I’ve had some great mentors through several communities I’m part of. I’d like to share about three mentors I’m especially grateful for.
- Music: the bandleader for my jazz band
- LGBTQIA+: an ex-boyfriend of mine
- Sobriety: one of my sponsors
Bill French is a jazz piano teacher who I met when I was 18. He asked me to be the violinist for his new band. I mostly played with him in the summer, when I was home from college. We played at farmers’ markets, cafes, and at the local Greek restaurant. Playing for people who were eating felt downright scary. I was so worried about interrupting their meals with an incorrect note.
Being in a band with Bill transformed me from a high school orchestra kid to gigging musician. He gave me a copy of Free Play, a book about improvisation, and was adamant that I could do it, encouraging me to take solos. The lesson lasted. Bill eventually moved to Oregon, and I still play jazz with my own band – the Hot Club of Urbana.
Another mentor of mine is Hyena, who I met through the furry community. Aside from being a hyena, he’s a writer, musician, and part of a local theatre troupe. Oh, and I dated him for a couple of years. 😊 I believe relationships can be a form of mentorship too.
During my break from college in 2015, I returned to my hometown and joined his theatre group for a season. Acting in a play was a boost to my self-confidence. It helped my life get “unstuck” and recover from my burnout.
I went on lots of long countryside drives with Hyena. Sometimes we had a destination (my favorite was a donut shop 40 minutes away). More often though, we drove for the sake of driving and conversation. I learned a lot about his life, and through that, the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights in the US. When our relationship ended, I had more perspective and more confidence about being gay.
Another thing I did during my break from college was quitting drinking and smoking. That’s been a great decision for me! When I went back to school in 2018, I made sure to get involved in a local recovery group. I found a sponsor, who I’ll call Dan.
I’ve had multiple sponsors in my life, but Dan is the one I’ve had the most similarities with. He’s gay like me, and weed was the main drug he had struggled with (also like me). We met up once a week at a coffee shop to read and talk about living life sober. Having those meetups grounded me during my final year at university.
Dan has a great life – a house with a cute backyard, a loving husband, and lots of pets. Seeing that helped me see what my future might be like. It gave me the motivation that sobriety was the right path for me.
I got different things from my mentors, but each of them has been a source of self-inspiration. My interactions with Bill, Hyena, and Dan all helped me become the person I am today, and I’m grateful to have met them. Thanks, mentors!