I Also Want to Acknowledge Luck

On our first day of orientation, I saw a wall decal at Newman’s Own Headquarters that read, “I want to acknowledge luck, the benevolence of it in my life, and the brutality of it in the lives of others.”

I have always been a speedy, future-oriented person who has a hard time taking it easy. I applied for multiple jobs my senior year of college, and felt frustrated with the silence I was receiving back. In my heart, I was holding out for the possibility that I would be lucky enough to be chosen for the Newman’s Own Foundation Fellowship, but my anxiety about having an income after graduation was telling me to apply for as many jobs as possible.

As a first-generation student, navigating higher education was hard enough. I started to feel bitter that I would return home to my parent’s house in Brooklyn without a job lined up, while other people my age were moving to fancy apartments in Brooklyn for the first time with internships and jobs I had no idea how to begin looking for. The imposter-syndrome of early undergrad returned in full-swing, and the line between “I’m not good enough” and “I don’t have access to this field” was so blurry I couldn’t see it.

When the email came in from the Newman’s Own Foundation that I was one of the lucky ones to be chosen for the Fellowship, I felt re-energized in a way even the most motivated versions of my past self couldn’t imagine. I enthusiastically took my place at Edible Schoolyard NYC, so excited to be employed somewhere that would allow me to work in school gardens at public schools like the ones I grew up attending. I remember looking at the wall decal on my first day of orientation, surrendering completely to the feeling of being swept off of my feet by Newman’s Own.

As the year went on, I dove myself into many new projects that I never could have imagined. I started the Fellowship developing a volunteer program for the organization’s network schools, but I wrapped up fully engaged in the communications and development side of nonprofit administration. Although I started out feeling lucky to have a job, I am now ending the Fellowship feeling tremendously luckier for everything this experience has given me. The facilitators from each retreat have brought insight to my work I know I will carry with me for the rest of my career. My supervisor, Mirem, and our Fellowship leaders, Diana and Caitlin, will always be mentors to me, and I couldn’t feel luckier to have gotten to know them over the course of this year. But mostly, I feel an unspeakable level of gratitude for the Fellows I am lucky enough to share this Fellowship with. This Fellowship helped me find wonderful friends in a time of uncertainty. If all I gained from this year was my cohort, that would have been more than enough.

I write this post amid the COVID19 pandemic. I don’t know what comes next for me, but as the brutality of this illness shakes up my community, my family, and my friends, I feel an unwavering sense of readiness to take the rest of my life slowly. Although I don’t know a lot right now, I know this: Luck has played a benevolent role in my life, providing me with a network of support and community in a field that I once feared I would never even see.

By Sam Brown, 2019-2020 NOF Fellow, Edible Schoolyard NYC, New York, NY.