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September 25, 2010

(I thought I had published this years ago, but I couldn’t find it.  If I have, please tell me, but otherwise, I’ve reworked it slightly and decided to publish it.)

My sister , S, and I weren’t very close growing up.  We are four years apart and the difference was just enough, that while I was busy being an independent stubborn teenage girl, my sister was still playing make up and being a manipulative little girl.  At least that was how I saw it.  We shared a room, and she was always in my way.  A cement block keeping me down, like the other four siblings – all of them younger.  I had places to go, things to discover, a whole fabulous life to build and it did not include her.  That much I was sure of.  I started building my life- I moved to Montreal, learned French, graduated, got a job in a great architecture firm, had a furnished two bedroom apartment.  She got married and I was unhappy with that, because I thought she was too young.  But I was there- maid of honor.  She started to build her own fabulous life- married woman, helping him build his fledgling software company.  We rarely talked, and generally it was quite superficial.  I would stay with her and her husband when I came home, but honestly, for me that was because it was the most convenient place to stay.  I was shocked when her mother-in-law told me that my coming over was so important to my sister.  I don’t know why, but to me it was just not that big of a deal.   Then one day- I suppose one month, but it’s all the same in the end- her world and mine collided in the most violent way possible.  Both of us had our fabulous lives ripped from us, and we literally had only each other to hold on to in order to keep from drowning.

It was June 2004.  I was almost 25, she was 21. I was forced to return home- my Canadian work visa had been denied.  S had filed for divorce.  Everything the two of us had been building, as individual’s, was torn down.  Torn down by hands with faces.  They took every block and crushed them to rubble.  We were both lost.  How do you start over completely?  I think that is the moment the two of us entered womanhood, and as irony would have it, we entered it hand in hand.

After realizing that I had to leave Canada and fast, I sold off everything I owned in order to have enough money to move back to Texas. But I had nowhere to go.  The place I always went to, S and her husband’s home, was gone.  S had moved out, and took a cheap 1 bedroom apartment an hour away from her soon to be ex.  With no other real choice, I figured I’d stay with her on her couch until I could find a more suitable place to stay.  I didn’t have a car, so I had to rely on her to get me everywhere.  There I was- college grad walking to my waitressing job. I stayed on that couch for nine months.

S had my back, though.  She was pushing me to get back out there.

“You have to leave here again.”  She’d say, “You won’t ever be happy if you just stay here.  I know you.  You need to leave.”

But I was scared.  It had just backfired, and I was paralyzed with fear.  It would happen again, I reasoned.  Better to stay here.  Yet she kept pushing, pushing, pushing.

And I was pushing her, as well.  She needed to get over some mental blocks she had put up as a result of her marriage.

“You have to realize that you will be OK.  You have to go back to college,”  I’d plead with her.  “I know you.  You are brilliant.  Get your degree, S.  You can be anything.   Don‘t sell yourself short.”

In the morning, we’d make coffee for each other to give us courage to march back for another day. Nighttime brought margaritas to keep us laughing at ourselves.   Our parents were going through their own messy  and painful divorce- too consumed with their own tragedy to take notice of their adult children.  We were left to be there for each other- and as a unit we were capable of tending not only our wounds, but our parents wounds as they threw imaginary fists at each other.  Alone we would have surely been unable to come out of the whole thing sane.  Together we could get through anything.

Finally, with $800 and enough courage, I decided to move to New York City.  I had no job, no apartment, and no idea what to do next.  But with her at my back, I knew I could make it.  A year later, S managed to get accepted into George Washington University, and although she decided to move back to Texas, she got her degree and is working very successfully in contract procurement.

Five years later, S and I talk almost daily.  We encourage the other to keep pursuing our dreams no matter how much the world wants to tear us down, or how much we try to tear ourselves down.  Now that we’ve been to hell and back, we know that there isn’t anything we can’t do- especially together.  I realize now that year was when I was given an opportunity to become a strong woman, I was allowed to share the experience with my sister, and blessed to see her become a strong woman as well.

S just got accepted into one of the most prestigious leadership courses in the country.  And she even mended her broken heart, found love again, and is happily remarried to a great man. I’ve been living successfully, more or less, in New York City, still.  I’ve built a great life here, and have gained so many experiences and learned so much.

Brittany Murphy was once quoted as saying sometimes the worst years, if you survive them, become the best.  I couldn’t agree more.

My mother once asked me about leaving Montreal, “That must have been so hard to leave everything behind.  I can‘t imagine selling everything I own and starting over again.”

“It was kind of liberating.” I replied.  And also empowering.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 28, 2010 5:45 pm

    I don’t think you’ve posted this before. It’s so great and so sweet.


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