When you reach your final day, I think you’ll look back at your life and know that your life was forever changed every time you made a new friend. Some friends are just for fun, some friends are there for you when you need them most, and others become something greater, they become mentors.
I was raised by my grandparents and have been guided and shaped by my adoptive parents in so many ways, I think one of the most valuable things my grandfather ever taught me (or maybe more accurately tried to teach me) was how to be a good active listener. I was a hyper kid, active, easily distracted, I often heard that I waited for my turn to speak, and not so much listened when I spoke. My grandfather stressed the importance of listening, and it is a lesson I am still learning, but one that has opened me up to several amazing people in my short life that have really touched me.
Going back to High School, I got my big break. Chris had a good ten years on me, maybe more and here I was a seventeen year old kid with a nice computer and a video camera. Chris was an Apple fan like myself and he brought me on to TheOneRing.net where I became an editor and spent the next three years. We were Star Wars geeks, working on a Lord of the Rings fan site, it was an interesting combination. Chris was an amazing graphic artist and web developer, I’m sure he still is, and he has been the bar I judge myself by for many years. I was a pain in the ass back then, not that I’m not now, but I’m grateful for what he taught me all the same.
Years into my time with TheOneRing I met Norm, and once again the concept of listening became a big deal. Same hyper kid, same desire to be heard and not to hear and one day Norm took me aside and said “One day you’re going to be content just to listen, and not need to be heard.” I blinked, and I’m sure at the time I figured “I don’t need this crap!” but I know that stuck with me and now almost ten years later I still reach back in my mind and ask myself what Norm would do, if not also reach out via text or e-mail and ask the man himself.
When I arrived in San Antonio it was a rough experience. I knew one person out of the whole city and I wasn’t sure who to really talk to or what direction I should travel. I’d owned a business in California, but I knew people there, I’d had connections. I’d made a friend during the final days of my time with TheOneRing named Ed. I reached out to Ed, someone I look at as a true success, and I asked him “what do you do when you lose faith?”
He replied asking if I meant faith in myself, faith in the world, or faith in God. I told him I feared I’d lost faith in myself. He wrote back an e-mail to me on par in elegance with anything he’d ever verbalized. He told me that faith exists in the absence of evidence. That one line out of so many just knocked me off my feet. If I had lost faith in myself, it was because it’d been so long since I’d had evidence to back up that faith. I set out to create that evidence, I put everything else aside, I silenced distractions and I regained my faith in myself.
Looking back, so many people had touched my life. Where Chris tried to round me out and Norm tried to calm me down, my new friends push me forward and lift me up. Maybe finally I’m in a place where I can listen intently, from a place where I couldn’t listen from before, and truly feel the wisdom I’m fortunate enough to have received.
The road is long and while I am in a better place than I was, I smile and know that wherever I find myself, I’ll have the wisdom of others who have been there before to support me and will help me step true. Soon, when I’m ready, it’ll be my turn to return the favors they’ve given me.
This blog has been inspired by Holly Hoffman (@HollyHoffman on Twitter) of Neovia Solutions. Holly put out a call to all bloggers about their mentor experiences and I invite you to share your own. Thank you for reading.