#TheBigShoutOut to My Best Friend.

It’s easy to say that my mom and dad were my mentors growing up. Of course they were. They are both strong and loving people who taught me about compassion, giving and encouraged my artsy writer’s soul. However, when looking at someone who really shaped the person that I am today, I have to send my Big Shout-Out to someone else.

When thinking of a mentor, I think of someone who challenges me. Someone who knows me inside and out and makes sure that I am staying true to the person I want to be. My mentor is someone who will stand by me and stand with me, but stand against me when I may be compromising or settling. In my opinion, a mentor doesn’t always have to be older or a person of authority. Sometimes, a mentor can come in the form of pigtails on the girl sitting next to you in homeroom.

I met my best friend, Colleen O’Toole sometime in the 8th grade. She cornered me outside the dentist office and started talking to me. Looking back, that right there showed her fearless nature. Not many 13 year old girls will just walk up to another teen girl and start chatting. I saw her again on the first day of 9th grade. She snagged the locker next to me after class and smiled at me, obviously knowing exactly who I was. I had no clue who she was. It took me several minutes to piece it together. We have been best friends ever since.

Colleen is truly one of the most intelligent individuals I know. She was always book smart in school, but she is even more aware when it comes to the world around her. It’s as if she can always see a bigger picture. When many might leap into something with initial passion and little knowledge, she can take a step back and inspect the situation from each angle before determining her course of action. It’s no surprise that she choose the path of an engineer.

She has a giving heart, lending herself to causes that she believes in. For example, shaving off her long, beautiful hair right before our senior prom to donate it for cancer. She asked me to be the one to do it. I cried more than she did. Now as as adult, she spends much of her spare time dedicated to organizations and movements, doing what she can. She is heavily involved with Engineers Without Borders, using her expertise to make the world a better place to live. This generous spirit continues to spill over into her regular daily life. She is always conscious and aware, making her purchases and lifestyle choices with so much consideration. She does all this with such ease, almost as if it is second nature. I think it is.

Her level headed personality has always been a great contrast to my more dramatic self. She can call me on my actions when I may be following blind passion. I know myself well enough to understand that sometimes I can get easily caught up in the emotion of a story. One good YouTube video and I may be tossing my opinion and rallying the troops. And while 95% of the population might be right there with me, Colleen is among the 5% that’s not afraid to reel me in, tell me to slow down and look at all the data before making a decision. When I make a statement, she is one of the first ones to say, “well, why did you choose that?”, and really make me think. It’s always easy to follow our hearts and it is a beautiful thing to do, but it takes an honest friend to call you out and make use your head as well.

Colleen and I have been together through so much in our young lives. We have stood beside each other through countless moments of teenage drama, cheesy boyfriends, heartbreaks of all varieties, frustrating moments throughout college/university and hard times when we entered the real world. She taught me to be a stronger and proudly individual personal. She has stood next to me the day I married my high school sweetheart and has become Auntie Colleen to my daughter. I know she will pass on as much guidance and love to her and my Lilly will be a better person for it.

Aunt Colleen, showing Lilly how to pet & feed the horses. I blame my
daughter’s horse obsession solely on her ;)

Ideally speaking, one day Lilly will grow up to have a mentor like this. Someone who is not necessarily older, but someone who challenges her as they grow together. A loving person who may have many things in common with her, but is still fiercely different enough to be her perfect balance in a lasting friendship.

*I have written this as an unpaid post inspired by The Big Shout Out from Big Brothers & Big Sisters. The campaign is to encourage people to pay tribute to someone who has been a mentor in their life. I highly encourage you to check out the site and leave your own Big Shout Out.

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