Introspection #12: My Life as an Older Sibling
Those pesky nuisances who constantly beg for your attention. Those lazy weirdos who you argue with for depleting the shower’s hot water supply. The grumpy freaks who you are forced to watch over during your already hectic life.
This life defines me. But I could never imagine how it would be otherwise.
For around sixteen years of my life, I have played the role of an older brother to my younger sister, Bianca. When we were little, we had no other choice but to adapt to each other’s interests since we were confined in the same home 24/7. We watched the same TV shows (mostly on PBS kids), listened to the same music (Row, Row, Row Your Boat), and shared the same affinity for using laptops at Sam’s Club or Apple while our parents went shopping.
Of course, however, life changes as siblings increasingly venture out into the world without each other’s constant presence. School, particularly, introduced unique environments for the both of us that promoted our divergence in personalities. I have started developing a strong interest in the sciences, while she has developed one for the visual arts. Furthermore, while she has started watching David Dobrik and Mr. Beast on YouTube, I have preferred channels like Poofesure and Jubilee. As for our musical tastes, I have become more of a classical geek, while she has become enthused with K-Pop. For a while, our conflicting passions forged an invisible barrier between the two of us, even though we are siblings. How was I supposed to enjoy her presence if I was forced to listen to the puzzling beats of BTS wherever she went? Likewise, could she really spend quality time with me watching Minecraft gamers on our large SmartTV instead of engaging with the vlog channels that she would much rather desire?
As people grow older, their interests become decreasingly defined by others. There is a point in our lives when we subconsciously think, “Hey, the things that I like do not match those of people around me, yet I feel no shame.” Consequently, you realize that there is no point in conforming to others’ hobbies and passions when there is no real negative consequence of finding genuine ones of your own. Hence, you eventually let your spirit soar, free to evolve into anything your heart truly desires. Sometimes though, carving your own identity can deter relationships depending on whether or not others can tolerate your inevitable development.
Therefore, given that the spirit of my sister has developed so distinctly from mine, it may be hard to imagine why I am still able to cultivate a love for her after all these years. I will admit, for a while we went through the typical “my sibling is a brat” phase, years of barely talking to each other and complaining about how life is hard due to each other’s existence. I remember turning off our XBOX as a toddler when I was about to lose a dance match to my sister, my competitive spirit enraged by its threat toward my victory. Conversely, I recall when, as a child, she literally bit me over a minor disagreement. Thankfully, my wound was not infected, but it was still a pretty traumatizing experience. However, I believe that our rash behavior was simply due to immaturity: neither of us actually hated each other. We were just plain kids, dealing with the mixed emotions sparked by our mysteriously rapid hormonal changes due to puberty, I suppose.
Today, though, I am confident that I can never abandon my sister when she needs me. Sure, we occasionally give each other spiteful remarks depending on our mood, but none of the subtle hatred in those interactions is truly genuine in the long run. As we have matured, we have found peace within one another by ensuring each other’s dependability. We emotionally respond to each other’s needs, strengthening our connection as siblings through a spiritual link I could never acquire with even the dearest of my friends. There is something about the connection that one harnesses with their siblings, not present with my allies, that can only be acquired through years of being raised by the same parents in the same home. I am not saying that one type of relationship is more real than the other, in fact, I find both to be quite beautiful. But the sentimental worth of my friendships can never be quite identical to that of the relationship with my sister.
As the older brother, I always try to be a good role model for my sister. I remind her to study for her SATs, encourage her to ask for her teachers’ assistance when needed, and applaud her for her confidence in taking risks, such as leading a presentation for Girls Take Charge. However, even though I may have more wisdom, I acknowledge that she has crucial knowledge that could help my spirit thrive, too. For example, after I lost my first true friendship, from her own experience of losing one of her own, she helped me to understand that my life should never be defined by others, no matter how real my relationship is, or was, with them.
Our interconnection is a constant presence in my life, which is why I believe that our relationship has so much compassionate depth. Hence, even though my parents pressure me to be the “brave, brainy, and bold” exemplar for her, my sister understands that I cannot be perfect all the time. I always try to improve upon myself so that I can lend a stronger hand to her when she needs it, but even though I am older, I am unafraid to seek her aid whenever I need it. My weaknesses do not intimidate me, instead, they encourage me to become better, even if that means reaching out for her assistance.
As we have grown into adults, we have each faced increasing emotional struggles, most of which were emboldened by the amount of time our family now spends with one another due to the pandemic. Before the pandemic, my sister and I could enjoy increased independence in school, periodically free from the stresses embedded in our house to spend rich time with our friends and teachers instead. Now, though, especially as remote students, there is basically no escape. Every tension sparked within our family is essentially unavoidable. There is no longer the comfort of fleeing from the demands of our parents and toward the open arms of our peers. With little experience combatting familial animosity for an extended duration inside our house, both of us were distressed. For a while, we kept our discontent to ourselves.
But neither of us could handle the emotional load on our own. We need each other.
I have spent ample time during the pandemic relating my personal issues with my sister, as she does with me. By doing so, we have developed an intimacy that is unseen across many of my relationships, with whom I choose to conceal conversation of such difficult topics. Plus, the fact that my sister has direct experience with my problems at home means that she can offer a level of solace that other individuals cannot provide, no matter how hard they lovingly try.
For those reasons, sometimes I wonder how only-childs feel. One of my friends who never had a brother or sister claimed that he loves having all the attention of his parents, fostering a strong bond between them. I find this sentiment to be very endearing, yet I personally would feel exhausted and worn out if my parents focused on me all the time. I abhor being in the spotlight, the center of attention. I need avenues of mental freedom, away from situations with the same people all the time. Especially as an introvert, if my parents dedicated all of their time toward me, my mental health would dwindle, with each second of their everlasting and unwavering focus feeling like a needle pricked into my soul. My sister, however, provides me with an escape. For instance, after hours of stressing with my parents over making decisions about the college I will attend, it was comforting to know that my sister was available for emotional release. Eyes pooled with soft tears, I knew that I could always rely on my sister to use what she knows about dynamics in our family to provide me a remedy particular to my needs. Without her emotional alleviations, my life would be cloudier.
She is an unfaltering rainbow in my life.
I do understand, however, why my aforementioned friend would enjoy spending so much quality time with his parents. I guess it really depends on a person’s fundamental aura, which for me, is emotionally drained when too much attention is devoted toward it. Maybe I feel that way because I never have been able to live like my friend, and perhaps his beliefs can be attributed to his own lack of experience with a sibling. But no matter what he thinks, my sister’s existence defines a large part of my life that I cannot imagine ever changing. I hope that my friend has access to his own sources of emotional release since he cannot find that in a brother or sister, whether that be through his closest friends or even just his cat, Bob.
Even when I venture out to college away from her all the time, my spirit will forever coexist with my sister’s. The raw emotional bond that we have blossomed through years of triumphs and challenges within the same household will never deteriorate, even via distance. I will miss her so much when I leave, but I know that we will not share our final goodbyes anytime soon. Whether it be just after college or 60 years in the future as elders, our connection as siblings is strong enough to face any physical, mental, and emotional barriers that threaten our relationship.
Alone, we can endure. But together, we thrive.