Saturday, March 17, 2007

Mentor Mania/Fateful Encounters

I have always been fortunate enough to have magnificent mentors. My first mentor was my high school yearbook teacher, Jill Johnson, who inspired me to be creative, write what I felt and essentially taught me how to edit a book. Because yearbooks, when you think about it, are just really bad, big magazines in a way.

Miss J., as we called her, was one of those teachers that would've had a movie written about her if we went to an inner-city high school. She inspired all her students, some more than others. But this student never forgot her, and I credit her for not only instilling in me a passion for editing, but also for pursuing magazines as a career.

Anyway, I hadn't seen Miss J in 14 years. And when I went to NYU grad school to get my master's in journalism, I found another mentor in a man I'll call GB, cause he's humble like that. A top editor at the magazine where I just landed a freelance story, GB again always inspired me, nurtured my talent, put me in touch with his editorial contacts and was (is) a great friend, person and editor. He's always believed in my talent, even when the chips were down. I love him as a person and as a teacher and am so thankful that I had him as a professor. I often tell people that he is the only good thing that came out of my stint at NYU. In short, he was worth that $100,000 in tuition. He is that good.

Yesterday, I went out to buy a copy of GB's magazine at B&N so I could see what section I would be writing for. In front of me in line, I heard a voice I had not heard in 14 years, but recognized instantly.

"Miss J?" I said, in a stupor.

She didn't turn around.

"Jill?" I said louder.

This time, she turned around. I looked at her open-mouthed. "Do you remember me?" I asked.

"Stephanie Green! Of course!"

We hugged, chatted, caught up on the last 14 years in 10 minutes. I told her how she continued to inspire me and how I always thought of her as my mentor, but that the really strange thing was that I was there buying the magazine that I was writing for thanks to my current mentor.

Now if that's not fate, I don't know what the hell is. If I had browsed through the new books for one more minute; if I hadn't stopped in the driveway on the way out to talk to dad who was pulling in; if I'd been off by mere seconds, I wouldn't have made contact with good ol' Miss J.

Yet I did. Like I've said before, I don't believe in God, but I believe in the god of fates.