In the Lewis Carroll classic, his infamous character Alice peers into a mirror and is able to see and experience an alternate reality. This is a fitting analogy for how I think about my sister and our relationship for multiple reasons. First, Stephanie has had a fascination with “Alice in Wonderland” her entire life, so the Carroll reference is fitting. More importantly though, it is also representative of how I see our lives. I often think of Stephanie as my female, able-bodied doppelganger. Sometimes when I talk to her about her life, I feel like I get a glimpse of what my life would have been like without my disability.
Stephanie and I, although we are very different people as adults, are actually extremely similar in a lot of ways. The objective, critical way of thinking we have and the inner drive we both possess are almost identical. We both are students of life and want to learn as much as possible. We both possess this burning drive to help people, and we want our lives and the work we do to mean something. That stubborn streak I have mentioned in previous posts is also a gift we both share. These are just a few of numerous personality traits that we have in common, and even though we have used them in different capacities and ended up in different places, these similarities make us see the world in much the same way.
You would think that being as similar as we are that we would have gotten along growing up, but this was not exactly the case. We were amicable and such, but we did argue a fair amount when we were in high school. Now, we always have loved each other, and we even liked each other some of the time, but we could definitely rub each other the wrong way. I thought she was moody and overly emotional (like every teenage girl), and I am guessing she thought I was an arrogant, ass (because I was). This, coupled with the fact that we both refused to back down or admit we were wrong, caused us to fight on a regular basis. It was only after we both had gone off to college and grown up, that we really connected.
Now that Stephanie and I are both adults, we are extremely close, and we talk at least once a week in some capacity to keep up on each other’s lives even though we live over 500 miles apart. We have one of those wonderful sibling relationships where, even though you only see each other twice a year, when you get together the conversation picks up like you saw them yesterday. Neither of us are the type to turn to others to talk about our problems, but I am happy to say that of the few people we would confide in, she makes my short list and I would guess I’m on hers. This is because even though our life experiences have caused us to be very different people with very divergent opinions most of the time, we both acknowledge the other’s ability to listen empathically, think critically yet objectively, and give our honest opinion. We have a huge amount of respect and trust in each other, because we are wired so similarly. Much like my relationship with my brother, I am extremely lucky, fortunate, and proud to have this kind of connection with my big sister, especially considering how far apart we are from one another.
I am always reminded of how close we are, and how much she cares about me, when we get together as a family at the Holidays. Every year all 5 of us get together for a week or so to celebrate Christmas and such. So that we can have some real “family time,” and also so that my nurses can be with their families, I don’t have around the clock nursing care during this time. As a result, my family has to take care of me. Everyone helps out with this, and the responsibilities are spread around, but Stephanie is always ready and willing to assist me. When she assists me, I never get the sense that she is annoyed or tired of helping me. I cannot explain how much of a difference that makes to me, and how good it makes me feel. I hate having to bother and interrupt people to get assistance with something, especially when I know they would rather not do it. It can be very emotionally draining to know you are creating work for your loved ones, and there is no way around it. The way Stephanie always seems open to giving me assistance, is something that I truly appreciate and value every time we get together.
These congruencies between us in how our minds work causes me to wonder sometimes if my life would be similar to hers if my physical situation were different. Could I have studied abroad for a semester on scholarship? Could I have gotten internships with big companies during the summer? Could I live in New York City, using public transportation, live in a walk-up, and enjoy the exciting experiences that come with being young in the big city? Would I have been able to go through medical school (law school for her)? There is no way to know, and even though I love the life I have created for myself, it is fun to think about what could have been from time to time.
Some of you may read this and get the impression that I am envious of her life, but that is not at all how I feel, and I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. Like I said, I am happy and would not trade my life for anything. I feel like I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. I am also so proud of Stephanie and all of her success. She is an independent woman, almost done with law school, is a good person, and has achieved balance between her personal and professional lives. In addition, the respect and admiration that she has for me and what I am doing through Roll Models, reminds me of how great my life is, and when you are happy, content, and doing work you are passionate about, it is hard to be envious of any other life. So, even though I wonder occasionally what my life could have been like, I only think about it as a fun little daydream, not in a way that is at all envious or resentful.
I am so proud of Stephanie and the amazing, confident woman she has become. I know that she is destined to do great things, and I cannot wait to watch her do it. In the meantime, I am content to enjoy the close, loving relationship between us. I recently found out that she is coming out to visit this spring, and I cannot wait for just the two of us to spend some quality time together, as this is such a rare thing between adult siblings. As I watch her graduate from law school and pass the bar this summer, as I beam with happiness and pride, I will also take a few moments to wonder if my life would be similar if things were different. In the end though, I will just be happy that we both are leading the happy, successful lives we have worked so hard for, and that is enough for me.