Sabino P. - On being a mentor and big
Ok this took way longer than I thought to write, mainly because I had a writer’s block for the longest time… but here I go! I’ve recently come to the conclusion that really I should just say what I want on here and you as the reader can take what you want away from it; feel free to stop reading at any time though I hope you stick around to the end!
So hmm where to start? I guess I can talk about my PEER experience; I missed out on being a mentee because I came to Penn wanting to be a #Penngineer and nothing else and thought I wouldn’t need the API community as a support group. I was proven wrong EXTREMELY quickly and in an ironic twist, a good number of the people I befriended that year were a part of PEER. Fash forward to the end of my sophomore year when I applied to be a PEER mentor and got rejected and once more a year after that to when I finally got my chance to be a part of the PEER community!
Still with me? Cool, thanks! My senior year has been my favorite so far, in no small part due to the PEER freshmen. If any of you are reading this (and it better be because it was published and not because you were creeping on the drive!) I hope you guys know what an incredibly inspiring, driven and capable group of individuals you all are. I’ve been called the dad (or grandpa) of the PEER fam, mainly because I can’t seem to limit my parental tendencies to my own mentee (who is worth a MILLY-ion bucks :D) but maybe what I don’t say enough is that the reason I dote on all of them is because like any parent, I’m just so incredibly proud of who they are and extremely excited to see where they all wind up and I wanna be there supporting and cheering them all the way. It takes a really special bunch of kids to make me re-evaluate my career plans in the hope that I can be a little closer to them.
I hope you don’t think I’m a creep and also thanks for sticking with me this far!! I think writing this far has helped me settle on what I think I can contribute to this initiative: my opinions on what being a big and mentor is all about! Truthfully, I hope I’m qualified to give out this advice but I guess because it’s advice, really you can take it or leave it, agree or disagree but ultimately I hope that at the very least it gives you something to think about. And for all the little out there, don’t think you can stop reading now- this applies to you guys as much as it does to your bigs and mentors!
A big-little pairing is a relationship meaning it requires attention and work to make it worthwhile. Bigs, take your role seriously! I’m sure you can all too easily remember what your first days in college or as a new member in a group was like; use that experience to inform you about what your little might need from you. At the start, don’t hesitate to reach out and prove yourself to be someone they should feel comfortable reaching out to when they need something, whether that be advice, food or just company. Littles, respond!! I can’t emphasize this enough. Take advantage of the upperclassman reaching out to you.
I’ll admit that my style is a little clingy; on average I probably message my littles more than they message me and there are days where I think I’m too much but when it’s all said and done I wouldn’t have done it any other way. To me, being a big means giving love, support and affection unconditionally; most days they probably won’t need it, but on the days they do you’ll be glad that you’ve positioned yourself as someone who can be there to help. The other thing being a big means is being an relatable inspiration; I use my littles as a reason to continuously improve but also keep them close enough to let them know when I’m stressed or busy. There’s enough Penn Face going on around campus; create a space where that doesn’t exist and show your littles that you can always recover from setbacks. Help them find those opportunities to be a leader and support them however you can. Littles, you should do the same and be open with your big/mentor! Celebrate your first club position with them, laugh over the funny things that happen around you (or to you in the case of some of my kids) but at the same time, be comfortable letting them know about your stresses and worries. If it’s all gone as I said so far, odds are you’ll know that your big has been there too :)
Still with me? Good, we’re almost done. I think the TL;DR of this whole thing is..treat the big/little relationship seriously and be willing to constantly willing to work on it. As a big, you won’t always have the right advice or solutions; as a little you may not always be comfortable talking to a relative stranger and as a pair odds are you’ll find that your schedules don’t always allow you to talk and see each other as you like...but that should never stop the two of you from being there for each other.
Ok I’m done now and really i don’t know if what I said made any sense or was just a really big DUH and I said nothing of particular novelty. Regardless of what the outcome is, I think that if you made it this far and you’ve been inspired to work on your own big/little relationships I’ll consider my efforts worthwhile.
On a more personal note: to all my kids (official or otherwise) know that I love you all very much and can’t wait to see where you all wind up. I hope that in some way I’ve left a mark on you and that you all go on to be better bigs/mentors than I was. I’m never more than a message away and you best believe I’m gonna try to see you all again soon.
You’re family after all <3
PEER Mentor 2017-2018