Yes, you read the title correctly. My mentor is currently sitting in jail, awaiting her trial date. She’s accused of being a co-conspirator on espionage related charges. Allegedly, she and her husband believed they were selling top secret nuclear naval secrets to a forgeign nation, when in fact they were communicating with undercover FBI agents.
I thought this mentor made me who I am. She inspired me to pursue my current courses of study in English and politics. She advocated on my behalf when I did not have the emotional capacity to do so. She was one of very few teachers that enforced a code of mutual respect. She was the only individual to value my perspective equally to that of my male counterparts, in spite of the fact that they took up most of the physical space in the room.
Actions speak louder than words. The choices she has been accused of making have begun to overshadow the words she used to tell me. “Be the daughter of the witches they did not burn.” Up until only recently, I would credit my passion, imagination, self-advocacy, and love of learning, all to her. Discovering that the person I aspired to be was implicated in crimes that could have resulted in another world war has been, to put it lightly, a tough pill to swallow.
Despite how much I may want to, I can not blame Mercury being in retrograde or the full moon for the way things are currently playing out. Although it may not seem so, this is my reality. This is not a horror movie, nor is it an episode of a political drama. Blindsided By Treason is not coming to Netflix in 2022. I can not turn off the television or pause the episode. I have to learn to cope, and hopefully grow from this situation.
I am incredibly grateful for the support of my professors, CAPS, my friends and my family during this unprecedented time in my life. Although the situation has not affected me directly, having the New York Times want to speak to me, and my father being threatened for being her employer, has left me with emotions that I am trying to work through and understand. For one, I am trying to separate the person I knew from the person she is accused of being.
Can I still hold all of the lessons on independence, empowerment, autonomy and self-care closely, or do I have to forget, essentially start over, and re-learn who I am and what I want to be? I have cried and screamed, been confused and angry and felt betrayed and lost. I want so desperately to separate the respect I hold for the smartest woman I have ever known from the individual whose mugshot looks like a lifeless drone. She inspired the greatest parts of people to come to the surface and defended others passionately. She ensured that those who did not understand how their bias led to sexist behavior, understood by the time they graduated. She protected me personally, but if she’s found guilty, she certainly did not protect the greater American people.
With that said, while processing this shit show, I have to believe that being charged with serious crimes does not invalidate the good she has done for me. I can look back and continue to respect the woman I knew as my mentor. Once I started to believe this, I began to realize that she is her own person, and so am I.
She may have played a major role in my life, but I was and always will be the main character. My story focuses around me and my own character development. My previous, current and future experiences will continue to shape me, but I am the one who is driving that train.
The bad things that people do don’t invalidate the good experiences I had with them. Secondly, nobody made me who I am except for myself. I did the work, intellectually, emotionally and physically. I grew up and I behaved with grace and passion. Although there are people who guided me along the way, I am working on believing that I shape and mold my mind and my soul into the passionate young woman I am becoming.