The time has finally come. This is it. Last day of Ascend. It’s a somber mood here; none of us want to leave this warm cocoon of supportive code learning. But it’s time to spread our butterfly wings!

We’ve spent most of this week working on our five-minute final presentations, or lightning talks. As a writer and performer, I was VERY surprised at how hard this task was for me! I think my ADD tendencies and perfectionism teamed up to make this as difficult as possible, and my dry run with Lukas and Kronda yesterday afternoon was so disorganized that I cried to them about it for a while. I felt so far from ready to deliver my final speech, and I kept changing my mind about what I wanted to talk about. “Telling my story” was such a big assignment, I got overwhelmed, and I was putting too much pressure on myself to tell my life story in an amazing way. So after I got the nerves out of my system in the patient, supporting company of Lukas and Kronda, I was able to calm down and step away from it for a bit. Then it was time to relax and party with my cohort at our going-away party with the Mozilla Portland office.

I rewrote my speech for a third time, refined it down to a more specific theme, and got to practice a couple more times with Yenni this morning, and finally got to a place where I felt ready to go. Watching everyone’s speeches was so inspiring, and mine ended up going great.

Lukas gave us all certificates of completions, and we just finished final check-outs (each morning we check in and each afternoon we check out with each other, talking about how we’re doing) in which we all expressed our deep gratitude for all the ways this program and our fellow participants have helped us grow. Tears were flowing, tissues were flying, and we were all giving each other mental hugs. Something I’ve appreciated the most about this group is the massive respect and acceptance we all displayed for each other, and the authentic spirit of contribution and collaboration that really fostered all of our learning. I’ll be forever grateful for this experience.