Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Help Wanted

I don’t fully understand the mentor/mentee relationship. Are they friends that have deep discussions, or is there a level of leader/follower that keeps it academic? In any case, I’ve always wanted a mentor to meet with regularly and have deep discussions. I don’t know how one goes about finding the right person though.

A professor offered herself as mentor my first year in college. She meant well, and I did grow because of her, but we weren’t a right fit. I wanted desperately for it to work mainly out of the idea that college was a good time to have a mentor. That was probably a bad reason. I don’t know many people who have mentors. I know some who have therapists, and to an extent, a therapist is a close substitute when you just need confirmation and assurance. (“Do you think I yelled at him like that because I was really mad at myself? Or am I trying to justify his jerk behavior?”) I went to therapy for a short time in college too. It didn’t help much other than give me a sense that I was at least doing something about my stress and feelings, which is all I expected from it. But that’s a different relationship than a mentor. Mentors can offer their opinion, and you don’t have to be working on anything, just talking, listening, learning.

I have this grand idea that a mentor would be someone older than me that “gets” me. That genuinely is looking out for me and offering me specific advice. Someone I can confess things to and be accountable to without judgment. Someone who in turn will bear some of that responsibility back onto me. We don’t necessarily have to be friends, more like a parental relationship from a non-relative. But I don’t know how to ask that burden of someone, and I don’t know how to go about cultivating such a relationship since I tend to be guarded with my ideas or feelings.

How is this related to faith? Because I think it helps to have someone guide you in faith. Not have someone draconically telling you exactly what to think and believe, and not to be left adrift on your own either. Plus a lot of the deeper discussions I have involve faith or religion in some way, so the things I imagine my mentor and I discussing involve a lot of Jesus. It seems obvious that a pastor would be the best person to talk to, but I don’t want to burden them by becoming some sort of project. And where my beliefs defer from the church’s, would it become their responsibility to try to steer me back or could they stay impartial? It probably depends on the individuals, but it feels murky.

When you learn about writers, you learn so many of them had mentors that encouraged (or discouraged when necessary) them. I think having a mentor would be good for me, but I’m not getting my hopes up of finding one anytime soon. So until then, I’ll bumble around on my own and keep my eyes open for the opportunity. Like dating all over again.

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