A Chat With Ellen Mahoney

Ellen grew up in Japan and Singapore before moving back to the US for college at the University of Oregon. After her ten year career in education as a teacher and counselor, she moved to the mentoring field where she developed the volunteer management for the countryʼs leading online youth mentoring organization, iMentor. Today she runs Sea Change Mentoring, which she founded in 2012, with a focus on Third Culture Kids. She is on the Board of Directors of Families in Global Transition (FIGT), and is a David C. Pollock Scholar and a 2013 Echoing Green semifinalist. Here are her answers to our version of the Proust Questionnaire.

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What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Being surrounded by the people I love, in harmony.

What is your greatest fear?

Losing the people I love most.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Over-confidence. It’s a trait that has gotten me far in many ways, a trait that can help in being an entrepreneur. But if it isn’t checked, it can lead you astray and keep you from seeing the truth. It’s opposite, humility, is a trait I admire in my favorite leaders and something I try to cultivate in myself.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Rigidity in thought. I think society and the individual suffers when we can’t see things from multiple perspectives, when we subscribe to fundamentalist ideology, when we can’t bend our minds to consider other possibilities.

Which living person do you most admire?

There are so many, it is hard to pick just one. For the sake of this interview I will pick Jeanette Winterson. She is an excellent writer and I love her creativity.

What is your greatest extravagance?

A hotel room. Staying in a hotel is one of my favorite things in the world, probably because I spent so much time in hotel rooms when I was growing up, moving from one place to the next. I love that you can order room service, that your bed is made when you return home and that you can sleep in complete darkness, away from the world.

What is your current state of mind?

Excited. As an entrepreneur still in the start-up phase of my business, there are a lot of possibilties before me and a lot of unknowns. Come to think of it, as a third culture kid constantly surrounded by change, this is probably my most consistent state of mind.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Niceness. I’m all for having manners and treating people kindly, of course. But being nice is not the same thing as being compassionate. I’d rather someone be frank with me than nice. And often girls are taught to be “nice” which can mean staying in your place and keeping your opinions to yourself. I’d rather take risks, be direct and debate ideas.

On what occasion do you lie?

I love to tell stories and I don’t like to let facts get in the way of telling a great one.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

I hate this question. My thoughts on my appearance is not something I try to spend too much time on. There are so many other things that are more important.

Which living person do you most despise?

Despise is too strong of a word but I am not a fan of Justin Bieber.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

Listening skills.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?


Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Awesome. I suppose I am a child of the 80’s.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My husband. I still can’t believe my luck that I found him.

When and where were you happiest?

Now. I think I am the happiest I have ever been. I’m in love with a wonderful man, I am doing what I love for a living, I travel around the world and I have amazing friends and family.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I wish I could play guitar and write beautiful songs. Music is my favorite form of expression.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I would stress less.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Overcoming all of the challenges I faced as I went through reverse culture shock (when I returned to the USA after having grown up in Asia) in my twenties. It was quite the storm to navigate through and I am so grateful I got through it.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

I’d love to come back as an international peace maker. Someone that had the wisdom and command of language and cultures to help bridge major global differences.

Where would you most like to live?

The answer to this changes almost every day. At this moment, I’d like to try out Berlin or return to Tokyo.

What is your most treasured possession?

My engagement ring. It was a ring my great grandfather gave my grandmother when she was 18. She was a strong woman and a role model to me.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Being stuck in a cycle of anger and resentment.

What is your favorite occupation?


What is your most marked characteristic?


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    About The Author

    Kanzi Kamel

    Kanzi Kamel

    Kanzi is an American-Egyptian writer, baker and adventurer living in Salzburg. She spent the last seven years of her work and studies in Lebanon, where she graduated with a BA in Media and Communications from the American University of Beirut, and worked as an Editor and Project Coordinator at Keeward. She is currently acting librarian of the Schloss Leopoldskron in Salzburg, and the European Ambassador of Bookwitty.

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