Some of my readers have asked me the value of a mentor (I guess if you need to ask then you probably do not need one) and I could list 50 different reasons depending on the client’s age, title, profession, etc. but after having lunch with a client from Alabama recently, I decided it would be more enlightening to have a client do it. I met Tara at Next Step, a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring young women and girls to run for political office. Immediately I sensed something special about this young woman and since all my clients want to make a difference, I knew she would be a natural. Tara has overcome some significant challenges and has embraced many of the principles that I have written about in the Every Day Mentor column. Today she writes for several blogs, including SpikeThe WaterCooler.com and you will soon hear her name mentioned in many other places in this town. Stay Tuned!
Tara’s Story as told by Tara
“It’s been a tough year. A tough two years. A tough month, week, or day even. If all of us had a dollar for every time we said that, our years and months would probably be looking much better.
But for now, all I can say is, yea, times have been a little bit tough for a person who always wants a perfectly detailed, color-coded plan written out in front of her. You probably haven’t met me, so here is the Cliff’s Notes version of my “tough” times; had a baby, husband deployed, worked a full-time and then some job in the public sector with newborn infant in tow, moved across the country, moved back across the country in the same year, put a dog to sleep, lost a cat, lost another cat, lost some close friends, sold a house, quit my beloved job in the public sector, started a consulting gig, spent the next 6 months trying to mentally breakdown my calling in life and here I am. Now, before you forget everything I just rambled off and start thinking I’m a crazy cat lady simply because you’re still stuck on the part about me losing two cats, let’s just move on to where I am physically, mentally, emotionally, TODAY.
Somewhere in the midst of all of the “tough” stuff I was digesting over the past couple of years, a miracle happened- I snapped out of the superwoman, “I’ve got this and I can do It all on my own” funk that I brought on myself and surrendered to the idea that no, I actually can’t do life on my own, no matter how stubborn or strong-willed I think I might be. And all of a sudden through a personal leap of faith into a leadership training I never thought I was good enough for, I found a mentor.
Ok, I have a Bachelor’s Degree in English, I know what the word mentor means by definition; a trusted counselor, guide, but the art of actually being mentored is more the result of a very personal choice to allow yourself to be vulnerable and open to someone’s analysis of you-your strengths, weaknesses, passions, hopes, dreams, and all the little things that light your fire about life.
For most of us, that’s not an easy thing to do. For most of us, image is everything. Perfection equals excellence, which equals success. I’ve spent plenty of time trying to be the buttoned up picture of feminine strength and intelligence, afraid that my blue-collar roots might show through. Having a mentor changed that. And changed my vision, my goals, and my way of thinking. In essence, my mentor just helped me get to know me a little better.
The best part is that it hasn’t stopped there. Taking that first step in the middle of some very uncomfortable life circumstances just paved the way for other doors to open right when they need to open. It was after I forged a relationship with my first mentor Arnie, I got some guts and quit a job I loved because I knew I couldn’t morally align with the office ideology anymore. It was a huge ouch moment for me, and one of those times in my life when I realized I really am a grown up now.
I went out on my own as a consultant feeling like my daughter’s beta fish must feel when we change his water-panicked! I’ve known a couple for years here in this home away from home military community. I’ve been their customer through my career, never in a million years would I dream them up as my next significant relationship.
I walked in their business one day, we talked about life, I casually mentioned my struggles, and they looked me in the eye like I was the only person in the room and asked me what I wanted to do in life. I’ve had a million elevator speeches drafted in my head for when people ask me just such a question, but when someone asks, and you know they genuinely care, it’s a different story.
Those two people have become mentors to me now. They’ve also become a giant piece of my heart and given me gifts I’ll never be able to repay.
If you really think about it, my first mentor and the couple who became my unlikely mentors are really just a part of the pay it forward movement, that despite all negative influences, does exist.
Mentors are invested in our good, because they know somewhere in us, that we also want to do something good; we might just be at a loss on how to get there. Ultimately we have no choice but to remove the super hero cape and let the magic happen.
Tara Leigh Emnett
Write, Mother, Professional
Don’t forget to check out Mentor You!