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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Love Life Stories

Sometimes, I wonder how I would have turned out without my relationship

I have been in a relationship since I was seventeen.

As someone who is nearing 22 with each passing day, thinking about that is slightly ridiculous. Before I met my current partner, who happens to be my first and only partner, I was a child. I didn’t even know what college I wanted to go to. I thought I was so grown-up, but I wasn’t. At all. We grew up together. And now here I am, four years later, just as happy as I was when we started dating. Usually.

[bctt tweet=”As much as I wonder about who I am and how I am defined, I am still happy.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Being in a relationship for the bulk of my truly formative years has been an experience that I went through alone. I am the only one of my friends at my college who still has a high school partner. And at home, my relationship is the only couple left from our high school friend group.

It’s just us.

It’s almost like we’ve become a constant in other people’s lives, not just our own. Our names go together, connected by a quick ‘and.’ C and J, J and C.

[bctt tweet=”It’s almost like we’ve become a constant in other people’s lives, not just our own.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I once had a friend of mine tell me that if my partner and I broke up, they might stop believing in love. Tell me that that doesn’t put a lot of pressure on a person! What if we do break up? Then not only would I feel awful because breakups are never fun (so I’ve heard), but I’d have the added weight of knowing that for a long time, people defined me by my partner, and defined good relationships by us, too.

Being defined like that, it was never in a bad way, or in a way that I am opposed to. Clearly, when you’ve been in a relationship for a while – and especially if you had mutual friends before you started dating – your relationship is just another part of their life. I’ve been in one long enough it’s almost as if “in a relationship” is tattooed on my forehead. And when you’ve had a relationship last from high school to college, it isn’t even just your relationship anymore. Other people have a part in it as well. Or at least, that’s what it feels like to me. They care about the both of you, but their image of your relationship, and who you are as a couple can supersede their image of you both as individuals. They’ve known you as a couple longer than they know you separately, at least in my case. In their eyes, you go together.

I’ve always been a big proponent of no matter what anyone else says, the only two opinions that matter in a relationship are yours and your partner’s. But when people are so used to your relationship that they only know who you are in that relationship, you start to wonder. It isn’t like I’m about to split from my partner; I’m going to stay with them because they make me happy, and I am a better person for having known them. And I do know who I am; being in a long-distance relationship helps with the formation of who you are as an independent individual.

But I still have to question, because that’s who I am. I have to think about the contingencies and the could-have-been’s.

Who would I have been if I wasn’t in a relationship? Would I be a radically different person, or would I be pretty much the same? All my instincts are telling me I wouldn’t be too different. But maybe I would have been more outgoing, gone to parties I never felt I belonged at. Or maybe I would have stayed as lonely as I was in high school, a hopeless romantic fixated on an idea of love I can’t quite get a grasp on. But who knows? And who can know? If anyone has goggles to see an alternate timeline, lend them to me. That would be awesome.

[bctt tweet=”If anyone has goggles to see an alternate timeline, lend them to me.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Or don’t. As much as I wonder about who I am and how I am defined and who I could have been, I am happy. I love my partner unconditionally. The way they support me and help me find where I am meant to be going in life is incredible. And I like to think I make them pretty happy, too. Even though I wonder about what could have been, to me, our love is what matters.

To me, that is enough.

Love Life Stories

This is the real secret to becoming successful in life

From a young age, American children are indoctrinated with the “American Dream.”

If you work hard, play by the rules, and do all the right things, you’ll be successful. American children are also prescribed a very strict path to success: complete high school, go to college (preferably a college whose name is known and well respected), get a ‘good job’ (increasingly defined as a job in tech, finance, medicine, or law instead of human services or the trades), work hard at your ‘good job’, and get promoted.

I bought the ideas of success America was selling when I was in college.

I’d graduated from high school and gone to a relatively good college like I was supposed to, but until my sophomore year I held on to the idea that I was going to do my own things, pursue my passions. I majored in Religion and Early Childhood Education.

I changed my majors with my whim, convinced that I wouldn’t follow the narrow path that had been laid out.

[bctt tweet=”I bought the ideas of success America was selling when I was in college. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

I was a non-traditional student for most of my college career. I worked full time, mostly in retail or service jobs, and took three or four classes at a time on the side. I began to care about work more than I cared about college. I realized I had a natural knack for business and management.

I began to realize that if I switched my major to business I would make a lot more money in the future and then maybe I could finally get a foothold in this world.

When I was 20, I got hired as an account manager at a tech startup.

The job came with a sizable starting salary. I went from borderline poverty to what I considered rich in a matter of weeks.

I was immediately seduced by the lifestyle. I loved high pressure, high-stress situations, and I was never shy about working hard to achieve a goal, so I fit right in with the tech industry. I loved the energy and camaraderie that comes with a startup, and I soon distinguished myself as an employee who was willing to come early, stay late, and do just about anything for the company.

[bctt tweet=”I felt like I had finally achieved the ‘success’ I was sold.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I was also seduced by the salary.

I bought all the gadgets and toys I wanted. I traveled as much and as often as I wanted. I went out to eat all the time. I lavished my friends with gifts. I felt like I had finally achieved the ‘success’ I was sold.

I continued to excel at that startup and was promoted multiple times. My salary continued to rise with each promotion. I set my sights on one title: Technical Project Manager. I had started at the company young and I desperately wanted to be the youngest Technical Project Manager at the company. The title and the prestige held some kind of magic in my mind. If I could just get there, I’d finally have everything.

The truth that all the money and the ‘success’ allowed me to ignore was that I was miserable.

I was working 50+ hour weeks. I wasn’t sleeping very well. I was battling a chronic illness and not getting any better. I was constantly stressed and it was coming out in my relationship. But I kept telling myself that if I could just get that title, youngest Technical Project Manager at the company, I would finally be okay.

Then it happened.

I got the promotion. I had the title. To my shock and dismay, nothing changed. For the whole year that I had that title, I went home and cried every single day.

I finally decided that I couldn’t do it anymore.

I spoke to a beloved mentor and she said to me, “What would make your heart sing? What would make you wake up without an alarm clock? Your work can either pay for your passion or it can be your passion.”

I hadn’t thought about doing anything I loved for work since early college, which was almost eight years ago at that point. I thought about it a lot and decided that I wanted to go into childcare.

When I announced that I was quitting my lucrative career in tech to become a nanny I faced a lot of opposition. People stopped just short of calling me an idiot, but I saw it in their eyes.

I was terrified, but I also knew I couldn’t be miserable anymore.

For a year and a half, I worked with two different families, helping them raise their children.

It was a hard job, but I was finally happy. I got to play all day, go to playgroups, read lots of books, and help these children learn. I loved them dearly. I woke up each day excited to go to my job, which hadn’t happened in years. I wasn’t making a lot of money, but I was making enough to make ends meet. And while the children napped, I started writing again.

I started the blog that led to my first publication on xoJane, which led to this fellowship at The Tempest.

Today, I’m no longer nannying, but I’m still pursuing my passions as work. I teach kids to snowboard at an amazing ski resort. I’m writing full-time for The Tempest. I’m making the least amount of money I ever have, but I am the happiest I have ever been.

Since I quit that tech startup, there have been plenty of times where I struggled with the concept of “success.” I spent a lot of time telling myself to stop screwing around and “get a real job.” I berated myself for being almost 30 and working at a job with teenagers.

The negativity would take over my brain and I would tell myself that I had given up the ‘successful life’ to be poor and irresponsible.

Through talking to many close friends, I eventually came to realize that all these negative thoughts and feelings stemmed from the fact that I was still basing my ideas of ‘success’ on what the American Dream had sold me so many years before.

If I just changed my definition of success then maybe I was already successful.

[bctt tweet=”I am infinitely happier than I ever was at that tech startup.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Today, success means waking up and writing before I head to work at the resort.

Success means getting a kid on the chairlift for the first time and watching them fly down the mountain. Success is hitting publish on an article I worked hard to create. Success is coming home and having a good night with my husband that isn’t tainted by the stress of unfinished work from the day.

Am I rich? Heck no. Do I have all the material things I could want? Definitely not. But I am infinitely happier than I ever was at that tech startup.

I am pursuing my passions and having fun on a daily basis.

I have rejected society’s definition of success and I’ve made my own.

Love Life Stories

When I found that first gray hair down THERE, everything changed

A few weeks before my thirty-sixth birthday, I woke up as usual, at 6:00 am. It was a beautiful sunny Saturday morning, mid June. Sitting on the toilet and contemplating the day ahead, I looked down and there it was, a gray pubic hair. Instinctively, I shouted at my crotch, “Nooooo! This can’t be happening.”

[bctt tweet=”I shouted at my crotch, Nooooo! This can’t be happening.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I enjoy aging, like a good piece of cheese. I grow wiser, more confident, and more comfortable with who I am. Yet I hate the notion of growing old. I always joke that I have an old soul, however, in my heart of hearts I know that I am an eternal six year old, who loves jelly beans and wears her hair in pigtails.

Any sign of old age freaks me out, because I can’t reconcile the physical manifestation of my aging body with how I feel on the inside.

I was in the fifth grade when the idea of elderliness first dawned on me. Meeting my best friends during recess, I kept telling them, “we’re in the FIFTH grade! I can’t believe that we are in the fifth grade. This is so huge.” In the feeble mind of an eleven year old girl, the fifth grade somehow amounted to the threshold of adulthood. It marked a point of no return, where all innocence was lost amidst the hardship of life.

As the years passed, I didn’t put much thought into aging. I didn’t mind the additional burdens that came with each birthday. I became more independent when I went to college. I relished my responsibilities as a professional. But I didn’t take care of my body. I ate whatever food was at hand, mostly takeout. I didn’t have time to exercise as I kept 14-hour workdays and dedicated my weekends to post graduate school. By the time I was 29, I had achieved everything I set out to achieve, and then I hit thirty.

[bctt tweet=”A good day for me, in my early thirties, meant having regular bowel movements.” username=”wearethetempest”]

That was the beginning of the end. All of a sudden, my poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyle caught up with me. I went up three dress sizes. I had agonizing back and neck pains that put me out of commission for days at a time. I was blind without my glasses. I couldn’t eat red meat or fried food without getting indigestion. A good day for me, in my early thirties, meant having regular bowel movements. But that wasn’t the worst of it. I became an insomniac. I’d lay in bed all night, staring at the ceiling, as weariness of my limbs penetrated to my mind.

Dog Time
Dog Time

I was at a cross-road in my life, and both ways led to a dead-end. I couldn’t muster up any motivation neither professionally or socially. I decided to resign my job and wander aimlessly. I’d wake up in the morning, as my mother and brother were getting ready for work, all smiles and upbeat.

I couldn’t tell anyone what I was going through because I was ashamed of my melancholy. But when I was alone, I’d sit on the couch and cry until I could cry no more.

[bctt tweet=”I couldn’t tell anyone what I was going through because I was ashamed.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Once I gave myself allowance to be sad without judgment, I started to heal. I acknowledged my negative feelings, I faced them. Then, I focused my attention on my physical and mental wellbeing. I thoroughly examined myself, and learned how to be proud of my strengths and accept my weaknesses. I started a new job and decided to pursue happiness, instead of chasing a career. I was able to carve out a new life from the remnants of my old one.


I’ve just turned forty a couple of months ago. The new decade brings along new ailments. Each wrinkle fills my heart with dread. I feel that my body is conspiring against me.

Now, that I’ve finally learned how to enjoy life, my body is getting in the way. It’s becoming a hindrance. I can no longer read for hours on end without getting glass-burns (red irritation marks on my nose where my glasses rest). I can barely walk up a flight of stairs without taking a moment to catch my breathe. I can’t be outside without sunblock. But it’s okay, because I realize that all of this is part of the growing process.

[bctt tweet=”I allow myself, a perpetual silly old fart, to be the person I am without loathing.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Now, when I find a gray hair, I remind myself to embrace happiness where ever it may be. I allow myself to laugh without the concern of crowfeet. I allow myself, a perpetual silly old fart with a decaying molecular structure, to be the person I am without loathing or judgement.