Mentoring programmes, I hear, are quite common. The mentoring programme at Lifeline was my first experience with one, however, and naturally I was a little sceptical of the idea. Being quite a private individual with a knack for anxiety and, well, you know, a teenager, I was reluctant to—as I imagined at the time—spill my life story to some stranger and have them tell me exactly what I was doing wrong. Especially, as we all know, absolutely everything a 16-year-old does is right and should not be contested. The thought of someone intruding in my life made me dismissive toward the programme before it had even begun, if not slightly uncomfortable. So I went into the experience with all these prejudices and, what do you know? I was wrong.
Having seen my mentor once a week since last year—give or take a few breaks here and there—I’m happy to say that it actually has made a positive impact in my life. The difference between what I was imagining and what I experienced is that you expect there to be this person who wants to tell you what to do because they think they know best; when in reality, their goal is to help you in your journey to become the best version of yourself that you can be. It changed my outlook to realise that a LifeLine mentor is only here because they care about and believe in what they’re doing.
That’s not to say it wasn’t awkward at times—sorry Margaret! It was difficult to start communicating in a way that’s productive due to a number of factors. I found that the best method of overcoming a hitch when it came up was just to be honest. Sometimes there are things that you don’t want to share—eventually, you learn to express that effectively and your mentor learns to accept it. I think what surprised me most of all was that I was still able to draw boundaries without closing myself off completely. It was a little bizarre to hear that my mentor, who had only known me so long, valued and cared about how I was. Reminders like that, however, helped me to remember that they would not be here if they didn’t.
At the moment, we are working on setting goals for the future. As my mentor knows, that’s not something I’m very comfortable with—we’ve started small and are working our way up. If it ever gets too much for me, we either change the topic or play some sort of game that she brings with her. This doesn’t mean that I get to ignore what’s important or avoid things that aren’t easy to think about, but that I’m not pushed beyond what makes me feel safe. The biggest lessons I’ve learned from mentoring is learning to trust and open up to other people and try to strive for things I care about. Most things that matter, when you do them for the first time, will be intimidating at first. Mentoring has taught me that it doesn’t mean that it’s not worth trying anyway.