Aristotle – Alexander the Great
Saul Bellow – Philip Roth
Ralph Waldo Emerson – Hendry David Thoreau
Graham Green – Muriel Spark
Ansel Adams – Georgia O’Keefe
What these pairs have in common is that the first person in each couple became a mentor for the second one. In Greek mythology,
was the friend of Odysseus who raised and educated his son Telemachus while Odysseus was fighting in the Trojan war. The Ancient Greeks adopted the concept of mentorship as they developed relationships between elders and younger boys, notoriously often extending beyond the provision of pearls of wisdom. In the words of John C. Crosby, “mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” Mentor
Identifying Role Models
If the fad of life coaches and ‘personal development consultants’ [suppressing eye roll] suggests anything, it is that people constantly need guidance. For young women in
My newest project aims at prompting young women to seek inspiration – to think about who their role models are, express what they admire about them, and draw on each other’s selections for more inspiration. The scope of the project remains narrow, as its primary objective is merely to prod thought and articulation of what qualities a role model embodies. At a later stage, the project will help participants get in touch with individuals they respect and establish mentoring relationships with them; for now, the focus is on research and self-inquiry. While the details of the project execution must remain confidential for now, your input would be is invaluable for its completion.
Contribute: Who is your role model?
Use the comment box below or send me an email with the answers to the following questions. Answers will not be linked to your name, so unleash your brutal honesty. Men and women are both invited to respond.
Which public figure--male or female, current or historical--serves as your role model? Explain why in one sentence.
Name a quality you seek or have found in a mentor.
On a personal note
This idea was born out of a very personal place, as I have been having some heavy thoughts in the past two weeks. Life continues to be fulfilling, surprising, and wonderful, but I have had to revisit my priorities for my remaining time in
, the rest of the Fellowship, and my immediate post-Fellowship plans. This process has been especially difficult, given the constant state of overstimulation in which I have been operating and my distance from individuals with whom I have spent countless nights and walks dissecting ourselves to the core. Egypt
As my own (difficult) quest for a mentor on the ground continues, I find myself turning to literature and words and, specifically, to the intersection of one of my favourite writers with an emerging new role model for me. This took the form of a commencement address on tackling uncertainty and change, the following passage of which always travels with me:
“Improvisation. Joan Didion, a writer who has been charting our responses to change since the 1960s, has a memorable passage describing how her husband said they’d begun a trip to Paris in the right spirit: “He meant doing things not because we were expected to do them or had always done them or should do them,” she wrote, “but because we wanted to do them. He meant wanting. He meant living.”
She was referring to life as a kind of improvisation: That magical crossroads of rigor and ease, structure and freedom, reason and intuition. What she calls being prepared to “go with the change.” Uncertainty, in other words, makes us feel alive. As jazz great Charlie Parker put it, “Master your instrument, master the music, and then forget all that… and just play.”
Let the hunt for that magical crossroads begin.