/ "My sister has been in a cold and foreign land"- common app essay
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I used to be amused at how her hands cannot touch each other when raised above her larger-than-usual head. To my parents, the size of her head represented an intellectual brilliance that was waiting to blossom and flourish. This dream continued until she was 7, when she faced numerous rejections for enrollment in mainstream schools. Refusing to entertain the prospect of her daughter attending a special school in Singapore, my mum brought her to Canada. Since then, she has been in a cold and foreign land, but nevertheless loved and comfortable. She is my sister. But no one knows about her.
I never told anyone that I had a sister; I was afraid of the barrage of questions that would ensue, questions which I inevitably feel inclined to lie about. I refused to allow her to be judged and scrutinized in a community where the yardstick for success is a certain excellence, where analytical skills seem to be a measure of value in some moral or metaphysical sense. I can imagine the little nod of understanding they would give, that slightly awkward and sympathetic "Oh" when they find out about her. And I was adamant to prevent it from happening.
After she departed for Canada, the weekends when I used to assemble toys for her out of discarded materials and the nights that I spent teaching her arithmetic became voids that had to be filled. At that juncture, it seemed as though it was destined that my friends introduced me to an advocacy group. I joined in the cause for disability issues and volunteered at a home for the intellectually and physically disabled, spending my weekends assisting my new companions like how I used to care for my sister. This new activity became a way I spent time with my sister- a bridge that transcends the boundaries of space to connect us halfway across the world.
After numerous exchanges and outings with them, it dawned upon me that my previous assertive self had been misguided. I realized that my companions yearned for acceptance, not protection. More importantly, I have failed to recognize my sister's continual attempts to assimilate into her community! She had been persistent in overcoming the wall between the others and her, trying again and again to interact with her peers after being ostracized. She had never complained about how different she is and how her friends treated her, never revealing the taunting and rejection she endured in school; it is only through constant questioning after she left that my dad told me what her teachers observed.
My friends suddenly seemed to be mocking me. I thought I was wise in protecting her, never realizing that I am the one who has much more to learn from her. To see her fortitude gave me more courage to try and to fail, for I understood that what is valuable is not in avoiding failures, but to rise every time after I fall. I cannot live a life without challenges, unless I have lived so cautiously that I might as well not have lived! I walk into adversity with my head held high now, for I know that I will try my utmost best to achieve my goals and it will be alright in the end. If it is not alright, then it is not the end and I will continue to struggle.
In addition, there was a blemish to our relationship that has eluded my awareness for a long time. I did not realize that my refusal to tell others of my sister may merely an excuse concocted to bury a slight tinge of shame that lies in the depths of my heart. I felt that I have failed in my role as a bigger brother all along! I have failed to see that there is no shame in what you are born with and how the world treats you- it is about how well you make use of what you have. We are all victims of whimsical fate. Blessed are those who start out better, but the real heroes are those who colored beyond the lines that their circumstances marked out. I abhor my previous self for the obsessing over how differently my sister started out in life, and thus unwittingly overlooked how far she has come. I should have no qualms letting people know the genetic disorder she was born with, but more importantly, I am now proud to let them know her personality, her interests, and her challenges in life.
Through my sister's and my companions' struggles, I am gradually liberated, liberated from things beyond my control to embrace the power I have over my future. As much as I still believe in miracles and fate, I am less bothered by these inscrutable forces beyond my comprehension. I now run faster than ever to move on and move beyond, for I am confident that the future is pregnant with burgeoning opportunities if I act now.
No matter how busy I will be, I will continue to volunteer and advocate in the hope that my actions can somehow make up for my 'betrayal'. With any chance, I hope that my sister will have peers like my fellow volunteers with their unflinching dedication who will interact with her, understand her and help her in whatever way possible. I live in the hope that through my efforts, I can bring my sister back to a better Singapore.
Be harsh and constructive please (:(: