Have you ever thought about how much one person can change your life? That the decision to know them, and then to receive the gifts they can give you, can change the course of your life forever? It’s a blessing to be able to trace those back, if you can see it that clearly. It’s like God’s way of giving us a little peek into Heaven.
Speaking of Heaven, it’s been 4 years to the day since my mentor and advisor passed away of a heart attack.
Dr. Martinez was a phenomenal advisor and I am who I am because of him.
The chain of events begins as such:
At the end of each year, Dr. Martinez took all of his advisees out to dinner at a nice restaurant, giving them relief from the dreadful campus food and helping them to prepare for the next 3 years. In 2008, I was the only one who showed up. He asked me if I still wanted to go and I was like… free food? At a nice restaurant? Um, YES.
So I basically went on a date with my advisor.
We went to a fabulous little Italian restaurant in SLO, he ate a fish with its whole body intact, and we shared chocolate tiramisu.
He told me before he married his wife, who was Japanese, she made him place a whole bowl of rice- grain by grain- into another bowl using chopsticks. And when he could do this successfully, she would marry him. She was adorable.
I told him that my parents paid for my first year of school, but after that I would be on my own and I just simply did not know how I could afford it. I was considering moving home, I didn’t have a place to stay for the summer, anyway, even though I had an amazing job that would’ve had me full time that summer.
So, Dr. Martinez in his life changing way of his, proposed a deal. If I would keep his orchids alive, he would let me live in his house rent free while he and his wife visited her family in Japan for three months.
I killed those orchids.
I also asked him if my “cousin” could move in with me, who was actually my best girlfriend. Sorry I lied about that, Dr. M. I'm sure you would've let her move in with me anyway. We kept that charade up until the end.
I saved three months of rent that summer, which kick started my ability to pay for and stay in school.
It gets better.
While I lived at Dr. M’s house, I made friends with his elderly neighbor, Jim, who let me keep my bike in his downstairs apartment so I didn’t have to haul it up the stairs to Dr. M’s place. I would help him do laundry, and we would chat about whatever. Jim convinced me not to go to grad school out of state, and ultimately to stay in California.
Two years later, when I had a horrible housing miscommunication and ended up homeless, Jim let me live in his house rent free for the summer, in exchange for laundry and conversation. There were no orchids to kill.
Two summers they saved me.
Dr. M nominated me for Student of The Year my freshman year, which padded my resume and opened up opportunities for years. There's a photo of us together from that night, but I never got a copy and this breaks my heart.
Once, I couldn’t get into a class without a prerequisite that I couldn’t get into, and Dr. M signed a paper that put me in anyway, which allowed me to graduate early. Which allowed me to move to Australia with my extra quarter.
I couldn’t afford the book for this class, so Dr. M gave me the teacher copy for free. Not only did I get a free book, buttttt I had all the answers.
Saved me again.
I cried because I couldn’t speak Spanish like I wanted to, and he told me to move away. I did. I ended up moving to France, instead, but only based on his encouragement to immerse myself.
It’s almost impossible to think about what my life would be like without all of Dr. Martinez’s help- I wouldn’t have graduated college, made the friends I have, moved to France, discovered the interests I have.
But it’s humbling and amazing to think about what my life is like because of him.
When he died unexpectedly just months before I was finished with school, I was devastated. I’ve never cried so hard, and I never have since. The soul scraping feeling of a loss so out of your control, so irreversible, is hollowing.
But the memory of them and the gratitude of their life can fill your soul again.