A constellation of mentors

I’ve wished for a mentor countless times, the way one wishes for a fairy godmother, but she never appeared (neither have the coach, white horses, or glass slippers). Some days, this has made me a strange mixture of sad and mad, envious of those around me who seemed to be so well supported, and wondering if I’d done something wrong to be in such a position.

As my career advanced, I started to appreciate the independence and creativity that were born of the required self-reliance and my desire for someone to guide me more or less evaporated, leaving only a thin film of longing. The longing nagged, like a reminder I hadn’t been selected for the kickball team, but I could tolerate it.

Recently, at a Rock Health Retreat for Women (aptly named the XX Retreat) I admitted my frustration at the lack of women mentors (see attached video). But, I realized in watching the video again that I wasn’t being completely honest. There are many women who teach, guide and support me—I just needed to broaden my field of vision and stop only looking up.

It turns out my mentors aren’t the older, wiser, leaders with battle scars who I was imagining. My mentors are the group of women I’m lucky enough to call friends (and consider my chosen family). I am surrounded by amazing women who inspire, encourage, and challenge me every day to be a better professional and human being. And so, today, I want to recognize and thank each of them.

Lisa is sensitive, in the most beautiful and powerful way. Standing by her as she gracefully navigates challenges and changes in life, professionally and personally, reminds me to be kind to others and myself.

I’m still not sure how Diana does it all, even though I’ve seen it up close. But it is the selfless love and attention that she invests, which inspires me to recognize the deep, deep internal well from which we each can draw to give to others.

Sangeeta speaks truth to power, fights for those who can’t fight for themselves, and is impatient with injustice. She showed me, rather than told me, how to channel that anger into creating lasting change, by marrying it to empathy and respect for our fellow beings.

I miss Michele, who isn’t afraid to recognize herself and show others how she feels. She taught me that I could trust and allows me to practice being emotional, messy, and out of control, to work through the many layers of feeling to get to the core of the matter.

Naomi is a force of nature. Her drive and determination are inspiring and witnessing her professional success, matched with her personal happiness, makes me want to work harder, do more, and always bring my best effort to the table.

I didn’t like it much at the time, but am thankful Amy pushed me to be more honest with myself and other about who I am, what I need, and how I feel. Her ability to show up has given me the courage to do the same and experience how people respect authenticity.

Christine has allowed me to travel with her on a journey exploring what makes her happy. Although it’s a winding, sometimes perilous, road she reminds me it’s important to take pause and look inside for direction when facing accidents, diversions, and detours.

I was sick and vulnerable in Rwanda when I met Sara and thought I’d never be so brave to give as much as she does. With her as a model, I appreciate how faith—blending spirituality and science—can be a source of the courage it takes to be of service to others.

Laura reminds me to open up and laugh. It’s not just because she’s funny, but rather because she does everything she can to make those around her safe. Security provides a jumping off point to play and I appreciate that she has shown me how they are related.

Carlotta influences me even though we’re hundreds of miles apart. She has combined raw talent, intelligence, and persistence in multiple arrangements to achieve so much in so many ways. Her creativity sparks mine, and I’m lucky to count on her anytime I need her.

These women have taught me lessons over the years I’ve known them and I’m grateful for each one. Even more, I’m grateful for the constellation that they together form, which I look to for guidance and inspiration just like the stars.

I’d encourage everyone to think about who truly mentors them, and recognize that while this might not come from the places you’d expect and it might not look like what everyone else has, that it’s possible you are surrounded with the just the mentors you need.

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One thought on “A constellation of mentors

  1. jammiekern says:

    I always looked up to coworkers and friends who always helped me with advice when I needed it, but I was also on my own (at least felt that way) most of the time. I became an “accidental mentor” when I started volunteering at a camp as a counselor. It’s been 13 years now, and I am the mentor I’d always wanted for myself, only it’s more rewarding to know that I am that mentor for other young women. A lot of the choices I’ve made for myself have been influenced by what I’d like to see in the lives of these young women. It’s an interesting turn about.

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