Appreciating your siblings more as an adult

Graphic by Alan Li

My relationship with my older sister has never been perfect. It was a bit of a rollercoaster when we were young, but since I’ve progressed into adulthood, I’ve realized quite a few things about this relationship.

We often neglect or ignore sibling relationships when we transition from children into teenagers and then into adults, instead choosing to focus on our own lives. It’s easier to ignore any problems when you don’t see them every day and aren’t forced to confront any underlying issues.

However, my experiences have left me with a newfound perspective on the importance of this type of familial bond.

Children of divorced parents are often left without a proper outlet of emotional support and guidance during their formative years and, to put it simply, we weren’t blessed with the most stable family environment either.

I’m very lucky to have had my sister during this period though, as she took on the role of my guardian and mentor for many years and helped me through a large part of my early education.

From elementary school onwards, I was a typical shit disturbing, immature boy who evolved into a moody teenager that hated the world and wasted his potential. My sister was the complete opposite. Incredibly ambitious, hard-working and she excelled in school.

In the same way that we look to our parents like they’re superheroes when we’re young, I looked up to her.

When she got her driver’s license, she would be the one driving me to doctor’s appointments or a friend’s house.

If I ever wanted to play video games with her, she’d always be Player Two. We’d tease each other, but it would be friendly banter, never anything malicious

It took us both going through our own separate sets of challenges for us to work out our issues like the adults we are and realize that we can be friends – especially now that we aren’t forced to live under the same roof, where we both felt the same ridiculous expectations were placed upon us.

I’m not sure when the shift between us happened. High school was a dark time and I became more secluded, angry and isolated. I started regarding her with less admiration and more resentment.

I felt as though I had to compete with her more than anything. She was, in all respects at that time, far exceeding the expectations of our parents, whereas I was merely coasting along.

It didn’t help that we were essentially pitted against each other by them, encouraged to be better than the other constantly. It made for a confusing time: each of us feeling the need to rival each other, without knowing what it was really doing to us.

Living in the shadow of an older sibling is something that I think can be common and it felt nearly impossible to measure up to the standards she seemed to set so effortlessly.

We used to argue constantly and getting along with or understanding each other as we got older became an increasingly difficult task. It took a lot of self-reflection and effort on my part for me to grow out of the jaded mindset that I used to have and realize that we are much more similar than I ever wanted to admit.

It took us both going through our own separate sets of challenges for us to work out our issues like the adults we are and realize that we can be friends – especially now that we aren’t forced to live under the same roof, where we both felt the same ridiculous expectations were placed upon us.

It’s a relationship that I’ve learned to value more than I ever thought I would and I’m thankful that I’m mature enough now to realize that it’ll always take some work, but that it’s worth it in the long run.

We’re both flawed like anyone else, but I’m proud to be her brother and I’m happy to have the opportunity to live my life with the family member I always cared about most. Especially considering how she now plays the more natural role of my sister – and my friend.

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