On my drive to the beach from Atlanta, my route took me closer to Southport, NC than I’ve been in years. It was once a place that I visited annually. Despite being the backdrop for several famous movies, I went to this very picturesque spot for the conversation. Each year I would go to Southport and meet my former professor for lunch and talk about our lives. Although he was no longer grading me and never would have said a negative thing about my life choices, I always used it as a measuring stick to decide whether or not I’d used my year well. If I was proud of the things that I had to tell him, then it was a good year. If I felt that I needed to avoid some less than proud moments, then I might have work to do before our next meeting.
The great thing about these little check-ins was that I recognized it and looked forward to it. There is no doubt that I loved and respected my mentor. That was what made our meetings so very special. Rather than bringing home a report card to show a letter grade, I got to tell my story to someone who truly wanted me to succeed while always knowing whether or not I was editing. It was a gift worth its weight in gold because between my story, his reactions and our discourse, I saw myself. It wasn’t a 100% accurate picture. More like one of those carnival mirrors that distorts your shape. This was a reflection of a realistically idealized version of myself that can be found most abundantly in parents and teachers. The people who see you as you are but also better than you are. They forgive your shortcomings while seeing your potential and possibly give you some credit for it before you reach it.
Unfortunately, those meetings are no longer available to me with that particular mentor. The world and I truly lost something when he passed on. Now I need to look at myself without him and wonder. What would he think of how I am handling this moment in time? If we were at the Provision Company having lunch, would I be squirming in my seat or relaxed in my skin? It’s not an overly difficult exercise to do on my own. He would be supportive and offer his bits of wisdom but avoid being too “preachy” and it would all circle back to Don Quixote somehow. At the moment, I just miss my friend.
Mirrors are a spectacular tool for seeing yourself as you are. Friends and mentors are sometimes a better tool for seeing the best version of yourself. When you find one that truly shows you the best things about yourself, I hope that you recognize it as I did. It is such a gift while you have it and it won’t last forever. So cherish it. You’ll never look so good as you do in the eyes of someone who truly loves you!
We are human storytellers.