You never forget the people who influence your life with just a few words. Those individuals who take the time to groom you and not only tell you that you have potential but show you how in practical ways to tap into.They are the unsung heroes and sheroe's to all the greats of anything. These individuals Im referring to are mentors. I have been honored to have had some of the best.The way they have treated me, influenced my behaviors and spoke into my life has never left me. When I say there is power in a mentor I am not just blowing smoke, I am an example of their efforts.
My first year of college was terrifying. I had not been in a classroom since the 3rd grade, well at least not a public school classroom. I had been homeschooled and traveled quite a bit so my studies were on the go and I had not been in a structured environment in almost 9 years. To add to the fears I was now attending a private college with high standards, which stressed my perfectionistic borderline introverted mind to the hilt. So needless to say my first semester felt akin to culture shock. I remember thinking that if I could make it through the first semester everything would be fine, but if you know anything about a perfectionistic borderline introvert we NEVER seem to get off the hamster wheel of our thoughts.
Enter Dr Sheri Midkiff professor of English at Williams Baptist college during my first year. I had signed up for her intro to world literature. She was brilliant, smart, soft spoken and classy. She was petite and unassuming but insightful. She was just what I needed in a professor, but I didn’t know how much she would impact me until the middle of the semester when my perfectionistic ways would become a road block to my work. We were assigned to write a paper in class about a reading assignment that she had just reviewed with us. We were to turn them into her before class was over. I panicked. Normally I liked to write my papers alone with my coffee. My brain froze and there was no coffee around to unthaw it. She assigned us pencils so that if we made errors we could correct them. This was my second dilemma. I hate pencils. Yes. Hate. When I'm writing I prefer pens, they flow easier and there is a sense of commitment to your thought once it's written. (I warned you about the perfectionism). So here I am in a class full of scribblers and I can't conjure up a single fluent paragraph without wanting to restart every other line. Half way through the time we were allotted my desk was full of eraser rubber from all the redo. Pardon the punn, but I was literally burning rubber and getting nowhere.
I must have caught Dr. Midkiff’s eye because she made her way over to me in her sublte way. She passed by a few students and checked on their progress and then she was at me. The rubber shredding maniac. She paused for a moment before she spoke. She said Danyelle I want you to do something for me. Write without stopping. Even if you don’t like everything you write, just keep writing and then at the end make any changes you need. I looked up at her with a gaping stare and then she stated, you write very well, can you do this for me? She smiled and nodded at me in the gentle way she handle all of us and I couldn’t help but comply. Each time that my mind would panic I would say to myself, “Just keep writing”. So I did. I finished and although the paper was smudged with grey marks and choppy sentences she took my paper from me and with a smile said, I knew you could do it.
Although this event occurred over a decade ago I have never forgotten this professor and what she taught me that day. I can not remember my actual grade on that paper, nor do I care. I had overcome a massive mental hurtle with the guidance of someone I deemed more than a professor but an exceptional mentor. Her words have stuck with me and every time I start to panic or overthink when I’m writing for a training, blog, book, or speech I hear her words. And to her I am ever grateful.
Mentors have power. If you are currently a mentor to someone then know, for what its worth, you are freakin rockstar in my book. If you do not currently have a mentor in your life I urge you to find one.They are life changers. Friends and associates can only advise you so far, but a mentor has the ability to show you how to take your potential and give you practical ways to develop it. As for my not forgotten college mentor, Dr. Midkiff, thank you for being more than a professor that year and showing me how to overcome myself and to keep writing.
*This blog is my tribute to my college English professor and mentor who no doubt if reading this has critiqued it to the hilt, but hopefully is also honored. You deserve this long over due honor Dr. Midkiff.
Whitney Danyelle Schreck