Don’t worry too much about the match.
You’re gonna do great!”
The note then complimented my strong serve and reminded me to have fun, ending with a pretty rainbow at the corner. Attached to the note was a KitKat, my favorite treat.
This must be from my Secret Sister! I took the note down from the school bulletin board. The chocolate gave me a sweet rush of euphoria that only sugar can give, and the butterflies in my stomach started to subside.
I was about to compete in my first tennis match ever, having joined the school team at the beginning of my sophomore year. The training and practices were fun but intense. I was getting used to the coaches and teammates and wanted to make a good impression. So, the first match naturally meant a lot to me. Although I was nervous the days leading up to the match, the kind words in the note felt like a warm pat on the back, putting the wind in my sails. I felt so strong and ended up winning the match.
Since then, I have found a note before every single tennis match. Sometimes it’s taped onto my locker, sometimes it’s hidden among my textbooks. Secret Sister is a tradition of our tennis team. Each semester, we draw a name and become a Secret Sister to that person. The note from my sister became something that I looked forward to the most. Likewise, being a Secret Sister to another teammate reminded me of how much I missed being the person people rely on.
Growing up, I was always known as “the responsible girl.” In the first grade, the teacher elected me as the class monitor. I loved putting a smile on the faces of my friends who needed help. By the sixth grade, I became the class president. I organized many fun school activities and was well-known as the “problem solver” on campus. I didn’t realize how much I had evaluated my self-worth based on the positions I held and the things I did.
When I first came to S— School in the ninth grade, I was thrown into a very tight community where everyone had known each other since a young age. Although I made lots of friends during my first year, I always felt like something was missing. I felt like a guest staying for a holiday instead of a trusted member of the student body.
In an attempt to engage more with the school community, in addition to joining the tennis team, I volunteered with the local after-school program and sought opportunities to engage with my peers. But without the given responsibility, I didn’t feel useful. However, my Secret Sister made me realize that I had been so focused on seeing the forest that I failed to notice the beautiful trees inside. It gradually dawned upon me that it wasn’t my position or title that helped others: it was forming meaningful connections that made the difference.
So, I sought new ways to show my love and care to those in my community. I borrow books for a girl who wants to build a rocket in my after-school program. I ask the elderly about their health and chat with them during church cookouts. We celebrate our small victories through the Yearbook Club. And of course, I write a post-it note for my Secret Sister before each match. “You have a killer back-hand!!” By taking interest and being invested in the success of others, the small school finally became my big family.