Last Saturday from 8am-3pm I went to our twice a month teen mentoring program community meeting. I have two mentee girls, but one of them was sick so Iended up taking the one I've spent the least amount of time with -which I was excited about. It's funny because when I was first paired with the girls I thought I'd be closer to Mentee 1 than Mentee 2, but now it seems like the opposite has come true. During my time with one at camp, Mentee 1 and I actually grew more apart because she saw me as more of an annoying "mother" than a friend/mentor. Meanwhile since I didn't spend as much time with the Mentee 2 there seems to be a lot more respect between us. I also find that she's easier to talk to in general. Mentee 1 speaks very few words and only when you ask her. Mentee 2 says more, but so softly you can barely hear her.
I've also kind of been "accepted" by the group of girls Mentee 1 and 2 are a part of. You feel like a Russian spy trying to "blend in" when you're with them. "Yah I'm technically a mentor, but I'm more practical and down-to-earth so I'm not going to pressure you or bombard you with a bunch of therapist-like questions."
Girl #1 cusses -which is surprising because she seems quieter and composed. She likes drawing mandalas -even though she doesn't know what those are, so we had an instant connection through drawing those kinds of flower designs. I see her being very responsible and informative when she grows up.
Girl#2 is the leader of the pack. She is the most talkative and the most brazen -she isn't afraid to roll her eyes at you. But she is also the most insecure. She's kind of vouched for me in the group and said that I'm ok to hang around and if she hadn't I don't think the others would clue me in to things as much as they do now. I see this Girl being more of a leader when she gets older -like a manager or something.
Girl#3 is my Mentee#1's best friend. She's quiet and also artistic. I like her the most out of all the girls, though she still has a little bit of attitude. She will be the most creative out of the group when she grows up.
Finally I got to learn a little bit more about Mentee#2. She lives with her mom and her step-dad -who she gets along with. Then every week she goes and visits her dad in Oakland -which is similar to what life was like for me when I was young getting to see my dad in the city every other weekend until I was 18. She also has a younger brother and sister. Mentee#2 is actually pretty smart. She loses patience pretty easy -one of the downsides to downplaying your intelligence is then everyone around you then treats you like an idiot and explains things very slowly as if you were a 5 year old. You then get frustrated with people more and look at them like they're an idiot for not knowing you were only pretending not to be as intelligent. I see Mentee#2 being a lot more analytical and funny when she gets older and opens up more.
Then there are the 2 other mentors Girls#1-3 are shared among. The girls were playing a new app game called "Flappy Bird" -which is like Angry Birds' and Maro Brothers' love child. The other mentors were born in Korea and India and are now in their late 40s early 50s. They are out of the loop with video games and one mentor has more of a motherly vibe in general and the other is naive -so basically the girls roll their eyes at them a lot and whisper so they don't hear their conversations. Me on the other hand am only 25 and I'm pretty familiar with video games and social media -so what I don't know automatically I pick up on quickly.
In the end you over hear a lot more than you would otherwise when you're allowed into their circle. It has nothing to do with what they say, but the way they allow you to hear things they don't mind you knowing. Like Girl#2 admitting she ditched class last Wednesday. And Girl#1 wanting to sleep in and not come to the next mentoring program meeting.
They can openly sit there and talk about how bored they are in the mentoring community meeting, knowing full well you're a mentor, when they also know you won't harp on them for it or try and convince them to like the meeting like an adult would try to convince a 6 year old to like brussel sprouts. I stay quiet, I listen, and when I speak it's to let them know that I'm familiar with their video games and art and other things that I can honestly relate to so they know I'm on the same page. I don't make a bigger deal out of things when I know they wouldn't either. Always on the same page always speaking to the same page.
Then we were taken outside and brought to an open field that had a staged slab of concrete with stairs you could walk up to stand on. Trust fall. My immediate thought was, I hope the mentors don't have to do this too. Mentors were then asked to be a part of the trust fall "spotters" to catch the kids as they ideally fell backward like a board into the row of arms waiting to catch them below.
The first hour rolled by quickly. I unfortunately didn't get to see my mentee and her friends go since I was in another line catching mentees on the other side. Butt hey all went! I was surprised because at camp this group of girls seemed to avoid a lot of the activities -including ropes course- the most. Then I noticed the number of mentees that hadn't gone started to shrink and mentors started taking the trust fall themselves. Well that's nice for them, but I hope I don't have to go.
I kept having flashbacks to when I was 10 and I was at camp with my family and in a group of kids my age that I didn't know and the group instructors made the kids stand on a tight rope and fall backward into the group -including me. I didn't fall back flat like a board at all, I curled up like a rolly polly. It has nothing to do with "trust" really. Even if it was a sea of people you trust, it's about having faith in the situation. That you can let go of the control and fall into a situation and not be harmed in the moment. It's having faith in and during the fall.
"Have any mentors not gone yet?" I was hiding off to the side with a couple other mentors hoping no one would notice me. I decided that if I was tagged to go, then I would out of obligation and I would try my best to fall like a stiff, uncurled board. "Jessica have you gone yet?" I shook my head, turned, and followed another mentor up to the plank. I stood there in front of about 15 people who were paying attention (and about 30 other people who weren't). Nerves started to hit me and my heartbeat started to pound. There was a moment when nausea actually started to kick in, and as soon as it did I acknowledged it and thought, Really? You're going to be this nervous about this situation? Breathe regularly and get yourself together.
Finally it was my turn. I handed my glasses over to the mentor that had just gone and then turned my back tot he row of people waiting to catch me. My feet were on the edge of the cement slab when the row of people decided to move to the right to adjust their settings. I had to follow suite and inch my way along to the left as well. Arms crossed over my chest I called out, "Spotters ready?!" They replied "Ready!" I called out, "Ready to fall?!" Then for a split second I asked myself, Am I ready to fall? Quick get your breathing together and let go! "Fall on!" they yelled. You can't hesitate after that call gets made so I started to fall backward. The first foot was fine, but 2-4 feet into the fall my heart kicked out of my chest and I realized it was over. I had one brief moment of consciousness where I told myself, This is it -it's all over now. All out of your hands. Whatever happens happens. And I felt my heart and soul and body plung into the ultimate unknown backwards fall.
Then I remember being held in the arms of about 8 people who then set me on the ground. I was shaken, but I made it. Then afterwards about 4 or 5 other mentors commented to me that my fall was perfect. They said it was like watching a wooden board fall -with now curling under of the knees. At first I thought they were just being supportive/nice but other people said the same to me as well. I was kind of surprised because in that moment of fall I had no real control over my body AT ALL. I just handed it over to fate and couldn't control whether it was stiff or curly fried. I was kind of proud that I had done it and it had gone so well, but simultaneously felt like I couldn't take much of the credit because I had NO IDEA how I actually managed to do it. It just happened. I guess I just trusted the situation and had faith that I would be ok and then everything worked out.