A Letter to Someone Who Mentored Me

by | Sep 7, 2021 | Letters | 0 comments

Letter 11: to someone who mentored me

This letter is hard to write, and I realise it’s because it consigns you to the past, and it’s difficult to do that. You were perhaps the single greatest positive influence in my life, just simply by being you. It’s also the longest one yet (sorry), a testament to your place in my heart.

My first year under your guidance I was juggling. A lot. Every day looked something like this

5.30am I get up and walk 45 mins into work – no matter the weather- I’m saving up to be able to start my PhD.

At work, I’m in specialist cases at the CICA (part of the Ministry of Justice) contributing on compensation claims for the victims of Britain’s most horrible, violent crimes. A great many of those victims are children. A great many of the crimes are intensely, personally familiar to me. It’s the most important, most brutal, most rewarding, most gut-wrenching, agonising job I’ve ever had. Some of the cases are burned indelibly into my soul, where they catalyse change in me. Photos. Transcripts. Psychiatrists reports. Medical exams. And the maths.

I’m learning first hand, that the legal system has some cold hard maths for body parts. A symbolic price for anything left behind, when you brokenly make it out of a fight for your life. A man in his 50s gets more compensation for losing a thumb than an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse with no quality of life due to multiple mental health concerns. The rational? Your emotional state isn’t a “body part,” silly. How can you quantify it?

The assailants? Men who see little punishment and live relatively uninterrupted lives. All B.S. decisions made by men – mostly ones of the House of Lords. It feels like a hill I could die fighting on, but thankfully my boss won’t let me. He’s seen too many do that before me.

After work finishes at 1pm, I walk another 45 mins to our MLitt classes, where from 2pm-4pm, we look at how archaeology contributes to understanding the experiences not recorded by history. I focus in on the invisibility of children and the impacts of conflict, control, colonialism, and the materiality of fear and shame. They meet in the transmission of culture. Culture is trauma.

4pm is crying time. You take me into your office gently, with such great care and kindness, and just hold space while I cry for mothers and children who are twice robbed by a system made by men, for men, to support men. I feel their wounds in my body, as surely as I feel my own. I cannot share their stories, theirs are bound to my security clearance. But I can share my own, and you let me.


Crying time happens most days. I feel so truly blessed that you listen. That catalyses change too.

From 5pm until 11pm each day, I do many things aside from my studies. I volunteer as a community journalist for the Red Cross, edit for two journals, teach postgraduate classes in transferable skills, run a small artisanal business selling items though a few local shops, and run a knitting club… to name a few. You listen when I need to be heard. Guide, when I seek guidance. Expand my capacity to think, feel, listen and to guide. .

By the end of the year, I’ve cried more tears than I’ve ever cried. I’ve written more words than I’ve ever written. And I have an epiphany. With two weeks to go before the deadline for my thesis (which was completed and already approved by you) I decide to throw it away, and write something subversive, new and completely original. Even though it means nobody will have time to see the drafts. Nobody will really know anything about it, until the deadline arrives and the thesis is marked.

And you trust me. Instead of talking me out of it, you lean in with me, respecting my conviction that I have something so much better inside me, ready to come out. It pays off. The new thesis is far beyond the original: far enough to be nominated for awards and published in a highly regarded journal.


At the end of the year, you did something I will never forget and that stays with me now. It hugely informs my relationship with my clients and their transformations, and my own. You gave me so much credit.

Not just the credit for the work I had delivered but for the whole achievement. All of it. From birth to MLitt you witnessed my journey. You spoke of my overall performance, not only in academia but as a being, and said that you’d never seen anything like the spirit, strength and stamina that I showed up with that year. Never in your life. You informed me that my overall grade for the programme was one of the highest ever achieved in any subject, in the history of the university. You let me shine.

I had never given myself credit for anything. Nothing I had ever done in my life, no matter how great and achievement on paper, had ever felt worthy of telling anyone about. I’d never taken in praise before, it always somehow slide right off me. Looking back, I see that you knew that, and you knew exactly how to make it stick.

It did stick, and so did I. Despite the fact I could have gone anywhere in the world, I signed up to do my PhD under your guidance, and started my PhD betting on what I could do, if I kept learning from you. Instead of going part time, so I could “afford” to work and study more easily, I used all my savings to do one year. One. That was every penny I had. The universe rewarded me in week one, my dropping me right on Duncan’s doorstep, where I met him for the first time. In every way, I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Your belief in me that the funding for the rest of the years was inevitable rubbed off too. The funding flooded in, along with funding for conferences, side projects and whole lot of other things. The qualities I valued so highly in you, like hoe you could so selflessly hold space for another’s success, I found in myself too. How to bring someone into collaboration at the right time, to create lift under their wings. How to connect people. How to support the incredible work that is growing ideas to maturity and turning them into things. How to trust yourself as a change-maker. So many other beautiful things.

Over eight years, you challenged and evolved how I lead myself and others, guide myself and others, hold space for myself and others. How I research, create courses and resources, write, edit, teach and so very much more. I wouldn’t be who I am today, if not for your impact.

But I also recognise something else at work too. It was really me who taught myself those things. Little by little, by experiencing them with you, watching them unfold between you and others, being subtly supported as I worked it out for myself, with you there in the background if I wanted your help, I found them in me. I saw them in you because my soul already knew them. You were the mirror I needed, to understand how to see them in me.

I’m so very sorry that we lost touch. Part of me still believed I wasn’t worthy of keeping in with. Part of me still sharply let go, rather than risk the pain of slow loss.

I can’t imagine now, how I could have thought that you, who were in my corner like no other; who left academia for the same kind of reasons I did; who holds light wherever you walk wouldn’t be happy to see me now. Nothing gives me greater joy, than hearing from my old students – whether from my days at the university, or from my programmes now.

So I finish this letter on a different note. I do not wish to consign you forever to the past. Where the others are doors my heart has closed. i find myself hoping that our paths cross again. You were like the big brother I never had. Truly, that’s the part that means most to me.

The child in me who wished for a big brother to fight off bad people in her life, chase away nightmares, and tell her she would be ok, found safety exploring the worst of humanity with you.

The child who wanted to be seen at home, and be allowed to have her feelings, and to be able to express herself, finally learned what that felt like, taking to many stages. Not only writing and editing, but teaching writing and editing skills.

The thinker, teacher and leader took flight in the shelter of your wings.

There is no other in my life for whom I have a similar feeling. Not friendship, or collegial connection. Is there a word for “platonic love characterised by profound gratitude for going above and beyond in supporting one’s intellectual, personal, emotional and career development?” If not, there should be.

You taught me the value of long term mentorship. Proximity to the mirror of your presence, intellect, way of being and values helped me become me. That’s worth so much more than the masters and the PhD. Thank you. For all of it. I see the value still. For all I’ve been growing, you’ve been growing too. There will always be more I could learn from you. In my heart of hearts, I’d like to believe the best is yet to come.

Dr. Morgana McCabe Allan


There’s always more to LEARN

And here’s just a few starting points…

“I’m sharing a win, I made more money this week in my business than on any other offer last year. And it was so easy. This money river is flowing today! I’m only $700 away from hitting my new monthly goal and it’s only the 2nd of the month!”

Elena Saxton

Coach for Artisans

Morgana McCabe Allan is incredibly wise yet personable, revolutionary yet relational, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to be coached through mindset calls with her. I will be hearing her words in my head for years to come!

Danielle Bettmann

Host of Failing Motherhood Podcast

“I signed my first client!! {…} I showed up on the call fully present, gave her everything I could and I told her I want to offer her a 3 month package where I will honour the free sessions I had posted about within the price point. And she signed up! 🙂 “