A 1600. Not a 1550, not even a 1590, but a perfect, sickening 1600. I just didn’t understand how it was possible not to get one question wrong on an entire SAT. How could there not be one trick question? One mistake? My brother’s score made me sick.
I am the baby in the family, the younger one, the second child ... whatever you want to call it. Brian was born three years before me, and I’m sure his birth was perfect, just as he is. I have spent my entire life living in my brother’s shadow, desperately searching for any possible way to get a tan.
When we were little we would put on mini-musicals for our parents, set up lemonade stands, and make forts in the basement out of Donald Duck blankets and Lion King sheets. My brother was the director and lead in the plays; I was the back-up singer. Brian squeezed the lemons and sold the drinks; I ran back and forth between our house and the stand getting more sugar and cups. My brother envisioned and created the forts, and me? I stood under the base blanket to make sure it didn’t fall and ruin our glorious citadel.
As I got older, I began to realize that Brian wasn’t just better than me at squeezing fruit or tying sheets together. He got straight A+’s in school and was elected captain of his math team. I’ve always been an A/B student, but I began to dread the first day of classes when I would hear “Oh, you’re Brian’s sister? Wow! I hope you do just as well as he did!” Brian graduated number one in his junior high class, and went on to be a National Merit Scholar, ranking fourth in his class senior year. Not to mention he’s the yearbook editor, head school photographer and theater technical director ... I guess you could say my brother has succeeded throughout his life.
It took me many years to be able to see beyond the rows of ribbons and medals lining his shelves into my own heart.
My brother and I joined our town’s soccer and basketball teams and I began to see that although I might not be able to score higher on a math test, I sure could beat him one-on-one to the basket. And even if he could read five books in the time it took me to read one, I could run circles around him on the field. Sports became my refuge, my way into the sun, and I loved the feeling practice gave me.
During middle school, my brother would sit at the kitchen table and dive into a river of books and homework, while I would dribble a soccer ball around his chair and the table. After my first year on the team, I received the Most Valuable Player and Strongest Defender awards. Finally, I was the best at something.
My strengths appeared out of nowhere, and I realized I wasn’t just good at sports, I was a great writer and a computer whiz. I could memorize history facts faster than anyone, and was elected vice president of SADD and inducted into the National Honor Society. My work was published in a nationwide magazine three times and I won a writing contest. I wasn’t just Brian’s sister, I was Sara. I was me.
Two years ago, when the letter came from Vassar College, my brother’s top choice, I knew in my heart that he was accepted. He ripped open the manila envelope and the rest is history. My mother cried and my father shook his hand and told us how proud he was of Brian. And me? Heck, I jumped up and down right with him, because I know that when I open my acceptance letter to the college of my dreams, my brother will be the first to congratulate me. The two of us will be holding down the fort forever, together.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.