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Sisterly Love: The Power of a Sibling Relationship

In honor of National Siblings Day, I felt compelled to write about my relationship with my sister. We’ve often joked that I would have been the perfect only child — and though it would have made my life a lot easier, it would have done me a huge disservice. Having a sister not only taught me some amazing life lessons (don’t kick your sister or you will be rewarded with instant karma), but it also helped me on my journey and catapulted my growth.

Even when she didn’t know it, I was learning from her — watching as she embraced herself and the world without fear. I admired her tenacity and courage to never let anything stand in her way; my immaturity prevented me from acknowledging it out loud. I found it easier to hate her than love her because that’s how I felt about myself. As I battled to escape my own prison of insecurity, self-loathing, doubt and fear, I denied her the benefit of having a good big sister because I resented her freedom. The world was her playground — she tackled it with open arms while I watched from the sidelines.

Our childhood was a constant competition that never yielded a winner. Aside from coming from the same parents and playing with the same kids in the neighborhood, we had nothing in common. As time went on, instead of growing closer together, we drifted further apart. Once I graduated high school and attended an out-of-state college, our interactions were minimal if at all — an occasional holiday break or graduation sums up about 10 years of our encounters. We had become complete strangers. My hidden feelings of jealousy and misplaced blame kept me from wanting a relationship with her until I started to heal — but even with an unclouded perspective, we were still absent from each other’s lives. That is until one phone call changed everything.

It was spring of 2012 — I was living in North Carolina, contemplating a summer job opportunity in upstate New York, but I needed my sister’s advice. Even though we hadn’t spoken in a long time and despite her disdain for talking on the phone, she answered. To my surprise, she offered me an alternative opportunity that I couldn’t refuse. Instead of journeying upstate, I traveled to Long Island — never expecting that a temporary summer job would result in a permanent stay. To this day, I am amazed that a 30 min phone call had the power to change my life — it not only rekindled my relationship with my sister, but opened the door to the life I have now.

I constantly think about what my life would have been like if I never called my sister and embarked on a new path. Would I have had the courage to leave NC? Would I have eventually found my way back to NY? It’s impossible to know for sure, but I can honestly say that my life for the past 9 years would be non-existent. So much of my growth happened during those years — I healed from my past, stepped out of my comfort zone, embraced the unknown, overcame some of my fears and embarked on the path of self-love. None of that would have been possible without my sister. She gave me the foundation in which I began to build my dream life. Her connections not only helped me to get on my feet, but opened doors to career opportunities, lasting friendships and healing. With her support and encouragement, I found the strength to challenge myself and move forward.

Living in the same state for the first time in 12 years gave my sister and I the opportunity to know each other as adults — to establish a friendship, develop a true sister bond and lean on one another when the world was too heavy. We laughed together, cried together and came to respect each other as women and family. While I was becoming the best version of myself, I was given the gift of watching her do the same. When I lost my second apartment (because renting in NY is a nightmare), she took me in and we further advanced our relationship as roommates. Though it wasn’t always easy, we managed to heal old wounds. For the first time in years, we learned how to communicate and listen — helping each other to tackle our demons by holding space and providing validation. Being in the same space made me feel safe and though I am no longer there, her place will always be a “home.”

I will always treasure that time with my sister because it gave me the chance to be the big sister I couldn’t be when we were kids — a chance to make amends for our past and appreciate sibling life while under the same roof. During those 2 1/2 years, we found common ground, rectified past battles and lived peacefully despite testing each other's patience and boundaries. I hope she knows that I admire the woman she is — one who is strong, intelligent, determined, brave, passionate, kind and full of integrity — a woman who will always fight for what she believes in. I’m lucky to have her as a role model and cheerleader. She pushed me to be the best that I could be so I could live the life of my dreams. I wouldn’t be where I am without her unconditional support.

I’m lucky that I was given a second chance at having my sister in my life, and I will never take it for granted. Our relationship may not be perfect, but that’s the blessing — without our struggle, we both would have missed out on amazing opportunities to grow — both apart and together. Despite our differences, we found that our love transcends all the childhood drama; at the end of the day, all we hope for each other is happiness.

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