The Lookout For Mentors

As it is February, it may be the month of love, but I am left to ponder all of the people who have made a lasting impression on my life. I’m here to say, it is important to have mentors in life, to build positive relationships with caring people you meet along your journeys. Who do you look up to? Who has taught you a lesson in life, who challenges you?My mentors are people who, physically with me or not, will always remain a large part of my life. Who I am as a person is because of the lessons and encouragements of a select few people who cared to deal with an obnoxious kid, tied together with the scenarios I dealt with, with their teachings in mind.

As a kid, I very much remember being told all of the useful advice that teachers, parents, school nurses, grandma’s and grandpa’s told me. I don’t forget much. You could say, I’ve always created my own vast contact book of mentors.  “Don’t do drugs”, etc. etc. the D.A.R.E teachers would always say, of course. “You can do whatever you want to do,” people would encourage. “Don’t ever let anybody tell you ______,” fill in scenario here.  For some reason, I listened. It seemed to me at a young age that these people knew a lot more about what they were doing with themselves than I did.

I remember sitting on the floor of the cafeteria for all of the elementary school presenters that came and performed for us. These people told us that we could be what we wanted to be. Dancers from the high schools came, among others. I remember the woman who brought her domesticated wolf in to the school to teach the importance of wildlife preservation and that wolves are wild animals, creatures to be respected. I remember wanting to be that woman, and I listened to her to. Throughout High School speakers came and spoke to my classes about following how students should follow their dreams, that they made mistakes and they overcame them. These people were really just trying to save us some heartache in making the same mistakes they did, which oftentimes are necessary in growing up. Don’t ever underestimate your power however big or small over a kid’s life, they remember a lot.

I never understood why other students didn’t want to listen to these people. I got along fairly easily in school, until I got to college. In college the teachers didn’t much care about whether or not I did the assignment, college professors want quality work. As a kid, I didn’t have to try much on assignments and I passed with ease, the teachers often just seemed happy that the homework had been done. I even skated by my first few years in college, realizing that Equine Science (being predominantly science based) … was not for me.

Finally my junior year, I met a professor who asked me what the heck I was doing. This professor still had a flame, a fire that that he tried to send out to his students, to encourage them to think, to care, to figure out problems. It’s a flame that I think dies out in many professors after years of teaching. He himself was sick of dealing with zombie students.  Students become used to being given a problem to solve, and being given the equation along with it; problems they can mindlessly solve without questioning. Students start to repeat back answers in a memorized sequence, mindless memorization. The problem is, life doesn’t always give you the steps to solve the problem. Sometimes, you have to come up with your own plan of action, you have to stop waiting for someone else to tell you have to do it, and do it.

In my current job, I was trying to think of a solution to a problem I was having. I hadn’t been given elaborate details on how the problem should be solved, and was merely expected to complete the task to the best of my abilities. Many people would expect an outline. Not being in school anymore, it took my brain a moment before it reverted back to that thinking-out-of-the-box mode that it went to in college. It went back to my years in the class with that professor who expected not only answers, but well planned answers, answers that teased out new questions. Back to the years where I had to stretch to the furthest possible ideas I could come up with, to create a new, unique solution. So often we are waiting for somebody to tell us how to do it, instead of figuring it out for ourselves. Forget about the box.

Realizing that if you gather a tight-knight team of mentors in your life, and have grown with, can help you through many difficult tasks in life. Off the top of my head, I can think of four prominent figures in my life who pop in and out of the back of my head during decision making time. Suddenly their voices appear in times of need. Certainly someone has had an impact on your life in such a positive way, that when you are faced with a decision, that person is chattering away in the back of your mind, or perhaps on one or the other shoulder, telling you how it should be done. Even know, its as if a small video reel of these people is projecting through my thoughts, with full sound with repetitions of their voices.

We learn from these people. More importantly I realize that these people have gone through many of the same struggles I may be facing, and can offer helpful insight to how to negotiate out of them. Some mentors, you don’t realize are a mentor right away because they push you so far to your limits, that at first, it seems like a threat. It seems like a situation that is only meant to push you down, whereas in reality, this mentor might be teaching you a new side of yourself that you hadn’t met before. Beware that these kinds of mentors can catch you off guard, and you just may be stronger than you think.

We learn from these people through their words and often well crafted lessons, without receiving the answers. Perhaps it is not their place to give us an answer.  They are to aid us in our own journeys, and if we are lucky, they provide us with the right tools to come to our own right answers. In my years of undergrad as a student I found it sometimes hard not to be defensive or argue with suggestions I didn’t agree with. Sometimes, listening is an acquired talent. It comes only with time.

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