We’ve all heard of sibling rivalry, but not everyone has experienced something quite like the relationship I’ve developed with my sister. As a kid, I hated my sister, most of the time to the point of explosive arguments that generally escalated to violence. Growing up with her was like World War III in our house where everything was a fight. It was like in Sarah Vowell’s essay “Shooting Dad” when she writes “…we were incapable of having a conversation that didn’t end in an argument.” It wasn’t until I was about fifteen that I realized how much she had already helped me, and not until I was eighteen that I noticed that she had been an extremely significant influence on my life. My sister Samantha always has been and always will be my greatest inspiration in life, but she’ll never know that.
Sam is a very artistic person, in every possible way. She is an amazing painter and sketch artist; we even have some of her framed works hanging in our house. She’s been interested in music since she was very young. In junior high she wanted to play the flute, this tiny silver tube that requires an awkward mouth position and small lips to produce any sound. Her music instructor took one look at Sam, with her almost swollen-looking lips, and said, “How about you play the tuba?” Sam being very sure of herself at eleven years old, she picked up the flute anyway and started playing. Just a year later she was in the school’s prestigious Wind Ensemble that was invited to New York City to perform. Sam’s greatest love is dance; she loves all forms of dance, but her main focus was classical ballet for most of her life. Watching her perform would bring tears to my eyes every time. She trained in what we called, “hard-core technical classical ballet” from the time she was three years old until she was eighteen. After high school she decided to branch out and explore other forms of dance, such as modern and lyrical. Her intense passion for dancing is undeniable. I can see it in the way she seems to waltz herself across a room or even in the way she cooks dinner; there is the beautiful fluidity of dance in everything she does.
I’ve wanted to be just like my big sister since I was two years old and I followed her into my very first ballet class. Technically we’re not allowed to start ballet until we’re three years old, but no one seemed to be worried about me, Little Samantha. Sam was a beautiful and promising dancer, even then, at five years old. Our instructors thought that if I was anything like her that I wasn’t too young to start ballet.
She was the pretty one and I hated her. For as long as I can remember she’s been told that she was the most beautiful girl in the room. She had long, wavy hair that always seemed to be perfectly styled, even if she had just rolled out of bed. She had these huge lips that I used to tease her about. I’d say that they looked like she had been stung by a bee, but I was just jealous. Sam was tall, thin, and the perfect pretty princess; I loathed her while actually worshipping the ground she walked on. Little Samantha, that was my name most days. I pretended to be offended by the nickname, but in all honesty, I was proud, honored even, to be compared to her.
She was in the school band in middle school, so I joined the school band in middle school. It went on like that, I would do everything she had done at my age, until high school. I complained a lot about how much I didn’t want to be like her while secretly loving every minute of it.
My sister has taught me many things, but by far the most important was how to experience and, if needed, overcome my emotions. When I was nine, our parents got divorced. The year that followed was, undoubtedly, the hardest year of my life. Samantha was thirteen at the time; far too young to be in the position of responsibility forced upon her that year. She was my rock then, she was my emotional support and my only stability. She taught me that my feelings were valid and how to feel these emotions in a healthy way.
During my high school years was when my sister had the most impact on shaping my life. Puberty had an abnormal effect on me. For most girls puberty is an overemotional time full of tears and heartbreak. Conversely, I became unemotional, rude, and sometimes blatantly mean without intending to be. Sam, very successfully, guided me through this obstacle. She is a very empathetic person, sometimes to the point of being overly-sensitive. However, this annoying trait of hers came to be very helpful to me, because I was becoming insensitive. She taught me how to consider other people’s emotions before speaking or acting. Of course, thinking of the consequences of ones actions or words is something most teenagers learn, or should learn, during high school. Sam taught me something beyond this lesson though; she taught me to considering someone’s feelings. Luckily, I’ve grown out of the perpetual indifference I experienced during my adolescence. However, this lesson is one I still use every day. Because of Sam, I’ve been able to form meaningful professional and personal relationships that have contributed to my success.
In Junot Diaz’s essay “The Dreamer” he writes, “…but I do believe that who I am as an artist, everything that I’ve ever written, was possible because a seven-year-old girl up in the hills of Azua knelt before a puddle, found courage in herself and drank.” Diaz was attributing all of his success and accomplishments, as a person and as a writer, to his mother and her courage as a young girl. Similarly, I attribute much of who I am to my sister, Samantha. Her empathetic tendencies came to my rescue while I was in high school and I couldn’t be more grateful to her. Sam’s subtle strength and overwhelming sensitivity walked me through some of the hardest times of my life.
I’ve grown to love and genuinely respect Samantha not just as my sister, but also as a person. She took on the “role-model” title and went above and beyond to help me become an independent person and not dependent on her. Still, our deep-seated sibling rivalry will, most likely, always prevent me from being able to tell her the truth about how much she has positively shaped my life. I cannot deny that the perfect pretty princess, the prima ballerina, in all her glory, will forever be the greatest influence on my life.