That was my story, but I wanted a different one. One minute. One minute and my life forever changed. In one minute, my life was decided: who I was and how I would act. On January 23, 2001, my brother was born. One minute later, I was born as well. That one minute would come to shape the story everyone around me created. I instantly, without my agreement, became a little sister, an innocent and fragile character in the eyes of my parents. I became the independent one, as in the words of my family members, “there always has to be one twin that needs more attention.” I wasn’t that twin. Growing up, surrounded by the traditional Mexican beliefs that I cherish to this day, I had to be a perfect daughter. Get good grades, be polite, be the one that would succeed. I grew up not relying on the help of anyone, for most of the attention went to my older brother. Doing my math homework, writing an essay, no help from anyone. I would rush to finish my homework for I knew I needed to help my brother with his. I would stay up late finishing projects that were not mine but his. It wasn’t a burden helping him, but it wasn’t something I looked forward to. That dependence he had on me and my dependence on having to help him, quickly became what defined me. However, that was not the definition I wanted.
My dad would always tell me, “Pau, please help your brother. You know that he needs your help.” Not helping my brother felt like hurting my parents, letting them down. I could never refuse to help my brother, knowing that if I did not help him, I would have to look at the disappointed and sad brown eyes of my parents. Disappointed and sad. Two words that would become my kryptonite. Years quickly went by, and I went from helping my brother with adding in first grade to helping him write a multi-page essay in eighth grade. Throughout, all those years, the whispers of my family members, the eyes full of proudness, caged me into a small area full of expectedness. Everyone around me, expected me to be a good daughter. Be a good student. Be a good sister. Be there to help my brother. Be perfect. In seventh grade, my brother and I were separated for the first time. For as long as I could remember, my brother and I had the same class. The same teacher. The same everything. However, when we moved, everything around us changed. I remember looking down at the white cardstock that had all of my class periods and expecting that my brother’s cardstock was identical. However, I was wrong. My world, in a minute, changed. We did not have a single class together. I remember, panicking. But I wasn’t panicking for myself, I was panicking for my brother. How will he do it? Who will help him? Maybe I can switch to be in his classes? All of those questions came rushing into my head like a hurricane. I was drowning in worry and anxiousness. I couldn’t breathe. I had my first panic attack. I got home that day, anxious about how my brother would be able to do school without me. Of course, I was unaware of how that storyline ended.
School started and instead of my worrying about my homework, I once again was more worried about my brother’s homework. I was still seen as the one that needed to help my brother. Guide him, step by step. For once again, the fear of having to look in the eyes of my parents was too big a fear to overcome. Seventeenth grade went by, eighth grade went by, and soon my brother and I were entering high school. My parents and my family members were, without a doubt, expecting that I would help my brother, just like I always have. However, I wanted something different. The cage of expectedness I was put into at such a young age, finally rusted and fell apart. I was free to build a mansion in which I would do whatever I wanted and be whoever I wanted. High school, in a minute, changed my story. I remember once again looking at that white cardstock with my classes, and for once, excited about the upcoming year. Although my brother still depended on me, that dependence was slowly faded. No longer was I tightly tied to helping him. That rope was splitting and ripping at the ending, waiting to break. Freshman year went by, and I went from helping my brother every day to helping him rarely. Our Sophomore year soon started and once again, the rope ripped even more. The whispers of my family died down and instead were replaced by conversations. I was starting to be seen as Paulina. Not as my brother’s helper. Simply, Paulina. The summer before Junior year, my brother broke the rope. He, himself, pulled it until the rope was left in ruins. The summer before Junior, my brother decided to go to a different high school.
My story was rewritten. The once constant words of my parents, “help your brother”, became rare. I went from focusing on my brother and his wellbeing, both academically and personally, to directing attention to own myself. This time, I wasn’t afraid that I was being selfish. That I was not being a perfect daughter. That I would have to look at the disappointed in the eyes of my family. I was able to refuse to help my brother when I simply didn’t have the time and energy to help him. However, this time, my refusal did not disappoint anyone. Not even myself.
It is strange to now say that my brother depends on me because he doesn’t. He simply doesn’t and I don’t think, he ever will again. It is strange to say that I always am his helper because I am not. I don’t help him anymore. The character of an innocent and fragile girl that my parents created, vanished. Instead, she was replaced by an independent young adult who was finally willing to say “no.” That story of always being there to help my brother was going to be my forever story. But, I wanted a better ending for myself. Although my story is still going, my ending is going to be better. Not a doubt in my heart.