What is your favorite super hero? Mine? Nightwing. Granted I adore the ladies, but Nightwing has something very interesting in him. He was the first teen sidekick, a character for the kids reading the books to identify more than the adult Batman. Their relationship, and yes all the debates about the nature of it, has been key to their story even now. Dick Grayson was not just Bruce Wayne’s ward, he was also his student. It became a part of their characters until modern day, the latest game featuring them even has an upgrade for Nightwing called “Scary Mentor”. Through thick and thin they are tied to one another thanks to that mentorship. Why the mini comic book history class? Well, one of the reasons he is my favorite is because he did the unthinkable, he not only pointed out the faults of the great superhero who mentored him, he eventually breaks away from him. He let’s go of “Robin” and becomes his own man, Nightwing. A new storyline developed, that of a young man suddenly realizing that the man he had looked up to was no longer on an unreachable pedestal. This is why he is my favorite.
When Lines are Crossed…
Until recently, the list of things that helped me identify with the hero did not include failed mentorship. But since last month it has. My uncle, who also happens to be my godfather, always seemed to me as my mentor. A bohemian professor with a degree in Shakespeare, his influence was one of the many things that led to my choice of becoming an English major. His opinion was the one I looked for in most of my classes during high-school and my first years in university. But then something happened, I made my own opinions. I still remember how proud I was the day I did not share his perspective and did not change it once I heard he disagreed. After all it meant I was getting better at this whole analysis thing right? Well, slowly but surely it began to feel like what once was a very good relationship was failing. He would dismiss the things I said, he would roll his eyes and say it was an armature opinion, eventually he just flat out said they where useless or wrong opinions. It hurt, a lot. But the big change came in that past month when the attack began to feel personal, where everything I said elicited a negative comment from him even in conversations not involving him. And then the moment we broke off-his declaration for his hate of cats and how they should be eliminated. This as I talked of my pet cat of the last 11 years.
The Next Step
I made a conscious if difficult decision, this was not good for me. In the last year I had managed to move away from a draining depression and part of it came from understanding some times you need to get toxic things out of your life. And sometimes that means people who you admire and had built yourself on the approval of. Mentors are important, we need teachers, there is a saying in this country that says “Nadie nace sabiendo”, no one is born knowing. And the acknowledgement of these teachers and mentors means a lot for us. They are the people we look up to and can’t help see as superior. But sometimes, not all the time but sometimes, we need to remember they are not more than us. I was not going to change what I had become because it made him angry on uncomfortable, I don’t know which, and this is something we need to keep in mind. Granted sometimes we need to keep specific conducts and respect in mind, you can’t really just declare your freedom at work when there are certain restrictions and that is fine. The key thing is respect. You respect your mentors and they should respect you.
As a generation we have embraced mentorship. To go back to the comic book examples, we are the Teen Titans. We have looked up to these members of older generations and learned from them but also have in mind becoming our own persons. Mentors are there to help us, not to put us down. And it’s not just something we need to keep in mind, it’s something mentors also need to remember. They where young once, they might not have had the luxury of a mentor to help show them the way and they should be proud of what they accomplished, but to see us as a threat and then insult us as a way to neutralize this threat, well that’s a bit juvenile isn’t it? Life is not a playground where the biggest bully runs the swing set, life is a sinking boat and we need to work together to keep the lifeboats up.
I know this has been a rather personal post but I close with something it took me cutting most communication with a family member to find out. Those who feel their mentors are putting you down, they are not infallible. Sometimes they will be the man behind the curtain where you expected a wizard. And you know what? Don’t let it bring you down. Dorothy got home after discovering the man and it did not make her journey down the yellow brick road and it’s lessons less just because there was no wizard. So don’t let it bring you down when a mentor fails you, because just as we feel we could fail them, they can feel us. Dust yourself off and see it like passing a grade in school. I loved my fifth grade History teacher and still remember her lessons, but when the time came I moved on and learned new things. It hurts, particularly because my mentor was also my uncle, but maybe this just means I am indeed growing and sometimes it means leaving things behind. Heads held high, let’s keep going. How would you deal with a disappointing mentor? Feel free to add in the comments.