I smiled when I recalled the first time I plucked my courage to sneak out and have my first adventure trespassing into the lawn of a neighbour’s abandoned house. I could still feel a tinge of excitement and thrill of venturing into the unknown and trying to conceal the sound of my footsteps.
It was the time when I craved for adventure, staying out with my friends late after dark doing our amateurish detective projects and finding out my punishment was a scolding not because what I did was wrong, but because of the anxieties I caused to my parents (and indirectly those of my relenting friends). It was not long before I grew up and sensibility kicked in on the likelihood of getting into trouble with my cheeky habits.
Growing up has taught me that life is filled with surprises. Becoming an adolescent is the time when your life expands beyond the boundaries of your home and that familiar neighbourhood where you spend most of your childhood, going beyond the limits of your comfort zone, unaccompanied by family, to begin discovering and experiencing the world on your own.
It is when we spend time trying to understand the dynamics of relationships well beyond our family, discovering what works and what does not in our relationship with others. This is when role-play truly begins, as we try and experiment with different roles, searching for our own identity and looking for clues of things, people, activities, places and events we enjoy so we can focus more on them. With enough effort, our true calling will come and whispers to us hints or visions of our calling in life.
The next challenge brings the most struggles – learning the unspoken rules of the social interactions, which might be completely different from those you are familiar with, making blunders and silly gaffs in front of your teachers and peers, finding your identity and struggling with self-acceptance in a world that wants you to be someone else, weighing the choice of staying within the safety of your clique or boldly striking out on your own. More often than not, the social community we are in would either brand us as the “cheerleader”, “star athlete”, “class clown”, “geek”, “weirdo” or worse, no label at all.
While we struggle to discover who we want to become, what we want to believe in, what our lives are about, what our hopes are and what the society expects of us – whether we are prepared to do that, willingly or half-heartedly and coming to terms with our choices, every experience has something to teach you. Be it insights into what your passion is, or the risks (or the lack of it) that lie underneath certain choices, in guiding you towards your calling in life.
It is given that some of these experiences that you would unwittingly sign up for, major setbacks like the pain of losing a loved one, a disease scare or simply finding yourself in a job from hell, can be one of the turning points in your life that is key in preparing you for the future. The important trick is for you to prepare early and to learn the knowledge, wisdom and tools you need and integrate these early in your daily life. It will then be easier to figure and manage things out as they come.
Every once in a while, I would have some yearning to look back at my life to dissect the moments when a major event had occurred and changed my life course forever. For me, it was not a single major event but rather a few small ones. There, I learnt that to navigate through life, we must develop our own personal mentor, one that is secret, private, yet actively living in our minds and stirring our imaginations.
That mentor can be a combination of several figures – real or imaginary – one who expects the best from us, firm, compassionate, fair, inspiring, have a good sense of humour and not to forget, forgiving – as making mistakes is part of the learning process to help us live a fulfilling life. The mentor within us takes responsibility for our mistakes, forgiving them and then starting over the next day.
Choosing a truly great mentor need not be confined to only real mentors, but also imaginary ones. There are plenty of mentors to choose from the world’s bestsellers and they can be found in your local bookstores, libraries or even on the Internet. Within these pages are the stories of the world with all its protagonists – heroes and villains. Pick your favourite heroes. Study them. Read The Count of Monte Cristo.
Read the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Read Titans of History. Spend the evening with Thomas More. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t roam the streets with the likes of Aristotle, Camus or Mandelaby your side. The world’s greatest heroes are indeed waiting for your arrival.
Click here to read more articles.