One of my favourite parts of the day is the crack of dawn. I walk my dogs and listen to podcasts that inspire me. I breathe in the fresh, unpolluted air of a world that has not woken up just yet and allow my mind to wonder.
One of the talks that stuck with me this past week was Michelle Obama talking to Valerie Jarrett about the importance of Mentorship. It got me thinking about the gift of mentors that life puts in our path – if only we are humble enough to listen and let ourselves be moulded, and also about our own ability of mentoring – if only we are gracious enough to share of ourselves. My mind went back to the many who have pitched in, on my path, I have so much gratitude for each and every one of them.
My very first job, when I was 15, and Romania has just stepped out of communism, was my first lesson in interpersonal communication. I worked in sales – would be the more business like manner of translating the fact that I sat behind a cart with merchandise, in the street, and sold sweets, cigarettes and other such c**p. And I learned early on about the power of presentation and interaction in sales from the neighbour who had hired me and whose interest was, of course, to sell as much as possible.
As an exchange student in Seattle, Washington, my mentor was my debate teacher. She took me into her life and taught me the incredible power of presence when in front of the people you are working with. Suffering from a horrible bipolar disorder, my mentor was one of the most amazing teachers and stepping into the classroom you would never know the terrible turmoil that she was fighting. She taught me that you can be firm and kind at the same time, that you can give without ever expecting to receive anything in return and that friendship can withstand distance and time.
Alongside my college years I taught Romanian and English to adults and children and, in return, each of them was my mentor. I understood the importance of being prepared, of keeping relevant and of being connected. I understood, that if you do a job just to get the money it shows and, at the same time, living the shame of waiting at the door of a family as they were scrambling for change to pay me (not because they were poor), I understood that it is important to know your worth and not sell yourself short.
I started working in my current organisation in 2001 and my learning journey took the steepest curve. One of my mentors was sitting right across the room from me, the secretary’s office I was first hired in and taught me the importance of chosen family, the amazing power we have of rising in the middle of tragedy and how I can truly find something positive in everything that happens around us, if only I was willing to look hard enough.
I became a manager when my former boss moved to another country. Not before he taught me that it is important to pace myself, to listen and not jump to conclusions, that you don’t necessarily have to always express your opinion, that it is important to appraise the use of your words and the moment in which to utter them.
As I became a manager and my impostor syndrome kicked in really hard, my leader and mentor talked to me about my physical presence as a signature of the way I want to come across, about not giving 100% in my job because I have a family to enjoy and be part of and about not taking anything personally. I have to admit, these are lessons I am still trying to get through.
Many of these mentors are no longer part of my life today but their presence is felt in the way I carry myself, their joining me alongside my life’s path at one point in time helped me become the person I am today. Some have left my life because our friendship ended, some because they moved away, but their lessons continue to live in me and I am grateful for their presence at times in my journey when I needed guidance and support.