WARNING: LONG POST (I AM SURE MANY WILL NOT READ😀 BUT IF YOU DO READ, I HOPE YOU TAKE HOME A MESSAGE).
I know the title of my short piece has a popular word (mentor) in it but in attempting to ask you this question, I draw on my own experience while helping you to reflectively answer my question. Please come with me on this short journey.
It was the year 2017, shortly after rounding up my M.Sc. in Public Health-Health Promotion from Leeds Beckett University UK. I was still in the UK and planning to return back to Nigeria. Squeezim had just arrived the UK to begin her master’s degree after she secured the Commonwealth Scholarship too (you remember the story of how Squeezim got awarded the same scholarship to study the same course with me in the same school init? Read my story titled “The Wedding”
Anyways, at that point, all I wanted to do was to return to Nigeria and dive back into working in the development sector but Squeezim will always ask me “Baby, why not apply to do a PhD?” Although I had friends who secured PhD scholarships while we were rounding up, I was more concerned about wanting to return to Nigeria and work. At that point, I was completely not interested in undertaking a PhD but Squeezim was always pressuring me. She gave me countless reasons why a PhD would provide me with better prospects and life in the future. While she gave me these reasons, I was always ready with counter reasons to let her know that it is not just about having a PhD. Despite how difficult I was, she always would share PhD opportunities with me and advise me to apply. Sometimes, because I did not want her to quarrel of fight, I will carelessly make an application and relax. I was very young, naive and short sighted. She was seeing farther into the future already and did not relent in advising me to apply for a PhD.
Fast forward to a few months, I returned to Nigeria and began the stream of job and volunteering applications. In fact, in the first few months of my return, I went to more than 20 NGOs in Abuja to apply for volunteering positions. Sadly, even with my master’s degree in public health, none took me in so I resorted to continue volunteering with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO); an NGO I volunteered with before I travelled to the UK. While I was doing this, Squeezim was studying but was always advising me to apply for a PhD. In fact, at some point, she would get angry with me and not speak to me for many days because of my refusal to apply. This continued for a few more wks and months and one day, Squeezim got voraciously upset with me about how careless I was in applying for scholarship opportunities. She stopped taking my calls and replying to my chats for a whole week. She literally shunned me and at the end of that week after I begged for several hrs, she decided to take my call. When she picked up the phone, we spoke for a few minutes and she began to cry and explained to me why I needed to get serious with my life and strive to grow. I was touched and pained that she had to cry to make me realize that she wanted the best for me. This got me on my toes, and I began to apply for PhD scholarships all around the world at the speed of light. Although I got a job later on, I remained resolute and Squeezim was always handy to review all the essays I wrote.
Finally, after months of applications and several rejections, I was awarded a fully funded PhD scholarship to undertake a PhD in Public Health and Social Work at the prestigious QUT (Queensland University of Technology) Australia (Australia’s 9th school-THE rankings 2019). Today I feel so excited about my scholarship, but I look back on the fights with Squeezim which made me understand that I had to grow. This made me realize that she was also playing the role of a MENTOR in my life.
I apologize for taking you on this long and boring story, but this comes to my question “WHO IS/ARE YOUR MENTOR (S)? Do not get me wrong, I have many mentors who have challenged me to grow and be a better person but what makes Squeezim unique is that she was ready to not just advise me but also fight me until she was sure I had achieved my aim in life.
In whatever trajectory you are on life, be it education, music, sports, entrepreneurship, etc, you must be deliberate about choosing your mentors. Do not be swayed by picking someone who you think is ahead of you in your chosen space alone, but you must also choose people who are available and patient in challenging you towards growth. In my case, Squeezim did not even have a master’s degree but she played the role of a mentor in my life until I grew. It is okay to choose people who are ahead of you as mentors but your friend, brother, priest, imam or even your younger brother or sister can be a mentor.
Fortunately for me, I am now married to my mentor and you can only imagine how much more she fights me now in the bid to make me grow. I do not have a reason to fail. Mbanu!! I no go sleep for house be that😀.
And so, I close with the question I started with “WHO IS/ARE YOUR MENTOR(S)?”
Before you answer please remember “Choose a mentor who is ready to fight you until you succeed”
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