By Lori Graham
Everyone is capable of inspiring others. I was born into a situation that took me a long time to accept and understand the purpose of it all and while I learned how to make the best of it, but that didn’t come easily. Ultimately, life is a gift; however, it doesn’t always feel that way. From the start everyone is given a deck of cards and it is up to you to choose how to deal with them and find your own happiness. I am not resilient; I'm learning to be resilient. And for me, it will be a life-long lesson.
I was born into a family of twins. I have a twin sister and I have twin brothers who are 7 years older than my sister and I. Although I was blessed, I went through many hardships with my twin sister. When my sister and I were born, she ended up having a rare medical condition that caused her to have daily seizures and a learning disability. Due to that, she was constantly sick, in and out of the hospital, attended special schools in not so great areas due to our family’s limited financial options, and had to take many different types of medication. These medications would sometimes cause her hair to fall out, gain weight and affect her vision. I grew up with a lot of guilt, sadness and was oftentimes left constantly wondering “why her and not me?”. As a result, I was embarrassed of my emotions; however, I didn’t dare discuss this with anyone. I kept my feelings inside and decided that if she couldn’t be happy and live a normal life, I didn’t deserve it either.
Although I had friends at school I tended to isolate myself after school. As a teenager, I decided not to go to my prom as I didn’t want to remind her that she wasn’t going. When it came time for me to get my driver’s license, I almost decided against it because I knew my sister would never be able to learn how to drive. Thank goodness my dad stepped in and was determined to teach me regardless of my feelings. I didn’t understand her illness entirely and was in denial about it for a long time. I blamed myself for the way that she was and as a result, suffered from low self-esteem, became isolated and would refrain from opening up to people about my life and her.
I didn’t want others to know how sick she actually was sometimes. At school no one knew my inner most struggles because I always had a way of remaining positive even when things at home were falling apart. I would sometimes dread when people would ask me what it was like to be a twin. The reason being because I could never really give them the answer that I knew they were seeking and I never really felt that they would understand – so I would lie and tell them how awesome it was even though at night I would sometimes cry myself to sleep. I love my sister, but was sad that she had been born with the illness and annoyed at myself with how it affected our relationship.
Because of this situation in my life, I’ve reflected on some things I have learned and continue to learn.
- If you are not careful, guilt can turn into anger. You can have the best of intentions when you are feeling guilty, but sometimes your guilt can turn into something that you didn’t intend. When I was feeling guilty, I didn’t want to talk to anyone; however, it is important to always have someone to talk to. At some point everyone in this world will experience some level of personal difficulty. I believe we are all here to somehow help each through those times. In order to be a good sister, I can’t continuously feel guilty as that only hurts and hinders her. I need to be strong yet vulnerable. By being vulnerable with her overtime, we have developed a closer bond and she has helped me to release some of the pain that I have been harboring and I have helped her to do the same. Supports helps to boost confidence.
- What happens to you is not always your fault. My sister being born with her medical condition was not my fault even though when I was younger I thought it was. Life happens to you even when you are standing still and sometimes things happen to you to teach you something. You might not realize the reasons in those moments, but later on the reasons seem to somehow reveal themselves. I think one of the reasons why my sister was placed in my life was to teach me how to be empathetic. When I was in school, I tended to seek out the underdog or befriend those that were misunderstood. Secretly, I think I was hoping that someone was doing the same thing for my sister. Especially when I couldn’t be there (which was a lot of times) to protect her.
- Share good things with the people that you love. This might seem like a “no brainer” to some, but it wasn’t for me. I thought I was doing the right thing by not allowing my sister to be a part of my world and shielding “the realities of life” from her. I was afraid to share the good things in my life with my sister because I didn’t want her to be sad. However, I realized that the omission of sharing made her sadder. When people love you, sharing is truly caring.
- You can’t make someone happy if you don’t know how to make yourself happy first. I use to think that I was selfish wanting to be happy when my sister wasn’t, but when I was happy we were the closest and it had the largest positive impact on her. When you are feeling sad you are not in the proper state of mind and, as such, in no position to make a positive impact on the lives of others.
- Sometimes you are placed here for a bigger purpose than you think you are capable of, but life has prepared you for that purpose. It has and will continue to be hard to be the sister that I think she deserves, but life has chosen me to be that person in her life and in order to live up to the challenge, I have to work on being emotionally and mentally strong. Otherwise, I will be sitting out one of the biggest callings of my life. Ultimately, the ability to be resilient is in all of us. Try not to suppress it.
I’d like to end on one of probably the most well-known, yet true quotes, especially in my situation: “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.” Life sure did surprise me, but I’ve learned through it all that it was meant for a reason.
Lori Graham is Wiss' Recruiting Manager. She is responsible for visiting colleges, universities and other recruiting events to find future Wiss team members. If you'd like to speak with Lori, you may reach her at 973.994.9400 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.