Discouraged and recouraged
I knew right away that I wanted this man to be my mentor. It was just obvious. He had no kids, my father died when I was four, he was a legend in the field I desperately wanted to enter, and we lived a mile apart. Jeez, we even loved the same countries and understood the need to find them. Maybe I should have informed him. Maybe that would have helped. Or just been incredibly, indelibly awkward.
Either way, it didn’t happen. No mentor showed up to do their job, and my fumbling attempts fumbled around, stepping in wasted time and tracking ink all down the halls of not being published. It’s just that you hear these stories. “I showed up without a clue and the editor took me under their wing…”
“I still don’t know why she’d do it. Here she was, established and on top of her game, and I was some dumb kid.”
“I learned more from him than I ever could have in an MFA course.”
That sort of thing. Maybe everyone’s just too damn busy nowadays. Sometimes I feel guilty about being the only human left with spare time…until I try to plan something with family and friends, then I realize I don’t have it either.
I’m sorry, you’re going to have to postpone your birthday. I’m all booked up.
But eventually I noticed that going it alone was not going. So I took a seat at the table, intermittently framed with fellow word-wanters, once a week after everyone else has gone home. I liked their words, I liked their styles, I liked their faces. But when they asked me, “What are you writing about?” I could feel the thing on top of me, a backpack of rocks and memories, but just couldn’t say what its point was. I couldn’t see its destination, just the stamps along the way. But I had the sense it could be useful.
I came out of class feeling like a bucket of crap. Not gonna lie. “If anyone feels discouraged…” the teacher said, politely omitting my name. Discouraged? Yeah, you could say that.
Until a conversation about something tangential, with someone otherly influential, came around and knocked that dis- right off. Courage? Is that what this is? No, but close enough. And she’s not a mentor, but maybe a coach will work better anyway. I don’t know how people are supposed to link up, mentors in absentia, but eventually, if we’re lucky, and if we try sometimes, we’ll get what we need.
Maybe Mick Jagger will be my mentor.