Who Are You?

Yesterday morning I had a conversation with a colleague who has her own consulting business. We were discussing the difference between ‘coaching’ (as you might do, following an employee’s performance review), and ‘mentoring’ (which is more personally-supportive). Mentoring requires more of a relationship with the person that wants and needs help; coaching doesn’t. Even though the mentor may have ‘more’ of something (attributes) than the mentee, perhaps in terms of wisdom and experience, the relationship is definitely mutually- beneficial. Bottom line, as my colleague and I shared a laugh, a Mentor is like the old saying about a ‘wife’:  everybody needs one. A mentor gets to know you on a deeper level: understanding your goals and guiding you in your growth. Regardless of our stage in life, few of us would say that if the perfect mentor appeared, we’d say “Nah, I’m good!”

As I stepped out of the building where we’d been meeting, I ran into a young woman I’d met and spoken to just a little on another occasion, about her entry into graduate school, and – hopefully – her launch of a career. To use an expression that I’ve yet to replace (but won’t here, because it’s so very accurate), at our first encounter, she’d “picked my brain” about her personal concerns and professional options. It was a casual conversation-turned-deep that passed its expiry after about 30 minutes (I needed to be somewhere else). Yesterday, when I saw her again, I was a little relieved that she was talking to another young woman (both in their early 30’s I’d say). Nevertheless, as I waved ‘hello’ to “Eliza”, she drew me in and introduced me to “Amanda”. Both women were totally charming (in the way that boisterous little chicks can be, toward an old hen who just might decide to peck them to death). I tried to edge away after a polite amount of chat, but that was when Eliza remarked to Amanda how helpful I’d been as her mentor. (Wait, what?). Not going to escape just yet, I thought. So I pivoted slightly, turning back and responding to this gracious compliment.

As talking between the three of us went on, I took a quick mental side-trip (leaving the slight feeling of impatience behind) and just observed how well these two young women “clicked”:  they were both feeling over-whelmed with options, more than a little fear of the Great Unknown (neither had settled into relationships or careers), and a lot of excitement and optimism about their futures. While I listened to them, interjecting just a few comments when asked, I had a helpful – to me, personally – revelation:  when I’m around people in my own age-range, the conversations are remarkably the same, but then again different, in a super-sweet way.

At a certain point in time, if you’ve lived your life with enough awareness and attention, your mistakes and achievements create that ‘diamond’ we all want to be as we mature. Even if you’ve made a ton of mistakes in your life, if you’ve allowed those lessons to hone your brilliance, there’s a moment that you realize you are a diamond. Then, a really cool thing happens:  you stop aging. No; I know that sounds kooky, but here’s what I mean (and I know it’s true, because friends have told me they’ve had the same experience). First, a disclaimer:  you don’t really (can’t ever) stop the aging process, but you feel so complete in the knowledge of Who You Are that, even as you grow older on the outside, your Inner Being stays the same age you were when this transformation happened. If you’re younger, you might hear an older person say, “In my mind, I’m still 35”. They’re not crazy in this; they’re not stuck in the past – that’s how it really feels. And that’s how you approach new adventures and challenges…even while your old sports injuries are giving you grief !

What allows this amazing thing to happen? It’s up to each individual’s personal progress when it happens, but the way it happens is by Just Living Life fully, in the best way you know how. Even when Life feels like an unbearable weight; a struggle of confusion and heartbreak, you are making progress toward the transformation. How can you speed this whole thing up? By being as authentic as you can be, with yourself and with others. This means loving yourself “warts and all”; allowing others to experience the real person you are; not the one playing some kind of role you think is expected of you, or a role someone else has adopted.

Do you remember the 2009 film “Avatar”? If you didn’t see it, it might be tricky to understand the next few sentences here. There’s a scene where the lead character (Jake Sully) realizes that when he’s in Human/Na’vi hybrid mode (his mind enters the body of his Avatar), he has a key power that the human ‘Jake’ doesn’t have (besides being around 14 feet tall and bright blue, with a magic tail). Sully, as an Avatar, tells a fellow Na’Vi, “I See You”. The Na’Vi have the ability to meld with one another in a way that the human-Sully realizes and envies. It’s a loving, supportive and nourishing connection that the very independent human Jake reacts to (when his mind leaves the Avatar) like he has an emotional case of “the bends”. The film’s a total metaphor for the human experience in a lot of ways.

You might be living multiple roles in your daily life, and in your quiet moments wonder who your authentic self really is, aside from the roles you play and the tasks you perform. It’s not something anyone else can figure out or do for you. If you’re not there yet, you might feel frustration and impatience. Take comfort in the fact that there are mentors ‘out there’:  people who’ve gone through it and can help. Your mentor might be one of your friends, or someone you work with. Maybe you haven’t met them yet. But when you feel them say, I See You, it’s a moment on your path that you’ll never forget. Isn’t being truly “seen” what we all want, what we all need, to fully become who we’re meant to be? I’m grateful to have had this reminder yesterday.

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