I get pretty involved in the lives of the people I mentor. I worry about their grades in school, how they are managing their lives, if they are taking care of themselves, and making good choices.
We talk a lot about all that, especially the “good choices” part. Their lives haven’t been marked by a lot of good choices, though if I was to lay blame for that, most of the blame would fall elsewhere. If you don’t have good role models, and you don’t have some solid, compassionate people at your side, life gets harder to navigate through.
And, sometimes I give advice. I like to think it is just commentary, or, to be polite, “direction and concern”. But, really, it is advice.
When I do that, it is always a good idea to be asked. Micromanaging someone else’s life, or being the co-dependent fatherly type isn’t my style. I don’t have the energy for that, and, besides, I’m pretty busy just trying to manage my own life. I don’t do “rescue” very well, and the big lessons in life are best learned by experiencing the consequences of one’s own decisions.
Granted, if I see you head towards the cliff and your foot is on the gas, I will be moved to open my mouth and speak my mind. I might even grab the wheel for a bit, until you are headed away from the pending apocalypse. Still, I prefer the diplomatic approach, and I use “suggest”, or “what are some other options you’ve thought about”.
But, tact and being politically correct aren’t always my guiding forces, and I tend to speak my mind, especially when I see someone I care about heading for the cliff.
And, I might even step back, and let them come close to their cliff, and get their feet muddy in the quagmire of their actions. Good lessons are often taught when you are up your ass in alligators, deep in the swamp.
Not that I want my buddy to get chomped on by the alligator, but that swamp offers some good, solid lessons. It has for me.
Stepping back. Maybe it is the time of year for that. After all, people are taking a summer break, and various organizations, and schools, have shut down for the summer. The usual frenzy of meetings and activities has slowed quite a bit, and I find the calendar to be blissfully empty of a lot of the usual activities. People are taking care of themselves, going on vacation, taking a breath. They are letting go, and letting the world go on a bit without them at the helm.
And, as the young men I worry about start stepping out into the world, flapping their wings a bit, and testing the winds of the adult world, I need to let them go, let them fly out near the abyss on their solo flight. They will be stronger for taking that flight on their own, stronger, and a bit wiser. Haven’t we been working on that, getting them ready to fly?
Isn’t that the goal of all this, to build strong men, able to fly on their own, to bear the consequences of their own decisions?
Not that I don’t get to worry, and fret, just like the mama eagle frets when that fledgling steps out of the nest and catches the air, to fly free.
Neal Lemery, July 19, 2013