What Inspires Me

My Quirky History with Mentors

I’ve found the way mentors appear in my life to often be quirky and a little magical.

When I was a young, overly-ambitious professional, getting mentors was something I desperately wanted. It seemed to me that one or two good mentors would help me fly past steps on the ladder others were sweating to negotiate.

And I had some professional mentors like that. Some were persons in my profession and some were people who helped me navigate life with more wisdom.

I’ve also had mentors who appeared magically in accordance to the saying, “when the student is ready the teacher will appear.” For me, this saying tends to irritate more than inspire. There have been so many times when I was screaming at the universe, “Teacher wherever you are, I’m ready right NOW!”

And yet oddly, when these mentors do show up, I realize not only was it the perfect time, I experience their appearance as moments of true personal grace.

Here’s an example of how these mentors have shown up.

When I was in my early 30’s I realized that after the dogged pursuit of a professional marketing career, it was just not my thing. This was after nearly a decade of working hard in the profession and earning a very expensive MBA.

This freaked me out more than a little. I had no idea what I would do otherwise. Much as I disliked my current job I had student loans I needed to pay off. I could have found a new job in my field but I didn’t see the point. I wasn’t ready to be a barista at Starbucks. And I felt pretty clueless about what I did want to do.

Shortly after this freak out moment, I ran into a women I knew from a past support group. I’ll call her Sarah. Of all places we met up the waiting room of my therapist’s office. What I immediately noticed was how happy and confident Sarah seemed. I remembered her as always very professional and beautifully dressed but she would talk around her problems in a way that sounded quietly resigned. The woman I was now speaking to was, energetically, a very different person.

After some small talk, I told Sarah about my current challenges and frustrations. She shared with me that she, too, was in a career transition. And she was working with a great career counselor, was I interested in getting this counselor’s contact information?

I had mixed feelings about career counselors, often finding their advice superficial…more focused on specific job hunting strategies than navigating a career transition. But Sarah was so enthusiastic, I decided to get in touch with her counselor.

It turned out Sarah’s counselor was the exact right person for me. She was supportive around my decision to leave my current field and encouraged me to find work in a field I actually enjoyed. She also encouraged me not to jump too quickly at the first shiny option I discovered. It was the first time in a long time I actually felt supported and validated around choosing a career.

As time passed, I’d sometimes run into Sarah. Once I was crossing the street and she was headed in the opposite direction. These meetings were entirely unpredictable and always felt like synchronicity in action. We rarely spoke for more than 5-minutes at a time; in fact, she spent most of the time listening but she always said something I needed to hear.

Most of the next year continued in this way. I’d see Sarah perhaps once or twice a month. We would talk briefly and go our separate ways. Our worlds didn’t overlap much. We didn’t hang out socially. But these quick meetings were like small emotional and spiritual pick me ups.

Eventually, our paths diverged. I found a new career that I liked a lot. I got married and had a family. I heard Sarah had met a man she loved and was now doing research in another country.

That was nearly thirty years ago. Other mentors like Sarah have entered and moved through me life. Although they are all very human, I’ve often felt they had qualities I can only describe as angelic. They always shared qualities of compassion, clarity, patience, and wisdom. Although they weren’t angles I can’t help but wonder if some wiser beings were working through them.

I write this from a place of deep gratitude for these people who show up when I need them and say what I need to hear. When they show up is unpredictable but what never fails to amaze me is that they always show up.

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