by Sue Dawson
I LOVE this photo of Alison’s from last winter, with snow illuminating the path forward. I happen to know there’s a beach at the end of this path, but for the sake of discussion, let’s assume we don’t know what’s at the end. We’re just supposed to walk forward, and have faith that we’ve picked the right path.
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr,
“Faith is taking the first step,
even when you don’t see
the whole staircase.”
I’m thinking a lot about the journey forward, and how we often don’t know what’s to come. Both of our kids are at the beginning of adulthood, thinking about such things every single day. My job as a parent is not to walk the path for them, or even with them. My job is to help when I’m needed, to step back when I’m not, and to allow them the freedom of discovery, choice, and experience.
It works this way for all of us, when we’re venturing out into new areas, discovering new things, learning, and growing. I sometimes need help and expert advice from a mentor, whose job is to help when needed, and to step back when not – to allow me the freedom of personal discovery and experience, while guiding me with honest feedback, and cheering me along from the sidelines.
When contemplating a new journey, I could see how it might feel easier if my chosen mentor is standing at the end of the path, or walking in front of me with our destination clearly in sight. All he/she’d have to do is move me along, like those folks waving fluorescent orange lamps to guide huge planes into the airport gate. I’d arrive safely at my destination, dust myself off, and look to my mentor for the next step.
Thing is, steering according to someone else’s directions would deprive me of the inevitable successes and failures that lead to my own growth and insight. It might feel safer at first. But I’d be ceding my power to someone else, putting him in the driver’s seat, letting him pick the music we listen to along the way. It wouldn’t be my own journey anymore. And it wouldn’t necessarily be my own destination either.
When Alison and I designed our Mentorship program, we talked a lot about our roles, and how we’d approach mentoring others. Over the five years we’ve taught the program, we’ve come back to this discussion again and again. Our goal is clear. We don’t have fluorescent orange lamps that guide you to the gate. Because your gate is going to be different from everyone else’s gate – different from Alison’s, mine, and your peers in the Mentorship. Our job is to help discover, define, and nurture your unique creative voice. Through a number of trainings, techniques, and critiques, we’ll find your path together. We’ll be on the sidelines, cheering you on with honest and constructive feedback. The others in the program will be there too, offering feedback that helps you see your way forward.
The way I see it, rather than directing you to a specific place with those orange lamps, Alison and I are wearing headlamps – like miners wear – standing behind you and shining our light to illuminate your path. You’ll walk where you choose, at the pace you want, on your terms. We are not there to steer. You’re in the driver’s seat. In order to grow as an artist, you must learn to walk your own way forward. We’ll just be there to shed some light.
Click here for more information on the Mentorship program. Sunday is the last day of the season for our gallery, so I’m booking times for calls next week, to answer your questions about the Mentorship. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 508-693-4429, to set up a time. We do the Mentorship just once each year – the 2018-2019 program begins October 22nd.