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On Starting Each Day

I once heard a writer – I forget who – comment that there is an endless possibility of success if we never finish a work, and – for my mind – this is doubly so if we never start. If we never start we never have to face our own inadequacies, our own deficiencies and desires.

If we never start, then we never have to fail.

And so, each day we wake, we prepare, we sit – and there we find ourselves at the precipice of a moment. Some days we are lucky and step forward without thinking, and we are off, stumbling forth as best we are able, as best as our craft allows. And then other days – at that edge – something else happens.

That conscious critic of mind clamours and cows, it knows every reason why we won’t ever be good enough. Why we need a break from it. Why the dishes need cleaning. Why all the music is wrong. Why a walk is a good idea. Why our friends seem to get all the opportunities. Why the untouched page is the best we can ever muster, why each helpless mark smears and stains, why we will only ever be a failure.

It is the blocks in our own minds, the ideas we have about ourselves that hold us back. Brought on by fear, the fear of not being enough – even to ourselves.

So we let way. We go do the dishes. We give way to the rash and rubble of our conscious minds. We pack our hearts away and leave it to tomorrow.

Unable to begin.

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Yet we all know – we all know from lived experience – that once we get going, once we have started we can do it. But even here there is uncertainty, the fear can grip us. We can feel an other-worldliness of doing overtake us so it doesn’t quite seem real, so it doesn’t quite seem us. This person feels as a stranger, as unfamiliar as magic, as they have taken us across the threshold to doing, to an impossible world. It is not us that has done it. And we worry. Our minds worry that something isn’t right. That something is out of our control, not to be trusted, not to be relied upon. It was a trick. And we worry that we will never get back to that place again. We worry because the fear of not being enough, that fear has us still.

We worry because the success in our heads is not the success in our hearts.

Our heads dream of economic success, of awards and applause, of having our photo taken, of deference and power. But our hearts quietly dream too. And to our heads, our hearts are the toughest critic, the hardest measure, because our hearts just want us to be ourselves.

Our hearts crave self-fulfilment.

To be honest with ourselves; to live up to our own hopes and aspirations; to ask ourselves – in the quiet night when all we can hear is the distance rumble of the 1 am passenger train carried on the wind – ‘what kind of life do I want to live anyway?’ And we’re struck by the overwhelming enormity of answering so instead we watch another episode of mind-numbing video and lie awake until exhaustion makes us sick, and then we lie awake a little longer.

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And if we do ask the hard questions we might also ask: Do we aspire to be the best versions of ourselves? And if we do, then why aren’t we?

Why haven’t we started yet?

Who are we anyway to want such things?

Who do we really think we are?

I think that each of us live in a mental narrative of our own devising. A narrative fully immersed within the social conventions and our personal beliefs that sculpt us.

But some of us a trapped. By social expectation. By circumstance. By choices made before we knew how.

We see ourselves as a character in a story we are not in control of: The disillusioned mother. The distant lover. The crooked lawyer. The struggling artist. The unwanted son. The ingenue with a dark secret. When we are in one of these narratives they set our dial to repeat our failures, filling each future moment with a predetermined tragic arc, closing down our heart’s desire, each moment selectively reassuring us that there is no hope.

Such narratives are born from where our ambitions meet our failings, and as such are reflections of our very real weaknesses.

Flamed by fear once they have control of us they draw out the worst in ourselves in a race to the bottom, in a race to illuminate the very worse aspects of our nature. We cast blame, we find someone else at fault, so that we never have to look inside, never ask: what beliefs are blocking us before we even start? They are self-fulfilling narratives of frustration and instead we enrage, we shove, we cry, we push the other guy down – just for a short while – just so we can, ever so briefly, lift the weight of self-expectation pressing down, suffocating us with fear.

And in doing so we have lost ourselves. We have lost the better part to our fears.

I have lost the better part of myself to my fears and I must change, I must struggle to be better.

And so I ask:

Can we re-sculpt our lives?

Can we grant ourselves the permission to be different, to surprise ourselves, to inspire ourselves, to nourish ourselves, to love ourselves?

Can we actually be the better versions of ourselves we claim we aspire to be? The intellectual mother, the bee-bop lover, the crying lawyer, the unimagined artist, the serendipitous son, the ingenue with a pleasant secret.

What if?

What if we can change? And in so doing give hope to our hearts desires? Give hope to our dreams? And for a moment be ourselves at our best.

Let us listen to the carefree laugh, let us hear the heartbeat of a loved one, let us smile to see unconscious love, let us laugh, and smile, and laugh, as tension slips from our backs, as our shoulders feel free, as our throats feel less sore, let our face relax, and our mind wonder, what if?

I know, the struggle to start is very real.

But that is our old selves – that is the old story.

We can have a new story.

What if I can start? What if I’m that kind of person? What if that’s my story? What if I love that about me? What if, I’m awake at 1am listening to the last passenger train and I ask myself, ‘what kind of life do I want to life anyway?’ and the answer fills my heart with joy, that I fall asleep with dreams and fancy and when I awake my mind and heart are ready to be my true and nurturing me.

What if this new narrative of which we’re apart can bring us closers to ourselves? Closer to others, what if we find, we are loved, and that we can matter, and that we do love, and that others matter too. That we lift up those who are struggling, that we care when someone’s in pain, especially ourselves, and that we love to create seriously and joyously.

What if in this new story we love to start! We can’t wait to get started!

In this new story we love that we have started.

We love that about ourselves.

We love that we are about to start.

We love that we will start again tomorrow, and the next day. And every other day we are lucky enough to have.

But just today.

Just right now.

We love the idea of a new start.

We love the feeling it gives us.

Right now.

We trust ourselves to breathe.

We hug our hearts and our minds.

We elevate our heart’s true self.

We tell our mind it is going to love it.

That we are going to love it.

Now.

Begin.

Mentee, Mentoree – Ngram – Final Word

Finally the final word. 

This is a follow up to two previous posts:

  1. Mentee, Mentoree, Meant What? and
  2. Mentee, Mentoree, Meant something after all,

… where I finally give into the prevailing tide.

With the ongoing conversation on the usage of Mentee vs Mentoree it occurred to me that there is a measure that will allow us to get a sense on usage.

Usage after all is one of the great arbitrators of nomenclature.

Google Ngrams is a fascinating project that was developed out of the Google books project.

A considerable amount of number crunching was done of all of the words (some 500 billion of them) that were scanned by google from a range of books dating back several centuries. Specifically the researchers catalogued the frequency of occurrence of important words and phrases. Ted has a fascinating talk were they explain how they did this.

My suspicion is that this is the best open access resource we have to track the history of word usage. The accuracy of this tool as a measure of real historical usage is difficult to lock down. Any systematic error would be a factor of the number and types of books that Google scanned in, in comparison to the number and types of books that are in existence. My suspicion is that if there is a systematic error prevailing this data it will be a small one. So that if we see a big difference in usage between Mentee and Mentoree we can safely assume a preferred usage.

The Results

So, despite all my objections and to join the common purpose of understanding, which is after all the point of language, Mentee it is.

The people have spoken (or in the case, written).

Mentee, Mentoree – Meant something after all

This post is a continuation to a blog post I made back in January 2011.

Mentee, Mentoree – Meant What?

Please read this first and the comments to come up to speed. I’ll be referring to comments through the rest of this post.

Firstly, thanks so much for all your thoughtful comments over the years.

I’ve been having a read back through these comments and my original post, made some two years ago, and feel content to arrive at a solution for my own usage, which is perhaps all we can ever hope to do. The two common options both feel difficult and unhelpful:

Mentee

Despite it’s common usage, mentee sits wrong with me for the reasons in my original post. Being that there is no verb form “to ment”. And despite it having the validity of being it being in the dictionary (as JD points out July 21st, 2011, 2:31 pm), this argument has never really held water with me. The idea is to write the best one can, not just to follow what ever one else is doing. In a comment above I had briefly resigned myself to the usage of mentee as yet another exception in the English language, but I’m feeling less generous today.

Mentoree

Mentoree, likewise, I appreciate the comments made by anotheridea (May 22nd, 2012, 10:34pm) and TimBT (Oct 4th, 2012, 8:29am) and indeed TimBT is quite persuasive however I can’t quite bring myself over to the usage of mentoree.

As TimBT describes “to mentor” is a proper verb form, to have mentoree you’d also need to have mentorer, which as he argues is a proper noun form (though the dictionary entry is a little confusing). Only it’s not a common usage noun form. Indeed one does not see mentoring programs calling of mentorers and mentorees (or at least not to my knowledge). Indeed the noun mentor is so widely used that I can’t see any hope of mentorer catching on. And I think I know why.

There is an argument against this grammatically correct word pair form based on style and aesthetics. Indeed good writing style is about clarity and serving the reader; unfortunately the similarity of the words mentorer and mentoree make them clumsy and prone to confusion. That there is already a common and correct usage of mentor as the noun only serves to increase confusion and do a disservice to the reader.

Something Else

As I was getting at in my original post, this is my preferred solution.

I had suggested using Mentor and a title equivalent to the work they do, eg Mentor  and Student, Mentor and Young Teacher. However this kind of approach can have it’s problems as well, as Daniel Greene points out in his comment (Feb 27th 2013, 4:17pm) when mentoring in a program for young interpreters it makes no sense to say Mentor and Interpreter.

In my original post I had also suggested, Mentor and Telemachus, as a reference to the Greek Myth from which the word Mentor is derived as a “favourite.” I had suggested Telemachus primarily to open people’s minds to the possibilities out there. Daniel Greene in the comments (Mar 2nd,  2013, 11:18am) has returned the favour. I am equally inspired by his notion of the mentoring relationship actually happening between Mentor and Odysseus. Here is Daniel’s comment in full:

One other thought, Glen: You mentioned: “Mentor was Odysseus’s trusted counselor. Indeed Odysseus made Mentor guardian to his son Telemachus…” Wouldn’t that make Odysseus the counterpart of Mentor? That would make sense, because Mentor was Odysseus’s “trusted counselor,” and a mentor can be more of a trusted counselor than a guardian. The counterpart of guardian would be protégé, which is what Talamacchus was, but the counterpart of trusted counselor would be… trusting client? If I don’t call my mentee “my client,” maybe I could call her “my Odysseus.” I’ll have to see what she thinks about that.

Indeed the suggestion that Daniel makes above to call his mentee “my Odysseus” feels to me like it has the right amount of potential and positive association. However it doesn’t quite fit with the Myth, wherein the Goddess Athena took the form of Mentor so as to give advice to the young Telemachus. That said, I actually like the usage of Mentor Odysseus to describe this relationship. They did have a preexisting relationship before Odysseus traveled to the Trojan War and subsequent adventure on his return home. And this speaks to the sort of relationship I imagine exists between a mentor and mentee. The mentor advising and guiding so that the mentee may travel and be the stuff of legend.

NEW BLOG POST July 12th 2013

Mentee, Mentoree – Ngram – Final Word