I’ve long been drawn to the wise old figures in story — “the mentor,” as the archetype goes. The Yoda crawling around Luke Skywalker’s lunchbox. The Gandalf showing up at Frodo’s round door.
I’ve always wanted my own mythical mentor to show up when I least expect it, breaking my tedious present, leading me into a heroic new future. With all the hopping around I’ve done the last decade, you’d think I’d have found my Yoda somewhere along the way.
How did I even connect the dots from Georgia to California to Wisconsin to California to North Carolina back to California to hitting the road for a year to Charlotte to Asheville where I live now? Wasn’t there some cloaked man with a crooked stick guiding me checkpoint by checkpoint?
There wasn’t. There isn’t. I’m still looking for him. This rumbling hunger to be led.
I’ve written about my yearning for an older brother, someone slightly further down the road who can inch me along and help me course-correct when I stray. I get emotional when I see older brothers helping younger ones, correcting their form at the batting cage or buying them coffee. I tear up when I watch movies or shows with older and younger brothers bonding.
How I want the fictional to be made real in my life.
Amid my brotherly longings, I’ve helped launch this other blog community that continues to take off and amaze me with new breakthroughs and connections every day. What started as a small group of friends telling their stories of faith and sexuality and masculinity has evolved into a groundswell of vulnerability featuring brothers literally around the world.
People are even supporting this effort financially, allowing me this opportunity to quit my job and create even more content, and I can’t tell you the number of guys who have personally messaged me to say that I have changed their lives forever with my writings and leadership.
I don’t say all this to boast; it’s humbling beyond words. But I often don’t know what to do with this information.
Inspiring? Leading? Altering lives forever?
As someone so hungering to be led, I don’t understand how I have been something of a Gandalf to so many. Knocking on Internet doors to tell folks they are not alone, even creating a space for once-in-a-lifetime friendships to form beyond those doors.
People who would have never otherwise known one another are now flying around the country and continent and world to connect as friends — brothers — for the rest of their lives.
Had I not started these multiple blogs, had I not granted permission for others to share their stories, literally dozens of guys around the world would be living vastly different lives with (and without) very different people.
I know this Gandalf didn’t do anything to make restoration happen other than follow a prompting; any “success” points to the Author of my story who also somehow orchestrates all the others.
And yet this Gandalf also groans as he wanders to the next town in search of his own Gandalf, someone to speak direction and purpose and support into his life, unwittingly crashing another Hobbit’s world along the way.
I look at these wise wizards and Jedi and wonder about their needs. Do they never need a mentor in their own lives? Perhaps they had one earlier in their stories; I’m certain they did. But have they now reached the point where they just don’t need one anymore?
Did they arrive?
Have I? I’m certain I haven’t.
How can I possibly beckon others onto new quests and usher them into battle if I have nobody actively leading me, day by day, bend by bend?
For years, I worked with youth, helping them with homework, preparing them for tests, even taking on the literal job title of mentor at a therapeutic boarding school. From academics to camps to life beyond the classroom, from California to North Carolina, I’ve pointed countless kids along the way.
I’m grateful for all my work with youth. It feels good. Redemptive, rewarding.
And yet I can’t help watching these precious kids disappear over the hilly horizon, one after the other for seven years, wondering where their next road leads them. Where mine leaves me.
Who’s leaving who?
I now work a few nights a week as a Lyft driver, having transported over a hundred people around Asheville the last few months. I view this side-work as such a silly yet soberingly apt metaphor for my life.
Taking other people where they need to go.
Leading them on winding roads before us.
Allowing them the space to rest easy in the backseat for this brief moment in time.
My riders, my Hobbits — how I hardly knew them as they take on their next chapters and exit my vehicle. Gone forever.
Even outside Lyft, I’ve become the “designated driver” in a community of five guys and just two vehicles. I take my friends to the mountains and I take them to the grocery store. They crowd the backseat and select the music, eyeing one another as they talk amongst themselves, relaxing as the driver fixates on following yellow lines and white dashes that lead to destiny.
I get us where we need to go, and we get there.
But even after we arrive, I feel as though I’m still driving, my foot still glued to the pedal. Still feeling the hum in my sole as I wander in search of some external, definitive clairvoyance.
I’m Gandalf, and I’m lost, and I can’t imagine existing in this paradoxical space the rest of my days.
I need a Lyft driver for my own life.
I need a big brother to correct my form and buy me coffee and occasionally bully me.
I need an un-lost Gandalf to knock on my door and tell me it’s time to go — it’s time to go now — and I’m in luck, because he knows the way.