As Mentor Spotlight Week comes to an end, I’m sure some of you are wondering why and how this particular theme came to be on Defining Wonderland. It’s kind of an unusual choice and one I know I’ve certainly never seen before. Showcasing the Fonz was an easy decision to make as I knew it would be a nice way to honor my mentor and share with the Wonderlings some of his insights into this crazy thing we call life.
Since the Fonz is the kind of person who has a story for everything (and I do mean everything), it is only right to end the week with the story of why I decided to start the week in the first place.
For the last five years, the Fonz has been a geographic bachelor, renting a self-proclaimed crappy apartment near work during the week and going home to his wife and sons, who live several hours away, on the weekends. It’s a tough life of sacrifices, missing back-to-school nights and tucking children into bed, and he is not the only one in the organization who surrenders precious family time in order to support loved ones. So, when the Fonz told me a few weeks ago that he had accepted a position closer to home where he wouldn’t need a separate place to live, I wasn’t in the least bit surprised.
Yes, my mentor, who has been an important part of my life for the past four years, will begin his new job next week and today is our last day working together. I couldn’t think of a better reason to hold a theme week than to celebrate one of my closest friends getting a new job and starting a new life, even if it meant that we would no longer see each other in the office.
Luckily, I’ve been so swamped at work with the year-end closeout that I haven’t had too much time to dwell on this fact. Though I’ve known for quite some time and have been mentally preparing myself, I think my ability to emotionally withdraw has saved me from feeling too much too soon. I’ve been able to focus on other tasks and not brood over the reality that is about to deliver a hard slap to the face.
Despite the fact that for the last few days my stomach has been in knots and there’s a tightness in my chest, I am doing my damnedest to put a smile on my face and take deep breaths when all I want to do is wallow in the inevitable emptiness that will come the day I can no longer pop into my mentor’s office for a quick sanity check. But the thing is, I need to be strong. The Fonz already feels guilty enough for leaving the friends he has here and he doesn’t need to see me fall apart. It just wouldn’t be fair to him.
Thankfully I have Rose to confide in because, having just watched her sister’s family move halfway across the country, she understands my feelings of loss and the devastation that comes with farewell. When my eyes start to well up, I know she’ll make me laugh. If the tears fall, she is quick to tell me it’s ok to be sad. She has been completely supportive and I am so grateful. Plus, she has come to value my mentor’s advice as I have even though she’s never met him. And she was one of the first to ask me to tell him goodbye.
When I told the Fonz this, his response was, “this isn’t goodbye.”
If I didn’t have deep-seated abandonment issues, I might be inclined to believe him. But to me, it’s like graduation. Everyone promises to keep in touch after it’s over, but how many of them do? Facebook makes it easy to connect with people and I am grateful to have an outlet to see photos and catch up with people who I haven’t seen in years, but it’s just not the same.
And that’s what this goodbye is all about: the change in the friendship.
The Fonz was the one who taught me how to put air in my tires. Who rescued me when I forgot my ID card. Who reached out to my mother when he could see I was breaking down. Who gifted me with whimsical animals to decorate my apartment. Who occasionally joins me in spin class. Who winks when he thinks he’s being clever. These are the attributes that I will miss. A winking emoticon is not the same as an actual wink.
So, here’s to the Fonz who has acted as comedian, therapist, travel advisor, cheerleader, mirror, guru, encyclopedia, and most importantly, friend. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor and you will be incredibly missed as I try to navigate through life without our daily chats. Thank you for your guidance, for your friendship, for everything. I sincerely wish you the best of luck and the utmost of happiness.
Crap, here come the waterworks.