All throughout my life I always felt like I was living in the shadow of my older brother. Because I’m the younger sibling, there was already a preconceived idea of who I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to accomplish based on his previous success. He was a straight A student in the top percentile of his class, charming his teachers with his natural ease in academics. He played soccer and was in the school band, showing off his well-rounded character. As soon as I entered high school, I was met with “Gordnier? Are you Beau’s sister?” in almost every class, as I was motivated (or rather forced) by my parents to follow his same curriculum. I would smile politely and confirm their guesses, all the while my heart would sink in the slightest sense as I realized my teachers were now assuming that I would do just as well as my brother did. But what if I didn’t? Would that really be so bad?
At the time I was a freshman, my brother was a senior, so I was able to experience his college application process. I went on college tours and helped him brainstorm ideas for his application essays. I watched as he received acceptance letters from well-respected universities and began to worry that I wouldn’t have my life figured out like he did by the time I was a senior. Finally, he decided to go into the School of Engineering at the University of George Washington to study biomechanical engineering. My parents were so proud of him; I just knew that I wanted them to feel the same way about me some day. But things changed.
My brother ended up failing most of his classes his freshman year. My parents were unbelievably frustrated and I was so taken aback. I didn’t think it was possible for him to fail at anything. There were screaming matches between him and my parents. I would sit in my room and listen from the crack under the door as they tried (and failed) to figure things out. Eventually they brushed it off as a “bad year of adjustment” and he promised to make his...