My mentors are my friends. I laugh with them, cry with them, think with them, question them, eat with them, and just be with them. Each of my mentors came into different times of my life and brought out different parts of me. They have kept me grounded in my values, beliefs, and life philosophies. They remind me to live with intentions and to dance with every step I take.

My mentor, NY, taught me the different definitions of a Hmong woman. A Hmong woman is not powerless and voiceless. A Hmong woman’s place is not only the kitchen, but is also at the table with Hmong men. A Hmong woman’s ideas are worthy to be shared and to be heard. A Hmong woman is beautiful in her thoughts, in her assertiveness, in her independence, and in her demand for justice. She taught me how to be both bold and soft at the same time, that love, empathy, warm-heartedness, and humility brings the best out of people and brings the best out of herself.

My mentor, SW, taught me to lead life unapologetically. She embraced my introvertedness and as a result, I learned how to value that. She reminded me that I am strong. I am resilient. I am capable. I am worthy. She creates a space and invite me to simply be me where we can reflect together our challenges, our learning, our growth, and how we want to move forward.

My mentor, EL, reminded me what the power of listening can do. He listens to me, and then he asks me questions. He challenges me why I say what I say, why I think what I think, and why I feel what I feel. He encourages me to keep thinking and reflecting on myself and the world.

None of my mentors are physically with me, however, they never fail to make themselves available when I need them. I know that they are only a fingertip away, a phone call away, a text away, and an email away. My mentors are my friends.