Do You Have a Mentor?
I pride myself on being pretty independent minded, and I like to think that this trait has developed nicely over the decades.
But when I’m stuck, really stuck, I often cast about for someone or something to say simply: “Take this step next.” Or, “you’re wrong, he’s right, deal with it.” Bad as I am at dealing with authority, sometimes an authority is exactly what I want. Just for a second.
Ideally we all have someone to play that role now and then, just for a second. Someone who stops being neutral and humble and “oh I’m sure you know best” long enough to tell you something that gets you unstuck.
Tons of (now faceless) people told me as a young person to be realistic and have a Plan B, but it was the one who said things like “Somebody has to write the books” that I remember. I think the best advice my dissertation advisor gave me, and I don’t even remember what it was in reference to, was “Aww, fuck ’em.” That one is truly multipurpose.
The thing about growing up and finding a little success is that your mentor pool gets smaller. Everyone likes to give advice to cute college girls.
For now, most of my mentors are in books. Sometimes it’s an author, like Anne Lamott. Often it’s a character, like Anne Elliot or Esther Summerson or Propsero or Granny Weatherwax.
As you might guess, most often I want a mentor to help me figure out how to deal with difficult people, to be the calm center of the storm. I want mentors for taking charge, and for letting go. I want mentors for practical creativity that isn’t sappy or mystical, but sharp-edged and real.
Who have your mentors been? Who would you choose as a mentor now? What do you want mentors for?