I went to Starbucks the other day with a colleague and as we were waiting for our drinks these two young women went up to me and said, “Hey! We met you at the conference!” I recognized their familiar faces, I saw the university logo on their shirts, and I smiled back and said, “Oh my gosh! That’s right! How are you?” But, of course, I had no idea what their names were. I felt terrible. I didn’t even get a chance to ask for their names with all the small talk that was going on. Forget introducing them to my colleague.
This moment reminded me of my first professional conference and how I said hi to someone who clearly did not remember who I was even though I interviewed him for an hour about transformational leadership for a course assignment. It was a little embarrassing, not gonna lie, especially when I was still learning how to network. I’m an introvert at heart and networking did not come naturally for me. I got nervous in a crowded room, struggled with a simple introduction, and got out of there as quickly as possible. With guidance and encouragement from seasoned professionals, along with my 5-minute solo coffee break, I learned how to dance the networking waltz to my own rhythm. Now I know why my mentors relate conferences with homecoming.
Anyway, I left Starbucks with my colleague laughing at me because she also noticed that I didn’t know their names.
That simple encounter made me reflect on where I began and where I am now. Kind of like those Facebook “On This Day” notifications that make you feel nostalgic or in denial depending on the post from six years ago. I’m living a life where some people see me as their mentor. I’m living a life in which I catch myself sharing the same leadership advice that was given to me when I struggled with finding my voice.
My life is filled with good people who continue to build me up and love me for me. I’m living the kind of life I admired five years ago. Who has the privilege to say that?
“Because I knew you I have been changed for good.”