Mentor leaders, Student Follows

When you have a friend who is your boss, you enter a very strange dynamic of a relationship. Add in the concept of said friend being your mentor at work, guiding you around the various insanities of the office place, and your friendship often takes a sharp turn to the worst. I'm glad to say my mentor and I are still friends.

At work, I have a mentor who has been, off and on again, my direct supervisor. Mentor is a great woman, with a witty sense of humor, a kick ass cooking style, and she runs the office the way I’d like to, were I a manager. We consider each other friends, and on slow days we’ve been known to gab about all sorts of things. For example, when she found out I used to play violin, she insisted I look at her brand new antique fiddle (oxymoronic, I know, it was new to her). She let me listen to tapes of her rehearsal, and I thought she was pretty good. Even though we’re both techies, I have a knack with software, and I help her out with any computer things that I happen to know how to fix.

There are other things, more personal, that you get to know about a person when you work with them every day. When I was having blood drawing fights with Mr. 2 O’clock, Mentor (who wasn’t my boss at the time) pulled me aside and said I was right to question his request. After all, she pointed out, the Nuremberg Trials taught us that sometimes an ‘order’ shouldn’t be followed, even at the cost of your career (or life). Said fight, thanks to Mentor, wasn’t the end of my career, and she helped me turn it around and parlay it into working with her on a new project. I’m working for her today.

But that’s not very personal, is it? What’s personal is that I know about her ex’s, and that Mentor used to be something of a playboy (or is that playgirl?). She had dates by the dozen, and having seen her old date book, my only advice was that she make sure her current significant other, Artist, not see it. Mentor and Artist were a thing when I met Mentor. Four years later, Mentor was diagnosed with cancer, and shortly after 9/11/2001, they parted ways. After a fling with a mutual friend of ours who’s a bit of a bubble head, Mentor and Artist started working at a reconciliation.

I happen to like Artist, even though we’ve never met. I like what Artist’s taste in clothes, among other things. After all, how many days did I come in and tell Mentor that she looked great, only to hear that Artist had picked out the clothes.

But the cancer thing was a bigger issue than any of us thought. Two years ago, Mentor was diagnosed with cancer. She had surgery and chemo to take care of it, and we thought all was well. A little bit before, our Supervisor, The Fire-er, had surgery for a neck problem. By the way, we call her The Fire-er because she made a habit of firing one of us at least once a month. I miss that. Anyway, The Fire-er was in and out of the office with her surgery and problems, Mentor was helping cover, then she had cancer surgery, then she came back and went (with Artist) to a foreign office and was there for 9/11, and everyone was stressed.

So that was a year ago today.

A couple months after all that was when I found Mentor and Artist had split. I didn’t see a lot of her then, as I was grinding out some programs. Spring 2002, she moves to a cube right behind me, and suddenly we get to chat again all the time. It was great. By the Summer, I’m working with her again on a the new project and she’s telling me about how she and Artist are talking again, but for now she’s moved in with her folks.

Just a couple weeks ago, we get a message that she’s in the ER with pains. She stayed there almost a week and then went up to her vacation house with Artist and her dog. I’m really glad they’re back together, in whatever capacity, since Mentor needs someone right now who loves her and is there for her. But Monday, she called me to tell me how bad everything was. She’ll need surgery, again, and this time probably very invasive. She needed some papers from her PC, and asked me to please get them and read them off to her.

I now know more about her cancer than I do my grandmother’s.

The point of all this? I should be thinking about the horrible tragedy that went on one year ago today, but I’m not. For one, I think that the best respect I can give to all the people who died is to live and love life. For another, Mentor is here, alive, and needs anything I can give her. So, in honor of everyone who died, I live. In honor of everyone who lived, I live. In honor of everyone who is in pain today, I help.

It’s all I can do, as ineffectual as it feels.

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