Scintilla13 Day 7
Write about someone who was a mentor for you.
The issue of mentors is one of the most sensitive for me. Reason being, I’ve never had one.
You can read that again, or you can read this sentence wherein I repeat that staggering claim: I’ve never had a mentor. Not a teacher. Not an employer. Not someone from a chance meeting, or someone to which I was introduced. Not in writing, not in acting, and not in life. Nobody has ever once stepped up and taken me under their wing to guide me towards a more successful application of my talents and personality.
This is a bit of a sore issue with me, particularly given the fact that I was fatherless by the time I was seven, and despite many men within my family and nearby, nobody stepped up to be a male guiding influence in my life.
Not that a mentor has to be a male. It doesn’t. I only use that particular circumstance to show how much opportunity and necessity there would have been for a young me to have a mentor. But women failed just as much to fill this void as men did.
The result is that almost anything I have done, I’ve had to do on my own, for the most part, or had to quit before it was realized. I liken it to being dropped in the middle of a Siberian forest with the sharpest ax ever made, and being told to hack my way through until I find shelter. I’m not told which direction to start hacking, or for that matter how to hack. I just have an ax and a vague knowledge as to how to use it. I start swinging and hope I fell enough trees in the right direction to get out of the woods.
In my life, especially when I was young and most in need of a solid, invested mentor, I did seek out, ask, and plead for guidance, and usually received none. In my younger days a few people poked around in my life for a while, found me quite interesting or even inspiring based on my abilities and passion at such a young age, and then proceeded to walk out of my life without barely a nod, leaving the dancing bear to start hacking away at Siberia again.
In some ways, I’m still hacking. But I’m older now, and more tired. More likely to just build my own damn shelter out of all the wood laying around, shoddy as the craftsmanship may be.
This issue is also a sticky one with others I know. I’ve been told that anyone without a mentor has nobody to blame for it but themselves. That a mentor must be sought out. Pestered. Followed about. That I must become like the world’s loudest but most interesting fly, buzzing in the face of someone whom I admire, convincing them that I in fact have more to offer them then they can offer me.
Through such obnoxious supplication I would have, so I am told, convinced an otherwise busy successful individual with whom I desperately wanted to work to deign to allow me to bathe in his/her magnificence. (So long as I didn’t ask too many questions and express too many opinions about what was going on…another trait of mine I have been told keeps mentors away.)
If you know anything about me at all, you realize that this is not acceptable to me. I don’t understand people who seek mentors in order to make the mentor’s life better. After all if I were that good at fixing lives, I wouldn’t have needed a mentor.
No, to me the concept of a mentor is someone who has not only a specific expertise, but someone who is able to recognize that expertise in someone else that is less fortunate than they, and is willing to share of their own experiences to spark the forward progress of the protege’. Someone who does so for the sake of service, not somebody who stands around saying, “well, how are you going to make my life better, punk?”
I don’t suggest that a mentor is supposed to travel the earth looking for people to guide. That’s a bit too much like a cheap kung-fu movie to be real. I do however think that when someone worthy seeks you out for advice on how to accomplish something for which they have the talent but not the wisdom, you should make an effort to guide that person. Be discerning, yes of course. Don’t do everything for everybody. But at least take the time to look into what the potential student is capable of doing. And if he is quite capable of doing good things, help him out.
Mentoring need not be the 50 years worth of sharing every step and watching the grasshopper succeed from a distance routine. (Why does this always come back to kung-fu??) Frankly, I’d be a little weirded about by that kind of mentor. Still, at some point the “what’s in it for me” attitude of those who have already achieved success, or at least knowledge has to be set aside for the betterment of people in general. Or at least the answer to that question ought to sometimes be that what’s in it for you is an improved world.
No doubt, this happens quite a bit everyday. I read stories about people finding mentors, and the glorious paradigm shifts toward enlightenment brought on by same. In fact I read so many of these mentor/protege stories that the concept, at this point of my life can sometimes make me sick. Call me bitter, but damn, enough already with the wonderful mentor stories to which I cannot relate at all. (One reason I cringed when I read this prompt.)
In closing, please don’t conclude I have never gotten help from anyone. Any given moment, somebody in my life has shared a thought, referred me to a website, or relayed information to me. (Though sadly, not as often as you might think.) That sort of thing is, in my estimation, just being helpful, which is admirable in its own right. But mentoring? That extra, extended investment one certain person makes in another certain person who shows promise in a given endeavor? I wouldn’t know it.
Is this because of my lack of charm? Lack of wealth? Lack of desire to kiss someone’s ass? Is it luck? Is it where I live? Was I just never meant to have a mentor, so as to develop into the person I have become as a result? I don’t know. I’ve never known. It’s a question I’ve been asking for years. And though it’s never too late for a mentor to show up, I tend to think that by this point in my life it may all just be academic.
(Part of the Scintilla Project. )