Recent events led me to reexamine my life and to take a closer look at the people who surround me. I had two realizations.
- I wouldn’t have survived all these trials if they happened 10 years ago.
- The main reason why I wouldn’t survive was because these people weren’t in my life at that time.
Let me tell you about the people who helped me be who I am today.
I was seventeen when I decided to quit living (I will discuss this in another post, I promise). When people find out about it and ask why I did it, I tell them I made that decision because I was depressed. When they ask why I was depressed, I said I didn’t know. I never dug any deeper because I just wanted to forget that part of my life. The extra free time I had these past weeks gave me time to think. Looking back, I remembered that at that time, I felt hopelessly lonely and alone.
The trials I went through the past few months were way bigger than those I had when I was seventeen, but I don’t feel as bad. When I asked myself why, I realized something. If I didn’t have certain people in my life today, I would probably feel the same way. I may even make the same decision. But, despite everything I can say with all honesty that I have never felt as whole as I have in the past few days. I have God and these people to thank for that.
Disclaimer: I won’t write their names because I didn’t get their permission, but if you think you’re the person I’m talking about, you’re probably right. I also want to say that these 5 people aren’t 5 literal persons. Some of them are, but most of them are personas or roles that a number of people play in my life.
I’m writing this list hoping that you, my reader, would either: a) find out that you already have one/some/all these people in your life and feel less lonely, b) go out and find who will fill these roles and feel less lonely, c) try to be this person for someone you know who could be feeling lonely right now. Here we go!
1. The Parent. Definition: Someone who loves you no matter what… and actually tells you.
I don’t mean a biological or legal parent or guardian. This person could be anyone regardless of age, gender, or affiliation. I have a Parent who is just a couple of (literally two) years older that I am. I have another who is just a few months older. Having a Parent saved me from a very close call last year. I was in the middle of a conversation with myself on the pros and cons of quitting life. The pro side was winning until I remembered him telling me that he loved me unconditionally. That happened years ago, but I could still remember that moment. He told me that no matter what I did, he would never love me any more or less than he already does. That knowledge that there is a person in this world, in my life, who loves me that way is so powerful.
If you’re a biological parent (maybe even my parent), don’t take this personally. I know you love your child. I know you do your best to make them feel that love and we, kids, see and appreciate that. Really. I know that this kind of love is implied in your actions. What I’m saying is that your kids still need to hear you say it, preferably in person. Now, before you go and do this just to fulfill all righteousness, let me warn you that kids feel it when you don’t mean what you say. You have to be completely mean it when you say it and, most importantly, you have to follow through.
2. The Mentor. Definition: Someone who believes that you can be a better version of yourself… and helps you become that person.
Even as a kid, I knew that I had to have a mentor, but after going without for years and years I started telling myself that it’s never going to happen. That made me very sad. You see, I always pictured mentors as a Mr. Miyagi, Coach Carter, or Mr. Forrester. I wanted to be one person’s pet project, but real life didn’t mirror fiction and I wasn’t taken under someone’s wing. Am I still bummed about not having a mentor? Yep, but I’ve learned to make do with what I had. I may not have one exclusive mentor, but I have a few mentors I look up to and try to learn from. Some of them may not even know that I consider them as a mentor, but that won’t keep me from soaking in everything I can learn from them.
If someone wants to fill that post in my life, please let me know. You will make my day (or year, actually, because this is one of my main goals for 2014). If it doesn’t happen, it’s still okay. Mentors help you become who you can be, but I will not wait around for one before I start trying to improve. Oh, and more importantly, I don’t need a Mentor to seek the next person on the list out and help them.
3. The Padawan. Definition: Someone who looks up to you and wants and/or needs your help.
Let me repeat that you don’t need to have a Mentor to start helping someone out. That would be extremely helpful, but being a Mentor to a young Padawan (a Jedi learner for my non-geek friends) requires only one thing – AVAILABILITY.
I have quite a few Padawans and I love very much. Deciding to have them in my life are some of the hardest, but most rewarding decisions I made in my life. You’d be surprised at how much growth a young person is capable of with a teeny bit of trust. Take note that I didn’t use the word “attention.” Showering a troubled kid with attention can sometimes act as positive reinforcement for bad behavior.
Even developmental psychologists would agree with me. Some of these kids just need someone who genuinely believes they can be better than who they are right now. You have to let them know that you expect something great from them. Expectations are self-fulfilling prophecies. If kids think that no one thinks they can be better, there’s very little chance that they will change. Young people need someone who will trust them. You can be that person. Look around and I’m sure you will see someone you can influence in a positive way.
If you’re just starting out on this Mentor path, though, don’t go finding the toughest cases. There’s a fairly high chance that you would get so frustrated that you’d quit and that would make it worse for them. They’d think that they’re even more hopeless than when you started out. Having a Padawan is a lifelong covenant so don’t start catching ’em all like Pokemon. Quality definitely trumps Quantity in this field.
4. The Friend. Definition: Someone you can talk to about ANYTHING without hesitation.
Like I said in my previous posts, I am a very secretive person. It took me 25 years to be able to open up to other people about the real thoughts and feelings that I have. But when I did… Man! It was so worth it.
One of the reasons why I felt lonely (and one of the triggers for my depressive seasons) was the feeling that I didn’t have Friends. No, not the sitcom. I felt like I didn’t have people I can be totally honest with. I never stopped thinking about what other people think of me. That’s a two-horned problem. First, it feels bad to have all these emotions and thoughts stored up inside. Secondly, if and when people tell me that they like/love me, it still doesn’t make me feel good. It just reaffirms the idea that people wouldn’t love me if they knew who I really am.
If you think that way, too. STOP IT! I can tell you by experience that it’s a stupid, time-wasting, relationship-destroying way to live your life. It’s hard to find someone you can talk to about anything. That’s still very true, but if you don’t actually start being honest with people, you’ll never find a true friend.
Now, if you’re the kind of person that people just feel safe around, that’s great. Try your best to just listen. Even if they start saying things that you disagree with or opening up about bad decisions, keep your opinion to yourself… at least until they finish. Then, ask them if they want your opinion/advice. If they really do, then you can tell them what you think. Keep in mind that some people don’t actually need/want advice. Most of the time, they just need someone to talk to. Be that kind of friend to others and it’ll only take a bit of time before they become that kind of friend to you.
5. The Glorified Version of Yourself. Definition: Someone whom, with a lot of hard work, persistence, and divine providence, you could become.
As kids, it’s very easy for us to see people and think, “That’s who I want to be when I grow up!” However, as we grow older, most of us lose that sense of awe-filled fanaticism. You can blame the adults who messed up, failed us, and turned their backs on us. When we hit adulthood, we face the realization that our heroes were as flawed as us and it’s very disappointing. Some of us stop looking for people to emulate and, so, we get stuck right where we are and as who we are. I think it’s time to start finding people who are living your dreams as better versions of yourself.
You don’t have to personally know them. It’s probably even better if you don’t. That way, you can keep the “awe” in Awesome Person when you think about them. By now, you should know how these role models can turn into just Some Person in no time at all.
Find markers in their personality, aspirations, and back stories that you could identify with and remember that whenever you face a roadblock in life. Tell yourself that if they can do it, so can you. Pray for them to succeed so that you have a higher ladder to climb. And as you keep climbing, keep in mind that there may be a few kids who see you as their Glorified Self.
Now, just as a quick clarification, that ladder I was talking about is not just about success in terms of salary or career. If you come from a broken/dysfunctional family, find someone who built their own happy households despite their background. If you come from generations of people struggling against poverty, look at people who broke that cycle. If you are the type of person who is afraid to take risks, find someone who took a leap of faith and survived. With time, effort, and a lot of divine grace, you can find yourself being more like the person you want to be like. One of my most rewarding experiences was when my Glorified Self told me that I remind her of a younger version of herself. That’s one of the biggest moments in my life.
The Conclusion To My Longest Post So Far
People need people. That’s just a fact. Even older ones need to have these 5 people in their lives. I wrote about young people because youth is time-sensitive. If we want the next generation to be better than us, we have to start playing key roles in their lives. Don’t be afraid to work on being at least one of these 5 to someone in your life. You don’t have to be perfect to start. Just be willing to be there and that’s way better than doing nothing.
Another important thing I want to add is that even if you’re marooned in an island all by yourself, you can still have access to 4 of these 5 personas. All you need is God.
- God as Your Parent. God loves you unconditionally and He said it in His Word. In Romans 5:8, it says that it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us. Romans 8 talks about how nothing can separate us from His love. There’s no better definition of a Parent’s unconditional love.
- God as Your Mentor. Hebrews 12 talks about God, in His love for us, tries to discipline us as any good Mentor would. In Philippians 4:13, Paul claims that he can do all things through Christ who gives him strength. A Mentor empowers and that is proof of that.
- God as Your Friend. Turn to John 15:15 and see how Christ Himself called His disciples friends. Are you still afraid to be honest with him? 1 Peter 5:7 says you can cast all your burdens which, in modernspeak, is tell him everything because he cares. Are you afraid that he’ll be mad? Look at Psalm 86:15.
- God as Your Glorified Self. Is there anyone better to try to be like than Christ Himself?
Find Your Five. Be One of Five.
And that’s my two cents on that.