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day 17: life is life

February 18, 2011
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Day 17 had me thinking about mentors.

Over the years,  generous people have walked me through my career, at various times bracing me or guiding me or shoving me.  At the tip-top of my mentor list is Jessica, my former supervisor from eight years ago. 

[That last sentence doesn’t capture our relationship — so much more than a “former supervisor,” Jessica is a friend with whom I speak every couple of weeks].

She is the kind of friend who offers to come over and babysit in the middle of the night if you go into labor.  She’s the friend who not only never forgets a birthday but also remembers your favorite brand of tea.  She’s the friend your kids beg to visit because she’s able to simultaneously hold an adult conversation with you while building styrofoam robots with them.  Even more impressive?  She is this kind of friend to lots of people.

Professionally, Jessica provided a template of the social worker I wanted — and still want — to be.

Things I’ve learned from Jessica (an incomplete list):

  1. Always update your resume as soon as you get a new job.
  2. Pay attention.
  3. Efficient meeting facilitation is a skill that will endear you to every single person in your company.
  4. Learn how to accept a compliment, already.
  5. Ask permission before you offer advice.
  6. Never put anything in email that you wouldn’t want to read on the front page of the newspaper.
  7. People need to be heard, but at some point you must just affirm and move on.
  8. Document, document, document.  Everything.
  9. Doing the right thing isn’t always appreciated by the higher-ups.
  10. Do the right thing anyway.
  11. Dress up for the office — jeans are for weekends.
  12. Every moment is another opportunity to turn it all around.
  13. Love what you do, but remember work is just work. Life is life.

I find the ways Jessica embraces #13 inspiring (I know I overuse that word, but in this case I really mean it).  In the years since I met her, she has hiked in New Mexico, volunteered at the art museum, and become a certified yoga teacher after having practiced yoga for more than two decades.

Right about the same time I was thinking about Jessica yesterday, I read an article about this program in Fitness Magazine.  YogaG is a nonprofit organization, run solely by volunteers, that provides yoga instruction to women and children living in domestic violence shelters.  Proceeds from this posture mat will support YogaG’s programming.

Jessica doesn’t need this prompt — she could recite the Sanskrit names of each of these poses in her sleep.  What she will love about this gift is that, through it, a measure of peace will be passed on to those who need it the most.

Namaste, everybody.  Thanks for showing up with me.

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