Mentors and Role Models

Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is mentors and role models. Of course, last week, I already shared about my high school tutor, who was a mentor when I was a teen. Today, I’m going to share about other role models.

One of my first role models was my paternal grandmother. She was a fiercely independent, self-determined woman. In 1973, a year after women were legally equal to men here in the Netherlands, she divorced my grandpa. She went to college to become a social worker, eventually becoming the head of social work at the psychiatric institution in her area. In the mid-1990s, in her early 70s, she founded a senior citizens’ living complex, where she lived for nearly 20 years until she needed to go into a care home. She died in 2018 at the age of 94.

One clear memory I have of my grandmother that has stuck with me throughout life and which perhaps unintentionally inspired me, is her comment about her work as a social worker with troubled young people. She told me that, when some young people don’t want to go home to their parents, she had to sometimes honor the teens’ wishes rather than the parents’. Even though I was 19 when first going against my parents’ wishes, and their wish wasn’t for me to live with them, the point was that my opinion mattered even if I was “crazy”.

Later, when I was a teen and young adult, I sought out role models who shared some of my experiences. One of my first role models in this category was someone I met through an E-mail list for my eye condition. She was in her early thirties when we first met online and I was seventeen. Besides blindness, we had some other experiences in common. We eagerly read each other’s online diaries back in the day. She is still a Facebook friend of mine, but, because she has moved on to become more or less successful at life and work and I haven’t, we don’t share the same life experiences anymore.

Some people I considered inspiring, I never even talked to, such as Cal Montgomery, a disability activist whose article, “Critic of the Dawn”, I first read in like 2006.

Currently, indeed, what I look for in an inspiring person or role model is shared experience. That being the case, I consider many of the people I’m on E-mail lists or in Facebook groups with to be inspiring. Then though, our interactions are more based on equality, where any of us can be the inspiration for the others.

I don’t think that I quite have what it takes to be a mentor myself. Though I can provide people with inspiration and information, I don’t really have my life together enough to be a role model. This saddens me, thinking about the fact that I’m older now than the woman I met at seventeen was when we first met.

What do you look for in a role model?

29 thoughts on “Mentors and Role Models

        1. I’m so glad about that last thing. And I completely feel you about messing up. Of course, in my case, most people say I ouldn’t help falling apart while at uni, but it still kind of feels like I’m setting a bad example.

          Liked by 1 person

        1. You’re so welcome. Yes, you definitely inspire me, the way you cope with your difficulties and the fact that you for example keep trying college in spite of all your issues.


  1. Your grandmother sounds like an amazing woman. We will never quite understand all our ancestors had to overcome.I think you are inspiring, so do not be hard on yourself. As far as I can see you have accomplished a great deal. You have the potential to be a mentor to someone who could benefit from your experience. Thanks for responding today!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think you were really lucky to have your grandmother as a role model. She sounds a very inspiring woman. And your a role model for showing so much courage with all that impedes you. Bravo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for joining in. Aren’t grandmas wonderful? It sounds like your grandma was a terrific role model and a strong woman. IMHO most mentors influence others without even knowing it. When you live a life of kindness and honesty, people will want to be just like you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, thanks so much for your kind words. I didn’t take your other comment as criticism at all, FYI, since I know it wasn’t directed at me personally. I was just reflecting on why I might not have what it takes to be a good role model.

      Liked by 1 person

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