I remember having a conversation with someone this summer where I told them about how I had been placed in a position of authority, but had little to no guidance and had to forge my own path. They raised their eyebrows at me, recalling how last summer I had been in the exact same position, just in a different organization, and asked, “Stephanie, how do you always get yourself into these situations?” I tried to laugh it off, but inside I knew they were right. I have a history of getting myself into these messes, and ultimately self-destructing later on because I took too much responsibility, and didn’t call people back as they walk away, free of the burden I am now shouldering.
This has been the story of my life. I have a tendency of biting off more than I chew, and allowing my pride to stop me from saying “I need help” or “I can’t do this alone.” Saying “no” or “I can’t do that for you right now” has been one of the most difficult things for me to do for as long as I can remember. It’s something that’s been especially true this semester as third year really kicks my butt. Part of it is, I’m afraid that asking for help means I’ve failed at doing things other people have been able to do before me just fine.
But honestly? Chances are they didn’t do it alone. Chances are that some before me have crumbled and tearfully called those few they trust, admitting that they can’t do it alone and desperately need help. You’d think after years of getting myself into these situations, I’d have learned, but I haven’t. I want to be everything to everybody, I want to always be the person helping others, not the person always needing help from others. But we all need help sometimes, and I’ve learned that the hard way time after time. I’m slowly getting used to only taking on what I can absolutely manage, but sometimes I still take on more because I have a ravenous ego and a desperation to prove myself to those who have gone before me and now want me to do what they once did.
Now, I don’t believe everyone is trying to take advantage of me. Often when people are in a tough spot, they look for someone to hand it off to as soon as they’re allowed to, and don’t necessarily realize that when a torch is passed, some mentorship must go along with it. But mentoring when you’ve left an organization or job is really hard. Believe me, I’ve tried to do it from a distance before, and when you see how they struggle and you can’t step in and held, it’s honestly heartbreaking. However, we owe it to those who come after us to offer our mentorship and support.
So to those who have gone before me and taken the time to guide me through changes and difficulties: thank you. To those who will come after me and will pick up where I left off: I hope I can do for you what was once done for me, or what I wish was done for me.
Before we can pass the torch off, we must first teach the next bearer how to hold it, how to walk and run with it, how to stop the flames from burning us, and how to heal any burns we may acquire.