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Arts and Entertainment

This I Believe: I Believe In Being True To Yourself

Essayist Sandy Eichhorn.
WPSU

I believe in being true to yourself.

I’ve spent my entire life as a younger sister. My older sister was the tall one, the academically gifted one, and the soccer prodigy. People saw me as a smaller, lesser-than version of my sister. Everyone loved her and I wanted to be her. Without realizing it, I constantly put myself in her shadow. I allowed my identity to be connected to hers. I was comfortable there.

We overlapped in high school for one year. She was the senior soccer captain; I was the freshman with something to prove. But, our coach made it clear I was not proving I deserved to be on the field in my own right, instead I was proving I could be as good as my sister. During this time, I felt trapped. There were expectations thrust upon me which were unattainable simply because we were two different people.  When she graduated, I hoped the comparisons would end.  That didn’t happen.

During a soccer game my senior year I made a really good pass that was headed in for the game-winning goal. I heard my coach yell, “Good job, Acorn!” from the sideline. That one word, “Acorn,” it made me freeze. That was my sister’s nickname. “Acorn” was meant as a term of endearment, a cheer for finally being “worthy.” But, to me, it was demoralizing. I felt I had only achieved some rite of passage by finally being as good as my sister.

 

The next few weeks at school made me more aware of my compliance in the situation. Teachers and friends kept asking me if I was applying to my sister’s school, planning on rushing her sorority, or planning on playing soccer with her. At this point, I realized I had this immense amount of pressure on me to pursue things I knew I did not want. I ended up making my own decisions about where to go to school and what I would participate in. I received shocked looks when I told everyone I would not be going to the same school as my sister. I’m glad I made the decisions that I did because for the first time I feel a little like myself.

College is my escape. I am away from the people I grew up around. Instead, I am surrounded by people who are meeting me for the first time. I don’t have to worry about walking into a classroom on day one and having the teacher already expect more of me because of my last name. I am excited that my path isn’t drawn out for me. Admittedly, it wasn’t my sisters fault I lived in her shadow, it wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was my fault for making decisions that kept me there.

The first 18 years of my life were spent living as someone else and ignoring what I wanted. No one knew who I was, including me. The day I chose to be me, to find me, is the day I felt real. It was the first day I felt like a person instead of a carbon copy.

I believe in being true to yourself.

Sandy Eichhorn is a junior majoring in public relations at Penn State.