Family Life Stories Life

This is my open letter of apology to my sister

Growing up, I had only a few friends. From the ages of twelve to sixteen, I had a grand total of three people I would talk to and even then, I only felt comfortable messaging one out of these three friends. But, the one consistent person in my life has always been my older sister, someone I owe a big apology to. 

When we were younger, my older sister and I were often called twins – we were so in-sync all the time whether it was sentences, responses, or even emotions. My sister is in fact just under two years older than I am and although she can be a bit up herself for being the older sibling at times, I can’t say I’ve never connected with her even though my sister was always a little more sympathetic to things than I was or even still am; if I shed a tear, she shed a waterfall. 

Exhibit A; I slipped headfirst into the side of the building and got a concussion at school one time in year three and she cried more than I did as she went off to get a teacher who basically told her to calm down because not a single coherent word was coming out of her mouth. Though I had to stay home battling a throbbing headache for the upcoming weeks, my sister would spend her time at school making get well soon cards for me and coming home to just sit with me. 

I remember when she was leaving primary school and on her last day, I was filled with dread because I realized that if I now had a spat with my friends, I couldn’t run off to my sister. She was now going to be somewhere that would require me to climb out of the school gates undetected, crossroads safely and not get kidnapped by the white van that appears to be everywhere. Far too much effort for the kid who barely got off the sofa once she sat down.

I got through that year anyhow and remember my sister giving me a pep talk before my first day of secondary school with the same sentence over and over: “I’m there if you need me.” It got really sour, really fast. 

Although undiagnosed at the time, social anxiety has always been a lifelong struggle of mine and I always took comfort in familiarity in my surroundings. I expressed to my sister how nervous I was about starting school on our walk there and she agreed for both of us to meet during break time in the school canteen. The first day had already been awful for me with the highlight of it realizing that I would be picked on by this one girl for the next five years. Her reason? She thought I was ugly. 

As I sat at a table waiting for my sister, a group of girls from my class walked past me making comments about how ‘ugly’ I was. I became the focal point of their laughter when my sister walked up to me and gave me a hug asking how my first few lessons were. I was suddenly torn between being in my safe space and fitting in – would I have been spared the embarrassment if I didn’t talk to my sister? I didn’t know it wouldn’t matter either way; the class bullies ran with it, teasing me relentlessly for the next five years. 

I got teased for a myriad of things during my time at secondary school, but it was all largely in comparison to me and my sister. She was tall, fairer-skinned (colorism at its finest), pretty, and above all, skinny. It didn’t help that she was also smart so whenever we had the same teachers, I would have to face comparisons by the teachers which would just become more ammunition for the class bullies. One girl in my class spread the rumor that I was adopted because there was no way one sister could be so beautiful and the other one so ugly. Another girl told me that my sister should be embarrassed to have such a fat sibling. The comments only got more demeaning from there.

I took it all out on my sister. I started arguing with her every morning so she would leave for school without me and purposefully get out of class really late so I wouldn’t have to walk home with her. Everything anyone has ever bought me down for, I would blame on her and I made sure she knew it. I bullied my own sister for my insecurities and that is a regret that will haunt me for the rest of my life. I regret my actions especially because my sister is a kind soul who has only ever encouraged me and waited patiently for me to work through any issues I was having.

It wasn’t until I got out of secondary school that I realized how awful I had been to someone who had never been mean to me – we came out of school with an overwrought relationship on my behalf. The road to healing has been long but my sister deserves to know that none of it was her fault and if I could undo it, I would.

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Life Stories Life

I learned that closure is just a social construct

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the concept of closure as it relates to my life, my experiences, and beyond. Perhaps I have too much time on my hands as we’re all in the midst of a global pandemic. However, whatever the reason, I think it’s worth exploring such an ambiguous concept because everyone has felt they needed closure at some point. I’ve been wondering- is the concept of closure even real? Or is closure an illusion humans have created to convince ourselves we have control of time and healing? 

Throughout my four years of young adulthood, I’ve broken off childhood friendships, graduated college amid a global pandemic, and had my formative adult years shaped by racial injustice and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Among all the never-ending civil unrest in addition to managing my ever-changing internal world, I’m trying to find what helps me cope with the intersections of loss and change. I’m also learning what are the best ways to effectively move on.

I think what brought me to examine, or re-examine, closure so closely was completing my degree in May with no commencement to celebrate the accomplishment of finishing school. I struggled throughout college with managing my mental health, especially during my freshman and sophomore years. So much so that I often flirted with the idea of dropping out to relieve myself of the stress and grief. However, semester after semester I stuck it out. Because the silver-lining amid all my strife was always going to be my graduation.

I always thought walking the stage was going to be my moment of closure. Graduation was supposed to close the four-year chapter of my life that represented immaturity, clumsiness, anxiety, doubt, insecurity, etc. and signal me to “move on.” 

Obviously, I didn’t get a graduation due to the pandemic. Consequently, I began to struggle with my mental health again at the beginning of March. Without a graduation, and the closure I thought it would bring, my poor mental health bled into the summer with what seemed to be no end in sight. What I’ve now realized is the idea of an event bringing closure, or closing off a chapter of my life, was a bit ridiculous. I created this illusion in my head to help me cope with undiagnosed depression and anxiety through college. All while never actually coping. Without the illusion of closure, my mental health was still below par because I never properly healed from anything the way I should’ve years ago.

Ultimately, the closest thing to closure is time and space. We often think we need closure to move on, but we just need time. Time to heal. Time to reflect. Time to ourselves in a safe space. What I’m slowly learning is we don’t have as much control over life as we’d like. But that’s not a bad thing.

Sometimes I can’t control my mental health. Sometimes I can’t control when people come and go out of my life. I definitely can’t control the continued injustice that happens in the world around me. I can’t even control time or how long it takes me to heal from trauma. However, I’m actively working on relinquishing the imagined control I thought I had on different aspects of life. Instead, I’m finding comfort in the healing process. Closure may not be real in the way I imagined it, but I’ve experienced so much growth upon simply realizing that fact. And that is enough for me.

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