Coming from a family who excels in academics, I never felt like I was good enough. My brother, an intellectual who was cherished among my family for his impressive grades, was always being praised. I was constantly being compared to my brother, not only by my family members, but also by my teachers and friends. My elementary school and middle school teachers always knew me as “Alvis’s sister”. Others always expected me to be as smart as my brother and had high expectations for me at a young age. Every day, I aspired to be like him, gaining my family’s respect and a bombardment of compliments. Asian family stereotypes always made me believe that any grade below a 90 was unacceptable. My parents believed that I could be smarter than my brother, but I denied it.
Like typical Asian parents, they were very strict when it came to my education. I pushed myself to meet those standards, but was not all that successful. My mindset was a wild roller coaster. It went back and forth from being confident and positive to conflicted and stressful. “Maybe I should just follow my brother’s exact footsteps,” I told myself countless times. That is what I told myself to achieve until my freshman year of high school. I tend to keep my thoughts to myself, so others didn’t really know how I felt. I couldn’t bring myself to just confront those who compared me to my brother. I made the decision to not go to the same high school that my brother attended for a new beginning. My parents’ and brother’s initial reaction was not as bad as I thought it would be. They questioned why I made that decision, and found it inconvenient to drive to two different schools. Still, I was able to convince them to allow me to go to a different school than my brother. Although I was scared to be on my own and go to a school that my brother didn’t go to, I was excited to finally find my own interests and be myself.
Open house introduced me to all my options for courses, electives, and new teachers that didn't know of my brother. Along with that, my friends gave me advice to not always think that I have to compare myself to my brother. I always disliked the idea of being compared to my brother and trying to meet others’ expectations. Finally, I was able to make decisions for myself and no longer follow my brother’s path anymore. It was my chance to start anew where no one would refer to me as “Alvis’s sister”. I didn’t have to worry about not meeting my teacher’s expectations of being as good as my brother. My parents and brother were very supportive of my decisions and would always help me when needed. Specifically, my brother continued to give me great advice and helped me find my own path. He was never able to understand my point of view, but he encouraged me to pursue my passions. My parents no longer pestered me about being like my brother. They acknowledged the fact that I am my own person and should not be compared to my brother. I could work at my own pace and care less about my fear of pleasing my family.
In high school, I discovered the Engineering elective/pathway at course selection night. I thought that I should take the computer science course like my brother, but Engineering made me reconsider my thoughts and finally choose something that was for me. Overtime, I slowly started to drift away from all the thoughts that held me back and I followed my gut instead. I realized that each person has their own interests and are not obligated to follow anyone’s footsteps. It is scary to try something new, but in the end, you will find your true self and be happier and freer.
© Elaina Zou. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.