sevenA few years ago I printed off an application form to be a Big Sister – perhaps surprising news to friends who know I’ve never wanted children of my own, but perhaps not to those who have seen me with their children.

I was intimidated by the form, specifically the scenarios where I was supposed to predict how I’d react in certain challenging situations, but mostly I put the idea aside when the Olympic job ate my life.

Before even getting to the form printing stage, I was required to read the mentor program requirements and the Big Intro for Big Sisters. And suddenly, after not thinking about it for decades, I wished I could go back and explain some facts to shy, quiet seven-year-old me.

I would have been around seven when someone initiated my application to be a Little Sister – I know that because I remember where we were living, but also because, as I found out a few years ago, seven is the minimum intake age. That was probably explained to me, but I hadn’t absorbed it.

My big brother had already been matched with a Big Brother so not only did I think I was an afterthought, I had in my little mind that Big Brothers were for boys who didn’t have fathers and Big Sisters were for girls who didn’t have mothers. But I had a mother. I thought there was something illicit about my application, though that was probably explained to me, too. But you don’t explain to a seven year old that she’s been identified as high-risk and in need of a mentor because her father’s dead and mother has schizophrenia. You explain that she might like someone to do fun things with.

I was never matched. That was probably explained to me too as the simple equation it is: more Little Sisters on the list than Big Sisters applying. But even a seven year old can do the math that some are chosen and some aren’t, and she wasn’t.

I don’t mean for this to be a poor little seven-year-old-me story. In fact it’s the opposite. Because she grew up to be me, and I’ve got a great life and a great career and great friends and I want to use my journey from her to me to help mentor another her. I’ve dug out the application again and this time I’ve even filled it out.


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