Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about my life, both since reflection (and meditation) is a part of my daily routine, but also because I’ve been applying to fellowships and PhD programs and need to paint vivid pictures of myself for the committees that will read my applications. While some of what I write is about work I’ve done previously, places I’ve traveled, or what motivates me, a tremendous amount of what I end up discussing is the people who have helped me get to where I am today – my mentors.
This past Thursday, my sister and I were fortunate to be invited over to spend thanksgiving with a close friend of mine and his family, since our own parents are down in Florida. While this family has been very welcoming to me since graduation and my semi-orphanhood in Seattle, conversing with them over dinner made me realize that they didn’t know much about my parents. My sister ended up sharing a lot about our upbringing and diverse family situation, and in listening to her, I realized that we have a very similar perspective about how our parents influenced our lives, both emotionally and intellectually. It was also clear (to me at least) that both of our parents have a teaching background and often guide or mentor us through our experiences rather than just give us information that we need. This new insight helped me realize why I find myself so drawn to many of my teachers, as they help me in the same ways that I get help at home.
Aside from my parents, I have been quite blessed with the teachers and mentors that I have had throughout my life, from the elementary school teachers that helped other students pronounce my name correctly, to my Willamette family, many of whom invited me into their own families for holidays and celebrations. All of these people have been willing to walk alongside me in my journey, allowing me to fall with the understanding they would be right there to help me get myself back up. They were the ones always ready to take my questions, often answering them with a series of questions to help me reason my way to an answer, or at least find the path to where I needed to go. They were the the ones who, in those dire situations, helped re-orient me. This has been true in my academic life, in my years of drumming, in photography, and in any sport I have played. The human connection and compassion that helps us lead others in the right direction is incredibly powerful.
Every day that I step into my own classroom, I reflect on the role that my mentors have played in my life and the way I turn to them when I most need something. Recently, when I was explaining the connection I have with my parents and mentors to a friend, I told him that they were like Google for me – they help me filter away the less important stuff and bring only what is most relevant or useful to the surface.
Thank you to everyone who has walked with me on my journey, especially when neither of us knew where we were going.