Art by Peau Porotesano
In the four years since I graduated from high school, there are exactly four people with whom I have remained in contact. Three of them are friends I’ve known for years, and one of them is my high school literature teacher and newspaper adviser — a 70-something-year-old firecracker of a woman who has a desk covered in politically provocative stickers and a marble apple that she bangs on her desk when she’s angry.
Over the past four years of my college career, we have remained in close contact. Even though we don’t talk or see each other daily, weekly or even monthly, I know I am always welcome to visit her classroom. I know she cares about me and my life, just like she cared about my personal and intellectual growth when I was her student.
This stable relationship with an adult who was not family was formative for me. As a high school student, it helped instill in me a sense of self-worth and affirmed that I was valuable because I was me. It helped me realize how important those types of relationships with adults are and it prompted me to embrace those relationships with other adults, especially as college approached and my faith developed.
When I came to college, I sought similar relationships with older students and adults. The insight of people who have already “been there, done that” is priceless, and these relationships have saved me a lot of time and heartache.
Now, preparing to enter my fifth year at Pepperdine and my second year of graduate school, I realize that I am at the point in life that I can begin to pay it forward. I am becoming the one who has been there, done that. And I want to pour into younger people in the same way that so many adults have poured into me.
Thankfully, I’ve learned from the adults in my life that mentorship doesn’t always necessarily need to entail formal, regular meetings to be impactful. Meaningful mentor relationships can be as simple as taking the time to listen to someone, being vulnerable enough to share one’s own life or connecting over an occasional meal.
Regardless of what form it takes, mentorships can be life-altering for both the mentor and the mentee, and it is important for people of all ages to pursue those intergenerational relationships.
Follow Falon Opsahl on Twitter: @FalonOpsahl