Leo’s Little Sister
Yesterday was National Siblings Day. Yes, it’s a real thing! Due to this fact, I asked my older brother, Leo, to join me for this week’s Straight Talk. With 14 years of leadership experience under his belt, it was a no-brainer to ask him to share some of his wisdom with you.
In the course of doing so, I started to reflect on my life growing up with an older brother. It was a fun childhood. We played together, fought with each other, and shared birthdays (we were born three years and one day apart).
I realized, by being raised in a house where I had an older brother, there were many things I gained. Four of these things were (to date) the most impactful.
Four imperative lessons I learned by being a little sister:
- Individual. “Leo’s Little Sister.” I used to cringe when I would hear that phrase. It was my version of nails on a chalkboard. I despised being referred to as my brother’s little sister. It’s from there I believe my big desire to be an individual stemmed. I never wanted to be in Leo’s shadow; I wanted people to see me. I wanted people to refer to me by my name, not as his sidekick. I’m assuming this is how Robin felt with Batman! My drive to be seen as Stephanie was crucial in my pursuit of academic success as well as other ways to distinguish myself from just being a little sister. I had a great desire for my name and my individuality to be known…and I still do.
- Sports. My love of sports can be directly summed up to my summers on the baseball fields and winters watching wrestling meets. I kept the books in the bleachers for so many years I can almost balk at it (get it?!). I could have easily hated having to accompany my parents to cheer on my brother, but I actually enjoyed it. It’s probably why now I feel much more at home around a group of guys talking NFL than in a group of girls talking fashion. The years spent watching fly balls and takedowns (mind you, Leo went to college to both play baseball and to wrestle) led to my vast knowledge and sincere appreciation of all things sports.
- Competition. The first lesson in competition came just by watching Leo’s competitiveness in sports. The second lesson in competition came in just about anything else we did together. From playing Super Mario Brothers and Skip-Bo to the grades on our report cards, a healthy competition developed between my brother and myself (or at least from my side). I felt the need to always keep up with my older brother. It never really dawned on me that I was three years younger and probably shouldn’t have the same skills and ability as him yet. Thank goodness it never did because the drive and competitive spirit that was born from being Leo’s younger sister is the same spirit that propels me forward now. I never use my age or inexperience as a reason not to go after what I want; instead, I compete.
- Fly. My brother went off to college in Iowa, an eight-hour drive from our small town. He paved the way for me to dream of a future outside of Ohio. Since Leo had already broken this barrier with my parents, he essentially allowed for me to fly. And fly I did, all the way to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (where I fell in love with the Carolinas and still live). He bravely went before me, blazing his own path far from our parents. In doing so, he gave me the same strength and wings.
“Leo’s Little Sister.” I still hear it occasionally when I encounter someone who knew both of us from our hometown of Troy, Ohio. Now, it’s a title held with honor. Being “Leo’s Little Sister” means a life lived full of many lessons, and I can’t wait to uncover the next one.