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This week, I plan to visit with friends and former colleagues at Notre Dame Preparatory School in Towson, Maryland. Specifically, I have a meeting with members of the Guidance Department tasked with reformulating an online mentoring program, with which I was involved a few years ago. From the perspective of someone making a career change in the ‘third chapter’ of life, I wonder if mentee-mentor roles change through the course of life.

During adolescence and perhaps even before, I pondered my future like most young people starting out. What work would I do? Luckily, I had great mentors who guided me along my path in teaching: my mother who is one of the best teachers I know, Barbara Waier my supervisor during student teaching, Frieda Fairburn my first department chairman, and so many others. Rebukes and corrections were as important as encouragement and comments about what my mentors saw in me. In my rookie year, Frieda showed me how to mentor students and foretold my future in mid-management administration.

Now, as a budding writer, I actively seek out mentors who model the kind of work that I hope to produce.  I read their books and online blogs and attend workshops and classes. As a mentee, I set goals then practice, but perhaps without so much Sturm und Drang, which made listening and learning harder in my youth. And there are other differences…

At my stage in life, there’s something that calls me to mentor myself, a very humbling experience for one prone to perfectionism. All too easily, I run towards denial, anger and self-pity – ah, it’s painful to see myself in this mirror. But the rewards are great on this spiritual journey, and the responsibilities, too. What might seem self-centered is truly a call to become again a mentor, not so much as a role model this time but perhaps more personal, as a mirror to others.

Who are your mentors?