Yesterday (starting at 8am on Saturday) I went to the mentoring meeting and they went over the details for camp. This Friday-Monday we'll be going on a 4 day intense retreat that will focus on opening up the young teens we're mentoring in the program. Day 1 (Friday) will consist of me driving 2-3 of those teens down windy roads into the wilderness until we reach our designated 6th grade camp-like area. Day 2 will consist of strenuous exercises including a ropes course focused on getting the teens out of their comfort zone physically and learning to trust one another. Day 3 (Sunday) will focus on in-class sessions of emotional work that breaks down teens to their core so they can really start to face their problems internally. Day 4 we focus on packing everyone back up in the car and heading back to the initial departure point and then, despite our weary exhaustion, celebrating our safe return home with the teens' families and friends.
We wake up around 6am -which isn't bad considering that's usually when I get up during the week (but is sad that it's going to be on a weekend). We go to sleep around 10:30-11pm (which is sad because you know I'm going to be on a short fuse by then. God save the teen who decides to talk and make noise at 11:05pm...)
After we went over camp details, we then went to pick up the teens for the rest of Saturday training. I head out to pick up my 2 teen girls (both aged 14) and immediately get a text message after I text them I'm on my way. "I can't go today" -one of my teens replies. "Ok" is the text I get from the other. Both a girls of few words.
I find out through texting mentee 1 that she is going out somewhere with her parents and won't be back until late. I don't necessarily believe her since teens do lie to get out of things, so I immediately call her mom (all while worrying that I'll get both girls back to the meeting session in the 30 minutes allotted to pick them up). Her mom says mentee 1 is sick and that there's another meeting that she will go to later in the week to find out about camp details. I then realize mentee 1's mom may actually be less honest with me then mentee 1 herself since mentee 1 never said she was sick (an obvious excuse) and actually told me what she'd be doing instead. Either way I acknowledge that the mom has the final say and head to pick up mentee 2.
I pick up mentee 2 and as usual the car ride is awkward. She stares out the window.
Me: "Oh cool you dyed your hair black. I dyed my hair over winter break too."
She looks at me in surprise and noticing my hair replies: "Oh cool".
Me: "So how was Spring Break... I mean winter break, wrong season." :)
Her: "It was ok."
Me: "What did you do? did you go anywhere?"
Her: "No we just hungout."
Me: "Oh cool. I mostly slept in and watched movies with friends."
Me: "So have you ever gone camping before?"
Her: "Yah we've gone camping in San Ramon."
Me: "Oh cool. Did you guys camp in cabins or was it in tents?"
Her: "It was tents."
Me: "My dad used to take us camping all the time and then once a year we used to have a family reunion in Tahoe and camp in cabins."
Me: "Today's meeting is going to cover the camp stuff coming up. You're set to go for camp on Friday right?"
Her: "Yah, I'm going."
Me: "Cool". :)
I arrive and the awkward conversation becomes mobile as we make our way to the mentoring session being held in the school auditorium. Upon signing in mentee 2 then goes off with 3-4 of her other friends she has in the program and I go to find the program manager to let her know mentee 1 isn't coming today.
I grab food and 30 minutes later the meeting (part 2) begins. We play a game where 4 lines of 15 people sitting in chairs is created and the people at the ends of the lines are shown a simple image they then have to draw into the back of the person sitting in front of them. That person then in turn draws what they think the image drawn into their back was to the back of the person sitting in front of them. And so on it goes, until the person at the front of the line draws the image on a piece of paper. The paper is then revealed to the entire group and whichever group gets closest to the original drawing shown wins.
I glanced at the groups to my right and left as they started drawing down the line (in a feeble attempt at guessing what the drawn image was before I felt it being scribed on my back.) I noticed that for each round, at some point the image -which was pretty clear at one point- would be drawn in a less sensical way and would then veer from its original design. But at some point a person ahead would feel the image being drawn and GUESS what the intended image was with logical common sense and then draw that image into the person in front of them. I did the same. It felt like they were trying to draw a star. So I drew a star. It felt like they were trying to draw a happy face -so I drew a happy face.
I also noticed that each person would draw the image in their own way once they did realize what it was. A person who drew into the back of one person would draw Circle first, Eyes second, Smile third. Then the person in front of them would draw Eyes first, Circle second, and Smile last. It was really interesting to watch. No one got the first image of the peace sign, but after that everyone caught on and the game ran smoothly.
Then we were put back into small groups of 8 (mentees with mentors) sitting at a table. We were told if there was any "agreement" we had broken so far in the program we needed to apologize to the group and say how we were going to do better in the future. I chose to apologize to mentee 2 for not calling her each week to check in. I was lazy/busy over Christmas break and then last Thursday I was on a strategy session call from 6:30-8pm for my women's group. I also hate talking on the phone and considering how little we're able to talk in-person I imagine trying to talk on the phone with my mentee will be even more awkward and silent.
But I did promise her I'd try to meet up with her more and talk more over the phone. She then chose to apologize to me for going off with her friends instead of being with her mentor like she was "supposed to". Personally I was cool with us being apart -I wanted her to be closer so we could have a better chance or talk, but I also didn't want tot force her or pressure her to hangout with me.
Then we were given large sheet of paper and told to divide it into 4 sections. Quadrant 1 of the paper we were supposed to put our early childhood. Quadrant 2 was to be our childhood-to-teen years. Quadrant 4 was teen-to-present years. Quadrant 4 was the future. We were then given magazines, scissors, glue, and markers to collage the hell out of the paper. Never hand an Artist these kinds of things an expect her to finish in the hour allotted. I've collaged a lot. I'm meticulous. I managed to finish 80% of Quadrant 1. And then I mapped out in marker what the other 3 quadrants would consist of later.
My mentee just pasted large images from the magazines. Quadrant 1 had Finding Nemo, Lion King, and a sketch of a family on it. Quadrant 2 had a pick of 2 kids and a mom and kids at school. Quadrant 3 was blank. Quadrant 4 had a husband and wife at the alter, a mom and 2 kids, and a nice house. When asked why Quadrant 3 was blank she said she hadn't had time to fill it out. I wondered whether that was true or whether she just wanted to avoid thinking about/illustrating her present.
Thanks to the nudging of a mentor coach in the meeting, my mentee and I agreed to meet at Starbucks after the meeting ended at 3:30pm. So onward we went afterwards to a very small Starbucks that was really hard to get to because it was surrounded by a busy, crowded mall and had a drive-thru. We went in and my plan was to order hot chocolate. Then she ordered hot chocolate and an unspoken bond of understanding was established. Just kidding, there was no bond -mostly just more awkward silence. We then sat outside at a table and the sky was getting gray and dark so I worried it would rain.
I opened the conversation by asking if she watched the Daily Show or Colbert Report. Everyone's been talking about the whole Chris Christie bridge scandal non-stop and yet there she was my mentee sitting perfectly oblivious to what was going on in the political world -not that the political arena is usually worth noting. Normally it's just one tragic disappointment after another. But I figured anyone would find the Chris Christie thing amusing so I filled her in on what was going on because it was kind of surprising and unusual. Then after following that up with a comment about the weather getting darker from the karma California has now accumulated from bragging about how warm it's been despite every other state freezing to death, I went into more deep discussions with my mentee:
Me: "So I know you mentioned your 3 goals in the program were to have a better relationship with your mom and dad and get better grades. What kind of relationship do you have with your mom?"
Her: "I don't know. It's good. My mom's nice. Every once in a awhile she'll get angry, but it's fine."
Me: (just a long story filling her in on my relationship with my mom and how it's changed over the years)
Me: "So how's your relationship with your dad? What's he like?"
Her: "He's nice to me when I'm nice to him. But if you're mean to him he'll talk mean to you. But it's mostly fine."
Me: (just a long story about how my dad usually is and the times he's gotten randomly angry because he doesn't manage his stress well)
Me: "And you said you wanted to get better grades. Do you do your homework usually?"
Her: "Sometimes. I don't usually get a lot of homework."
Me: (just a long story of my homework habits, my step-sister's homework habits, and my sister Emily's homework habits to show that different people study in different ways and amounts)
Me: (Accidentally bringing up the subject of college which is stupid because no freshman thinks of or wants to think about college at this point in their life)
Her: "I don't know. Maybe I'll go."
Me: (just a long story going into my college experience, trying to get in and pick one out and then finding one. Then other people's experiences with college because it doesn't necessarily fit well with other people who do better without it)
Me after observing that she looks cold and is only wearing a light sweater: "Do you have a warmer jacket?"
Her: (shakes her head "no")
Me: "I'll bring extra jackets to camp and if you get cold you can borrow one of mine."
Me: "So are you ready to head back?"
Her: (Shakes head "yes")
It only lasted an hour, but I think it was a good conversation. She didn't say much but I let her know more about who I am. Talking with her is like collecting little puzzle pieces. You just save them until they start to fall into place and you get a clearer picture of what's going on in her life.