My high school English teacher taught me to watch for threes. We studied the occurrence of “threes” in literature not as a matter of coincidence, but rather in the context of pattern ruling purpose. From King Lear’s three daughters to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, history is heavy with moments in which the idea of “three” represents major points where culture and intention meet. “Three is never a mistake,” my teacher used to repeat, once, twice, three times as we studied Hamlet and Gulliver’s Travels. To an audience, a triad, whether it be in movies or music, allows the mind to accept the origination, development, and completion of an idea.
After eighteen weeks of applying “the study of three” to my academics, I could not help but evaluate my own life within the same context. As the youngest of three girls, my entire life has been defined by the knowledge that I am the most recent edition of a well-loved trilogy. Suddenly, AP English can describe the significant influence a three-girl family has had on my formative years.
The relationship between me and my two big sisters is a complex trigonometry to study. Each of us represents a distinct phase of life, and we could not be more different in regard to our physical and mental appearances. My twenty-six year old sister has always been the numbers. Her maturation has been mathematical; analytical, with risks well-calculated, although she isn’t afraid to take leaps in the name of learning from the experience. Conversely, my twenty-two year old sibling is more artful when her life tests her faith. Our middle sister is of a patient kind, and she blends a hard-earned mental awareness with a piety as genuine as her French accent.
Me on the other hand, I am the words. I don’t hesitate to articulate, and my fast-paced mouth can be both rewarding and incriminating. For me, conversation is a tempting taste, and I tend to dominate the scene while my elder sisters smile, roll their eyes, and say “Yep, she’s our showgirl.”
Acting as both my muses and my vexations, my sisters have provided me with a tricky relationship with change. As a little girl, I wanted to “be one of the big girls,” yet admonished the idea of creating identical footprints. I itched to pirouette three times just like them, but resented the ill-fitting hand-me-down jeans I knew they had worn for their first kisses. I would watch between the spokes of our staircase railing as big-shoed boyfriends would come to visit our living room couch. As the girls would reach for their perfume, I would grab my binoculars, half sad, half exhilarated, but mostly just curious.
The plot thickens when I reveal the fact that both of my sisters attended the same university I will begin attending this upcoming fall, Northwestern. At eighteen, I still straddle the gap between feeling mature because of the exposure my sisters’ lives have provided me, and constantly pushing myself to keep up with their current adventures.
I don’t want college to feel like those scratchy sweaters that arrived in plastic bins to my room every few months. At times I feel as though I have already attended college twice. My sisters have taken me to parties and let me sleep in their dorms. They have toured me through the library, pointing out their favorite study spots, and taught me to “never drink the blue stuff.” Even talking to their older friends made my high school peers feel mundane. While we organized prom groups, my sister’s urbanite roommates managed real money on real time. The effect is something romancing, and I admit I’ve taken for granted the preparation my sisters have provided me during moments of new encounters.
The key is in the number three. I’m weary of allowing my college experience to feel like repetition. I want these next four years to be terrifying, unexpected, yet rewarding. My position as the last of three to attend Northwestern is no chance of fate. It’s a completion of a cycle, and I'm humbled by my responsibility to take any opportunity that may have been missed the first two times.
I have a reason to be where I am. Comfortability will provide me with a healthier transition because I know where I am going, and who to call with questions. My individuality compliments my sister’s approaches toward collegiate life, and I plan to pursue corners of the university they left untouched. Thus, completing the triangle.
Now, I appreciate that my sisters and I have reached an equilibrium. They understand that I am no longer the child singing naked on a bathroom stool, and are willing to support my unique voice. As a reaction to their respect, empathy, and compassion, I have made it my mission to apply the lessons they learned in college to my own journey. I thank the stars I have them to share the ride.
For those of you without big sisters, here are some treasured word of mouth:
“When you find friends who will forgive you for your inconsistencies, keep them. But note that these might not be the people you meet at first. Sincere friendships take time and energy to build, and sometimes it's okay to say goodbye to certain friends who aren't helping you to become who you are meant to be.”
“Reward yourself for the little things like talking to a new person or not getting lost. Recognize the you have a lot to learn, so bask in it. Don't get discouraged by the mistakes because it's inevitable that you're going to make some. Accepting your imperfection is easier that trying to deny it.”
“College is the first time in most people's lives where the experience is completely theirs. Their class choice, grades, social activities....the whole experience is what you want to make it. I think it's important to know that the whole thing is yours and only you are accountable for it....so make it what you want, and don't expect anyone to do things for you.”
“Dating in college is a very different than in high school. There are no rules about when you need to be home at night, about where you need to sleep, or about what you do with other people. It's important to have a strong sense of self, to know your boundaries, and to speak up if you're ever in an uncomfortable or bad situation.”
“Good friends will become your family away from home. Invest the time in getting to know people and in developing good friendships. Sign up for a club that sounds really interesting, ask the person down the hall to get dinner with you, introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you in class, ask your roommate to keep you company at the library. Spending time with people you really enjoy will make you feel less lonely and those people will likely become your lifeline when you can't go to mom and dad.”
Lead Image Credit: Nicole Fallert