mentorship- giving and receiving

image from leap.utah.edu

image from leap.utah.edu

I've always had a hunger for a mentor relationship- I always felt I could do more than what I was doing- and every once in a while you want someone to come along and give you a push.

On the other hand, I've been fortunate to get what is the next best thing, if not better: great teachers. 

Growing up, my dad was always harping on us kids to stretch ourselves intellectually, and it didn't take much- a few years of university- before we crossed the line of what, to him, was acceptable bounds for intellectual roaming.  He's still religious, and I am no longer.  He doesn't understand why I couldn't stay intellectually rigorous yet stay within the confines of our faith, and I don't understand how I could have. 

In high school, our church had a great youth leader named Cory who was really passionate about theology and made it cool for us.  We would look at Greek and Hebrew passages and dissect what they meant in different translations.  It was one of his passions to teach us how to debate (and win) with Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, and it was where my head was at at the time, so I soaked it up.  I ended up attending a liberal-leaning Christian college to get my degree, and when I reconnected with him years later on Facebook, we sadly had very little in common anymore.  Doesn't mean I don't look back on those three years fondly, though.

In university, my sister introduced me to an equally intellectually vigorous, but left-leaning Bible Study group, and our leader was very passionate about pushing us to think critically about what our faith meant in today's day.  We read some great books that had a big effect on all our lives.  I'm eternally grateful to him.  I've since left that way of thinking altogether, but again, those were some great, fertile years.

One of the university classes I took was with Dr. Ward who taught American Political Thought.  His classes were super exciting because he made questions about Benjamin Franklin, race and gender really relevant, and there were always good discussions.  We always left the classes buzzing.  In case it isn't obvious, the big narrative in my life is the trajectory from a conservative religious household with a limited understanding of my faith to an agnostic liberal point of view.  Over time, a new problem emerged, though.  I ended up having to drop out of university (I already had a degree anyway) because I couldn't get out of the head space and couldn't finish my assignments on time because I kept on thinking about more and more things to include in my essays.  Not good.  I had to get out of there.

The big shift started in 2010 when I learned about the Enneagram and how my personality type needed to DO instead of FEEL and THINK all the time, which was actually new territory for me.  It still is- I'm at the beginning of a new trajectory and I feel like I'm still very much taking baby steps.  I have a mentor now named Sam with whom I speak once a month, and she is so positive even when I don't know what I'm doing.  I also have a coach too, and he introduced me to a mindfulness practice where I've gotten more acquainted with the gut space.  For my type, action means a loss of identity which is like floating untethered in space kind of territory- if you ever want to understand why some people are absolutely terrified of success, learn the Enneagram- you can ask me what my type is. 

While I was working on my business, I worked as a secretary at an elementary school this past year, and there was a grade 8 student who would come into the office when she was done with her homework and chat.  I loved talking to her- I found out she was really bright, taking online classes at a university, and studying Greek history, medicine, and psychology in her spare time.  She wants to go to Harvard, so I said, "you know what? Come work for me for this summer and I'll get you doing research assistant stuff."  We're going for tea tomorrow so I'm excited to see what comes out of that.

We all know this- people slip through the cracks really easily.  We all have these big dreams, and then as we grow up, we get weighed down with having to pay bills, and we go work somewhere and get comfortable.  Even if you just challenge someone for a small window of time and get them thinking in a way they haven't thought before, or doing things they didn't think they could do before, it makes a huge difference- you don't have to be a mentor for life.  I'm grateful for everyone who cared enough to challenge me, and I hope I can give back to the same measure and more.