It’s been a year since our first Homeward Bound cohort of female scientists departed for Antarctica. Between the anniversary of the first voyage and the departure of the second on 18 February 2018, we’ll be sharing the stories of our inaugural participants and their journeys, in their own words, one year on. Their stories put faces to the facts about women in leadership, women in STEMM and what’s happening to our planet. Follow the stories on social media using #HBStories.
Homeward Bound Stories: Raeanne Miller
11 December 2018
One year ago today I was on board the MV Ushuaia, floating amongst icebergs in the aptly named Paradise Bay. There was not a breath of air as we sliced through the glassy water, occasionally crunching a piece of floating ice. The day started hazy with smooth grey cloud blanketing the sky and hanging around mountains which rose straight up from the sea, giving the impression of an old monochrome film, somewhat fuzzy around the edges. Silence and stillness – nothing but the sloshing of sea against the Ushuaia’s bow. Slowly, the sky brightened. First a patch of blue here and there and eventually the clouds retreated, clinging only to the summits of the peaks surrounding us. The landscape sparkled.
One year ago today I was getting to grips with my stories – the unproductive ones. The stories I told myself about who I was and the stories I used to make excuses for why I could not pursue my goals. I was beginning to understand the roots of these narratives, and why I struggled to accept and move past challenges and (often perceived) failures. Those who know me well know that I am a very competitive person, and that as a runner and a triathlete I always train hard to do my best when I race. However, being competitive also means that I am susceptible to comparing myself to others, assessing if I am ‘as good as’ everyone else. I still do this sometimes (it’s hard to break a habit!), but I’ve also now got a stronger voice which tells me that we are all different and that we all come from different places, have different experiences, and see the world from different perspectives. We are all racing different races and it’s impossible to compare them!
It is amazing to look back now and think of what has come to light since my month in Antarctica. The physical experience of being in a remote, isolated, and peaceful place was truly magical, but I also discovered and claimed a new part of me ‘down south’, which continues to grow even a year on.
I find that I am more resilient; challenging discussions, personal criticism and setbacks no longer send me into the same spiral of anxiety, worry and blame. Instead, I take stock, reassess, and try to find a new way to move forward. I am more confident – not in an outward way, but instead I have become more comfortable within myself. Before I left for Argentina and Antarctica, I made a promise to myself that I would set aside my ego, be humble, and learn as much as I could about myself and about leadership from the experience. Now, I take the same approach as I pursue new and challenging projects in science communication and knowledge exchange, working with scientists, businesses, and other organisations where I have little experience, or where I am not an expert. Instead, I commit to listening, learning and enabling myself and others to do our jobs and do them well.
Most of all, I am able to put space between myself and the challenges which I face, to pause, to consider ‘how’ and ‘why’ it has come about, and then to decide how to respond. For the most part, I simply am more content with my decisions, trusting that they are the right ones for me, and that if they are not, I will learn from them.
On the plane on the way to Buenos Aries in November 2016 I wrote:
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” -Viktor E. Frankl
Little did I know how much that would still mean for me one year later!