This afternoon, I met my mentee for chai to catch up, as I realize that I hadn’t even seen her since the end of last year. In between getting sick twice (which is so embarrassing) in two months and my work travel, I just haven’t been able to make it happen.

After we caught up for an hour and she left to go to her therapy appointment, I sat a bit at the cafe and reflected on my own experience as a teen. I never had someone I could officially call a mentor, but I had two former teachers who in retrospect, I realize I did see as mentors. They were the people in my life who were always so positive, asking me questions about my life and where I was headed, and never in a judgmental way. Their positivity was like a model to me about how I wanted to view my own life and growth. Aside from both being very positive despite frustrating circumstances in their own personal and professional lives, the other thing they both had in common was that they were both constantly learning and seeking new knowledge, always seeking intellectual stimulation.

I think about this every time after I meet with my mentee. I’m not always sure what value I am providing, and I am constantly second guessing whether I am truly helping her. But what I strive to do every time I meet her is to validate her feelings, make her feel heard, and help her see the hope and possibilities of the future. I encourage her to seek new knowledge, to read and be aware of current events and politics, to contribute to society. It’s not always easy for her to do those things, but I can see that she is trying.

One thing I finally got her to do was to wake up at a regular time every single day. She used to sleep until 1 or 2 and essentially waste half her daylight hours. She’d even skip class. But now, she’s consistently waking up between 8-8:30 each morning. It’s small steps that ultimately become big ones. She is definitely going somewhere.

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