To A Mentor

Dear X,

You’re far away now, and maybe I missed a chance to tell you these things. Maybe you couldn’t hear me. Maybe I wasn’t obvious. Maybe you thought it was mere flattery. Maybe the message got confused among all of the others things. But here it goes:

You taught me to keep my chin up.

You told me ‘stop feeling sorry for yourself. Just do what you have to do’. You were so right. I don’t think anyone ever called me out in that way…

You taught me to aspire to be ‘Great’ instead of just being ‘Fine. Always fine’.

You taught me the ‘oh so important’ distinction between being a workaholic and loving my job. I’d lost my way; you put me back on track.

You taught me how to let go, unwind, not to take life too seriously; we’d go play pool in the middle of the night, and I’d stop stressing out or being so hard on myself. You got me out of my head.

You could be so misguided, but yet always manage to have the right thing to say… To be wise. The paradox has me confused to this day.

You were my moral compass; scolding me for getting an MRI for a meniscal tear, because I might be taking the spot of someone who’d need it more than me. You’d say hi to vagabonds in the street and smile at them, strike a conversation with strangers, remember to say ‘please’ and thanks’ in a field where entitlement is the norm, brought snacks to the nurses; you remembered peoples’ names.

You pushed me to stop doubting myself. You told me I was mad smart. You told me I had potential to make a difference in our field, and I dare say you might have believed in me. Your faith scared me- deep down I was afraid you’d put too much hope in little ol’ me, made me out to be someone I could never be- but it also gave me the motivation to make you proud and give the best of myself. You were my inspiration. You told me you wanted to help me ‘get there’, as I was defiantly answering back to your provocations, telling you that I’d manage to be both a surgeon and an anthropologist, however impossible it may seem- just you wait and see… In ten years. Yeah. Maybe I’d prove you wrong in 10 years. You laughed and said you’d want to be around when it happened.

You told me I gave you insight. You asked for my opinion. You made me feel as though you valued what I had to say. No one or nothing can take that away.

You told me I had to get to know myself before trying to understand other people; that I wouldn’t be able to if I didn’t know what was going on in my own mind first.

You pushed my buttons, you’d always know when I was  lying to myself, and you never could just let me be; you’d anger me so much with your perfectly aimed remarks… But I knew it was never ill will, and so I forgave all of these slights. It just annoyed me you could read me so well and so effortlessly.

You said that friends should tell each other the truth, but never give unsolicited advice, and I realized the reason why you were such a great mentor was because you never gave me any answers, never told me what to do, but that somehow, you’d manage to ask the right question, make the appropriate comment, and allow me to proceed with my own reflective process. You made me realize a great teacher should be a catalyst.

I don’t think you ever were a cynic. You’d have a lot reasons to be, and yet you had a way of seeing the world with childlike innocence, reminding me that, yes, some people didn’t care, but that I could choose to smile regardless, and thus help the ones around me. I still look up to you, wonder what you would do, in difficult times.

You were a lighthouse; guiding me between the sea and the shore, in pitch-black and among tumultuous waves.

Now, I’m all grown-up.

It’s bittersweet, but I understand it’s a law of nature that people change and circumstances evolve too.

Most importantly, I’d like to tell you: Thank you.

Little birdy is finally ready to fly on its own.

Image Source:,silhouette/Interesting

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