During my last 12 weeks of teaching in Michigan, when I was moved to a different building, I had a student who needed some attention.
This girl–we’ll call her “Erin”–felt poorly about herself and needed a patient set of ears to listen to her. I took her under my wing and mentored her, as I have with many before her. I did all I could to convince her of her value and her talents. Erin became more confident and did great things during that last trimester. But she still cried when I told her I was leaving.
I gave her my phone number when I left, but I knew she would not need to use it. Like many students before her, Erin no longer needed me as a mentor. She was strong, she was enough.
She was ready to test her wings.
When Rob and I lived in our first house, every year a robin would build a nest in our hanging plant. The eggs hatched, and day after day the mother would lovingly feed and care for the babies.
Then the day came to leave the nest.
Some of the birds fell straight to the ground, before gaining the courage to fly. Others took off awkwardly, before taking to the sky. Still others remained on the ground for a period of time and had many failed attempts before finally taking off.
But they all left. They all found their wings. They no longer needed their mother’s constant guidance and support, and they encountered her in the wild as equals.
So it goes with all of the mentors we find in life.
I think of the many people, over the years, who have taken me under their wing. I remember, with gratitude, the learning and growth that I experienced during that time. Yet the mentor/mentee relationship is not forever. If the mentor has truly helped me to grow, the time will come for me to test my wings, and to take full responsibility.
Sometimes it happens naturally, at the end of the semester, for example. Other times, the nature of the relationship must change–and this is the scariest scenario.
Change always brings some fear with it. In this situation, I fear that my wings are not enough–that I will fall to the ground, unable to fly, and die there, with no one to help. I fear that I will lose the relationship with the person who has so lovingly taken me under their wing. The status quo works. Why change it?
Why change it? Because change must–and WILL–occur. If the people involved are not willing to make the change, the relationship becomes destructive, and prevents both people from growing. The change has to happen. In my current situation, I’ve known that for sometime, but in my fear tried to deny it–tried to perpetuate old habits and a dynamic that no longer worked.
But we must remember that fear is fake.
Will I fall to the ground? Maybe. But, if we look for it, we can see that we never, NEVER are truly alone. There will always be caring friends to help us when we fall. And you know what? I know that, even if it involves some struggle, I can fly. I can take full responsibility. I am enough.
Will I lose the relationship? Only if I fail to have the courage to test my wings. Change does not necessarily mean ending. In this case, change means leaving behind the mentor/mentee dynamic and standing on level ground. It is the natural progression of things. It is with an incredible sense of peace that I realize this–a greater peace than I have felt in a long time. All will be well.
So, thank those who have helped you, and those whom you have helped. But do understand when it is time to allow growth, and to allow change–in others, and especially within yourself.
Thank you to those who have led me to this point. Now I must test my wings.