“The whole point of being alive is to evolve into the person you were intended to be.” ~Oprah~
A few months ago, one of the young women I mentor reminded me of something I had told her – something she had taken to heart and had put into practice. I often don’t remember specifically what I say when I’m having coffee or lunch, Facetiming, or walking around campus with a student; instead, I speak from my heart, knowing that when I speak my truth, and use my story to help them navigate their own journeys, I can’t go wrong. After all, when you love someone, you allow yourself to be vulnerable – sincere – real. And love comes easy for me.
In a long, two-part text, my young friend mentioned advice I had previously offered her: “focus on things you CAN control” and “find your yellow,” a reference to seeking and spreading kindness and love. Something else she observed, though, gave me pause. Regardless of whether I was the team mom, she reflected, and regardless of whether or not she was a softball player, she is confident I was put in her life for a reason. The text continued with reminding me that I had told her I try to be the woman I needed when I was a young woman trying to figure out adulthood. She wrote, “you told me to be the person I needed,” and “that hit home. Changed my whole view on my future. I WANT to be that person.”
What this young woman doesn’t realize, though, is that she already IS that woman. She is recognizing her own worth – her own power – her own influence on herself and others. As a rising college sophomore, she takes the time to check on me, someone with whom she had no connection prior to this year, because she understands the need for human connection, for nurturing, for loving people she considers family, for building community.
Mentoring young people, gives me energy, and fills me with such a clear purpose it is palpable. The clarity of my life’s purpose echoes in what I know is my soul. My parents divorced when I was ten, and while I always felt loved and nurtured, I also spent a lot of time seeking answers – affirmation – and connection. With a single father whose focus was on putting food on the table and a mom who lived over 400 miles away, I was pretty much left to my own devices to figure things out. Fortunately, I had an incredible group of friends, adults in my community who nurtured me from the perimeter, and an etermal optimism and grit that have both served me well.
Early in my life, most likely through the countless hours I lost myself in the pages of a compelling novel, I learned the power of words – of creating my own story – of being the author of my life’s adventure. As a reader, I discovered characters who encountered conflict, and sometimes trauma, and emerged slightly or dramatically different. I learned the liberating effect of being a dynamic character. If I keep that realization at the center of my attention, then I can be the woman I need her to be. I am a dynamic character, ever-evolving.
I can truly be the woman I needed when I was twelve, thirty-two, or fifty-three. She is as incredible as I need her to be for myself, and, ultimately, for others. My sweet, young friend is learning that lesson as well. What a gift to realize the cotnrol we have over who we become – what a gift.