The one role I never anticipated having in my life is that of a Mentor. I’ve never been a parent so the obligation didn’t seem to ever be slated for me. That. of course, changed when I took on my young apprentice/muse, Dirk. And then I realized something strange: it’s not a role assigned to you. It’s one you fall into because of age, experience and acquired wisdom – knowledge gained by living a normal periled life and surviving it.
I can remember – (way back when) – I was his age, and the trauma I felt when things went wrong. In the disastrous blinding heat of the moment you think you’ll never survive; nothing will ever be right again, and all is ruined. That’s, of course, until a few years later when something similar happens again and you calm your heartbeat, take a deep breath and realize… yep…been here, done that…made it through. Mentoring can only be done by those of us who have “made it through”. And that’s how we can help those younger than us when they hit the same turbulence.
The extraordinary thing I learned about mentoring is that it is another lesson for us. A retrospective lesson. At least it has been for me.
I’m still a very flawed individual in spite of having made it through many calamities. I find I still have the same impetuous “young” temper, impatience and intolerance for things that defy what I’d like to have in my life. But NOW, I have the realization that I can step back and teach myself new lessons: like patience, acceptance and perseverance. To never give up; never give in.
When my life came apart a few years ago I had to start over. That’s a hard lesson. To not have money; to give up things.. to do without other things; to reduce your lifestyle to the basics because of the drastic transition. At first, I was angry as hell. I like nice things like everyone. The American way is designed to make us keep wanting nice things. We want to add to our life…not subtract from it. And the more I subtracted,(and it was A LOT), the more inwardly bitter I became.
Luckily I had a friend, a trainer who was a Buddhist. And though I’m not religious in the least I do believe every religion has something valuable to teach us. And what my young Buddhist friend taught me was to believe that every challenge was a test; every roadblock was a guide to the path we were actually supposed to be on.
I could no longer afford to go to restaurants. I was overweight anyway and a diet was in order. I had to give up Netflix and trips to the movie theater. It was time to buckle down and write those books I’d been putting off for years. I no longer had a home – traveling broadened my abilities to tell stories; be self-sufficient, even become fearless in approaching situations I was unaccustomed to. I could no longer afford the luxury of relaxing with the wine I enjoyed – exercise was a substitute to burn off the excess energy…and get back in shape. Being poor made me richer in the things that would round out my character and help me complete the things I’d always wanted to do. I have twelve books to show for that. I’m in the best shape I’ve been in for over fifteen years. For every single thing I had given up I’d been pushed in another direction… and it made me a better person. I can swear to that – honestly.
I don’t think I could have been as effective a mentor as I am right now at this very moment if I hadn’t sacrificed so much. Now I can actually say with complete conviction… be patient…it will all work out.. if it doesn’t work out…move in another direction. Don’t get upset; don’t complain and trust that you have what it takes to make it through… that’s what will make you a better person…