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I’m Not My Older Brother
Shameera Sheeraz
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“Wow, Mubeen is your brother? He is such a smart kid!”

I was hoping this conversation wouldn’t just be about my spectacular brother. But it was. My new 8th grade algebra teacher went on and on about how hardworking he was. It made me feel like she wouldn’t think the same about me.

It got worse when I got to high school. In the beginning of freshman year, teachers would look at my last name and say, “Are you Mubeen’s sister?” with expectant smiles on their faces. My brother was known as the smartest kid. Students said to me, “Your brother is a genius. Are you like him too?” I didn’t know how to respond to that question. I am proud of my brother, but I was tired of people expecting me to be as smart as he is.

There are things that are different about us. He is better at math and sports; I am more creative and social. I’m a more descriptive writer. I love to read and my brother only reads when it’s assigned for school.

We also have a lot in common: We’re both hardworking, honest, caring, serious, and want to have a successful future not just for ourselves, but for our parents too. We get along well and he supports me.

But sometimes all the comments got to me. One day in the middle of freshman year I confronted my brother. He was sitting in his room and I pushed his door open hard so he would know how angry I was.

A Female Copy

“What’s wrong?”

I wanted to scream, but I stayed calm. “Can you stop being so smart? For me? Everyone compares me to you.”

“What?”

“Every teacher asks me if you’re my brother because you’re ‘such a good student’,” I said, imitating my teacher’s breathless voices.

“Come on, who cares what teachers say?” he said. “You know you’re smart too.” I knew he meant it but I was still angry. I slammed the door on the way out.

I want to be known as Shameera, not as Mubeen’s sister, or worse a female copy of him.

image by YC-Art Dept

My Regents scores aren’t mine alone; they’re compared to my brother’s. “Your brother got higher than that,” say teachers, family, or friends. Or they ask me, “What did your brother get on that Regents?”

People also assume that I get good grades because my brother is my tutor. One day I was sitting with my friends in the lunch room and we were discussing schoolwork. “You don’t need to worry about this. You have your brother who helps you with everything,” one of them told me.

“That’s not true,” I said.

Everyone thinks since I have Mubeen everything is easier for me but the opposite is true; I’m expected to be even smarter with his help. This puts a lot of stress on me that others don’t realize. The pressure is affecting my ability to be happy and have fun. I feel like I can’t be carefree.

More Pressure

It was bad enough when my brother got top grades, but this year, he was valedictorian and also got accepted to Cornell University. That was a big deal for our high school. The school is new and small with only around 500 students so he was the first student to ever get into an Ivy League university.

My parents made it clear they expected the same from me. I get grades in the 90s, but I might decide that an Ivy League college isn’t the best choice for me. I’ve always wanted to become a doctor. Going to a college with a strong pre-med program is my priority, not whether or not it’s Ivy League. I haven’t discussed this with my parents because I think this might disappoint them.

In fact, I try to avoid conversations about school with my parents. How often can I hear, “Why can’t you be like him?” I can’t be like him because I am not him. There have been many times when I wanted to tell my mom to stop comparing me to Mubeen but I’ve never said it. I don’t think they’d be receptive.

At home I said to my brother, “Everyone was congratulating me today. But that’s scaring me because now even when you leave your legend will live on in this school. You’re going to haunt me even when you’re not here anymore.” That made him laugh and he said, “Don’t worry I won’t haunt you. And I’m sure you’re going to be the second one from our school who will go to an Ivy League university.”

My Own Identity

Recently, I spoke to my global history teacher about how I don’t like being compared to my brother all the time. She said, “To be honest, I think you’re smarter than him. You participate more and you’re more understanding.” Whenever I remember these words, they make me happy.

This coming school year will be my first year of high school without my brother. I will finally have the chance to establish my own identity. I’m looking forward to that.

I also started asking classmates to stop comparing us. I asked them to try and think of us as different human beings and not only as siblings who are close in age. Although the comparisons continue, they’ve decreased. I feel less stressed and more appreciated as myself now. I also feel better because I spoke up. I haven’t done this with my parents yet, but now that I see how well other people responded, I think I will give it a try.

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(NYC-2016-03-11)

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