Emerging from the Shadows

She stands a staggering 5 feet 2 inches tall, weighs a massive 95 pounds,
and has short, brown hair and brown eyes. I see my older sister Leslie.
Others see a model of perfection. Don\'t get me wrong, my sister and I are
close and have been inseparable since birth. My mother has kept pictures
of us ranging from the time we shared a playpen as babies to just recently
at Leslie\'s graduation. For seventeen years, we\'ve shared every life
experience imaginable, and we\'ve dealt with the trials and tribulations
that come with growing up. But in September, she left home to attend the
University of California at Irvine, leaving me to face life alone.
However, it gave me the opportunity to live life by myself as Ryan, instead of Leslie\'s little brother.

Since the beginning, I have gone to the same school as Leslie, and almost
every year I got stuck with a teacher that she had had the previous year.
Being only eleven months younger than my sibling made the memory of
Leslie, being the bright student that she is, easier for my teachers to
recall. Every September for eleven years I was greeted by all of my
teachers with the same "Oh you\'re Leslie\'s little brother." This was
really no big deal. The following year, my fifth grade teacher said to
me, "Oh you\'re Leslie\'s little brother?" This normally did not faze me
since it happened to me several times before with different people, but
on this occasion, it was the same person. This upset me a little.

At first this association with my scholarly sister did not bother
me too much. If anything I found it beneficial because I believed that
it would help me build relationships with my teachers. But with each
passing year, the little comments and remarks literally ate away at my
identity. Comments like "You did good, but Leslie got a better grade
last year," can easily destroy a child\'s self-esteem. As I became older,
I started believing that I was not growing up as myself, but rather as
the product of someone else. It almost made me happy to see older
teachers leave and others take their place. Unfortunately, school made
up only half of the problem.

The other half occurred in the one place where it really should
not but often did: at home. What really personally offended me were the
comparisons made by my parents after every straight A report card,
MVP trophy, award or honor at graduation, or picture in the newspaper.
Seeing this, I tried my hardest to do well and earn the praise of my
parents, but what frustrated me the most was that no matter how hard I
tried, I always ended up on the short end of the stick.

It took a lot of time and many tears finally to realize that I had wasted
my time on such a trivial thought. Last year as Leslie filled out college
applications, everything suddenly clicked. I realized that she was
planning for her future, a new life by herself. I realized that everything
that happened to me was irrelevant and that, if anything, it can make me
stronger rather than hinder my chances for success. Her departure for
college gave me the opportunity to live up to my own standards instead of
hers. I was sixteen years old…I had just started my life.

I could easily say that I will always resent my sister for everything she has put me through, but I won\'t. If it weren\'t for her, I probably would not have had the revelation that I did that one fall evening. In a way, she toughened me up both intellectually and emotionally.
What started out as a burden in my life ended up defining it.