“Oh, are you Abby’s sister?” the teacher asks. “Yes,” I reply, as I brace myself for the same spiel about what an energetic, outgoing student she was, how she was great in the school theatre shows, how she…
I’m sure every younger sibling has experienced this scenario countless times, whether it is repeated by a teacher or another student. My sister Abby and I are three years apart, so we’re far apart enough that we don’t overlap too much in school, but still close enough to have had one year in high school together. Her presence freshman year was comforting and reassuring, but as always, being a younger sibling meant having to deal with comparisons, assumptions and loads of comments.
Now, as a senior myself, it’s interesting to see what similar, yet different paths my sister and I took through high school. I’m co-president of National Honor Society now. She was co-president in her senior year too. I’m also one of the editors-in-chiefs of Common Sense. So was she. It’s pretty funny how we ended up two of the same leadership positions and how I’m essentially taking on the same responsibilities she had three years prior in these clubs.
It’s true that older siblings have to be the trailblazers or “guinea pigs,” carving out their own path through school and experiencing everything first: auditioning for a cappella groups, taking the driver’s license test and applying to college, just to name a few. What classes my sister took and clubs she participated in certainly guided me through my years here. It’s not like I was trying to copy everything she did, but experience was a useful guideline for me to start with coming into high school.
As a younger sibling, teachers and students tend to expect you to be some carbon copy of your older sibling; what your older sibling is like is the initial standard people set for you. People tend to assume that since you both grew up in the same household, you should be the same type of person.
As I’ve gone through school, countless people have noticed how different me and my sister really are, in both personality and interests. Yes, we share a love of theater and the humanities, but we’re also different individuals with unique interests and aspects of our personality. While she chose to devote incredible amounts of time being a part of school theater shows and a cappella, I enjoyed a cappella for a year, but then dropped the class in favor of having another space to take more science classes. I’ve also spent a lot of time being involved with Patriot Ambassadors, which my sister was never a part of.
On the academic side, I also took AP English, math and social studies courses, but opted to take an AP science as well, Latin instead of Spanish, and only one music class in my four years here. Being a younger sibling inevitably comes with living in your older sibling’s shadow, especially in shared environments like school. In my experience, however, I’ve been able to enjoy the perks of observing my sister’s experience while still carving out a path and place of my own.
Although some tend to not acknowledge that a younger sibling is an individual separate from their older sibling, after four years, people typically notice the difference. It can be a little uncomfortable and awkward at times to be constantly associated with an older sibling, but that’s the deal you’re born with. If you’re a younger sibling, I would encourage you to learn from your older sibling’s experiences, but do not feel like you have to live up to what they did or be a part of the same activities. Don’t be afraid to break away from their shadow and go your own way that suits your unique interests and strengths, not theirs.