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Youthful Hubris And Remembering My Younger, Self-Centered Self

I had humbling moment last week.

That moment made me wonder if I was cut out to be a parent.

A few months ago, on this blog, I talked about being very excited to have a young mentee, interested in journalism. We hatched a plan to ask a local newspaper to give her a mini internship considering she’s just 14-year-old.

I told her we’d take it seriously, and that I’d write a proposal and recommendation. It may not work, but it was worth a shot. I asked her to research cover letters and write on of her own.

She wrote the letter and I believe she wrote it in a way that tried to make her sound more sophisticated than her age, but kind of shows that she is young and inexperienced. I edited her cover letter, fixed some grammatical stuff and gave her glowing praise in addition to telling her she should pump up more of her activities at school involving writing and to mention an article she liked that currently ran in the publication.

She did what I asked, but it looked like she purposely didn’t change some things I told her to change.

And that upset me.

I got on my high horse thinking about how I’m trying to help her out, and I’m using my time and energy to only get back a short, curt email (which is unusual for her). It was really upsetting.

So, I had to step back and take myself out of the equation.

After talking with a dear friend who works with young people her age everyday, it gave me some perspective.

I remembered the first time I’d been edited heavily for my first article with the college newspaper. When I saw what was actually printed, I was crestfallen. I wrote the most beautiful, wordy, esoteric account of a college volleyball game, you’d thought it was the missing excerpt from War and Peace. I get it now. It was wayy melodramatic. It wasn’t news. And it wasn’t one of the greatest sports moments in life. My editor had every right to chop me the hell up.

Fast forward to years later, when I was an intern under the tutelage of the amazing Simeon Booker. He was the journalist to cover the Emmett Till case for Ebony magazine. HUGE!!!

I had a 500-word article and he ripped it to shreds. Made me rewrite it a whopping EIGHT times. I was furious. And by the fifth version, I had no clue what the man could have possibly wanted. But I kept at it until he finally gave me an approving nod.

I sent off the latest revisions to my mentee this morning and I shared my story about the rewrites and it being a part of the process, and how I noticed she was short with me in her previous email. I showered her with more praise and then I went to Amazon.com and bought her first Associated Press Stylebook and had it shipped to her house as a surprise.

I want nothing in return. Honestly. I did think it would be dope to have a mini me, who admired me and wanted to be like me, but that’s not the point of mentoring someone. It’s letting their differences shine and helping them get to where ever it is they are trying to go. It’s not about me.

I do want this child to know that I support her and can appreciate her passion. So even if she wants to be mad about my edits, I’m an adult. I can take it. She’s got a long way to go, and there’s no reason for me to get bent out of shape about it or take it personally. I am an adult.

While I understand her pain, and she’s probably used to her teachers fawning over her and telling her that her work is brilliant, I’m sure she was pissed to see her awesome letter bleed red with corrections.

It was an important lesson for both of us to learn and even if we part ways and she thinks I’m awful, I hope she uses her Stylebook in good health and will become a raging success.

I never had a little sister. Maybe there was a reason. I don’t think I have the stomach for it. 😉





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6 thoughts on “Youthful Hubris And Remembering My Younger, Self-Centered Self

  1. Ebony Rose on said:

    **Church wave** Mentoring is hard work and there are times when you don’t feel appreciated, but know that deep down she does. I have a mentee that is as smart as all hell, even when I’m trying to help. She is use to attention that I don’t give and it bothers her. Like yourself, when she gets upset, I let her know that I’m here for her and let it be.

    • It’s really frustrating. But what do you really know at that age? And as the adult you are just as ridiculous if you let it get to you, because they don’t know what the hell they are doing. They are just going through it.. LOL. Thank you!

  2. Yes, I see…mentorship really is a give-&-take state of being. It’s no coincidence that sometimes the apprentice can teach the master something new! That’s what I hope to experience when I start mentoring other younger people on the Autism Spectrum with my family’s new business in the next year. Good Luck with your mentee, I wish you the best!

  3. dbaham on said:

    LOL welcome to the world of mentoring! It sounds like you two made it through your first hurdle though, and I’m sure things will be fine. Like you said, it was probably just for her first real writing critique in some time, and that can be difficult for adults – much less a teenager.

    One suggestion – don’t use red ink or red when using tracking changes. I learned the hard way that the students I worked with and even my friends saw lots of red and thought I was saying “You’re awful! Don’t ever write again!” When really, my editing style is just that I give several suggestions throughout the work, so it looks worse than it ever actually is.

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