It was my freshman year in high school when I developed a modified case of senioritis. I wasn’t lazy – I just wanted to leave. Something about the hallways and the cafeteria felt directionless and cataclysmic.
When my circle of friends became a gap-filled crescent because of different preferences of personal poisons, I spent as much time as I could in my English teacher’s classroom. His name was Mr. Klassen, and he was younger than my parents, but old enough to know himself.
This man did one simple thing for me: Despite his authority, he allowed himself to be open. Acknowledging this, I too stopped hiding.
Every day at the beginning of class, we all had to write in journals for 15 minutes. The journals were graded, but they were not to be judged.
I had written journals before, but not diligently. High school had a lot of heavy happenings in comparison to sporadic journal-worthy events in elementary school, such as, “I got a goldfish, then it died,” and, “Yesterday I went flying with my fairies.”
With the journaling made into a daily obligatory habit, my candor in the written word became candor in speech. Out of seemingly nowhere, I became unstoppable. I was unfiltered and unleashed.
I wrote about things I had never examined before, plucked my consciousness out by the antennae like a little bug, and let it run all over the place, ink eating away at the margins.
At lunch or after class, Mr. Klassen’s insights gave my thoughts value, myself validation. He was impressed with my willingness to tear myself open and examine the good, the bad and the unknown, unapologetically and perhaps recklessly. Without ever seeming preachy or pretentious, he contemplated the complexities and offered only what he had come to understand through his own experiences. He never gave me feeble cliches or false emotion. Just truth.
It was a wisdom I couldn’t extract from people my own age, and a candidness I wasn’t used to experiencing with adults. Mr. Klassen was able to guide me in a way that a parent could not.
Now in college, I’m finding that a university campus is the perfect place to reach out to even more people whose knowledge and experience surpass my own. Professors have succeeded to the greatest degree in pursuing the individual topics that interest us and can therefore advise and counsel us on the direction of our dreams.
Mentors help strengthen interests into fluency, and that fluency becomes the foundation we build upon to turn aspirations into actuality.
The stable voice of a mentor guides us through the more turbulent times, when stupidity fights to be louder. The words of the wise serve to help us up from our greatest falls, and keep us from catastrophe.
Of all the advice given to me, this has held truest: “Heaven and hell exist here and now, within your own mind. You choose which one you live in. You create your reality.”
Listen to the people who can help you build your greatest world. They’ve likely experienced both heaven and hell and can spare you the suffering.
Hunter Wright is a sophomore majoring in creative writing.