So you want to find a mentor?

January 13, 2017

By Kim McKeehan, Great Falls When did you learn to keep your desires a secret? Wishing on the first star at night or blowing on a dandelion, we are told an egregious story about keeping our deepest longings to ourselves. This imperative is all but institutionalized for women and girls in our society, whose desires have long been associated with darkness and sexuality and whose emerging sense of agency is often labeled “bossy” or “bitchy.” Even if a girl is born into a home filled with love, but where adult needs are prioritized, she may never give voice to her own needs and desires. I was born into that final category, but I found my voice through relationships with trusted adults. Our first relationships are critical to the healthy growth of our brains and the development of our identities. I learned early to find mentors that met my soulful curiosity with warmth. Most of my mentors have been professional educators, women who inspire me to create language and ideas or healing practices. My favorites have shown me how to use language and story to practice healing. After imagining a new story for myself, I am able to help others do the same. Whether it is healing for ourselves and society or a thriving business, what we want is part of who we are as women. Alice Walker wrote, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.” Mentoring and being mentored helps women and girls understand their personal power, improves their power with intentional alliances, resists powers of oppression, assumes power for leadership, and even transforms the meaning of power in our society. In these ways, women sharing their desires, and the skills developed from pursuing them, is a revolutionary event that is changing the way we imagine the world and ourselves. Before Homer imagined Mentor as the goddess Athena in drag—disguised as a man to give her divine wisdom to Odysseus’s son—the word mentos referred to intent, purpose, spirit, or passion. We choose our mentors based on shared passion and purpose, hoping that the relationship will guide us to grow. Sometimes mentors choose us, seeing in us what we do not see in ourselves. In all cases that shared spirit improves the power of our intention and the chances that we will manifest our deepest desires. We start by making our wishes known right out loud, by saying yes to them and by taking the risk that someone else will say yes to them too.