On mentors

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I turn 30 in September. As the date draws near, my impulse to reflect on the last few decades grows stronger.“What have I done with my life?” I ask, as people around me get married, have kids and launch careers.

I, on the other hand, began pursuing a new career at the age of 29–signing up for a masters degree program in journalism.

I don’t regret my path. Since discovering journalism, I have achieved everything I set out to do so far–something I attribute to a path dotted with mentors.

It started in high school. My parents had just gotten divorced, and I was at a new school–shy and terrified. I found solace in my youth group at church. From that experience, a relationship developed with a woman named Jen.

Jen drove 30 minutes out of her way every Wednesday morning to take me to breakfast before school. She would arrive at my house around 5:30 a.m. We would sit at Panera, eat bagels, and drink coffee until it was time for school.

She read my amateur poetry and listened to me cry about my family. But we also laughed. Jen’s laugh filled the room. It was, at the same time, a shriek and a guffaw. It was a laugh that turned heads.

That was it, but that relationship helped shape me into who I am today. I don’t see Jen often anymore, but I still consider her family.

Since then, I have had mentors and been a mentor. It is a special relationship–accidental, yet somehow intentional.

As I pursue a new path in journalism, I look forward to forming these unique relationships.

So often I just want to burrow into my house, but I have been lucky to form great relationships with students and teachers in the program, at Chicago Reader and at WBEZ.

While you can’t force these relationships, you do have to show up.