I was driving back to Kansas City after a short meeting in Lawrence today and was perplexed by a chemical imbalance-induced sense that was quite foreign to me. Something felt different. It didn’t feel bad, but it felt loud and overwhelming and ilicited a heavy response that buried me throughout the remainder of my day.
I am in a period in my time where I have liberated myself through my own choices. I have gifted myself three months to discover and grow, and I have been challenging myself daily through different exercises and practices. And you would think that it would be terrifically rewarding, and it truly has been, but it suddenly wasn’t while I sat in my Civic. So what the heck was wrong.
For the first time in my life, I am my primary mentor. I am my primary life coach, career advisor and therapist. I am the CEO of my summer. I have no responsibilities to work or children or colleagues. The only person challenging me at this current point in time is myself. The only person checking in on the progress on my goals is myself. The only person I need to impress is myself. So does it even matter?
And call me selfish, but it’s been a long time since I haven’t worried about working hard for certain people and impressing them. I would think anyone can agree there is a ton of satisfaction in earning approval from people you admire. And while I have always, always pushed myself to be better for my own sake and sanity, I wondered if I had become dependent on that community of onlookers Because it feels different to impress other people. And when you don’t have someone to impress? It doesn’t feel bad, but it’s different.
While I have never started my own company, I imagine these feelings are shared by new CEOs. There is a sense of release when you are no longer obliged to produce work for a boss, but picking up that slack and placing it on yourself is complicated. It’s more difficult to discern the value from minutiae. There’s nobody stopping you before you fall into traps. And nobody to reinforce the fact when you don’t live up to your potential. It’s just you. And sometimes you are are wrong. And there are voices in your head at 2am screaming at you and you can’t tell which one is your voice in the mix and which identical sound is actually your enemy. (Let’s be real – 2am voices are always the enemy.)
And it’s not like I’m totally alone or anything. I have a million people to reach out to through 30-second email, and I have a loving and supportive family and significant other that would never allow me slack. But I want the truths to come from me right now, whether they are as important as a thesis topic or whether almond butter or avocado toast will jumpstart a more productive morning.
I don’t know yet how to be my own mentor. I know right from wrong. I know to try to approach life with gentleness and kindness. I know my own goals and my timelines to achieve them. I know that achieving my goals will always feel good for a moment, but do not guarantee longterm happiness. I know how to push myself and find new resources and ideas. And I know that being my own temporary boss means I have unlimited opportunity for success and adventure. But sometimes you just want some freaking reinforcement, and I don’t totally trust myself yet.
And I don’t know if anything above made sense, or if you have already called my doctor for me, but I think this is important. I seemed to have stumbled upon another goal today that I think is going to extend far beyond this summer. Because even once school starts and I am surrounded by trusted advisors, being an adult is so much about independently propelling yourself forward and hoping your choices make you wiser the next day. People need people, and people need mentors. And those mentors come in different forms throughout your life. And being a healthy mentor for yourself might be the most important relationship of all.
See you soon.