Thoughts of Mentoring and Communities

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Katie and I at Turner Hall for the Grandslam (and totes using the selfie mirrors in the bathroom)

I was giving a ride home to one of the newest show interns for storytelling competition podcast I work with (Themoth.org). Katie was telling me how she really appreciates all I’ve done for her. I shrugged, but she listed some of the ways I’ve been helping her out. She mentioned how she feels like she owes me because I’m helping her network with other writers and I helped her get involved with the storyslams (the storytelling competitions). She went on, and I felt actually kind of good about that. She’s someone who I consider a friend, but I’ve taken her under my wing to help her out. That’s not to say we were always friends. When she first met me (as a student a little over a year ago) she hated me. Absolutely hated me. First day of class, I almost scared her away from the class with my “performance” style lecturing. Once she saw it was all an act and apart of the lesson, she vibed well with the teaching style I have. She ended up being someone I could talk to about things because I can see the talent in her.

The relationship I have with her is similar to the relationship I had with Ching-in Chen when I was at UCR. Ching-in and I have a lot in common and they helped me connect with the Kundiman: Asian American Poetry Fellowship people. She helped me with signing up for readings and helped me get out there as a writer. Ching-in ended up mentoring me. I had no idea what I was doing and they helped me get out there and be vulnerable. And I grew from it. There’s a vulnerability in competing in the storyslams, and I see Katie getting stronger and better with each show.

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(L to R) Tim Yu, Myself, Ching-In, Neil and Janine at AWP New York a few years back.

I wish I kept in touch with Ching-in (I have no excuse because we’re both at UW-Milwaukee) but we’ve sort of grown out of the mentor/mentee dynamic. Ching-in is my friend who I miss. Katie is my friend who I am helping out because, well…that’s what friends do, right? I think of Micah, one of my closest friends here in Milwaukee and how I helped him with his writing. I don’t expect anything back, but I get a nice long hug from him when I’m down. I think about the others who I’ve grown close with here and how I found a community of people, and how we all take care of each other. We mentor each other. We learn from each other.

However, I don’t think I’ve found someone who wants to mentor me in how to not be such a spaz. Whenever I think of being homesick, I think of my friends and my communities. There’s that quote from William James, “No matter where you are, it is your friends who make your home.” I think we can all use some more friends these days.

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