For most of my life, I was lucky enough to grow up next to my best friend — but it took me nearly two decades to realize this.
Ever since my younger sister, Kenna, was born, we shared a room. Our first bedroom had pale green walls with brightly colored flowers painted around the room. We used its closet as a space to hide and play with Barbies, or to pretend I was a meteorologist, using the double doors to forecast the weather.
My sister and I spent much of our childhoods in that room together — but our six-year age difference left us with little in common at the time.
I thought she was young and immature. Meanwhile, I felt older, ready to take on the world in my apple-patterned stretch pants.
I loved her, but I didn’t appreciate her.
I was too young to realize that when I felt lonely in the middle of the night or needed someone to listen, she was always there. When I felt I didn’t have any friends or that I didn’t fit in, I had someone who always saw me as the coolest kid in school. I was annoyed when my sister copied my interests, mirrored my clothing choices, or followed me around, but she did it because she loved me. She looked up to me.
Although we grew up side by side, our relationship weathered its share of distance and struggle. As we got older, it felt that we were growing apart. Admittedly, I was a terrible teenager and a pretty mean sister. I found and read her diaries, and eavesdropped when her friends came over. I stomped my feet when I didn’t get my way, shouted I hate you as frequently as I love you, and went through the motions of growing up and growing into myself.
Around the age of 14, I learned the value of earplugs and personal space. During nights when my sister was sick and sniffled, or she tossed and turned, I’d jam the earplugs in as far as they could go, sighing into the darkness.
All the while, as I played the role of bratty big sister, I neglected a friendship, a sister who may have needed me as she experienced growing pains of her own.
There were moments when we got along, and I always loved her no matter what — but I could have been a better sister.
We shared the green room with the flowers until I left for college. That’s when I traded my sister for a stranger, and began sharing a space with someone with whom my university had randomly matched me. My earplugs came along, blocking out the noise of my roommate’s late-night video games and phone calls to her boyfriend back home.
I was alone, for the first time ever.
As I looked up at the ceiling late at night, there was only one place I wanted to be — back in that green room with the flowers, back with my sister.
Maybe we both needed time apart, or time to grow up. As we got older, my sister and I grew closer. Our texts were more frequent, our conversations deeper, more meaningful. Kenna started high school, and I suddenly found myself cheering on a beautiful young woman capable of changing the world.
I looked forward to the weekends and holidays when I could return home from college and spend just a few nights sharing that room with my sister. Even spending a few days together felt like we were making up for years of lost time.
Upon graduating, I returned home and moved back in with my parents. This time, I shared a room with my sister in our new house. We only spent a short while together before my brother moved out and my sister took his room, but that limited time together was more special than I ever expected.
We’d both grown up and, in the process, found our way to each other. I discovered that, all along, I’d had a friend.
She’s since moved away and we’re no longer under the same roof. There are nights when I look up at the ceiling or notice the Pokémon sticker she stuck to our window frame, and I really miss her. I wish I could go back in time and tell my young self to soak up every moment I could, because one day, my sister would be my best friend.