by David Ward (2014 Byron Fellow)

As I stood by the pick-up point at Indianapolis airport, my mind was buzzing with nerves and apprehensions. Questions existed that had no answers; why was I there? what was I about to do? why was I doing it? I wanted answers and searched high and low, but none were forthcoming. All I could do was take a step out of my comfort zone, accept that I was no longer in control, and try to embrace the next week that was Byron – whatever that would be!

As the week unfolded, my comfort zone shifted. I discovered that questions in themselves do not need answers per se. I learnt to embrace my inner being and open up my mind. A journey was beginning and the end was unknown. The route was even unknown, but this became irrelevant. As I started out on this journey with 19 other fellows, little did I know the effect that this journey would have on me, and those around me.Byron2

When I arrived at Byron, I left behind the trials and tribulations that were enveloping my life. A tangled web of situations, all of which seemed to weigh me down, and a cornucopia of things to be done. They were problems, which would all be waiting for me when I returned after Byron, and yet little did I know how the situations would be changed.

Each day at Byron, the mirror on my life was gradually assembled. From a collection of fractured pieces on the floor at the beginning of the week it gradually took place and really showed me the true potential and obvious flaws in my character. It was a kaleidoscope of information, but an incredible sense of freedom. A chance to start with a blank canvas, and with all the tools and the support I needed to make a pièce de résistance.

As the week progressed, I felt able to approach the situations that I’d left behind, to stand up to them face-to-face from an outside point-of-view. There were conversations that needed to take place, and procedures that I would need to put in place. However, rather than seeing these as a burden, they were an exciting challenge. Equipped with the tools required to enter into these conversations and having the support of those at Byron were fundamental in a new found confidence, whilst an ability to sometimes accept situations for what they are and embrace the uniqueness that they bring added to a sense of inner-peace.

With each passing hour, I was learning exactly what my role in life should be, where I should play a part and where my skills could most be deployed. Revelations about how I could play a role in the lives of my fellow fellows also occurred, and a community was being built that is still very strong to this day, crossing over 3 continents.

As I returned to England after Byron, the situations I left behind were indeed waiting for me. However, they were no longer problems, no longer weights around my neck. Rather, they were opportunities, chances to make a change for good in the world around me. A plethora of doors that had appeared shut were now opening and how exciting it was to walk through them and embrace what was on the other side. A new spirit had been lit within me; a new desire and passion for each and every conversation. The situations have evolved where needed for the better, whilst I’ve been able to let go of some of the weights and leave them behind.

Looking back nine months on, these opportunities have unfolded in ways that would have been unfathomable before Byron. I have felt able to challenge people where otherwise I would have been incapable, support people where previously strength was weak, I’ve been able to see future events not as distant dreams, but graspable realities. However, above all, I have a community of which I am so deeply blessed to continue to be a part of; one where you are not judged for who you are or what you do, but rather accepted and loved for the gifts that you have the privilege of being able to offer.

If I had to some Byron up, it would be as follows; Byron is an open canvas of self-discovery, inner-peace and truly inspirational experiences which allow problems to be turned into opportunities, dreams turned into realities, and a group of strangers turned into a formidable community.