Kitchen Living Room

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sibling Rivalry

I've never felt a particular affinity to the idea of sibling rivalry. I just never cared much for it. My brother and I are two radically different people in most aspects (except I would say our senses of humor are similar, he might disagree or more likely he wouldn't have an opinion) although I have admired him for various reasons for most of my life. He is outgoing and and straightforward while I am nervous and unsure. He will never lack a friend or an acquaintance who is endlessly intrigued whereas I will grudgingly admit that my phone is not exactly ringing off the hook. Despite this, he gives up where I find a way. My point is that we are different but neither of us is better than the other.

Growing up my brother was particularly successful socially and athletically. I was decidedly unsuccessful socially and athletically. We are both chipped off the same block; we are wiry and tall (although he is much taller than me) and lanky and pale. Despite our similar frames, we never were any good at the same things. He was good at math, I was good at writing. He was good at sports, I was good at computers. I tried to keep up with him, but I didn't have his determination to be the fastest, the strongest, the winner.

I have a distinct memory of standing at our narrow window in the second floor guest bathroom, framed in dark wood with a blue rug at my feet, watching a truck move slowly backwards and forwards across the freshly lain asphalt driveway below. I remember thinking, why are we having this done? For better roller blading? For the cars? Why didn't the asphalt go all the way to the end of the driveway; why was it only at the end near the garage? The garage was already paved. I remember hearing someone say it cost thousands of dollars. That was an unreasonable amount of money; so much money that it wasn't worth contemplating. This was before algebra was a serious part of my life, so there were no calculations to be done on how many weeks of allowance that would be. I couldn't figure it out, so I asked my parents. They wouldn't say why definitively. Weeks later the sound of my brother's basketball hitting the driveway answered my questions. Oh, duh. It's for his basketball practice. So he can get even better at something he already seemed to be the best at, in my eyes anyway. I remember this moment so well, because I remember thinking: I wish I was good at something, something worth investing in.

Years later I saw what would become my basketball. Computers. I'll never forget the huge Dell box lying in the middle of the living room floor. White Styrofoam encasement and one AOL disk away from the internet and all it had to offer. Information. Creative outlets. Friendship. My parents bought the 'family' computer and I was glued to it from the moment I returned home from school at about 3:40 pm to two, sometimes four, in the morning. This was something I never discussed in detail with my parents. I can't imagine that they didn't know. I was their teenage daughter and I was in the family room with the door open, not exactly locked away in a closet, the basement, or my own bedroom. I heard the occasional "Go To Bed." but it was not something they seemed to want to show me they were concerned about, if they were. I paid a price, however. I have only a small handful of friends from high school. I didn't go to prom. I learned a lot of things that I'm sure my old middle school friends could have taught me in a dark movie theatre (see this post). The plus side is that I was safely on the other side of a computer in a locked house. One thing I think parents should know is that your kids are going to learn this stuff one way or another. The only way they won't is if you lock them up, and then you'll go to jail and that will also suck. The bright side is that I never got pregnant, I didn't become addicted to any substance (besides chili-cheese Fritos), and I didn't really date until college.

After high school, which I left a semester early to get started on college, I picked a plan and followed it. I became a computer science major and did not change my mind while so many of my peers took their time to explore. I finished my degree in four and a half years. Today my brother is working towards an undergraduate degree at the same school I went to and is still exercising the freedom to change his mind about his major. He will tell people, "This is my little sister, she's going to school here."  They will ask him if I am a freshman, and he will smile and chuckle sheepishly. He will tell them that I am working towards my MBA and that I'm already done with my first degree. I will smile, awkwardly, because that suits the role that I play beside him. Foolish sidekick. He has the confidence that I crave; I would happily be the freshman following him around, watching him to better learn how to be involved in the world outside my glowing screen.

As far as sibling rivalry, it's not for me. It bothers me when other people compare my brother and me. I have a career, and on an almost daily basis, I have no idea what I'm doing with my life. I have severe anxiety and feelings of indecision. He does not have a career in the common sense of the word, but he knows exactly what he loves to do and excels stupendously at all of his interests and hobbies. And while I watch the Other watching us, I struggle to remember that we are not in a competition, neither of us is better than the other, we are just different.

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