I spent a lot of time on buses growing up. No, not a fancy tour bus ... the kind where a lady wearing an awesome scarf knotted neatly around her neck guides a group of tourists along a scenic route dotted with various points of intrigue. (That does look amazing, though.)
Rather, as the child of a single mother who was raising two kids on a school bus driver's salary, it was those big yellow vehicles that served as my daycare program and my preschool education.
They also provided a sweet place to be connected to my mom at a time that must've been pretty damn hard for her. I mean ... imagine getting up super early, dragging a couple of preschoolers out of bed, and keeping them safe/entertained all day while driving a bunch of rowdy kids to and from school. Yikes.
As I reflected on those school bus experiences recently, a couple of things occurred to me:
I have been blessed to have numerous women as mentors throughout my life.
It's Women's History Month.
So I decided to honor both of those things in one fell swoop...
Women Who've Inspired & Shaped My Life
There is no way I can make a comprehensive list here - there have simply been too many amazing women who have influenced me. So first of all, my apologies for any omissions. For all who appear below, there is probably an equal cohort of women who I forgot to include.
First of all, I am eternally grateful for the women who helped raise me:
Both of my dearly departed grandmothers, who showed me how to appreciate nature and how to be a nurturer.
My mom, who spawned my lifelong love of music, while also teaching me how to overcome obstacles.
My sister - 381 days my senior - who was my first partner in comedy. (She also taught me how to get away with all sorts of mischief!)
My aunties. Their collective wisdom and heart have been incredible sources of strength throughout my life, especially in their willingness to confront the bullshit that life tends to throw at us.
Various teachers (hi, Ms. Desisto and Mrs. Catalini!) from whom I learned how to dissect a question with curiosity and tenacity.
As I entered early manhood something odd happened. I realized it just now, as I was writing this post and mentally going through the chronology of my female mentors.
For a long stretch of years I stopped looking towards women as mentors, for reasons both good (I needed to develop my sense of manhood) and bad (I started to believe I didn't need women's advice - whoops!)
So there's a gap here.
But then, as I got into my 40s, I realized what I'd been missing for a big chunk of my life. That's when I opened myself up to guides like:
A whole bunch of anonymous goddesses who took me under their wing when I started attending weekly Al-Anon meetings. They taught me how to listen in ways I never had.
Pam Victor, the Head of Happiness at Happier Valley Comedy, whose teachings on improv forever changed the trajectory of my life in profound ways that have created so much more joy and ease than I could have imagined.
On a related note, my dear, dear friends Mandy Anderson, Maddy Benjamin, Sally Ekus, Kate Jopson, and Julie Waggoner. While collectively we are Not In Charge, they've been in charge of showing me how men and women can seamlessly blend their talents when they're willing to be vulnerable enough with each other to reveal their truest selves.
Angela Lussier, author, speaker and CEO/founder of the Speaker Sisterhood, whose bold and humble brand of "I can do anything" entrepreneurship continues to inspire me to this day.
Val Nelson, one of the most insightful guides I'll ever know. My business would not exist as it does without her wise, nimble, and encouraging support. (Thanks, coach!)
The inimitable Megan Jo Wilson who helped me find the rockstar that's always been inside me, and how to let him the fuck out!!!
Lisa Ekus, a force of a woman who has modeled enduring care and hospitality, no matter how big the obstacles (or how many) that life might put in her way.
The graceful and fearless Martha Johnson from whom I have learned not to fear the accumulation of experience (i.e., aging!), as well as the importance of pursuing one's calling to enable the generous contributions we are meant to make.
Ali Rayfield, Stacy Kellogg, and Abby Wright, my friends & colleagues, who showed me how to waver and be steady - at the same time - as I figured out how to grow a fledgling business just as a pandemic took hold of the world.
Doctor Joli Hamilton who continually reminds me that it's our individualism that counts most - that we all have a unique gift to share.
Perhaps surprisingly to some ... my ex-wife, with whom I share a lovely relationship as co-parents of our three awesome kids. She helped me learn that relationships are where we get to transform, especially if we show up with willingness.
The fiery, but not burned out, Cait Donovan. She has blazed an unapologetic trail that shows me how to name what's real in the world and call forth our better selves.
My children, one of whom I used to call daughter and one who still identifies as a girl. They've taught me so much about how to love and learn ... there simply aren't enough words to describe their teachings.
Last and not least, my loving partner, Cheli Lange, who has inspired me to go deeper into myself than I ever had and discover the deep well of expansive intimacy within me that has been waiting to be tapped for so long.
Again, I am certain there are more names than I'm thinking of here. If you're on that list, you know who you are and thank you for the gifts you've bestowed up on me!
I'll leave you - man, woman, or otherwise - with two questions as I wrap up this ode:
Which women in your life have taught you the important lessons that make your life joyful, real, exciting, vulnerable, and loving?
And when did you last tell them how much you appreciate their gifts?
Jim Young is a coach who supports men in stepping out of the shadows of burnout, not to mention societal expectations for men that are kinda bullshit. Thanks in large part to the wisdom he's gained from so many women in his life, he also serves as a guide for building greater intimacy into all sorts of relationships.
Jim's first book, "Expansive Intimacy - How Real Tough Guys Defeat Burnout", is due on (mostly virtual) shelves in September, 2022. When he's not authoring, speaking, or coaching, you can find Jim doing live improv comedy shows, hiking, cooking, and generally goofing around ... usually with a woman at his side. Because, wow, do women rock!
If you'd like to talk to Jim about the lessons women have to offer men, or any other relevant topic, you can reach him at email@example.com.