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If you have a big sister, read this …

FRIENDS BY CHOICE
By: Eleanor Marshall

I talk about my sister too much. She’s twenty and magic and I can’t even make her stand still in my memory. She’s the only person who can tell me we’re on the same page about everything and I am on the same page about that too instead of feeling smothered. She’s gloriously imperfect. She misses flights and rebooks them and travels anyway and she eats too much candy when my mom buys it and she contemplates the morality of making profit on yoga.

It’s only recently that I’ve been able to appreciate her, really. I was too young and she was too old and we were both too busy and a little disinterested until somehow the stars aligned and weeds grew through the cracks in the pavement and she came home from college. We began cooking en Espanol and taking walks and doing random crafts really late at night and something happened and we started to really love each other. It reminds me of this card I saw in a gift shop one time that said “sisters by birth, friends by choice,” and in a dorky cliché way, that’s exactly how it is.

My favorite thing about her is how I am around her (which is probably just as selfish as it sounds). I stop wearing makeup and stop worrying about how I look without makeup and remember that feet are meant to get dirty and trees are meant to be climbed and people are meant to do something unique and important. I have more energy for walking places and doing crazy projects and taking a break from crazy projects to do nothing even though I will be up until three working on stuff.

I remember one time she was home for a week and I was buried under my usual Mount Everest of homework and she looked at me and said, “You can do homework or you can spend time with me. Both are equally important.” And I think about that a lot; both are equally important. It informs me a lot of my decisions and makes me realize that the things I’m doing are even decisions in the first place, and I don’t even think she was trying to be wise when she said it.

I’m jealous of lots of things about her. How big and how small she thinks and how smart but unassuming she is and the way she stands for so many things but none of them in a self-righteous way. I’m jealous of her in that irrational little sister way, too: envying her age and independence and her ability and inclination to just take off at any moment. But being around her you just feel good about yourself without measuring because that’s who she is. You can just say things without worrying about being smart or right and she’ll just give you an honest response without worrying about being smart or right either. Being around her gets old in a good way, like shoes that mold to your feet or oak tree trunks with uncountable rings.

I’ve only met a handful of people that get that kind of old. Who I don’t always want to see, because no one always wants to see anybody, but who I want to see enough of the time to know them, really. Who I listen to even though I’m busy and who I talk to because I need someone and I can’t think of anyone else and who I don’t bother lying to and tell about the lies I told other people.

So it’s your turn to know them. Not my sister (she’s in Guatemala, anyway), but someone. Everybody should find it in their heart to appreciate somebody else because, as Maya Angelou once wrote, if you can do that, then you will have succeeded. And then hold that person in your heart so hard that they beat as part of it and listen to that part of your heart when you are lost, because in your mind they will become the best version of you and then you will become the best version of you. I told you I talk about my sister too much.

Eleanor Marshall is my niece and she is currently a sophomore at Yale University.