To Be a Mentor?

I recall those that I have looked up to throughout my life. Many of whom were adults. However, the ones who helped me grow into particularly positive directions and realizations were those who could grow along with me.

If you’re a reader that is familiar with any of my previous posts, you are most likely aware of how dearly I hold both my past and current sensei. They held tittles of authority, yet surpassed their duties as teachers and became mentors and nearly family figures in my life. Their influences have spanned across areas of my involvements such academia, sports, hobbies, relationships, and jobs.

“Train your brain. Build your Body. Strengthen your spirit.”

Although I haven’t said those words together out loud since I was in elementary school, I never forgot this wisdom bestowed on me by my first sensei. For me to remember this, after all these years, has meant that I am not so easily lost in times of adversity. The weight of these words is immeasurable and I had someone in my life determined enough to make sure I remembered them.

As much as I can thank them for everything that they have done for me, I am also indebted to many people from my own generation and friend groups that I look to for guidance and positive examples.

I mostly feel young and inexperienced when it comes to simply living life. I’m a novice at this living-independently-thing at best. With that being said, I was extremely anxious about taking on what we at the CMU Leadership Institute call a “mentee” (or as I prefer to call them- padawan,  young cricket, apprentice, or protégé). This meant that, come summer 2016, I would be some poor soul’s mentor through the scholarship program that I am a part of here at school. Based on my nervous behavior, some may have thought I was about to bring another human into this world. I won’t go into detail on how I found who I wanted to mentor, but I will describe how impossibly perfect the match is becoming.

logan
photo credit to Dan Gaken

 

Logan James Palm is currently a freshman in the CMU Leader Advancement Scholar program. He is known for sharing funny videos, geeking-out over some definite geek-worthy things, spreading the joy of dank memes, being a fantastic performer, and loving/praising all things Disney. He will be known for making people laugh, ensuring other’s comfort (even at the cost of his own), and being a big name in the entertainment industry through working for Disney. I am blessed enough to be challenged as Logan’s mentor.

The weekend of September 10th , the Leadership Institute took the freshman and sophomore classes, or, more notably, the mentee and mentor pairs on a overnight retreat to Eagle Village.  We spent merely a day and a half on this little trip and those few hours are already proving to have had an endless impact on our relationships. We filled our time there with constant communication and exciting activity. Sometimes we were physically challenged to points requiring intense trust. Other activities pushed us to come up with creative alternatives to help each other complete puzzling tasks. I could go on and on about the specifics, but I would much rather recommend that you watch a video that was created from moments captured over the weekend.
A talented young lady in my cohort, and an amazing roommate of mine, Riley Bussell, created a heart warming compilation of us students being cute. You can check it out here!

Logan and I already had so many things in common. It wasn’t until the retreat that we birthdaylogandiscussed our differences and found out more ways to be there for each other. School has been going for almost three weeks and Logan and I have already proclaimed our sibling-like bond to the entire world. Or at least on various social media accounts. I cannot stress enough how important this young man is to me.

I have been putting an immense amount of pressure on myself to be someone perfect for Logan to look up to. I want to be able to answer all of his question. I want to help him through all his problems. I want to always make sure he’s having a better experience in this program than even myself. Despite all this, I have to remind myself that we are in the same boat. I only have one year more of college experience than he does. I have to remind myself that I can only do my best and hope for the best as a result. This is when I think back to all of the peers that I have looked up to over the years. They weren’t perfect either. They were just what I needed at a point in time to help me grow. I have to remind myself that what Logan needs from me is that same help to grow in positive directions and realizations. I want to be the perfect mentor for Logan, but that doesn’t mean I have to be the one to give him all the advice and all the help he needs. I have to remind myself, that just like me, Logan will have an endless supply of inspiration and support from everyone in the leadership program.

So on that note, I’d like to thank a few people. Angie (my mentor), thanks for always being  someone I can fall back on. I know I don’t usually admit when I need help but I think you can always tell and easily step in to help before I reach another level of crazy. Roommates, thanks for always making me laugh and reminding me of who and what is most important in my life. My cohort, thanks for all your unsuspecting wisdom that you casually drop on me at any given time of day. Keep up the good work, please. Thank you to my parents for raising me in a way that enables me to be so resilient. And finally, I’d like to thank Logan for being so open and honest with me. I see that you trust me, I see that you are willing to lean on me, and that shows me that I am doing at least enough right to allow you to feel comfortable with me. I feel like I’ve magically acquired a younger brother that I didn’t know I needed in my life until you arrived.  We have so far to go but with a start so strong, I can’t wait to see what the future may bring. I am determined to make you remember how great you are every day.

 

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Spark?

Formerly known as the Alpha Lead program, the Spark Series is held in both the fall and spring semesters here at CMU. I attended the fall program this year. Leading up to attending this four week program, I was very unsure of what to expect. I didn’t hear much about it before hand. But then again, I knew that it was supposed to be changing quite dramatically this year.

As far as getting back into the swing of leadership expansion, I would say that Spark did a swell job. My friends and I were able to play familiar games and participate in activities we hadn’t seen in a good while. I definitely had a good time. However, I didn’t feel challenged enough. There were games that are designed to make us uncomfortable, but I’ve played them all before. There were mind challenges that I had solved before. There were team challenges that many of my past teams had already conquered.

sparkAs far as my personal growth went, I have the people to thank. My teammates that I saw once a week each had their own type of personality. They were from all parts of Michigan and further. With different cultures and pasts, we had different and important rolls to play in making each other more understanding. Outside of all that, it is great to see even more people on campus that I can talk to.

I would also like to tell everyone about how amazing the facilitators of this program are. I was pleasantly shocked at how well they got along with every personality type. Each facilitator showed respect, maturity, individuality, and compassion. They lead conversations with fluidity and listened well to remember so much about everyone.

The deja vu threw me off a bit, but the program as a whole was definitely not a waste of time. I can honestly say that I did get to enjoy myself.

Retreating From the Front Lines to the Back Woods

Preparing for finals is the best time to reflect on the things that helped you through the semester so far. Think about what made you feel uncomfortable and what you did to feel at home again. For me, many struggles appear outside of the realm of classes. I would occasionally feel down about my involvement and not finding a club that I felt I belonged in. This often came with the reminder that having a job really gets in the way of being able to learn more about and spend time with those in my cohort.

angie and I
My mentor, Angie (wearing maroon), and I (wearing gold), getting ready to climb high ropes.

For this, I try to look back on the mentor and mentee retreat that the Leader Advancement Scholars of first and second year students went on. Each incoming freshmen gets and mentor (from the sophomore class) and sometimes a mentor gets two mentees. We go on a retreat in the beginning of the fall that brings together mentor and mentee as well as the two classes as a whole.

Unfortunately, my mentor couldn’t be there until late night on the first day. My friend, Derek, and his mentor, Garrett, made sure that I was able to work with them for group activities. Although another group could have done this, they were considerate enough to be the first to offer to take me into their group. I had my first sense of belonging since coming to school with all of LAS. I was fortunate that I didn’t need someone assigned to me to make me feel more comfortable. I love my mentor so much, but since she couldn’t be there, I felt so lucky to have friends already. retreat2

After some intense mind games and even some physically challenging games, we had time to relax. And by relax, I mean play basketball, volleyball, gagaball, and go for a walk. During this time, I talked with some mentors and mentees that I hadn’t gotten much of a chance to before. Somehow, by the magic of the retreat, we even turned into what student’s here like to call a “cuddle puddle”. The appreciation I feel for those sort of moments don’t come immediately.

mentors
“cuddle puddle”

Some time later is when realize the importance of these simple moments.

When night fell, over 90 LAS students gathered around a large fire. Despite my nerves for fitting in and being understood, I found myself comfortable. Around the fire, I could make out individual faces that were warmly lit by orange colors in the dark, cold, blue night air. Student began telling stories. No matter who it was, every other person at the fire listened intently. It was as if everything that came out of a person’s mouth fueled our gradually kindled spirits.

Out of all the social situations I have been in, I had never seen anything like it. After sharing a fun story, or something that we were thankful for about LAS members, we were encouraged to find specific people who have impacted us so far. Once we find each person, we thanked them for something that they have done for us. In my case, I thanked people for the things they had done with me. For me, shared experiences become more than just memories. These times become sources of growth and mutual understanding between hearts and minds. This is important in true connections which gave me all the more reason to be thankful and tell friends.

That night, everyone moved their beds out of their bunks and into the common room of the cabin. Small beds covered the floor where everyone slept in the warmth and comfort of old and new found friendships.

retreat
My mentor and I with my roommates and their mentors.

Each Puzzle Piece

I often find myself mindlessly scrolling through various forms of social media and stumbling upon articles and videos. These posts usually make us think that we have some sort of connection with the writer or person who shared the video because it is just oh-so-relatable. Today it seems too easy. We form relationships (real or virtual) based on a couple common interests. I saw that you tweeted lyrics to a song that I love; we must have so much in common. And so we form these connections that rarely even leave the space of social media to become more real and personal (not to mention that they sometimes rarely leave the comfort of our own thoughts). As a member of the human race, I know it’s easier to believe that these simple commonalities can be all that a relationship needs. But what actually matters in creating solid connections with others?

Fire up for CMU students relaxing in the hot tub after going down all of the slides at least three times.

Believe it or not, I think about this quite often. When the CMU Leadership Institute offered me the opportunity to go to the Connections Leadership Conference FOR FREE, you know I was on top of that. Leading up to the event itself, I was never entirely certain of what it was all about. Being unsure is far easier when, no matter what, I know that I get to participate in child-like-wonder at the Great Wolf Lodge’s water park. All twisty-slides aside, I was still looking forward to the conference.

We were seated in a ballroom area around fancy dining tables upon our arrival on Saturday. We were handed some booklets with the schedule and many worksheets pertaining to conference activities. After a nice lunch and some welcoming words, the conference finally began. Only two sessions that I went to were assigned two me and I was able to pick another five that I found interesting. Having that freedom was a conference-first for me and I was crazy about it.

Group work to show how the individual, culture, physical environment, organization, and government all work together.
Group work to show how the individual, culture, physical environment, organization, and government all work together.

Being around so many different CMU students and understanding the various leadership roles they held around campus seemed wonderfully enlightening. While working with countless new student-leaders, I began to see why they called it the Connections Conference. With each session and each activity I found that there are so many resources at my disposal. Between the organizations and the amazing individuals on campus, it seems impossible to feel alone with any goals I may have.

I had a common sense of usefulness throughout every one of my sessions during this conference. They were all useful because they brought up the connections that really matter. After all the wondering and worrying about what really makes a relationship, feelings of relief and satisfaction overcame me.

Finally, a conference that caught my attention and never let it go.

Connections are strong when you talk about what really matters to you in life. Who do you care most about in your life and why? What do you read or hear about in the news that really gets your blood boiling? What are you most happy doing with your free time? What are you most passionate about? More often then not, it is hard to answer these sort of questions without giving it some time and thought. I honestly believe that it shouldn’t have be that way.

It’s easy for us to have faith in petty similarities. It’s easy to avoid vulnerability by only talking about things that you have in common with others instead of saying what you really think and waiting for others to come forward with similar thoughts. We need to start asking the tough questions. We need to start showing others what is really important to us. And I don’t mean your Lulu Lemon $80 leggings, your smart phone, your Cyboard, or when your jeans still fit after the holiday season. In order to make sustainable and truly meaningful connections with others, we have to get real with each other. We have to talk about what we want to do with the rest of our lives and why. I have to admit, it’s a scary place to be–outside of the warm and cozy comfort zone we create for ourselves. But I’d like to know how many great things can happen without taking a step outside of this zone. Movements don’t start with a thought lingering within our heads for a few days and then passing with a sigh and an unfulfilled dream. Big things start to happen when those thoughts and beliefs are shared with others and you begin to see a bigger picture.

Inside and outside of my campus, I see that we all need each other. As students, workers, dreamers, artists, and many more, we each have a piece to offer to each other.  You can only begin to see a beautiful picture when you start bringing the pieces together.

Leadership Safari: College Students in their Unnatural Habitat

Here at Central Michigan University, something occurs that challenges the natural conformity of the species I call my own. We, animals, are called college students. A special event was formulated to dissect, analyze, and contemplate what behavior is versus what should be considered “normal” for my kind. This week-long event enables us to step outside of what we’ve known for so long. It goes against all the tendencies that most on-campus students follow blindly. It’s a scary, loud, no-sleep-because-you-have-to-keep-dancing kind of trial; it is Leadership Safari.safari

As far as Leadership related events go, I considered myself a veteran. I thought I had seen it all after going to 5 training events each year (on average) throughout my high school career. Going into Leadership Safari, I expected all the same exercises with the only differences being the places and the
faces. So color me maroon and gold and call me an average teenager because, well, I was wrong. Safari was, admittedly, challenging to myself and other so-called veterans.  Some of the activities were very close to what I had done before, but even so, it was on a completely new level. The large-scale of Safari changed even the last day of safarimost basic of games. I absolutely loved all of my past experience however, that fateful week felt most relevant to reaching for a future that I am really digging. I developed family strong bonds with people I considered strangers just a few days before. I made connections to people who can help and guide me for the next four years, and maybe even for a lifetime. I discovered that, with each day, there will be new and exciting challenges that will propel me toward my goals. I realized that I am making an impact today and not just in the wonderland that is called tomorrow. But most of all, I found my place in this world is wherever I can be at my best. A song I dearly enjoy says, “They all say that home’s where the heart is and I’d know ’cause I’ve tried my hardest just to see if I left it behind but it was with me the whole time” (Alive In Standby). Because of the many feels and my constant, unstoppable, desire to connect with more leadership opportunities, I am going to apply to become a Safari guide during my time here at CMU.

There is an atmosphere here that is completely unique to our campus. I never walk to a class or to work without waving hello to several encouraging individuals. Central constantly attracts and provides you with people who you can always lean on when you need them. This environment is the healthiest habitat for my species. I am proud to say that I went to Leadership Safari because it is what helps to create this beautiful ecosystem I call home. 

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