How my siblings shaped my many adolescences

How my siblings shaped my many adolescences

Having three older siblings means growing up three different ways

It’s true what they say: the holidays get more somber as you grow older. I have started to accept that as a general rule, times will get stranger and lonelier. This year felt particularly the case, with the decade closing as we celebrate with listicles and Twitter games. In my own life, I have reached the end of an era, with my teens officially over, and siblings now dispersed between new street addresses and new continents. It’ll be the first holiday with incomplete attendance, and the last we’ll spend in my childhood home.

(Until someone goes and decides to have kids. Now I understand why gay people in their 20s care so much about Halloween.) 

As lucky as I am to go so long before it happened, I can’t help but mourn these changes. Even though my siblings have been living away from me since I was 17, it’s hitting me even harder at 20. Gone are the older kids who raised me, with one freshly moved to Portland, and another happily married in New York. Two of us still remain in Manila, seeing each other as much as school and work allow. 

 

It’s hard to imagine for myself, but I’m almost all grown up now, this time for real. It feels like I’ve had so many trial runs, what with watching three other people go through it — but I gotta admit, I still feel pretty unprepared.

 

It’s hard to imagine for myself, but I’m almost all grown up now, this time for real. It feels like I’ve had so many trial runs, what with watching three other people go through it — but I gotta admit, I still feel pretty unprepared.

I remember what it felt like to wonder about young adulthood from afar. Who was I going to be? As my siblings went through adolescence, I tried to walk in these footsteps much bigger than mine. I was once the five-year-old peering over my brother’s shoulder as he played video games. When he played Death Cab for Cutie from a burned CD and he flipped through MTV magazines, that was the moment I knew one day I wanted to be cool. At the time all I thought it took was to put on a pair of shades like a cartoon character, but didn’t understand why everyone laughed when I did. 

I was eight when I first had a picture of rebellion. My eldest sister who had just taught me how to draw, even though there was no way parents would let us take art in college, had just graduated high school. It was the emo era. I copied her every move as if I could understand every layer of melodrama in what she read and listened to. I witnessed her agonize over young romance, the future, her place in the world while I simply wished more people took me seriously. Me, dressed like the protagonist of every Wattpad fan fiction, in my black Converse shoes and hoodie rolled up to my elbows, wanting something better for myself, and not knowing what that was just yet. 

When I was 11, my second eldest sister met her first boyfriend. I tried to imagine the idea of having a love for myself. We had just gotten closer after having a strained relationship, coming to the understanding that we’d have to stick together to make it out of this house alive. It was at this point where I became familiar with the term “authenticity,” a buzzword of sorts for a Catholic girls’ school. We were both in search of it, craving any sense of self-determination. We both wanted to grow up so badly, and then we did.

 

I am now living the life I had witnessed thrice over, though I wish I had picked up thrice the wisdom to go through it.

 

I am now living the life I had witnessed thrice over, though I wish I had picked up thrice the wisdom to go through it. Still, watching my siblings grow up has left me with a lot of handy things, like the nostalgic pop-culture fixations that fuel most of my writing, and the ability to navigate social situations with people above the age of 25. Most of all, I’m followed by a sense of deja vu in all of my first experiences. 

I feel more at ease this way. Every heartbreak, failing grade, and social blunder isn’t going to kill me, as much as it feels like they almost do. I go through life with a sense of lightness knowing if they lived through this, I can do it too.

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