If I could afford therapy or life coaching or something like that right now, I would totally be doing it, seriously, and all the time.
Not because there’s anything in particular that’s wrong or painful or anything of the sort, but because I have the vague sense that I am underperforming, that my choices and strategies are suboptimal right now, and that my level of self-awareness is not what I’d like it to be or what I feel like it used to be a decade or two ago.
What I really need is someone to challenge me, to ask me tough questions. I used to have graduate advisors to do that for the longest time, sort of half-mentor, half-friend, have-superior (yes, I realize that is three halves) and then after than when we moved to Utah I still at least had ex-wife, although that wasn’t always helpful, as things tended to veer pretty quickly from tough questions (good) to serial accusations (not actually so useful or illuminating). But even so, there was still something there to challenge my self-understandings and draw attention to things that I might not otherwise see or understand about myself.
Right now and for more than a year, there is nobody challenging me. There are no tough questions. There are no surprise interrogatives or moments of shock where I am suddenly silent because someone has pointed out something important and insightful about me that I didn’t previously see about myself—no moments of silence in which I find myself struggling to answer something that is, at the end of things, and very good and fair question.
I need those moments. Everybody needs those moments, or they get stale, and stale is what I’ve become.
The question, then, is how do I find someone to regularly challenge me—someone who knows me well enough for the challenges to be interesting and revealing and impossible to simply dismiss. There’s nobody right now who both knows me well enough to that and who is mature, accomplished, and different enough to light up parts of life territory that I can’t already see on my own but that they can.
This is thing number one that’s missing from my life right now, and what I really need in a “mentor.” I need to be questioned—not at random or petulantly or superficially, but in that way that makes me swell with respect and gratutude a moment before I then say either silently inside myself or even out loud, “Okay, that’s the respect bit, and much respect, and now let’s get down to work on this problem, which I’m grateful to have discovered with your help and to be able to confront.”
I think this is the sort of thing that therapists do as well, only you have to pay them for it, they don’t come cheap (totally implausible right now), and the level of accessibility is less useful than the level of accessibility that you have with someone who’s a personal connection and you can bounce ideas off of more or less at will.
Boy do I miss that interaction—I bounce an idea, they ask a tough question or point out an assumption on a totally different scale or in a totally different geography from the one I was working in, and suddenly I am thrown totally off balance and have to come to grips with additional complexity or nuance in ways that will make life a hundred times better down the road.
Note to others who may be reading: If you have this, you should consider yourself to be damned lucky, and you should nuture it and use it and never take it for granted.