Friday, December 7, 2012

Mentors and Friends....

This post probably would have been much more timely around Thanksgiving, really giving me the opportunity to give a quick shout out to three individuals who all started out as mentors and quickly became friends.

Life is hard, I have no problem admitting that. Making decisions, pushing yourself, looking within and making changes all can be scary and often require support and advice from those wise and caring folks you have around you. I am extremely lucky to have met so many folks over the years, and I just wanted to send a special thank you to three of them. There are many more I could mention and people like Greg, my sister and my parents are probably obvious, but let's start with the three that come to mind most immediately.

I guess perhaps I should have gotten permission first before blogging about any of these lovelies, but I don't think I have said anything offensive, or anything that they would be embarrassed about. If any of you would like me to take anything down, I would be happy to oblige, just let me know.

I met Sean in high school (1993/1994 I believe). I was a rather quiet and shy person, pretty involved with dance and sports, but never really thought of myself as a leader. At one point in high school, I started attending Student Council meetings. I started to get super involved as a member of Student Council. My sophomore year I actually won an award for Member of the Year--having the most volunteer hours for that year. Around the same time, Sean suggested that I look into a summer leadership camp that took place at Wheaton College. I remember thinking to myself, a leadership camp, I clearly am not a leader.

At that point, I had gotten to know Sean a bit and I trusted his judgement, so after finding out that my Student Council Award meant I would have a member at large seat on the Student Council Board for the following year, I decided maybe I needed to learn something about all this leadership stuff. I ended up attending the S.L.T.P (Summer Leadership Training Program) at Wheaton College that summer, along with my good friend, Hilary and had a fabulous time. I never thought of myself as a leader until that summer. I was always much more of a leader by example and the quiet type of leader that would speak up when called upon, but that also was happy jumping in and helping out. I think I would describe myself as a leader when necessary. I am happy to jump in and take the helm, but much more comfortable helping out and even more comfortable in the background.

I learned a very importance lesson while at camp that summer. We were split into groups for the entire week. At the end of the week, we were supposed to vote for the one person in our team we wanted to give our closing speech. Come to find out, I was the tie breaking vote against myself. I voted for the other person because that is what I thought was the appropriate thing to do. It had gotten narrowed down to the two of us and I voted for him, so I lost and he gave the speech. Pretty much sums up my life :)

I remember getting back to school that following year, as a junior in high school and feeling pretty fired up. I was really involved in Student Council and for the first time even saw myself as a quasi-leader. This was all thanks to Sean and his suggestion. Seeing something in me that I clearly did not, or possibly, just suggesting something he enjoyed and he thought I may too. So, that is where it all started.

I got to work closely with Sean all year as a member of the Board and was able to attend our yearly Student Council conference with him. Sean was the type of leader and the type of person I wanted to be. We became good friends thanks to Student Council.

Sean also encouraged me when I decided I wanted to run for a board position on the C.D.M.A.S.C. Board. I decided I wanted to really put myself out there and run for Secretary of Central District Massachusetts Associations of Student Councils. What was wrong with me? What had taken over me? Must have been too many renditions of "Bubble Gum" or too much "Chicken Soup for the Soul." I clearly began to gain a bunch of confidence in myself, and was willing to put myself out there and say a speech in front of hundreds of people. I am not sure I ever would have gone through it without the encouragement I got.

Against all odds, I won. I remember being a real quiet campaigner. I had made a ton of signs and stickers and everyone was amazing and helped me hand out and hang up things. I wasn't a talker, once again, I was a quiet leader, a leader by example type person. I gave my speech and  I won. That day, I felt like other people saw something in me too, and it certainly made me smile. I was pretty much on top of the world my junior year in high school, it was by far my favorite year, ever. I remember coming to school one day and having the board out front congratulating me. It wasn't attention I was used to, but I was proud and pretty pumped to be more involved the next year.

I was so sad when Sean graduated. He was a year older than me, and I was excited for him to be headed off to Wheaton, but also super sad I had lost my Mentor and more importantly, my friend.  He may have thought he had gotten rid of me, but he was certainly wrong.

I had such wonderful memories while at Leadership camp at Wheaton, I knew it was going to be on my short list for colleges to visit. After learning more about Wheaton, learning they had an Astronomy program and Sean offering to host me a few weekends, it was super simple to make my decision. I was going to Wheaton too.

While at Wheaton, Sean and I remained friends. We both had our own things going on, but would meet up sporadically for coffee and a treat, often at the Lyons Den.

I just am so grateful for Seany. I really am. I am not sure I ever said this to him, but I really feel like he helped make me the person I am today. I often credit Wheaton with that, but I have no doubt there would be no Wheaton without Sean! I love ya dearly my friend and I am so glad we have remained friends all these years, even though we don't see each other often, when we do, it is like we pick right back where we left off. Thank you for having more confidence in me than I had in myself as a shy, quiet 15 year old. Thank you for always being willing to listen and be a sounding board of thoughtful advice. Thank you for caring and for being my friend. Thank you for always making me feel like I was special. Thank you for being the amazing person that you are! Thank you for always being so easy to talk to and for always being honest. Thank you for my high school graduation present of a Wheaton wallet and a few dollars for coffee and the Lyons Den. I knew you would be at Wheaton too and that just made everything better. I knew everything would be ok. Thank you for believing in me so many years ago and for pushing me to just try! :) Thank you!

I think the next person I have to give a shout out to is Catherine. I had the pleasure of meeting Catherine within my first year of moving to NYC , March of 2005 to be exact. I had met her husband through my first job in the city and he had offered her up to speak with me about my Master's and my interest in getting into the non-profit world. I will never forget the day I first heard from Catherine. She had e-mailed me and offered to meet with me one afternoon to just chat with me about her experience at NYU Wagner and talk to me just a bit about her current role and how she got into non-profit. I learned the children's center she worked at was just a few blocks from my apartment, I remember thinking to myself, this is just perfect.

I had a wonderful meeting with Catherine that day and learned so much about how she navigated her professional career and how she got where she was. Come to find out, there was actually a job opening at this Children's Center. I was immediately grateful for Catherine's willingness to take a chance on me. Clearly I still needed to apply and go through all of the regular channels and come back for an interview, but I officially passed the crazy test and after so many months of trying, finally had my foot in the door and for the first time being in NYC, I felt like I can do this. Catherine gave me confidence in myself and in my skills. While I had never worked at a NYC non-profit, I had spent 2 years prior to relocating in higher education and one year doing community service and service learning as a MACC AmeriCorps *Vista. Catherine believed in transferable skills and to this day I remain so grateful for her.

While at Rhinelander, Catherine taught me my most important lessons about what it means to be a good manager and a good leader. Catherine was able to really foster a working environment of high expectations, respect, appreciation and fun. I loved working at Rhinelander and I loved working with Catherine. She gave me important and insightful feedback and was really aware and conscious of understanding people's strengths and weaknesses. She learned quickly I was a very visual person and is always willing to draw things out for me. Whether it was a concept, or whether it was a map of her apartment :) Catherine really always listens and by learning about and caring for her Employees, it empowered her to make an impact on our efficiency and our attitudes.

Catherine was always willing to put things into context for me and share more background, strategy and "the why" in her decisions and processes. She knew I was interested in non-profit as a career and she was really willing to practice patience with me and took me under her wing, in every way.

After only being at Rhinelander for a short while, Catherine was promoted. I was extremely sad she was moving on within the agency, but extremely excited for her at the same time. I knew I continued to have a mentor at my fingertips and was grateful for that. Catherine eventually moved on from the agency and is now working for an amazing Charter School in Brooklyn. I feel honored to have been watching her journey and hope she knows I have been cheering her along.

With Catherine, what started out as a professional mentor-mentee relationship, has certainly developed into a very special friendship. I honestly am not sure what I would do without Catherine. We do not get to see each other as often as I would like, but I remain grateful for having such a wonderful friend here in the city. I am so appreciative for her willingness to continue to help me navigate my career and my passion.  When I am with Catherine, I cannot help but feel happy. It is always just so easy to chat and pick right back up where we left off. I am thankful she is willing to share so many things with me, including her love of yoga, knitting and all things vegetarian. She is so insightful in so many areas and love that we can talk work, life, politics, religion and that everything is easy to chat about. I admire her greatly and appreciate her friendship so much.  I always say I hope when I grow up I can be just like Catherine, and I couldn't mean it any more. I love you dearly Catherine and I remain grateful for you, and of course, Dan who brought us together to begin with:)

Last but not least, going by order of meeting these folks, I have to send a big I love you dearly to Leslie. We had already been in our apartment for a few years before we met Leslie. I am not so sure how we went so long without realizing we both had cats, but I remember her reaching out first. She had somehow noticed we had a cat, I am sure Norman had run into the hallway a few times and at one point had said we should help each other out.

I think this was probably in 2006 when we finally starting talking. I remember being a bit unsure. Leslie seemed wonderful, she was super friendly and her cats were cuties, but this was NYC and I still considered myself "new." Well, it certainly did take long for Leslie and I to become reliable cat care buddies, and then eventually great friends.

I feel like I owe much of my sanity to Leslie. Leslie has helped me with my spirit, more than anyone I know, probably. Leslie has been a constant support with my anxiety troubles, tummy troubles, etc. Leslie is always looking out for me and always looking for ways she can be supportive. I often call Leslie my own personal guru and I remain so grateful for all the time, energy and effort she has put into helping me, but more importantly into our friendship.

Leslie has been the type of person I can e-mail or text and tell her I am having a bad day and know that we can meet up and have tea. Leslie is the type of person that will come over during the election because she knows Greg is gone and I really don't want to watch the results roll in by myself. Leslie and I can talk and talk and talk and all while Norman remains completely content because he knows his Auntie Leslie is around.

Leslie hasn't only been a mentor to me and my spirit and helped me keep my sanity, she is truly a near and dear friend. I feel so lucky that we ended up in Apartment 4 A and that Leslie was right across the hall for so many years in Apartment 4 C. I miss our p.j. parties, I miss having all the cats hang out and I miss knowing I can knock on her door to chat, any time. I miss getting to hear all the fun new stuff about Sheffa, her and Amotz's amazing business. I miss sampling products and helping with product design, but I am so proud of you, Leslie. I am so proud of you taking a chance and taking a risk and following your dreams. I hope I can someday do the same!!!  I am grateful she is only a block away, and in the neighborhood, but sometimes in the city, it feels like she mine as well be in Yonkers. I am so grateful for her, Cloe, Ziggy and of course Amotz.

I am so glad to have a friend here in the city who is willing to be honest with me, willing to remind me to be more gentle to myself and not be afraid to share what she has learned along the way. I am so grateful to have someone who will go on walks with me when I am freaking out, or just come over and have some tea with me. I love you dearly Leslie, and I am so grateful for all of your insight, love and guidance.

I am one lucky girl. I have met so many amazing people along the way and learned so much from so many. A special last thanks to Sean, Catherine and Leslie for helping me grow personally, professionally, spiritually and just being constant loving and supporting forces for me.

I love you all dearly, thank you!

Cheers to hoping I can have similar impacts on folks I meet along the way, someday. Pay it forward, for certain!!


And that's all she wrote...

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