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Emerging from the Shadows
She stands a staggering 5 feet 2 inches tall, weighs a massive 95 pounds, and has short, brown hair and brown eyes. I see my older sister Leslie. Others see a model of perfection. Don't get me wrong, my sister and I are close and have been inseparable since birth. My mother has kept pictures of us ranging from the time we shared a playpen as babies to just recently at Leslie's graduation. For seventeen years, we've shared every life experience imaginable, and we've dealt with the trials and tribulations that come with growing up. But in September, she left home to attend the University of California at Irvine, leaving me to face life alone. However, it gave me the opportunity to live life by myself as Ryan, instead of Leslie's little brother.
Since the beginning, I have gone to the same school as Leslie, and almost every year I got stuck with a teacher that she had had the previous year. Being only eleven months younger than my sibling made the memory of Leslie, being the bright student that she is, easier for my teachers to recall. Every September for eleven years I was greeted by all of my teachers with the same "Oh you're Leslie's little brother." This was really no big deal. The following year, my fifth grade teacher said to me, "Oh you're Leslie's little brother?" This normally did not faze me since it happened to me several times before with different people, but on this occasion, it was the same person. This upset me a little.
At first this association with my scholarly sister did not bother me too much. If anything I found it beneficial because I believed that it would help me build relationships with my teachers. But with each passing year, the little comments and remarks literally ate away at my identity. Comments like "You did good, but Leslie got a better grade last year," can easily destroy a child's self-esteem. As I became older, I started believing that I was not growing up as myself, but rather as the product of someone else. It almost made me happy to see older teachers leave and others take their place. Unfortunately, school made up only half of the problem.
The other half occurred in the one place where it really should not but often did: at home.
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It took a lot of time and many tears finally to realize that I had wasted my time on such a trivial thought. Last year as Leslie filled out college applications, everything suddenly clicked. I realized that she was planning for her future, a new life by herself. I realized that everything that happened to me was irrelevant and that, if anything, it can make me stronger rather than hinder my chances for success. Her departure for college gave me the opportunity to live up to my own standards instead of hers. I was sixteen years old...I had just started my life.
I could easily say that I will always resent my sister for everything she has put me through, but I won't. If it weren't for her, I probably would not have had the revelation that I did that one fall evening. In a way, she toughened me up both intellectually and emotionally.
What started out as a burden in my life ended up defining it.