I’m a 30 year-old-youngest-of-four, with parents the other side of 60…. And earlier this year, I became a big sister.
There have been many plus points to taking on this new title; one of which was definitely the raised eyebrows I caused when telling people I’d just gained a little sis.
In fact, your eyebrows can rest easy… my new sibling is not blood related, but formed by the Girls Out Loud sisterhood. My ‘sibling’ is actually a teenage high school student from a school on their programme. No relation.
But she could be. How well they team ‘Big Sis’ and ‘Little Sis’. I don’t know what their system is, but I can only assume it’s some sort of white magic, although there’s quite a rigorous application form that may have something to do with it. But magic. Probably magic.
Speaking of application forms, there’s quite a lot of admin involved in being on the team. I’m clinically quite allergic to forms, but Tracey, Helen & Jane (Founder) – are a trio so hell-bent on getting young women to kick some ass; you’d probably better do as they say. They are a trinity fierce enough to rival Beyoncé, Kelly and Michelle (praise be, Destiny’s Children)
We are so perfectly matched, I wonder if she was actually meant to be my little sister in another life; separated out there in the cosmic universe destined never to meet, until Girls Out Loud righted the path of divine lady power and paired us up on their one year mentoring programme.
We both wear glasses and shove then up our faces with one finger as we nerd-lol at pictures of dogs. We both speak first and think later. We’ve both got a temper. We both make jokes when we’re uncomfortable/ Our main point of difference is that she’s got the voice of an angel. whereas I was once told mid-chorus in a bar that I sound like a bag of cats.
If it weren’t for Jane, Tracey and Helen, I’d never have met this little sparkle of a human.
And if I’d never have met this little sparkle of a human, well… things would be… just the same as they were, actually.
That’s the point of Girls Out Loud.
They take two people who were sort of just doing okay, and put them together, suddenly changing everything for both of them in a way that neither could have expected or known they needed.
I might have been okay biting my tongue for another 10 years, ignoring some quite difficult truths I needed to face about some friends I’d made when I was about her age; still with me, still making me feel left out, excluded and not good enough.
I might have been okay struggling through a job I didn’t really like for a while longer, continuing to be too scared to make a career change.
And she might have done alright choosing a ‘proper’ subject that was a bit boring but much less scary than getting on stage and singing her heart out, which she loved, but didn’t believe she could do.
She might have decided coming to school to survive another shunning, another singling out, believing another behind-the-back backstab was still better than not being in that group, better to stay quiet and part of it than stand up and be friendless.
But we did find each other, and during our once-a-month mentor sessions, through coaching her, I actually found I was coaching myself. Once you start doling out the medicine, it’s easier to see where you need to take it in your own life.
“There’s no such thing as a bad friend.: That’s the advise we try to give to our Little Sisters at GOL. Bad friends aren’t friends. Full stop. It’s difficult to give that advice when you’ve spent the previous weekend scrolling through posts of your mates hanging out without you.
“You can do anything.” Easy to say, but when you’ve put off applying for a job you’ve wanted to try out for over a year, hard to say convincingly.
I found that if I wanted to authentically say these things to my Little Sister, I had to do it myself.
It actually worked in all manner of ways. “You don’t need to look like an ideati-dashian. Everyone’s face on Instagram is the same. Yours is better. Don’t ruin it with mental contorting sticks.” Kind of hypocritical coming from a woman with a daily 5-minutes-on-eyebrows ritual.
So I disrupted a decade of compliant silence and confronted my friends, using my own advise to navigate a long and drawn out discussion that actually unlocked a tidal wave of truths from one another. It brought some of us closer, and let the sun go down on others. My little sister told her ring-leader-come-friend-when-it-suits-her to take a hike, and found a new best friend who told her she was brilliant and helped her rehearse for shows.
I went a whole week at work with no makeup, just so I could tell her I’d done it. She swore she’d never Kardashi-clone her face.
I’d like to say I never wore makeup again, but I sit before this computer, eyebrows on point and she died her hair blonde and started wearing eyeliner (which I think I may have inspired, oops!) You win some, you lose some.
I applied for a new job, and I got it (and a pay rise, thank you very much). She had a one to one with a theatre school teacher and researched courses she could enrol on.
It’s like that – ups and downs, successes and not-such-successes. But when you get a win, it’s a win that would never have happened otherwise, and that’s the real magic. That;s why it’s worth it. Not becoming a big sister won’t change anything. Becoming one will change things you wouldn’t even imagine…