I’m rumbling on and on about how unsure I am of the things I’m doing. I tell him I’m afraid.
“I’m scared,” I say.
Things don’t seem to be going my way.
The waitress places a cappuccino on my side of the table and for him, an espresso. That’s how he likes his coffee. Bold and unblemished. There is a cookie the size of a flattened bottle top on each of our saucers.
“I feel stuck,” I tell him.
I’m like a truck in mud unable to move. Am I on a hamster wheel?
He offers me his cookie.
“You can have this,” he says.
He holds up his cup of espresso and takes a shot. He keeps on listening.
“I feel like my life has no direction. I’m a nobody. I have no career. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what I’m doing.”
I’m 25. He’s 55. The year is 2015. He’s probably been through what I’m going through. He’s seen the world over five decades going into the sixth. He’s a respected man in his field across East and Southern Africa. Newspapers quote him. Media outlets ask to interview him. He’s got a heavy following on social media. When he speaks, people listen.
He places the cup back on the table.
“It’s okay to be unsure. It’s okay not to know where your life is going. It’s okay not to know what your career will look like. You’re 25. Your life is on the right track. You might not see it yet. You’ll be okay.”
That was reassuring.
Today I’m 30. He’s 60. And I think I’m okay. He’s still my mentor.
How did he become my mentor?
I attended a program that offered the possibility of having a mentor as one of the perks. I completed a form online to find a mentor. He completed one too to get a mentee. We had never met. I didn’t know him. He didn’t know me. Our profiles matched.
That was the beginning of our journey.