Everybody has an achilles heel. Mine? Mentors. Any form of a mentor figure, wise older person, or life guide will immediately destroy all my defenses and reveal my soft underbelly. Not that I have much of a hard exterior to get past, but what little shields I do have will immediately be rendered useless. They will crumble in seconds. I mean this in regards to both fictional worlds and the real one. Almost all of my emotional angst has been caused by mentors. Also my greatest memories and my proudest accomplishments.
I suppose I’ll start with the fictional mentors. Sirius Black, Yoda, Mr. Miyagi, Shifu, Doc Hudson, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn, Larten Crepsley, Rupert Giles, Bobby Singer, Gandalf…the list goes on. I fall for this character trope every single time. The moment this character is introduced, I am immediately drawn to them. The older and wiser character who always has the answers. Always ready with a wise word. Totally kickass. Usually gruff and standoffish. But almost always a softie under all the grumpiness. This character serves as a device for exposition, a wiser figure, and somebody to train the young and inexperienced hero. The mentor always knows what to do and what to say. No, they’re never perfect. Usually they’re loners and outcasts. Which, of course, just makes them more relatable. If someone this badass can be an outsider, maybe being different isn’t so bad? Usually the character has their own struggles too. But that just adds character depth. One thing is almost always a certainty though. The mentor figure must die so that the hero can learn to stand on their own two feet. Alone. Without the aid and support of the mentor. I have lost so many characters due to the fact that they’re mostly mentors and most mentors end up dead.
In real life I’m a sucker for the mentor prototype too. Most of my “crushes” are really just mentors in disguise. “Teacher Crushes”, for me at least, are based more on an intense admiration than any kind of attraction. I often mistake that “warm fuzzy feeling” I get when a guy I look up to gives me any form of attention or validation as butterflies. When they’re really just heartwarming interactions with someone I really respect. Most of my theater crushes were either leads, older students, or production staff members. Being on a fencing team was a minefield of older students having to teach the younger students. I’ve often cared far more about earning the respect of the people I admire than of the people I am attracted to or even just friends with. I highly value the people in my life who have guided me on my path and helped me grow into a better and truer version of myself. Nobody is obligated to help me grow. It makes the people who do that that much more special. I just think it’s a really beautiful thing.
I can’t remember how or when this started. My first favorite book character, way back in 1st Grade, was an old wizard archetype. My early favorite characters were Indiana Jones’s Dad, Albus Dumbledore, and Piccolo. The first time a teacher complimented me I immediately became attached. Maybe I have parental issues. Maybe I have a desperate need for validation and acceptance that isn’t being fulfilled. Who knows? But I am so grateful for all of the mentors I have had in my life. They mean the world to me.
So why am I thinking about this? Well, because another mentor figure character has died. I won’t name the character, in fear of spoilers. But I was just sobbing on the floor for ten minutes over this character. It never gets any easier. Another one bites the dust. So here’s a tribute to all the mentor figure characters. All the brotherly and fatherly figures in my life. Motherly and sisterly figures, too. All the people who took me under their wing. The teachers. The peers. The coworkers. Thank you, to all of you. Whether real or fictional, you’ve all changed my life and I wouldn’t be who I am today without you.