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Unique

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I felt people all around me staring. It seemed as though I was in a cage and my sisters and I were the main exhibits. We were simply walking down the street, the three of us laughing and talking. I tried not to notice the occasional look we would get- an eye, peeking out from behind hair, darting back and forth, trying to look inconspicuous. Someone might be whispering to someone else, making a small comment. It seemed as though it was everywhere and as I thought about it more, my face turned red, burning my cheeks and ears. It looked as though Ana and Isabel didn’t notice and seeing their heads held high, their smiles never faltering, made me act, and do, the same.

Our identity is endless. It’s constantly shifting. No matter the circumstances, we can’t stop it from evolving into something different than what it was the day before. Every single encounter, experience, adventure, lesson and creation we have affects us and then, in some big or small way, changes us. It’s the bigger, more crucial things, though, that truly make us who we are and shape our identity.

My sisters, Ana and Isabel, were adopted from El Salvador. They both look very different from me, my mother and John, Ana’s husband. It’s never been strange for me to have my whole family not look entirely the same. My sisters and I may not be from the same gene pool but we have plenty of similarities. Ana and Isabel are the only two people in the world who fully understand what it’s been like to grow up with our mom. They know what it’s like to deal with her being sick and we also are able to lean on each other in those times. Some people around me seem to believe that we aren’t like any other family when in reality, we are. They look at us as if we are pod people; all separate individuals living together and growing up together but never interacting with one another or belonging together. In actuality, we watch movies, hang out, bake, listen to music, borrow each other’s clothes, joke around and tease each other.

We’ve always lived in an accepting community but that doesn’t mean that our family wasn’t looked at as different or abnormal. These strange questions have always been asked: Why do your sisters not look like you? Which “one” is which? I can’t ever tell . . . they look so similar! Did your mom adopt your sisters or was she with a man like them? These questions aren’t meant to be hurtful but they always come across as nothing but. When people ask questions like this they don’t look casual. They have this dark look on their faces. It’s as if all of their features get shadows around them, making them angrier, scarier and more intimidating. It seems as if they plan their attack, instead of just simply asking the question. I’ve learned to look the other way and not let little comments bother me. It’s important to only fight my battles when it’s important or necessary. I was able to understand diversity and misconceptions. Through this, it has become my goal to try and show others what they might have missed but what I’ve grown up always seeing: two amazing, down-to-earth, passionate sisters who have taught me an immense amount about life.

What has truly connected my sisters and me is our mother. Growing up with her has allowed me to learned much about patience, empathy, understanding and nurturing. She was perpetually sick and the smell of hospitals-stale, stagnant, thick and almost foggy, permeates my mind and senses whenever even anything small happens to her. She has diabetes, arthritis and many complications that come with both. She could just be going in for a routine checkup and know it’s nothing more, but in the back of my mind, I have to wonder if we’ll be getting a call saying they’ve admitted her instead. We’ve experienced all the health scares and through that I have learned to never give up, always try to love as much as I can and to try to understand and reason with my problems.

If I wasn’t able to do any of those things, life would be a lot harder. If I gave up easily, I would have resigned to the fact that my mom would always have to deal with these issues. There would never be any cures for diabetes or medicines to ease the arthritic pains. I try as hard as I can to not fight with my mom, or anyone, or little things because I know, in the end, if anything were to happen, they wouldn’t matter. To understand and reason with my own problems has become second nature because I can put my issues into perspective. The small day-to-day issues such as bad hair, frightening tests and waking up late, don’t seem as bad compared to seizures, paralysis, incapacitations, immobility and brain damage.

All of this stress and more has also made me a bit neurotic and a big planner. I need organization in my life- scheduled calendars, shelves for specific things, clothes hung up by certain categories, and without it I have a hard time finding my ground. Worrying like I do has forced me to grow up in certain ways. The truth is needed, for me, as quickly and accurately as possible. It’s that honesty that keeps me going and working around that reality.

Without either my sisters or my mom in my life, I would be nothing of who I am today. The things I care about most wouldn’t be important to me anymore. At school, I joined CLEA (Child Labor Education and Action) because I wanted to make a difference in the world, in whatever ways I could. This drive stemmed from my unique family. Seeing inequalities and stereotypes from my own home made me want to make it so there would never be any in anyone else’s. I saw people look at my family as if it wasn’t normal and I never want anyone else to ever have to deal with that. I started writing for the school paper, Extempore, because I wanted a way for my voice to be heard. That voice wants total equality and understanding to be a part of everyone. I want what matters to me to be known to others.

My life and who I am is because of so many things. It’s impossible to pinpoint the one most important of them all but I do know which ones matter greatly. They’re the people that have helped me grow and change. The experiences that refuse to allow me to look back or never try again. It’s the things I do and care about that have brought me to where I am now, today. Now it’s easy for me to keep my head held high. I can put into perspective what other people say that may or may not be hurtful. There isn’t any way that I couldn’t have been formed by my sisters, even if I’d wanted to be. But I’m glad I was.





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