A Tribute to My First Mentor, Jutta Goheen
When you spend time in the present moment, life is abundant with experience, awareness, perception and love. When we live in the present, we are more free to be our best selves. Time surrenders its hold on us as an intellectual construct, and we live in timelessness.
This awareness came at great expense a few years ago. I had an urge to contact my former professor and mentor, Jutta Goheen. She was my advisor during my graduate studies at Carleton University. The truth is that I had many urges and inclinations to contact her over the years, but I never did.
She passed away in 2002 at only 68-years old. I didn’t even know because I hadn’t been paying attention, and because I had been putting off contacting her. I thought of her often, fondly. At one point, I looked on the Carleton University website, but couldn’t locate her. I didn’t make a more concerted effort because it felt like a world from long ago, but also because I harboured a hidden and painful shame.
Frau Goheen believed in me more than anyone at a time in my life of tremendous growth of the mind. She nourished and nurtured my abilities as a scholar and as a student of the German language, literature and culture. She was patient beyond measure with an uncanny ability to inspire. Jutta Goheen never wavered in her support of my continued improvement and her belief in my abilities. This was noticed by my colleagues and rewarded with scholarships and recognition on the Dean’s List year after year.
In the first year of my Master’s, I shifted away from my area of specialty that had been Middle-High German linguistics and Minnesang poetry. I applied for a year-long scholarship in Germany to pursue a topic I felt compelled to do from the core of my being. No one else had ever pursued such a topic and I suppose it was my ego that wanted to make a mark in the tiny world of German Linguistic scholarship. This diversion in no small part cost me the completion of my Master’s degree. Yet, it was a path I choose and a path I found myself lost upon, realizing along the way just how much I still had to learn.
I no longer live with the regret of having not finished my Master’s degree. Nor was this due to any lack of support from Jutta Goheen. Instead, she fully supported my decisions. In the end, it was once again her wise guidance that helped me make the final decision to withdraw from my Master’s, without guilt or a label of failure from her or the department.
But I did feel shame. For years, it felt like I had let her down. Then I believe that I had let myself down. Later, I realized that I had simply made choices and that hindsight serves no useful purpose. What I could do instead was to see how far I had come in life thus far, and to understand that if I had completed my Ph.D., I would have been an unhappy, and unfulfilled person.
I remember how saddened I was upon first reading the news of Frau Goheen’s passing. Reading the words I cried uncontrollably. I felt weak, stupid, guilty, and ashamed that I never made the effort to reach out and thank her — after so many years wasted thinking that I should. How I wanted to tell her, in person, about the impact she had upon my life, and how I had grown into a mature awareness of the gifts she shared with me. I know in my heart she knew this and that she never expected anything more than the best effort of her students. With her encouragement, I excelled, and I believed in myself, thanks to her honest and supportive guidance.