For most of us, having an older sibling means having someone to look up to, go to for advice, or just be there for you when times get tough. For me, it was nothing close to resembling that. When I was born my eldest sister was 16, my brother was 14 and my other sister was 11… sounds great right? I had three older siblings to help guide and protect me when necessary. Well, to be honest, that wasn’t the case at all.
Growing up was very lonely for me because all my older siblings went off to college in NY and I stayed at home in Trinidad with my parents. As a child, like most of us from my generation that watched American TV shows, I grew up on Full House, Family Matters, Home Improvement and Sister Sister. But little did I know, that these shows actually set me up to fail. With my older siblings being far away, I watched these shows and wondered if I was with them would our relationship be somewhat like the children in these tv families. So I began to fantasize about how life would be if I had my sisters and brother around. I began thinking up all of the great and wonderful adventures we would go on. I imagined how much fun it would’ve all been, until the cold hard truth actually hit, and boy did it hit me hard.
After my mum won the green card lottery, my dad requested for my brother to come home and take over his business while me and my parents migrated to the States. Now this is where the fun begins, or at least that’s what I thought. At this time I was about 9 years old, and the idea of getting the chance to finally be around my sisters, and to live with them… to me, that was everything. It was all I could’ve ever wanted or asked for, because I spent a good chunk of my life without them being around. I had no one to talk to, or confide in for the first few formidable years of my life. For a long time I was just alone, and at this very point of my life, I honestly thought that was going to change. However, we don’t always get what we want, and I learnt that what happened in my tv shows wasn’t about to be my reality.
So after few months of being in the States I was beginning to get used to the culture but still not as close as I’d have liked to have been with my sisters. I began reaching out to my sisters for some sort of connection, something that would make me feel closer to them. It was a challenge considering the age differences, but I thought that it shouldn’t matter because we are family, and family sticks together.
We ended up moving to Florida, but because my eldest sister stayed behind in NY, she and I became estranged. Luckily, my other sister and I finally developed a relationship with one another. It was a rocky relationship at first, because every time I tried to trust her with my secrets, she would tell my mum, which obviously caused problems for me. So, for a good chunk of my life I didn’t trust her with my personal issues, but I tried to maintain my relationship with her, because she was always around. Maybe she wasn’t a sister in the way I wished her to be, but at least she was there for me in other ways. She looked out for me, helped my mum with things that I needed when she could, and took me on trips to Disney World, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens, Islands of Adventure, and of course the beach. We also had the occasional road trip to West Palm Beach, because we had cousins living there.
With her being around things were ok, but I could never go to her for advice about friends or boys. I felt as though there was a barrier that I couldn’t cross when it came to our sisterly relationship. So watching her get dressed to go on dates was the closest I ever got to actually talking about anything boy related. I remember when I got my first boyfriend, I needed to talk to someone about all of the issues that I was dealing with. I wanted to much to approach my sister, but I couldn’t. There was never any room for me to discuss this sort of issue with her, it was almost taboo. I felt like I was missing out because of that. I really needed her to be my sister and talk to me. I wanted someone that wasn’t a school mate, but someone older who has been there before; someone who went through all what I was going through, I needed that connection but it just wasn’t there.
Having a more open relationship with her mattered more than I could’ve perceived at such a young age. There were things I wanted to learn and ask that I should have been able to talk to a sister about. My sister wasn’t a friend I could confide in so I had to figure out boys, relationships and everything that life had to throw at me on my own. I wasn’t completely alone, I did have my mum, but during my teenage angst years, I wanted someone who wasn’t my mum to go to for advice. I went through my rebellious years, where things were über confusing for me. Those years were tough, because my sister never tried to reach out. So I was alone in the fight of being a teenager growing up in a culture that made us feel alien.
After a few years passed, I went off to uni in London without ever building that kind of relationship with my sister. It didn’t bother me, until I was faced with an issue that changed my life… I was raped. And in that moment, I needed compassion and understanding. But mostly I needed someone to talk to. I tried reaching out to her and received a very cold response, she then proceeded to call me dramatic and tell me that I should get over myself. I was confused at why, but then eventually learned that after all that time my older siblings, collectively, were talking badly about me behind my back to my mother. So after learning that I closed myself off to the attempt of trying to have her as a friend. I felt as though I didn’t matter to them as much as they did to me.
By learning all of this through my mum, she and I began talking more; and at this point, we grew a lot closer. A relationship developed between us, where I would tell (almost) everything that was going on with me on a very personal level. She’s now my very best friend that I choose to confide in on a regular basis. But after learning that my older siblings were trash talking me to each other and my mum, I grew incredibly distant from them. It didn’t really matter to me, because I was never really close to any of them to begin with, but it did hurt to hear all the awful things they were saying about me to my mum. It was also ironic in a way, because none of them really took the chance to get to know me. They never tried to develop a relationship with me, so to hear what they were saying about me didn’t make sense. They never got to know me.
At the age of 25, I realised that I wanted to have nothing to do with my older siblings. I felt as though they didn’t deserve to be apart of my life at all. So I continued living the way I saw fit, and even though my mum kept telling me whenever they chose to say something mean-spirited I chose not to care. I chose to stay as far away as possible because every time I tried to get close to them, drama happened and at that point in my life, I didn’t need any drama bouncing around in my head. Now, on the brink of being 30, as I begin to look back at the relationships that I’ve had throughout my life, whether romance, friend, or family, I’ve come to the understanding that all the pining I did for a relationship with my siblings just didn’t matter. I understand now that no matter how badly I wanted them to be apart of my life and for us to be close when I was younger, that was never really going to happen. I learnt that people will make the effort to be apart of your life when they want to, and value you.
Written by Candyce Bailey