The second of August was National Sister Appreciation Day, but here at Be Your Own Muse, we are taking it one step further and dedicating the entire month of August to the celebration of sisterhood. As we are both sisters ourselves, the sister relationship is one that we nurture every day. In our sisters we have found our best friends, partners, confidantes, and sincere supporters. And although our sisters are precious and unique to us, we strongly believe that sisterhood is, and should be, universally cherished. It has its ups-and-downs, its complications and complexities, but it is these nuances and ever-changing, yet reliably pure dynamics that make it so special.
Through sisterhood-focused interviews with different sisters across the country (and the world!), as well as personal essays from these unique perspectives, we hope to somehow grasp the intangible and inexplicable qualities that make sisterhood the treasured anomaly that we know it to be. To kick this series off, we decided to start from the heart, with our own sisters! Without further ado, we are pleased to welcome Be Your Own Muse co-founder and editor, Sarah and her younger sister, Rachel!
The Leonard Sisters, Sarah + Rachel
questions + answers
How would you describe your sister to someone who has never met her? What do you think are her best qualities and accomplishments? When were you the most proud of her?
My sister is one of the funniest, most generous, vivacious, infectious people I know. When Sarah is telling a story, all attention is on her–and the attention is not debilitating (as it tends to be for me), but is a power source!
Sarah is beautiful, charming, and brave. I have been proud of her so many times in my life. As my older sister, Sarah seemed to accomplish all of those things that I never could have, or could have even dreamed of accomplishing. I still remember cheering her on at swim meets, anxiously crossing off swimmers in other heats and hoping Sarah’s time would remain at the top. As I was certain she would be, Sarah became a state-ranked backstroker and had several offers to swim at Division-1 colleges.
After Sarah graduated from UNC, she moved to Seattle completely on her own to work at Nordstrom (hello, dream job). Visiting her in a city that was completely hers left me in awe and admiration of her bravery. She has spent the last year in New Zealand, and it is the longest (and furthest) we have ever been apart! Her lust for life and adventure is something I, and many others, have come to envy.
When I think about my sister Rachel, which I often do since I am currently so far away from her and the rest of what I’ve come to think of as “home,” I immediately think of a sense of comfort and safety. Rachel is so considerate, compassionate, and gentle. She is constantly going out of her way for others and she would without a doubt put others’ needs before her own.
She is also extremely intelligent and has an insane amount of steely willpower and dedication. When she commits to something, be it taking care of my little brother for a month on her own (on top of working full-time) so my parents could visit me in New Zealand or taking an incredibly difficult biochemistry class at UNC, she is ALL IN. It doesn’t matter if there are sleepless nights full of studying, or if she can’t go out with her friends because of familial obligations– she’s made a commitment, so it’s getting done. And she always manages to do so with such a positive, loving attitude.
I am proud of Rachel every day, but although it may sound silly, I think I was proudest of her when I found out that she threw a sleepover party for my little brother, who was 12 at the time, and his friends. My parents were out of town, so she was running the household on her own. The thought of consciously allowing yourself to be subjected to a hormonal gaggle of preteen boys for an entire night and into the next morning, alone, is just beyond me. It is so reflective of her selfless, generous, and caring nature. I’m sure the experience was not too enjoyable for her, but that didn’t matter, because it made Spencer happy.
People naturally compare siblings to one another, particularly when they are close in age and the same gender. How do you avoid comparisons, or at the least, how do you ensure that they don’t negatively affect your relationship with each other?
Although comparisons have occasionally infiltrated our relationship, my sister and I have avoided much of this due to our differing interests. While my sister was extremely athletic and a competitive swimmer, I was a passionate painter and artist. While she excelled in English and the art of communication, I focused mainly on mathematics and sciences. Our different passions complimented each other and also helped us form our own identities. We have only felt excitement and support for one another’s successes.
Comparisons are inevitable, and although it was difficult at times to tune them out without taking them personally, Rachel and I managed. I think especially when you’re growing up and close in age, and there are overlaps in social circles, that can make it harder because it almost invites comparisons. High school sort of lends itself to role-filling and stereotypes because everyone is trying to figure out their own identity, so they’re naturally drawn to people with the most obvious similarities and differences. We did have overlaps in social circles, but aside from looking similar and both being seriously involved in academics, we didn’t pursue many of the same things. I don’t remember it ever being intentional to involve ourselves in separate areas of interest, but it definitely helped.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that there are going to be things that Rachel is better at than me, and that’s okay. It’s an important lesson to learn, whether you have a sibling or not, because there is always going to be someone who is smarter, thinner, richer, etc. than you. At least with siblings, it is nice to know that you have had a role in making them who he or she is, that you’ve been there to support them and encourage them and that maybe, just maybe, you’re a small ingredient in that success. Maybe that is a bit self-serving, but it goes both ways!
How does your relationship with your sister make you stronger?
Such a lifelong relationship with another human being has taught me respect, compassion, and understanding. Though having a sister is one of the most incredible gifts in my life, it has also been peppered with arguments and conflict. Having to work through these times and stand strong together at the end has made me a much better person and friend! Not to mention how much my sister has taught me along the way.
I’ve found that having, and being, a sister has instilled in me a sense of security that has made me stronger in my convictions and pursuits. While everyone knows that parents are supposed to provide unconditional love and support, I’ve definitely gotten that from Rachel as well, if not more so because it expands beyond just the family structure. It has made me stronger because I’m more confident in the risks that I take because I know that Rachel is always there as a sister and as a friend, too. You know that you’ll never be alone or abandoned.
What is the most important lesson that your sister has taught you?
My sister has taught me how to be brave. I’ve always naturally been a much more cautious child and person, but with my sister paving the way and showing me how it’s done, everything felt a little less scary. Having Sarah by my side allowed me to try so many experiences and adventures that I never would have dreamed of trying on my own. Sarah was always there on soccer teams, summer camps, the first day of school, my first rollercoster, the first time I rode a bike (and failed, again and again), and more. Sarah was always my by side, never batting an eyelash at what the world sent our way. Her influence and teachings allowed me to eventually feel confident trying things on my own.
Rachel has taught me that there is no such thing as too much time or too much effort when it comes to helping the ones that you love. She has a seemingly limitless amount of love and care and she has shown me how fulfilling it is to share that with others and make an intentionally positive impact on their day-to-day lives.
What do you think makes sisterhood different from regular best-friendship?
After years of sleeping in the same bed, standing alongside each other through all of life’s experiences, and watching each other grow up, things with sisters do not have to be explained, and it’s often difficult to do so. Though this point can eventually be reached with very close friends, it has always been a key characteristic of our relationship that we just “get each other.” Sarah knows what I mean with just a few words, or even just a look. This deep, innate bond was only enhanced by our parents’ divorce at a very young age. We grew up together and–even more so–grew with each other. Sarah’s childhood influenced mine, and vice versa. In these ways our lives have become intertwined and inseparable. I don’t know what I would do without my sister Sarah in my life.
For me, the difference between being a sister and being a best friend is that as a sister, there are no doubts or insecurities about the root of the relationship. Sisterhood represents an unquestionable, irrevocable bond that cannot be broken and a fountain of unconditional love and support. There is no judgment, no need to withhold thoughts or feelings, and no need to worry that you’ll grow apart. You grew together, and you will continue to do so. A sister is a forever friend.
+ DO YOU KNOW ANY SISTERS WE NEED TO FEATURE? LET US KNOW!