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Sister, sister: the bigger the better?

When my two sisters and I were younger, our rivalry was all about who ran to the car first, who finished her dinner first, who climbed into bed first. But as we grew up, “first” was replaced by “best,” and now, it is the awards for which we compete. Though Ashley at 11 has not yet entered our race, 13-year-old Tiffany has already edged past me in many different ways.

Our tangle began with music and writing, two activities we both discovered around the same time. Her poetry was what kicked off the rivalry. She has always been a writer, but when she showed me a poem she wrote for a contest, I was floored. She had a talent for creating images in your head while mastering prose and fluency all at once. I’d tried my hand at poetry before but had not succeeded, and it was slightly discomforting to witness my sister’s superiority.

Soon, the tortoise seemed to surpass the hare in musical talents as well. One day, Tiffany stopped by my room as I was practicing a new piece. “Kreisler? I thought it sounded familiar.” Turns out, she’d already mastered the music I was just beginning to learn.

My parents had high aspirations for my sister; they wanted her to have the best teacher, orchestra and performances. They were content with me just getting by, and somehow, that made it even worse, as if they didn’t expect me to go above and beyond and succeed. But their intentions were never to provoke or sadden, so my jealousy reflected badly within the family, and rightfully so. I wanted to be the best in their eyes, and now that my sister was catching up, I was pea green with envy. In hindsight, it was unfair to my sister and to me, since I should have been focusing on my own strengths instead of pining after hers.

I finally realized the extent of my jealousy while on vacation in Sea Ranch, when Tiffany and I decided to take a dip in the spa. Lighthearted teasing soon developed into a deep, heart-baring conversation. Then, Tiffany quietly told me, “I’m not trying to best you. I want to be as good as you, too,” and immediately, I felt like the villain. Here I was, pitying my selfish self while my sister was having just as hard a time living up to expectations. At the end of that talk, we promised each other we’d work hard to be all we could be in our respective areas of strength.

Because of the competition aspect, our relationship has grown. Since pressure never strays far from our minds, the sweet, uncompetitive moments we share have become that much more precious. When we scare our youngest sister together, dance crazily to John Newman’s “Love Me Again” and tickle our dog to death—these are the moments I treasure the most. It sounds sappy, but our rivalry showed me that what I need to focus on isn’t whether I’m better at writing or more talented in music; it’s whether we’re smiling together or laughing with each other.

At the end of the day, I’m okay with the sibling rivalry in my family. Not only does it give me incentive to push myself and tackle on challenges, but it also gives me an appreciation for the sisterly interactions in which we engage when competition is completely out of our minds. Our paths will diverge as we delve more into our individual interests, and sometimes I can’t wait for the competition to fade, but I know it has helped me love all that we do, no matter what we win or lose.

Ultimately, I’ll be proud of all that they achieve, but I’ll always be most proud of being able to call them both my sisters.

 

—Chen, a sophomore, is a reporter.

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