O Style | Authentic Friendships Can Be Your Best Mentors
When I look back at my childhood, I realize that as a child, I tended to gravitate towards other children who had something I wanted to learn. I was magnetically pulled towards kids who exhibited characteristics I wanted to develop in myself: bold, courageous, assertive, charismatic, outspoken, smart, carefree, compassionate, generous. There was a mix of stellar students and students who were just getting by with average grades (like me). And it’s not as if I was intentionally seeking them; that was just the way I serendipitously and organically made friendships.
College wasn’t any different, except that by that time, I really needed to build my confidence up. And thankfully, I ended up meeting new people whose friendships helped me navigate college life with English as my second language. I went to study as an exchange student in Sevilla and was blessed with new friends whose personalities again were different from mine, but they had the same values and held a certain level of open-mindedness that made me feel right at home.
The same flow happened in my mid-twenties up to my early thirties. And come to think about it, I always leaned towards quality over quantity and truthfully as an introvert, it was the best thing I could ever do for myself.
Naturally, I also had questionable friendships; friendships that dwindled because our paths were slowly taking different turns. Our life choices weren’t in synch or our values clashed. The needs I had then in terms of my personal growth may have changed with time (and theirs as well), and that was fine too. Although they didn’t last and faded away, I still learned a great deal from them and my wounds healed with time, and I knew to move forward with more intentionality.
In my mid-thirties, I look at the friendships surrounding me today, and nothing has drastically changed. The women around me all have qualities I admire and want to see in myself or improve upon. My friends from then and now have all been mentors to me in both formal and informal ways.
Sometimes we may feel that we need to look outside of our circles for a mentor, but there could be one sitting right next to you, and you just haven’t recognized it yet. Maybe it’s your co-worker, your business partner, your best friend, the parent who’s on the school committee with you, your sibling who possesses a certain quality that you admire — don’t take these relationships for granted. Ask questions. Seek their counsel, and allow them to seek yours too. Observe them. Be open to learning from unexpected places. You may be surprised by the wealth of knowledge and resources that already surround you.
Where I am now, I can certainly say that profound, meaningful conversations that lead to aha moments, brainstorming, problem-solving, counseling, spiritual reflections are my absolute favorite— and of course not without an ounce of fun and hilarity. Friendships that have depth matter to me, and I value and celebrate every aspect that makes them special. When I became a mom, I had no idea how essential it would be for me to have a small network of friends who are parents. That group wasn’t something I knew to seek out for my own sanity, but with much awareness, I saw the writing on the walls as playdates and conversations started to take place, and I could see similarities in values and mindset and much more. As a parent, to pretend that I have all the answers would be detrimental for my child, myself and my partner, and I am so glad that my parent group is there to listen and share input, and great laughs with.
The same goes for my creative group of friends. Only they understand the grind when it comes to the lifestyle of being a creative, the daily ups and downs, the risks, the tears, the list can go on and on. Thankfully for me, I also have a few friends who are both parents and business owners. When we see each other, our time together turns into a therapy/coaching/self-care/self-preservation session, and that release is both magical and oh-so-necessary, and yet scarce because of the dual roles we play.
What do all these groups have in common, you ask?
They all started with a group text.
So! Is there a group text you’ve always wanted to start? What’s keeping you from initiating the conversation?