After graduating college and jumping into my first job as a Publicity Assistant at a local television station, I nurtured a blooming fantasy about one thing that was going to make or break my career. I dreamt up a mentor and together we moved mountains, broke glass ceilings and built up my confidence to a point where I was simply unstoppable.
She was the model of success I wanted to create for myself.
We met once a month to discuss my career evolution.
She weighed in on colossal decisions, providing counsel on how best to move forward.
She nudged me, pushed me farther than I thought I could go, and always kept my career path and my success top of mind.
The first ten years of my career exploded, and I rode the wave of my growing abilities and a changing industry. While I had inspiring bosses who cheered me on for a period of time and conversations with colleagues who saw something special in me and were candid about their own stories to help me learn from their experiences, I never found that one person I hoped would save me from whatever stuckness I stepped into along my path.
And I did get stuck for several years. I knew I needed a change but could not see a way forward. I blamed my mentor for not showing up to perform her duties and myself for not being able to find her.
Then, through a confluence of life events like a milestone birthday, a close friend imparting wisdom as he died of ALS and my growing bandwidth as my daughters moved out of baby neediness, I grew a visceral understanding that…
The only person responsible for my life and my career is me. Nobody is going to save me from the unhappiness, the missed opportunities, the stuckness. My Fairy Mentor Mother may not come.
Or perhaps she already has, but she looks different than expected…
We might just meet once a year or every two years, or maybe we only ever met once, but the conversation had a tremendous impact on me.
She may have been ten years younger than me, but offered me the right brilliance at the right time.
She may be a friend who is sometimes one chapter ahead and sometimes needing my support.
She may be a writer, a podcaster or Oprah.
She may be a he.
What I know now and wish I knew then is that I can find inspiration from anyone and anything. It’s up to me to be open to receiving these messages, taking them to heart and putting them into action. I can break out of the rigid mentor lore I painted in my mind so that I can have mentoring conversations when I least expect them or several times a week instead of only once a month. What a better deal for me and less pressure and time for all of my people. And I have so many people who step up to be there for me in the moments I need them. They don’t need titles to help me move mountains, break glass ceilings or build up my confidence to make me unstoppable. Love, gratitude, respect and taking a turn on the upside of the mentoring see-saw make us feel whole.