If you are lucky in this life you will meet a real-life super hero. If you are even luckier, that super hero will become your life mentor. I find myself in the category of luckiest because Susan Ann Koenig is, in fact, a real-life super hero and my life mentor.
Susan and I met each other in 1999. She was the guest lecturer at my family law practice night class in law school. The topic was Domestic Violence and the Practice of Law. I was a second year law student and was working 32 hours a week at Friendship Home – a domestic violence shelter. At the end of the class, I remember thinking that I had finally figured out who I wanted to be when I grow up and her name was Susan.
Within a day I had reached out to Susan and a lunch was scheduled for the next month in February. We met and I am fairly confident in my memory that within minutes I had told her I wanted to be her, wanted to be around her, and wanted to know what I could do to make that happen.
We have worked side by side every day since.
This week Susan accepted an award from the Women’s Center for Advancement. In my nomination application I described Susan this way:
Her biggest achievement for women is this: when Susan sees injustice, she will work tirelessly to find justice and will not stop until the cycle has been broken. All the while knowing that future generations may never know they benefit from her hard work and sacrifices.
Susan has paved the way for the women who are coming into the legal profession today. She is proud that they will not have to experience the difficulties that she once faced, so that they can go further than she ever could. She is always looking to what is best for the community of women, not just for her personal desires.
I am telling this story on a divorce blog because one of the most important reasons I had success in managing my divorce days was that I had a life mentor. Susan was the only professional, working mother I knew who was divorced and raising her children. Not only had she professionally been my mentor, but she was a personal role model. She inspired in me the hope that I could be a professional, divorced mother successfully raising my daughters.
In the hardness, uncertainty, and overwhelm of starting college, a new career or a business venture, we intuitively look for our role models. We should apply this equally when facing the hardness, uncertainty, and overwhelm of our life changing through divorce.
Susan’s presence in my life made all the difference.
The sun glints down through tree tops large like
folded hands offering the sensation of protection, like her.
On the narrow path she moves steadily before me
brushing away branches
navigating gnarly roots
purposefully preparing the path for those who follow,
Fearless, with focus and grace,
ever mindful of footsteps to follow.
Small in stature. Large in life.
Never does an opportunity pass without
her firm grasp
easing the meandering miles,
Upon reaching the wide clearing
My squinting eyes adjust to new light.
She turns. From underneath the wide brim
of her velvet black hat hide the gray resolute eyes
of my advocate seeking the satisfaction inherent
in the view of an established road behind her,
Her life’s work spent
Tending to the details
Lifting her voice
Extending her compassionate hand
Offering a curious ear
Giving every part of her,