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 + Sex Love

My sister was there for me, even when I wasn’t

Ever since I can remember, my sister has looked out for me. My parents have always been there for me too, but it’s different with my sister.

When I was a senior in high school, I hung out with friends who drank and smoked. I ignored my 11 p.m. curfew, eventually persuaded my parents to push it to midnight, and ignored that too. Even more frequently than my parents, my sister would text me throughout the night asking where I was and when I would be home. None of my friends had curfews, and none of them seemed to have concerned parents, either. While she was wondering about my whereabouts, my friends were wondering what her deal was. Why was my sister so concerned?

She and I look alike, but we’re very different. She’s really preppy, loves shopping, and is a homebody. I’m the opposite; my style’s off, I avoid shopping centers, and I crave adventure. She is extremely caring and shows it by showering all of us with gifts when there’s no occasion, and she keeps constant contact through text and calls (she lives with her husband now). For some reason, I’m uncomfortable with being openly affectionate. I love my family members, but I just have a hard time showing it. Growing up, I followed my sister’s every move. I wanted to dress like her, talk like her, walk like her, the whole nine yards. I even selected my college major in her footsteps. She was perfect in my eyes.

My sister and I have always been extremely close. We each had our own room, but I would spend countless nights “sleeping over” in her room just so we could stay up late, talking and laughing, especially when I went away to college. Then, I only had summers at home, and I remember how much fun we would squeeze into the short summer breaks.

As my college relationships grew stronger, the relationships I had with my family members suffered. I was never very good at initiating conversation with them, but they always remembered to text and call daily. We were always in touch, but I wasn’t the one keeping it up.

After graduating, I dealt with a lot of guilt and anxiety about my relationship with my family. They had given so much to me, never wronged me, and I was barely hanging on to them. I just seemed angry all the time when I was home. I missed my privacy after having so much personal space at school, and I took any kind of negative emotion I felt out on them, because they were always right in front of me. I prayed for patience, but I found myself gritting my teeth and getting frustrated at really stupid things.

I felt my guilt from regrets eating away at me and finally decided to confide in my sister after suppressing the issue for so long. I was surprised by how receptive she was. Opening up to her helped me put the past in the past and reflect on the choices I’ve made. We talked about religion, family life, growing up, marriage, work, and everything in between. Before, I had been so hesitant out of fear of being judged. My family had never judged me in the past, so I was stupid to think that it would be different now. Talking about things really helped me break the ice that had formed while I was away at school and slipped away from our relationship.

My sister is one person who has always been there for me. She was there when I was in high school hanging out with the wrong crowd, and she was there throughout my college career, despite my not returning an ear, and she’s here now, regardless of any foolish decisions I’ve made. She’s the one who pushes me to realize my potential and rid myself of insecurities. She’s one of the strongest people I know. She shrugs her shoulders at things that most people would be preoccupied with, and she makes significant sacrifices for those she cares for.

Some nights ago, we finally watched Frozen together after having waited an agonizing few months since it’s release. (SPOILER ALERT) I had to hide my tears when the younger sister sacrificed herself to save her older sister. It was the act of true love that ended up saving the two of them. The whole movie reminded me of my sister and me, but with reversed roles. I am Elsa, the sister who had isolated herself to hide her shameful secrets. My sister is Anna, the younger one who risked her life time and time again to help her sister and bring her back home.

My sister is my very best friend. She is the person I trust over anyone else, and the only person who really understands me, sometimes even more than I understand myself. Thank you, Samirah, for always being here as my mentor and my friend.