My Hope For My Little Sister
If you are not free to choose wrongly and irresponsibly, you are not free at all.
~ Jacob Hornberger
Health is something that I’d like to think my family and I no longer take for granted since my mom (really my grandmother, who raised me) was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer, and since I’ve recently gone through my own drama with doctors.
So when my 21-year-old little sister texted me at 3:30 a.m. last night to show me the tanning bed she now has in her room, I hit the roof—her father died from melanoma, a deadly skin cancer, just a few years ago.
When she told me that our biological mother gave it to her, I went through the ceiling that much more. Has this woman no sense?!
I immediately tried to talk sense into my sister, since it seems the woman who birthed us is lacking in the common sense and sanity department. (This is a great case for Nurture versus Nature, by the way. My vote is totally in favor of nurture, if you really must know.)
I sent her a link to an FDA article about the risks of tanning beds: Statistics show that young women who started using tanning beds before age 35 are 75 percent more likely to develop melanoma.
“Well, one in four girls get chlamydia.”
“Chlamydia isn’t deadly skin cancer. Three out of four, which is what 75 percent is, is a lot more than one out of four,” I text back.
“If I’d have known this was going to lead to this, I never would have even showed you,” she wrote back.
I went to sleep, still upset that she wouldn’t listen.
Maybe it was me who wasn’t listening though.
My sister wasn’t trying to get a lecture from me at 3:30 am. She was trying to connect with me and share something with me.
I’d rather what she shares not be something that sets off the family susceptibility to cancer, but our relationship isn’t about me and what I want for her.
I have to stop forcing what I want for her onto her and realize that she’s her own person who has to choose her own experiences. She might choose differently than me, and that’s okay. It’s not about me.
As much as I wish I could help her to understand that she doesn’t need to make all the bad decisions in the world (I’ve made enough for both of us!), I can’t force her into anything. I can only share information and hope she that chooses to not only receive my message, but act upon it as well.
At any rate, I can sleep knowing that she has the information available to her to make an informed decision, whether it’s one I agree with or not.
Everything ain’t for everyone. I shouldn’t be judging, even though I still think it’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.
But I really can’t talk because today, I almost went to the beach, despite this warning label on the medications I am currently on.
I didn’t though. (I think it was more so because it got cloudy and I got lazy. Don’t worry, I’ll still make it to yoga tonight, despite feeling lazy.)
There’s a fine line between enabling and giving someone the freedom to f*ck up.
For now, in an act of true generosity (allowing others the space to be themselves), I will allow my little sister her freedom to f*ck up.
(Disclaimer: If she gets too reckless, she should recognize I might have to kick her butt.)
I am not my brother’s keeper, but my sister’s teacher—and she mine—younger, but wiser in her own way.
She’s fully embraced a freedom that I often ignore due to my neuroticism and my pursuit of Virgoistic perfectionism—the freedom to f*ck up.
I hope that she has a great time with her bad decisions.
(No, seriously, I do; I swear this isn’t sarcasm.)
I hope that her bad decisions will one day make beautiful stories.
I hope that her bad decisions will help her to become a better person, even though I think she’s pretty awesome already.
I hope her bad decisions will inspire others to make better ones.
I hope that she forgives me for being a little bit tough on her last night; maybe I was a little bit too judgmental, a little too harsh…and if I was, that was my f*ck up.
I also hope she realizes that I’m still learning and f*cking up sometimes too, and that I am trying to set the best example for her that I can. I want to spare her pain that I’ve known; I want her to be a better person than me (although I know that no one is “better” than anyone, and we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves.)
Most of all, I hope that in the meantime, she comes to her senses, on her own time and her own terms—without too much collateral damage.
Oh—one more thing: I hope to dear, sweet baby Jesus that she doesn’t end up looking like a “Jersey Shore” cast member.
In all seriousness, “older and wiser” isn’t always “better.” Sometimes us old heads can learn a thing or two from these young whippersnappers, who aren’t at all afraid of f*cking sh*t up.
To my sister, thank you for being a teacher for me. Just please don’t do what I do and hit me with the “I told you so.”
Update: I knew I was going to possibly live to regret writing this post.
Thug life, y’all.
Editor: Brianna Bemel
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