Reflecting back, high school was confusing for me. And you?
While I won elections and accolades, this only propped up an image of me that felt foreign. On the outside I looked like a teenage success. I was a cheerleader, a goal-scorer on the lacrosse team, an honor-roll student.
Inside, I wasn’t sure who I was or even what to wear. I was filled with confusion. And I couldn’t seem to dispel the popular notion floating around that I knew all about sex.
I remember going out into the driveway with my tennis racquet and hitting the ball against the garage door, again and again. The repetitive strokes, the movement of my body, and the slamming of the ball make me feel sure and powerful. It was therapeutic.
My other refuge was in my bedroom, where I spent hours reading novels. Even if they didn’t answer my own questions, they put me into someone else’s story.
And I got little guidance from my mother. She was dutiful and caring but shy, with much reserve. There was a wall between us. Unlike her, I was passionate.
When my high school boyfriend disappointed me, I endlessly played the piano, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” tears running down my cheeks. There had to be a better connection to other people, I felt. And to meaning.
But the connection seemed to lie hidden, mysterious, below the surface.
My world changed when Martie Zelt came into my world.
My boyfriend at the time was a drummer. He had a musician friend who lived in a house hidden by trees, across the street from my high school. Those two would talk about music, which left me with Martie.
Martie was the musician’s partner, a grown woman, in her 40s, and an artist. I remember sitting on the couch in her studio and watching her with fascination. Unlike me, she knew what she was about.
She became my mentor and savior.
Martie was a passionate woman, unlike any I’d known. She had meltdowns and temper tantrums, and she wore beautiful, fun clothes. I watched her creating art in her studio and I understood how the artistic process calls for something much deeper than the mind.
Martie had a quality of aliveness that danced with vulnerability and joy and courage.
- She was naked in a way that wowed me and helped me grow and accept myself.
- She taught me to be brave.
- She taught me that being brave didn’t mean you weren’t really scared, it meant you did it anyway with your belly tight and your eyes wide for the ride.
I hope that my nieces and other young girls are blessed with a Martie— someone who expands their world and inspires them immensely.
Martie’s 90th birthday is coming up. As I sit here looking at her art on the walls of my living room, I smile, a wide smile of gratitude through and through.
I hope you of each had a mentor, too, and can smile remembering and honoring them. If you’d like to honor your mentor, share your story in the comments below or email me.