Mia: Shaken Not Stirred

The true life stories of a NYC female.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Time For Me To Fly

“Pick your battles, kiss his ass for a little while, it’s almost over, you need his recommendation for grad school, and he determines your grade so just go along with whatever he says.” This was the advice I was being given by staff and interns alike on the best way to deal with my tyrannical mentor.

I was at a cross roads in my life. I stuck my head out the window to look up at the sky, it helps me think. Mom was blasting REO Speedwagon’s Time For Me To Fly singing along as she cleaned the kitchen.
time for me to fly
Oh, I’ve got to set myself free
Time for me to fly
And that’s just how its got to be
I know it hurts to say goodbye
But its time for me to fly

Oh yeah man it was definitely time for me to fly, time to set myself free. With less than six weeks left until graduation I decided to drop out of the social work program. My sensei had started with the best of intentions but he’d bitten off more than he could chew. We couldn’t go on like this or rather I couldn’t go on like this dreading Monday’s because it meant I’d spend the week in the presence of my sensei walking on egg shells awaiting his next explosion.

My mentor had attempted to mold me in his image.I wasn’t allowed to have an opinion that contradicted his if I did then I was in the wrong and not seeing my faults. “Pick your battles” became my mantra. I passively resisted his efforts to change me. I’d rather be a first rate version of myself than a second class version of someone else. My resistance angered him and he’d lash out. He mistook my silence for weakness and became arrogant because of it, so certain of his domination over me. I won’t lie he did manage to break me. I was furious with myself because I’d allowed him to make me doubt myself then I recalled a quote I'd read somewhere, “Anyone worth knowing has been broken at one time or another.”

I informed the school of my decision to drop out and was met with resistance. I told them that under no circumstances would I return to my mentor once spring break was over. I’d made up my mind and that was it. I am notoriously stubborn. “You know things are pretty bad when you get stomach cramps at the sight of his number on your caller ID.” I’d told them. After sorting through the facts they finally understood where I was coming from and scrambled to find me a new internship not an easy feat with the end of the semester so close. It struck me as funny when they informed me that despite his constant criticism of me his reports about me to them had been complementary. Didn’t I tell y’all once he was nuts?

One of the therapists heard of my plight from another intern. “Tell Mia I’ll mentor her. I can use her here.” The therapist had wanted me to work with her since last year but my mentor had refused her request along with the requests of others who’d asked to have me work under them. When my school informed my mentor that I’d quit him he was angry. When they told him someone else had offered to mentor me he was livid and said that having me work at another department in the clinic was a conflict of interest. It made no sense to me or anyone else. Knowing him the way I do it boiled down to this…payback and pride. My presence at the clinic would embarrass him and be a constant reminder that I’d walked out on him. He knew that without the internship I would fail to meet the necessary requirements for my degree. This was his way of getting back at me for leaving him. The coup de grâce was his refusal to allow me to terminate with my clients. I was concerned about a paranoid physcophrenic client who'd become very attatched to me. I didn't want her to think that I was abandoning her because of anything she's done. My school and the other therapists were shocked by his refusal.Sadly it came as no surprise to me. My experience with him had taught me that he’s really big on retribution.

Everyone was worried about my future except me, I was at peace. I’d switch my major to clinical psychology I decided. It would delay my plans by a couple of years but in the end I’d reach my goal. Deep in my heart I knew everything would turn out fine. I am also an optimist. At the very last minute I got a call from the director of my program. My field supervisor was doing something unheard of; she was going to be my mentor. “You’re going to be working in legal-aid” I was informed. I laughed softly. Funny how one door closes and another opens bringing you exactly what you’d been dreaming of. I’d studied criminal law while working towards my forensic psych degree. It has always been my goal to work with teenagers and young adults in the prison system and my dream was being handed to me. I start Tuesday.

“Mia, has he called you?” my supervisor asked the other day. “No, he hasn't.” She suggested I call my mentor and end things on a civil note. “He won’t take my call,” I warned her, “he’s angry at me. Rumor has it he’s not handling me leaving him well and the staff and patients are mad at him because I left."

I e-mailed my former sensei a note expressing my regret that we had not been the right fit for each other professionally and thanked him for having invested the time in mentoring me. I wished him continued success in all of his endeavors. He hasn’t replied to my e-mail nor do I expect him to. I am for the first time in a long, long time at peace and looking forward to Monday's.


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