This blog post was written by Meg Cassidy, a Girls Write Now mentor alum.
Last Friday, I had a few close friends over for dinner to catch up on life, share laughs, and eat way too many enchiladas. Their names are Fanta Camara and Mariah Dwyer, and they were my Girls Write Now mentees—now two young women I’m proud and grateful to call friends.
It hasn’t always been easy to keep in touch. I’d barely seen either of them since my time as Mariah’s mentor came to a close almost two years ago. I left the city to experience life on the West Coast; they’ve both been busy with college (Fanta is entering her senior year at the State University of New York at Albany; Mariah will be a junior at Lehman College in New York City) and full-time summer jobs. But thanks to texting — and the art of the good old-fashioned book exchange — we’ve been able to keep tabs on one another, and even grow closer in some ways. As soon as I arrived back in New York City this summer, though, getting a catch-up session on the calendar with them was a priority.
What I love most about the Girls Write Now community is that mentoring goes beyond the the Saturday workshops, readings, and, often, beyond even the weekly pair meetings. When you’re seeing someone that often, she becomes part of your life in a meaningful way, no matter how different your backgrounds, families, or present circumstances might be. And your lives intertwine in ways you probably won’t even fully realize until years down the road. Like when you’re browsing at Powell’s in Portland, Oregon and a new book of poetry reminds you of something Mariah once wrote. Or when Fanta is sitting on your couch, eating ice cream, and casually mentions how her younger cousin still talks about the time she came to your office in Midtown one spring evening ages ago.
One way I still maintain a “mentorship” role with them is by continuing to recommend and give them books. (Most recently—Rebecca Traister’s All The Single Ladies for Fanta, a Sociology major, and for Mariah, Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis, who blew me away at a Portland Literary Arts lecture). What it comes down to is a consistent connection. And at a certain point, you reach a level of familiarity and permanence that doesn’t require weekly check-ins. The ties I have with these two amazing young women are ones that I know will last a lifetime, no matter where our paths take us.
After our dinner, Fanta had to leave for another engagement, so I walked with Mariah to the bus stop. “I’ll text you when I get home” she said with a smirk as she was boarding the bus, something I always insisted my mentees do after our meetings. “You better!” I said, also somewhat teasingly, but knowing she would. And knowing how lucky we are to have this connection to carry us into another autumn, another back-to-school season, if only metaphorically, in all our lives.