‘Mentor.’ I remember this word vividly for it was often the source of my confusion ever since my first encounter with it. Back in primary school, I was heavily disappointed at the fact that the teacher thought “Denzel Washington” was not an appropriate answer to the question, “Who is your mentor?” You have to understand that after seeing one movie of his, he was the embodiment of all the man I had only dreamt I ever could be. The only thing I did more often than recite his lines was to breathe. Everything from his body language, tone of voice, to his style of dress was now going to be mastered by this little 9 year old boy who at that point saw a father and not just an actor.
You can’t imagine the disappointment I got when the teacher told me “Your mentor must be someone you’re with in person and not just on screen.” She had just crushed my dreams with the same intensity she had used to crush a spider innocently lounging near the blackboard a few moments earlier. What did she mean? Wasn’t a mentors work to motivate? To inspire you to push yourself into being the best version of yourself that you can be? Didn’t my endless hours of practicing how to stand straight, speak boldly and walk even bolder serve as proof of my inspiration? It took a few months (maybe years) but I eventually got over it. That is, until I came to Africa Yoga Project and saw the mentorship program. Years of suppressed denial and heartbreak were resurfacing and I felt all my childhood confusion return with a bang. Because here I was, watching countless youth breaking down, confiding, sharing intensely and receiving powerful guidance from someone on a screen. I was flooded with confusion and felt a deep resentment for my primary school teacher because here I was, witnessing her statement proved wrong right in front of my very four eyes (In Kenya, Macho nne is a general slang used to refer to people who wear glasses and it translates to “four eyes”) The marvels of technology have allowed two individuals who had otherwise been world’s apart and had little hope of meeting to connect (literally and figuratively) via Skype and grow together. At first, I will not lie I was rather jealous, here they were receiving a wealth of knowledge from mentors and growing rapidly while my growth had been stamped on way before. And after seeing a mentor and mentee meet each other for the first time in person, this jealousy was only deepened. A beautiful balance of tight and affectionate is what I can say about their hug, accompanied by an overwhelming urge to fight tears from the mentee and you had a cocktail of emotions just overflowing everywhere. Eventually, my jealousy grew into gratitude, for though I never did participate in the mentorship program personally, I gained several mentors through the wonderful community of staff who I dare say are closer to family than they are to colleagues. Always being there for each other.