Like day and night

I always tell others: we are like day and night, my sister and I. It has been visible in our appearances; she always dressed more lady-like whereas I preferred comfort and did not care all that much. She liked to do the typical girl things and I rather played outside with boys. As we grew older these differences became less apparent but remained nonetheless.

malenpausmallThe picture on the right was taken in London in August 2011. If you’ve paid attention to the first paragraph you can tell who is who.
I particularly like this picture because it portrays the contrast between us very well. Another difference between us is that I’m rather quiet by nature while she has a loud voice. I’m a ‘defender’ and she is an ‘attacker’. In my opinion, neither one is any less than the other and I envy traits of her and am pretty sure she envies traits of mine.

These differences aren’t just visible in the way we are, they are evident in the paths that we take in life. After finishing primary school, I got the advice to do VMBO/HAVO. In all previous years, teachers told my parents I was very bright. I definitely expected to do VWO and quite frankly, I think my class expected the same. When we discussed the advice with my teacher we could have chosen to push towards HAVO. However, we came to the conclusion that if I were to do VMBO/HAVO, I could remain friends with my current friends and this would make me happier overall. Two years later, my sister got the advice to do VWO, but her teacher, the same as I had then, advised her to do Gymnasium. Where my parents did not ‘push’ me back then, they did in her case.

During my second year in high school, I started panicking about my grades. I could not handle French and German well (opposed to what you might be thinking, I have no natural talent for languages at all). I felt unhappy and stressed and literally did panic several times which resulted in crying, giving up and fights with my mom. When my parents and I got the choice between the higher or lower level, halfway during the year, we opted for the lower one once again. In the coming years, I struggled with the consequences of my previous choices while my sister struggled in the Gymnasium class. Today she is having her final two examinations; Latin (Latijn) and Social Studies (Maatschapijwetenschappen).

Contrary to the belief, my sister isn’t just ‘smart’. Yes, she is smart, but she has to do a whole lot in order to succeed on the level that she’s doing. It leads to high levels of stress and possibly anxiousness. She never says she did well on a test because if she didn’t, saying that she did will have been yet another failure. As she’s being in the atmosphere of high achievers, she must constantly feel the need to prove herself and cannot perform less than her fellow classmates. Due to her high insecurity and the pressure, she has not yet gained control over the state of panic that I experienced years back. In my third year of high school, I did not want to draw attention to myself, and, therefore, tried to get the most average grades as possible. Then, and later on during my MBO education, I struggled with the feeling as if I did not belong. I felt utterly bored and nothing was challenging to me while my classmates were mostly okay with the pace. All these years, ever since the third class of high school, I felt as if I was trying to stay afloat. It was frustrating, demotivating and depressing. The easy way was not as easy as it may seem and the good position of my sister is not as good as you may think.

Nonetheless, both of us will start university this September. I dare say we both are hard workers. Our motivations differ, but nothing we do is taken for granted. Once we set our eyes on something, this is what we are going to do even if it’s beyond our limits. I do have to say I wouldn’t be able to do what she did and, really, it makes me quite proud of her.


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