By Kelsey Matzen
My sister’s approval has always been an essential part of my life. No other opinion could rival hers. When I reached my adolescent, impressionable years, I morphed from not just desiring her acceptance to wanting to be her. Every piece of criticism, no matter how small or harmless, was filed away as a failure in my brain. Even the slightest admonishment sparked tears in my eyes, which soon escalated into a heavy crying fit.
The admiration I had for my sister is understandable; she was my sole female role model growing up. My mother was unavailable, if not physically then emotionally. During this time, it became Taylor’s job to provide me with food, since I was too young to take care of myself. One particular evening, my stomach aching with hunger, I sought my sister. Dragging herself away from her homework, she led me into the kitchen. Scanning the cupboards, she searched for a suitable meal.
“Do you want Spaghetti-O’s?” she asked, retrieving a dusty can and holding it up. I shook my head and we ambled to the freezer. In my effort to be helpful, I flung open the door. There was a flash of green and I felt my sister wrap her arms around my shoulders and pull me into her. A broken wine bottle lay on the floor, red wine spilling out of it, disturbingly similar to blood; my mother had placed the bottle precariously in the freezer. I was out of danger—I’m not sure I was ever in the path of the bottle —yet my sister continued to clutch onto me, breathing heavily and staring at the mess. We remained frozen for a minute before my sister carefully directed me away from the broken glass and proceeded to clean up the mess, her ten-year-old hands cautiously handling the shards.
This was not an isolated act of tenderness by my sister. Even after I became rather self-sufficient, Taylor was still caring, mostly as a sister, but as a mother when she needed to be. She acted as both, therefore the ties I had to her were undoubtedly strong.
Looking back, I simultaneously feel sorry for my sister and a strong sense of admiration for her. Most older siblings need to cope with a younger sibling copying them, but they usually grow out of it around sixth grade. I didn’t. I agreed with everything she said, imitated her mannerisms, even copied straight sentences from her, yet she would act as if everything came straight from my brain. Even in eighth grade, when I developed a habit of hanging out with her and her friends, she didn’t stop me.
I can only imagine how annoying it was for a 14-year-old girl to be tagging along with a group of 18-year-olds, interrupting their conversation and believing we were all friends. Whether it was the influence of my sister, or their own patience, I never heard any complaining. I imagine there was a lot of hostility behind my back—I was an annoying little kid—but they tolerated me so I could remain near my sister.
The day my sister left for college, I was devastated. I considered Taylor to be a large part of not just my life, but of me. I felt stranded.
Entering high school without my sister by my side was possibly the best thing for me. Of course, I missed her, and I count the days until her next visit, but her absence gave me a new independence. I became my own person, with a unique personality. I’m a lot like her: we share the same sarcasm, the same jokes, the same interests, yet, I’m still distinct from her.
In my eyes, my sister is the most wonderful person in the world, but I’ve realized the world only needs one Taylor Matzen. That’s why it’s so important for me to stop being her, and simply be Kelsey Matzen.