On May 4th, my aunt unexpectedly passed away.
She had been dating my mother’s brother long before I was born and she had acted as a second mother to me my entire life.
And because she wasn’t my actual mother, I found myself being able to confide in her things I typically reserved for friends.
For example, pain points I felt about my appearance during my early adolescence. My angsty feelings towards crushes that had been simultaneously tugging at my heartstring during my late teens. My daunting doubts about my intellectual capability while deciding what route to take during my time as an undergraduate and law school student.
I would later realize that my aunt was much more than a second mother; she had undertaken the role of being my mentor.
In hindsight, I think about how fortunate I was to have been able turn up at my mentor’s doorstep at a moment’s notice; she was always there for me, with open ears and words of encouragement that were well beyond my years and naive judgement.
Her passing has provoked my unabating reflection on the power of mentorship; especially between women and girls.
A mentor is someone who takes a personal interest in your success in learning and achieving your goals, and is in a position to help you do it by encouraging you and connecting you with ideas, resources, people, and opportunities.
When You Need a Mentor Most, Look to Your Immediate Connections
For those who are reading this and wishing they had a mentor, you might be surprised by just how close one may already be. Around this time last year, I was unhappy with my job and for months, had reasoned back and forth about whether to stay or leave:
I’m sure to get promoted soon. But I really want to write. How do I get a writing job anyway? I’ll be totally regressing. Will I still have incredible dental insurance?
Ultimately, I left my full-time job and embarked on a completely new (and admittedly terrifying) career path as a writer. Writing had been my first love, but the fear of not being able to successfully sustain a livelihood with a humanities degree had steered me into sales. But after I made the decision to pursue my dream, everything I needed in life began to manifest itself almost magically.
I had applied for an editorial internship at a startup whose mission resonated with me on so many levels. During my interview with the founder, it was evident we were on the same page. I playfully told her I wished I came up with her idea and I was offered to role on the spot. Only one year my senior, she had so many professional and personal accomplishments under her belt that blew my mind so much so that I had to disguise my gaze of complete amazement every time we spoke (had to look cool, ya dig?).
Boss (right) taking window selfies?!? Evidently I rubbed off onto her too!
She was not only my boss; she quickly became my work wifeand mentor.
Before meeting her, I never had anyone genuinely care about how things were going for me professionally. I had always presented myself well, so people around me assumed I had it all together. But up until that point, I had been sort of winging it, hoping that the right opportunity would fall into my lap.
Through her own gracious volition, she offered me mentorship. She took me under her wing, sharing insights about the entrepreneurial world (of which I knew nothing!), challenging my skills, pointing out my rooms for improvement without prevarication, trusting me with managing important campaigns, allotting scheduled time to transparently discuss my goals and of how exactly I planned to achieve them, offering me advice, helping me become a competitive candidate in this newly ventured workspace, and celebrating with me when milestones were met. She exhibits what “women uplifting women” wholly means.
Female Mentors Play a Critical Role in Helping Women Build Confidence
You know yearning deep down in the pit of your stomach? That idea you always keep coming back to? That’s your passion. And it’s your responsibility to immerse yourself and figure out how to viably attain it.
Make connections. And much deeper than networking connections — createbonds. Share a vision. Uplift others around you. And when you do, your path will inevitably cross with that of a wise confidant who cares just as much about your dreams as they do theirs. It is that mutual, genuine passion that will bring you together and bond you for life.
If my aunt and former boss hadn’t taken the time to mentor me, without a doubt, I would not be where I am today.
And so I write in thanks of female mentorship. To all of the women who have guided and nurtured other women, your words and actions have not gone unnoticed.
Each time I’m faced with a decision (either big or small), I think back to what these women have taught me and play a “what-would-she-do” scenario in my head. I assess my own thoughts based on that scenario and I step forward confidently in the direction of my dreams.
The notion of being “self-made” is out-dated. I would much rather choose help and collaborations over making it work on my own anyways.
Today, because of my mentors, I’m living more happily and authentically than I ever have. I speak my mind, I ask a lot of questions and I know my worth. And in that is greatness.
I only hope to do the same for others, especially girls. Because it’s tough out there. I see you trying; I applaud you and I want to grow simultaneously with you.
For those who do have a mentor, I invite you to register how absolutely fortunate you are. I encourage you to send them an email today — I’m certain a coffee date is well overdue. And let them know just how thankful you are for having them in your life.
By Jessica Munoz