masks, and guards down and move past our idealized expectations of community and of ourselves to share more honestly and listen to each other with care and compassion and without judgement. Bonhoeffer in Life Together states that “Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them” (1954, p. 97). And in this space, I felt we were able to listen, embrace, and "see" one another more authentically, not only from the place of our strengths, affinities, and met expectations, but also from, or perhaps even more through, our brokenness, fears, struggles, insecurities, and disappointed expectations. As a community, we were learning how to bear each other’s burdens, love unconditionally, and help each other grow, and this was transformative as it was precious and beautiful to witness and encounter.
In allowing myself to be more vulnerable, honest, and open during Gotham, I experienced greater freedom and trust in God and an expanded capacity to love and be loved in relationships and community. If you have that desire to integrate faith with work and grow spiritually and personally in community, I would say that Gotham is a commitment worth making.