Young Voices: Life lessons offered for baby sister at graduation
The books, the freshly sharpened No. 2 pencils, the Trapper Keeper binder that held all my important papers: I was in first grade and had fallen absolutely in love with learning.
My little sister, Ali, was not yet in kindergarten, and was always curious about what I was doing in school. Ever the nerd, I seized the opportunity to play teacher and student. I'd sit her down and repeat the lessons I'd learned in school, as best I could, and she would listen attentively.
Even at a young age, showing her how two plus two could equal four, I felt some sort of responsibility to be the big sister, to act as a guide as she followed closely behind me. Despite the fact that she is only two years younger, I've always thought of Ali as my baby sister.
Understandably, then, it's strange for me that this Thursday, she will don a cap and gown and stand with her class for college graduation. The ceremony signifies a change that's been a long time in coming. My little sister is an adult, an educated young person very capable of supporting herself as she enters the "real world."
It doesn't seem possible that she can be at this point in her life. It was only yesterday that she was a 4-year-old, looking up to me as if I had all the answers.
I'm probably unsettled by the fact that, in thinking about Ali as an adult, I'm also shifting the way I view myself. True, there have been (major) hints of the fact that I'm gradually fleeing the nest -- my upcoming wedding, for instance -- but I still tend to think of myself as barely out of college, as someone who is more or less a kid. That becomes a bit more difficult when my two-years-younger sibling is a college graduate.
The hardest thing about her graduation is that I've always felt the need to provide guidance to Ali, to be the big sister, but the truth is, I don't yet know that much about adult life. I'm still very much growing into it myself. The best advice I can give her as she moves into this "real world" can probably be boiled down into four sentences:
• Family is unbelievably important, and we have to make the most of the time we have with the ones we love.
• Stay true to your dreams, and don't let anyone or anything sway you.
• Find someone or something you love -- or better, both -- and hold on tight.
• And finally, you have to choose your own happiness, each and every day.
I'm as sure of these four things as I was about two plus two all those years ago. Beyond that, I'm still learning. But I'm excited to experience this crazy adult world with her.
Congratulations, baby sister. I am so proud of you.
Megan Bode of Upper St. Clair, is a second-year law student at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.