What It Feels Like To Follow Your Siblings

When I was born, everybody was ready. My parents were ready to have their third child. My extended family was ready to assist in any way they could upon hearing another Petty kid was about to be born. My sisters were ready to have a baby brother, the first male sibling they would experience. Friends of my parents were ready to see yet another success story sprout from the ever-prosperous Petty family tree, or so they predicted. Everybody was ready, except for me. The simplicity of this stage in my life didn’t last long, as I would soon find out that being a part of my family was a responsibility as well as just a fact of my life.

There was a time and place when both of my sisters went to school, but I was too young. I spent my hours playing with whatever I could handle, which usually included a ball. It was often lonely, but I had not yet discovered what that word meant at the time. I played and imagined. At this stage, I learned the value of independence and creativity, as I was often playing by myself. The only real way to stay entertained was to create. I created games and imaginary friends and even songs I would sing to myself. Free time was endless, that is if you created it. When bad weather kept me cooped up inside, I would lay around and dream. Yet, I would snap back to reality as I played in my sisters’ room.

Clutter is the wrong way to describe her school work, because it was typically neatly stacked. These provoked my curiosity because I could not yet understand most words written out, but I could figure out numbers. The numbers would jump out to me. Numbers like “100 percent” and “10/10.” I asked about to my parents, and they would tell me that it is the grade she received. That may not have made perfect sense to me, but I gathered that it meant “she was doing really well.” This was only the starting point of a grand realization. I began to understand that my sister was very smart.

She would get home and her tests and quizzes may or may not have been placed on the dinner table for show, but it certainly felt like it to me. Not all her grades were perfect, but I continued to see “10/10,” “100 percent,” “9/10” scores that I thought anyone would be happy with, especially me. I would sit at the kitchen table in hopes of staying on task as my sister would get home from school. I noticed that the conversations she had with my mom were intelligent and often revolved around assignments or plans to complete said assignments. This wasn’t it, however, as I would hear complaints about teachers and unfair project expectations. Yet upon hearing these, no conversation would end without a way to work around an issue or at least method to deal temporarily.

These problem solving skills persay, may have seemed small, but in turn may have made all the difference in the world. Maybe they played a part in her graduating from middle school with the highest Grade Point Average. Maybe they played a part in her membership of the National Honor Society in high school. Maybe they played a part in her four years straight of all A’s on her report cards. Maybe they played a part in her scoring a 34 on the ACT, part of the 98th national percentile, to be exact. Maybe they played a part in why she was selected for the highest position in the Tom Tom, Editor-in-Chief. Maybe they played a part in why she was voted to be the most outstanding female student in her entire grade. Maybe they played a part in why she now attends Bradley University with about ⅓ of her tuition paid for via scholarship. Maybe these things were the outcome of problem solving, but one thing is for sure, and that is that all of her successes are not on accident.

While seeing her successes, I also saw the worth ethic to accompany it. The way in which she would stay on task was unrequited. Her assignments would come before having fun or talking to friends or even having dinner at times. In my eyes, she did everything right. I saw kindness and willingness to sacrifice time in order to get it right, in more than one aspect. And I ultimately saw myself a little confused and possibly jealous.

There was perhaps a stage in my life where I was more insecure than I am today, and that could only feed into the idea that I wanted things that weren’t immediate to my makeup as a person. Nearing the end of middle school I had lost some academic motivation and just wanted what she had, in terms of spotless grades and ways to solve just about anything. For some time it really upset me. I thought life would be so easy if school wasn’t my number one worry. Having the significant rankings of things like test scores would mean I was succeeding, or so I thought.

I wanted these things to better myself, and not to be jealous or upset. Although it wasn’t simple, I eventually had a change of mind that led me to realize that we were separate people and there had to be things that I had that maybe she didn’t. If I could work for what I wanted, maybe it wouldn’t come easily, but I could get what I wanted in some form.

I began to believe in myself and see that I had strengths. My constant love for sports, especially baseball, created a commitment that I would never intend to break. I was always playing and creating, just like I had when I was little. I was free and used my talents to have fun and to try to always improve. I discovered that I loved to write in school, something I wouldn’t confess to myself until I was older. I would write my heart out just as I had put words towards songs I would sing to myself. A thought came to me that I was a big dreamer, a skill that I had learned from the avoidance of boredom. These were the little things that couldn’t be scored that put us apart. A few years ago, I heard my sister say “I wish I could be good at every single sport I tried,” referring to me. Whether or not it was true was unimportant, but instead what it meant. This was a response to a statement of mine that resembled “I wish I was perfect in school,” or something along those lines. My theory of our difference was now proven by a statement of her, a statement I may never forget.

What I have learned from my time following a successful sibling is that we are all different. Also, I decided that it is not wrong to want things that aren’t immediate to you. However, it is wrong to think that having a different makeup is the wrong makeup, and a life is better than your own personal life. I realized that being around success breeds success. The longing for perfection is not a crime, and in turn is better than seeing one’s dear to you fail.