Lost in Her Shadow
I was born 2 years and 2 days after my older sister Lydia. We were always really close. We had shared birthday parties. We shared a room. We liked all the same things. Adults who knew us marvelled at how well we got along. We were a pair. Where Lydia went, Amilya was sure to follow. When Lydia started dancing at age 3, it opened up a whole new world for her. She’s currently a dance major at Toronto Metropolitan University. When I turned 3, I demanded to dance just like my big sister. The same thing happened with youth soccer, kung fu, horseback riding, and an interest in fashion. Essentially everything I did, I was standing next to Lydia. Unfortunately for me, she leaves a pretty big shadow.
Of course, spending an abundance of time together is not necessarily a bad omen for a sibling relationship. The problem was that we were constantly dealt with as if we were supposed to be each other’s competition. How was I supposed to compete with her? She was mature and gentle, I was an emotional minefield that could pick fights like no one’s business. She liked going to school while I had massive panic attacks and refused to even enter the building. She had long beautiful blonde hair and I had hair that was probably curly but no one knew how to deal with it so it was full of knots and always messy. Lydia wore nice put together outfits while I only wore sweatpants because I hated how jeans felt on my skin. I always felt like I was just a worse version of my sister. She always felt like she had to exceed everyone’s expectations.
For so many years I floundered in her shadow. Who was I if I wasn’t trying to be Lydia? I tried my best to keep my grades up like hers. At dance I tried to copy her every move. The only way I saw myself as valuable was if I was able to beat Lydia in something. I honestly didn’t even have any of my own personality traits. Every action I made was either made to copy something Lydia had done or be purposely opposite to her so that people would take notice of me. Here we were, the sister duo who was supposed to be two peas in a pod, the closest siblings anyone has seen for a long time, and the whole time I was just waiting for her to mess up, to be bad at something so that I could swoop in and be better at it than her.
I think about this time in my life often. Not in a “I wish I could change the past” kind of way. More in a “how can I avoid doing this again” kind of way. I will admit, it got easier to remove myself from my sister’s shadow when we stopped dancing, playing soccer, going to school, and doing countless other activities together. It took me a long time to realise that where I differ from Lydia is where a lot of my strengths lie. I don’t know what caused me to start breaking off from her, what caused me to realise there is light within me instead of staying quiet in her shadow. I guess I just realised I couldn’t stay in that situation for the rest of my life. What good would that do anyone? Now I focus on being myself. I resent how much negativity was fostered between us. I appreciate the things that I have learned from my sister, but her shadow no longer dictates who I am. We will always be close, but now I view us as two sides of one coin. Made from the same material, formed in the same way, but different works of art.
Finding yourself is not an easy task. Especially when you grow up in a competitive environment. It can be hard to separate yourself from the pressures and views being placed on you from outside your control. It’s important to remember that you are your own unique person. You have skills and faults that no one else has. While some may think it is kind of a bummer, I love ths Robertson Davies quote,
“You are certainly unique. Everyone is unique. Nobody has ever suffered quite like you before because nobody has ever been you before. “
Once you stop revelling in the shadows of others and start realising your own strengths, you truly start to become yourself. I love my sister, but now I can love her while standing proudly next to her, instead of cowering behind her shadow.