At the weekend, I was lucky enough to meet E’s old work friend and mentor for brunch. I could write an entire post about the eggs that they serve at Alchemy in Leigh-on-Sea but maybe that’s something for me to sit and think on a little longer.
It was great to hear of their misadventures together, including him throwing pineapples at her when they’d over-ordered on them again. I should specify that they worked in a kitchen, as if this makes the anecdote any more palatable.
It got me thinking about the people I’ve had in my life that I now recognise as being mentors. I don’t like the business term of having a mentor. It suggests an earnest sit down over a cup of bad, machine-made coffee while making Five Year Plans like Josef Stalin.
Instead, these are people who have been there for me when I needed the guidance. Sometimes they are people that are senior to me in years or in a work setting, but in others, they have been established friendships that I later recognised had something else going on at the same time. There’s a certain respect that they have earned as a result of those engagements.
There’s S, one of the first bosses I had, who it felt truly accepted and understood me while expecting a lot at the same time. I haven’t worked with him for close to a decade but I can guarantee a message on my birthday and the occasional check-in when I’ve been quiet. He has a cool confidence, a powerful collection of aftershave/cologne and is a great problem solver.
Then I worked with R, who got me through a rocky patch. Somehow we swung a trip to Malta for work while I was going through a horrible break up. We spent a week eating delicious seafood and finding creative ways of hiding our beers on the receipts we submitted back to the office. He also helped me get into running and HIIT when I felt like a slug. R has the capacities of an older sibling, knowing just how much piss-taking is appropriate. Also, great beard.
I met J online after I read their first novel and got in touch to say how incredible it was. In turn, J read work of mine, offered fantastic feedback, and supported me through the last few years when I was really striving to get better as a writer and to make a name for myself. Their writing is some of the strongest I’ve read and I wait impatiently for the novel about working in a sex shop.
That moves us onto F and T, who have been paid to be there for me through the tough times. There’s still a level of mentorship that comes from being a therapist and the things they have taught me about myself are not to be overlooked. It’s still an ongoing process and not one I can see the end of at this point. I’m building out a toolkit of things I do know and can take comfort in.
The most recent is another J, who is now my agent. He delivers a firm but fair approach, holding me accountable for the work I’ve done while offering up this end-of-the-rainbow optimism to everything we have done together. I have total faith that this will change my life and the time he has dedicated to me has been incredible.
There are plenty of other people in my life who have been kind, have listened when I most needed it and, in particular, have seen me through the last five months. Maybe in time, they’ll become mentors too.
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