“Alicia took her first boat ride with me,” said Big Sister Kaitlin. “We were on a ferry on our way to the Big Sister BBQ. She was so nervous at first.” Today, Little Sister Alicia draws a parallel between that hesitancy to try something new and meeting her Big Sister ten years ago: “I used to be very self-conscious when I first met Kaitlin,” said Alicia, who is now 19 years old.
Growing up is rarely characterized as “smooth sailing.” Raised in a single-parent home in Brookline, Alicia describes her younger self as sheltered. Though she had the love and support of her mother, gaining exposure to new people and experiences was far outside her comfort zone. Lacking an outlet, she found herself struggling to navigate who she was, and what she had the potential of becoming.
That is, until she met Kaitlin.
“I always knew that Alicia was feisty deep down,” said Kaitlin, reflecting on the early years of their relationship. “She wasn't when I first met her, but now she’s one of the feistiest people I know.”
Just like she was initially hesitant to board the ferry, Alicia, wasn’t quite sure she could open up to Kaitlin when they were first matched. However, Kaitlin’s outgoing attitude and graciousness would soon cast Alicia’s worries away.
“Kaitlin is different. When you step into her life, it’s not a ‘thanks for stopping by’ – she lets you in, makes you tea and sits you down to talk,” said Alicia. “That’s what becoming a friend to Kaitlin is like.”
Each time they got together, Kaitlin would gently encourage Alicia to talk about her worries, hopes, and dreams on her own terms. With someone finally there to embrace her for who she was, Alicia began to realize that being “different” was actually just her own version of bold – and, it was time to show the world what that was.
“Over the last ten years, I’ve realized that even though I’m self-conscious, there are a lot of things about me that are appreciated by everyone else.” Alicia reflected. “Kaitlin has taught me a lot about how to love myself – and why I should.”
As Alicia’s fear of the unknown began to fade—thanks to the confidence she gained from having the support of her Big Sister—the wind was truly in her sails. After their ferry experience, Kaitlin and Alicia took sailing lessons in the Boston Harbor. “Just imagine this person that was afraid of a ferry, now in this tiny little sail boat with tankers going by, and loving every second of it,” laughed Kaitlin. “Being able to experience those moments with her has been wonderful.”
The confidence that Kaitlin has helped to foster in Alicia has affected her far beyond their sailing trip, encouraging her to show off her self-taught musical skills on her YouTube channel, and to chart a course for deeper waters. Alicia took her first trip outside of Boston last year, crossing the Pacific Ocean to spend two weeks studying in Japan. Alicia now plans to major in Japanese in the Fall when she begins her college career at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, another giant step outside her comfort zone and into her authentic self.
Recalling the key moments of their relationship, Kaitlin looks back fondly on one memory in particular. “When we went to take pictures for Alicia’s prom, she introduced me as her sister,” said Kaitlin. “I’m rarely one to get emotional, but that was a something that I’ll never forget.” As Alicia and Kaitlin venture off on their next expedition, their sisterhood will continue to help them discover new shores, and new parts of themselves.