Alyssa Mages, CVO12 June 2020
I’ve been quite reflective this week as I’m in the process of finalizing a 16-year chapter in my life and advancing beyond the preface into another. It’s been nearly two decades of being in veterinary practice – from an over-eager & know-it-all assistant, to one with experience, being a freshly minted CVT to educating them, being trained to conducting the training…what a ride!
Throughout my career I’ve had a lot of people that were supervisors, senior nurses, managers, administrators, directors, co-workers, teammates, and friends. Of that large and incredibly talented group there were a few that donned the mantle of mentor. A brilliant, and let’s be honest somewhat terrifying surgeon who quite literally changed the course of my life. A kindred spirit and truly gifted clinician who was there for me when I didn’t know I needed her most and pushed me to be more & do better. A gifted academic, and hugely talented writer who showed me the truth behind the saying that the pen is mightier than the sword because of the mind who wields it. These women were with me at vastly different & various stages of my life and through their examples, their teaching, and their guidance truly shaped me into the person I am today.
So, what defines a mentor? I’m not talking textbook definition; I mean what does this title truly mean? Sorry, I cannot define that for you as it’s different for all of us, so instead what I’m laying out here is my personal take on this impactful, and at times, heavy moniker.
My mentors were strong. They were – in my eyes – fearless. They looked for the potential in people and when they found it, whatever it was, they helped it to flourish, to grow, to become. They did not give up! On me, themselves, their patients, their dreams. Each one took from themselves their best parts and shared it with me. They opened doors, windows and in some instances quite literally pushed me out and through to get up and over myself to achieve what they already knew I could.
A mentor to me is not someone who stands up on a soapbox or behind a podium to relay their pearls of wisdom. Nor is it a performer who at the best of their game says look & learn from my greatness. No, a mentor is someone who gets their hands dirty cleaning up the messes. A person who takes the mirror and turns it outward and forces us to look at and see our true selves. That individual who makes us uncomfortable at times, gets us gritting our teeth and pushing through to become that pearl of wisdom we always could have been – just needed some time & polishing to truly shine.
Most recently I’ve had the amazing experience of coaching and training some truly awesome human beings. I tried my best to emulate what my mentors had done for me, and yet make this a unique experience for everyone I worked with. I failed on occasion. I learned. A LOT. I got dirty, literally. I broke down. I built back up. And I hoped beyond hope that I made a difference.
My thanks to those who’ve been with me thus far, especially to those who didn’t give up and in turn wouldn’t let me give up. May the opportunities I’ve been given and the mirrors that have been held up for me and in turn those I’ve held up for others continue to be shared and shown. Mentorship isn’t a job, it’s a calling; and it’s one I aim to answer.