Jane did not want to be my mentee.
But it was done.
She sighed. She rolled her eyes. I thought at the age of nine, she would be less like a pre-teen.
I’m not exactly sure how I found this organization or why I decided to volunteer. It was a weird year. I was broken-hearted, but in a new relationship, in a dead end job, taking up room in a friend’s apartment.
There was no structure there. It seemed the only focus of the director was to feed these kids some kind of meal. We were supposed to help with homework, but there never seemed to be any.
I didn’t know how to engage with Jane in this setting.
So instead, I took her out on the weekends.
I didn’t have a car, so I’d take the bus up to her and figure out places we could get to by public transportation.
She lived with her mom and dad and little brother in a mostly barren apartment. I didn’t engage much with them.
I wanted to spoil Jane. I wanted to give her everything she wanted. Take her places she’d never been. I wanted to be cool.
Each gift I would up the ante, until one day I found myself at a Gamestop, forking over my credit card on a Nintendo DS.
But I was running out of money and transitioning out of my living situation. I found going to the center less and less appealing.
I didn’t know how to explain any of this to Jane. I also didn’t know how to keep making her happy if the only way I knew how to was with money.
So I just sort of disappeared.
I would think of her now and again. I felt ashamed for the way I left it.
I moved on.
Fast forward to today. I sat at a college fair for my job and suddenly there she was. A junior in high school, beaming at me, so happy to reconnect.
And my heart broke into a million tiny bits. I had done the worst thing I could have. I abandoned her.
But there was no evidence of hurt, anger or sadness. Just joy.
I gave her my phone number and hope she calls.
Maybe I can do it right this time. I’d be lucky to get another chance.