I know that September 11th has a certain meaning for most people, but I want to divert your attention away from the anniversaries of planned demolitions. This date is also the birthday of many people around the world. I normally don’t publish posts on Sundays, but I thought that the occasion warranted special attention and, well… I have a confession to make.
I have a sister. I know. It’s hard for me to admit it sometimes, but I figured that sooner or later the truth was bound to come out. People’s lives are too exposed online nowadays to be able to successfully keep a secret, and I dread the day that the photos leak showing me with a mischievous grin on my face and a crying toddler screaming next to me.
So, I thought I’d beat my future fans to it and just come out with it. I have a younger sister. This means that I am an older sister. So yes, I have taken part in human torture, but to my defense, I was too young to know it was torture. At the time, it just seemed like good fun.
Being an older sister also means that I’ve heard the words “You’re not my mother!” screamed at me. Sometimes we older sisters get carried away a bit. What starts out as making the cute oompa loompa lookalike your mother has birthed after you do chores for you (Why not? It looks like an oompa loompa, so why can’t it work for you?), slowly turns into you telling your teenage sibling what to do. Eventually the younger sibling rebels and chooses to play with their mobile phone instead of you. Like a mother who is suddenly ignored, the fake mother (or older sister, in this case) feels hurt and forever wants to convince the youngster that she's actually cool. Yes, cool! Cool enough to talk to instead of texting your friends about how your sister is so annoying.
I’ve been there. In my coolness, I’ve stopped telling my sister what to do and just watched from the sidelines, only to complain about her immature behaviour later. Suspecting this sudden coolness to be a ruse, my younger sibling kept her distance, but used my need for her approval to call on me whenever she needed a favour, or money. Or both, since all favours involve money. I imagined her silently smirking after I’d helped her move, sent her the last bit of cash I had lying around in my bank account, and given her clothes that I kind of still wanted to wear. I guess they call it “payback”.
My sister will be graduating from university this year. When she started studying I was jealous. I was jealous because I knew she’d make it in spite of what everyone else was telling her. “Studying Dramatic Arts and Film-Making is a stupid move. You’ll never make money from that!” My sister would reply with a simple “Aha!” then look down at her mobile phone and carry on with life. She had the guts to say, “Stuff all of you, I’m doing this!” She had the courage to move on when people called her selfish and immature, because she knew better. She knew herself better.
My story was different. I did things as was expected of me. I went to school, was always one of the top students in my class, I enrolled for law and studied to become an attorney. It was the rational thing to do. Then I realised I hated law and I started writing. When people questioned me, I trudged on. I thought that, well, if Michelle is doing this, I’m doing it too. Screw the circumstances (and it wasn’t easy for either of us). I thought: “I’m not going to be some crummy attorney wasting my life away in an office, sieving through paperwork and taking part in courtroom manipulation, while my sister does what she loves.” No way! So, I kept up the con for a while, studying law and writing on the side, until I had to pay the university fees myself, and decided not to. Family members spammed my inbox with job offers to become a policewoman, airhostess and other reasonable things, but I checked the delete box before opening these emails. I was going to make it. If that pip-squeak I used to bully was going to make it, then by God, so was I. And I did. I worked hard and now I’m a full-time writer. I earn more than I would have at any of the jobs people suggested for me (including if I became an attorney).
My sister also worked hard and now she’s an actress, filmographer, screenwriter, director, and editor. We’ve worked on children’s stories and scripts together and one day I’ll write the screenplay for a film she’ll be shooting. We’ll work together. Like sisters. After all, we grew up in the same household, inspired by the same things – bedtime stories that my mother read to us, musicals we’d sing along to together, and movies we’d watch with my dad. That was what life was all about! But I forgot, and it took my sister’s decision to pursue her passions to remind me about what was real and true.
My sister also realised other things ahead of me. She saw that my dad’s family were racist and distanced herself from them long before it became obvious that they had only been pretending in order to please my father and grandmother. I lived in a bubble for a little longer, trying to act as “White” as possible in order to gain their approval.
It’s amazing to see how my sister has grown up. She’s one of the few people whom I can confide in the most. I laugh hysterically when I speak to her, because she’s funny and she gets me. We’re living on different continents, but we’re only a phone call or text apart, and we each know that we can depend on the other no matter what.
So, that brings me to the second part of my confession. I have a younger sister, which means I am an older sister. This means that I often tortured this poor soul by telling her what to do. I thought I knew better, but the truth was that she knew better. I was older, yet she was smarter. She got things quicker than I did. Through her determination, she saved us both. So, I wrote this so she’d know. I wrote it so she knows how much I love her, how much I respect her, and how proud I am of her.
For her 23rd birthday, I promise that I won’t tell her what to do anymore; not unless she asks first. Oh, and I also promised her a picture of a chocolate cake I made.
Happy birthday, sis!
P.S. Don't complain, you once gave me an eaten chocolate!
P.P.S. No birthday wish is ever complete without an adequate playlist.