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A lot of people don’t know this, but I used to be an admission counselor. Sometimes I even forget–it seems like a lifetime ago that I was a freshly graduated college student working maintenance at my university, out pulling weeds one day when the Associate Director of Admission called saying they’d gotten my name from the university president and would I be interested in coming in to hear more about a job in admissions? Two interviews and less than two weeks later, I’d turned in my yard gloves for a stack of business cards and college brochures.

There were a bunch of things that sort of sucked about working in admissions (the cray travel schedule in the fall, dealing with idiotic and/or entitled prospective students–and their parents . . .), but there were aspects of the job that absolutely exhilarated me. If you know me, you know I love understanding complicated things, and even more than that, I love explaining the things that I understand. In admissions, I got to do this daily. Help. Demystify. Be the person to translate and unpack complicated processes and make the fuggin’ FAFSA less frightening. To be the person who navigated.

What I did for two years in admissions was a formal sort of mentorship, regarded perhaps because of the magnitude of the transition from high school to college. This is a noted moment of transition. This is a time in life when, surely, a guide is needed.

My life has had major moments. I am, arguably, in one now, and I can think of a number of generous souls who have offered guidance.

But as much as there have been big moments of purposeful advice, conversations that have stretched over the hours, become weighty by virtue of their mass, there have also been those offhanded comments that have stuck to me.

If you have to run to cross the street, you shouldn’t go. You’re much more likely to fall down while running, and if you fall down, you’re more likely to be hit by a car. So walk.

Don’t bite food off the end of your fork. You could end up biting a tine and breaking a tooth.

You can’t control what happened, but you can control how it affects you.

The food I eat doesn’t necessarily have to taste good.

It will just become how things are. 

You only have to floss the teeth you want to keep.

If someone says, thank you, say, you’re welcome. Don’t say, no problem. Say that they are welcome. 

Everyone’s like this. Nobody’s better than anybody else.

You’ll have to bear with me a bit and accept that these rather random phrases are fixed to seminal (yet, still, small) moments of my life. Be fascinated with me how the offhanded can become part of the fabric of who we are. How a throwaway statement in a conversation of hundreds of statements can be the thing that changes a way of thinking, ever-so-slightly reroutes a life.

Big moments matter. Big speeches. Big gestures. Big statements.

But, regard also the small.

The micronavigations.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox. Today’s prompt: Life is so much easier when you have someone to help you navigate. What makes a mentor great? Have you ever had a mentor? Been someone else’s?

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