After reading my post on our relationship, Chiddy wanted to write a response to let you know how much our relationship has meant to her. You never know the way you affect people you pass along the way. You can only hope that you are able to have a positive impact as they start their own journey on the way to the rest of their lives. Here is Chiddy in her own words.
The Day a perfect stranger became my second mum ~“What having a mentor has meant to me”.
When Clolita (“Ma”), as I fondly call her, asked me to put together a short write up of what having a mentor has meant to me for her blog, I knew it would be a difficult and emotional task for me, because the journey we share is a beautiful, emotional mentor-mentee now turned mother-daughter relationship which takes me back to who I was, who I am, and where I am going. I consider Ma as my second mum sent from God. We have shared so much laughter, tears, love, and growth along the way that it would be tough capturing everything in a few words.
The merriam-webster dictionary defines a mentor as “someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person”. Clolita has been these, and much more to me.
I had finished my shift from the dean’s office and about to leave, I stepped out and saw her at the ATM in front of my office. I quietly stood behind her until she was finished at the ATM and then approached her to find out who she was. The very words from my mouth were “ Hi! I know you’re not a professor because none of my professors dress like you. I’ve seen you around campus, and I would like to know who you are and what you do.” Thankfully, she didn’t call the campus police on me for my stalkish behavior. Ma said “Ok. Hi, my name is Clolita Vitale”. That was the beginning of our relationship.
As a young teenager newly relocated to America, far away from my parents, family and familiar surrounding, experiencing college in America, growing into my own person, plunging through my academics and determined to excel, Clolita became the cornerstone I turned to for advice in times of uncertainty. She provided encouragement in times of doubt, a shoulder to cry on when I was down, and offered love when I was homesick. Our friendship developed quickly as we shared similar personalities including a love for family, care for others, love of fashion and much more. Our mentor-mentee friendship soon progressed to a mother and daughter relationship. We would frequently plan lunches, dinners, and movies where she would pick me up, pay for the meals and movies, and drop me off on campus afterwards. She invited me to join her family one Thanksgiving where I met her wonderful family. I attended my first baseball game in America to see the Baltimore orioles in Camden Yards with Clolita and her husband, Frank, where they treated me like their daughter, and even bought me an Orioles souvenir shirt afterwards.
I quickly told my parents in Nigeria about my American second mum and they made sure to call and thank her. When they visited the US in the summer, we would all get together, and when I visited Nigeria for Christmas, they would call to say hello. Clolita quickly became part of my family.
Ma was very pivotal in my legal journey to becoming an attorney. I reached out to her when I faced life’s challenges and shared successes and disappointments with her. When I met the love of my life, now husband, Chima, she was one of the first people I told. She accepted and loved Chima just as she loves me. While I planned my wedding, I sought her advice often, and expressed my frustrations with all the planning elements to her. I knew she had to play a special role in my big day because she is part of my journey to date so I asked if she would make a speech during my wedding, and she gladly accepted.
As a single lady, I observed the love Ma and Frank share, the intentional steps they take to maintain their friendship and love, the way they respect and love each other and I find it truly amazing. I hope to apply some of those qualities in my own marriage. I don’t know if Ma knows how much her presence in my life has impacted me, but when I think about how the perfect stranger I met the ATM became my second mum, it brings tears to my eyes. Today, I have an amazing job as an IT Contracts and Negotiations Manager at a leading Healthcare company, and I hope she is proud of the young girl she has helped mold into a woman and how far I have come.
So when I’m asked what mentoring has meant to me, for me, my personal experience is that it has been an amazing journey. I would encourage every young person to find a mentor who they connect with, as this is critical one’s success story. More importantly, however, is to remember that mentorship is a two way street. It is not just about taking, but also giving. It is a relationship that has to be nurtured. I doubt that many would be as lucky as I am to have found a mentor and second mum all in one, but hey, I guess I’m one lucky girl!