Friday, January 3, 2014
I think we all have 1 or 2, heck maybe more during our lifetime. I first met her at a previous place of employment. She was a social work intern, but light years ahead of her peers, she was different, she stood her ground, spoke her opinion and never backed down. I didn't understand it at the time, however was quite fascinated by the phenomenon of it. I never able to 'read' her and thought to myself well, I can't read her but can I be more like her? I mean she had a presence. During our time working together, my wife became pregnant with our first child. I remember struggling with the administrative types to get time off. I had a nuclear meltdown one day because of this. I remember my mentor being present, perhaps I knew that it was "safe"to have said meltdown in front of her. Instead of consoling me, she spoke to me, like an adult, she validated me but didn't baby me. I was able to put my big boy pants back on that day and I carried on. She departed shortly thereafter and moved on to other things in her career as did I. Strange as it may seem, I thought about her at times and often told the aforementioned story to people and how much it meant to me. A little over 7 years ago, I needed a job, I emailed my mentor ( she still had no clue at that point) an inquired about a job. I recalled the story, I'm not sure if she remembered, but she gave me an opportunity and hired me!. I told her early on, "I'm not the same Shawn." Not sure she was sold on this. Through the years, we found that we had some things in common, Baseball, family, our macabre sense of humor amongst many other things. Although I was initially kept at a distance, she gradually took me under her wing and let me in. She taught me things not just about work but about life, I mean, are bosses supposed to do this? I asked myself this regularly. I watched her and how she handled extremely difficult situations with ease. I don't mean these were easy situations, I mean she was unflinching. I tried to emulate her, knowing I could never be as good, but I didn't care, I was working with my mentor. We got to the point where we sat and spoke frequently, I got to learn things about her that nobody else knew, in a lot of ways, I felt like I was thumbing my nose at others who would never have this same opportunity. I finally confided to her one day that I had always wanted to be her friend, it took nerve. We reached a point in our time working together where we were inseparable. "Shawn, you two handle things exactly alike." A co-worker said that to me one day, I was floored, me?..really? I thought about quitting that day, because in the hierarchy of praise, it gets no better. Despite being one of my dearest friends, she remained my mentor, the cat was clearly out of the bag by that time she knew. Time obviously goes by and people move on. As of 5PM today, my mentor has moved on to greener pastures and while I am very happy for her, I will miss her, miss our talks, miss her insight, miss her confidence, I could go on and on. Perhaps one day we will work to ether again, maybe soon. Until then, I will put on those same big boy pants from some 15 years ago and honor her teachings and her mentoring but doing everything I can to pay it forward. At a minimum, I owe that to her.