I remember when I watched the Disney movie “Encanto” for the first time.
I loved the catchy songs and the genuine Latinx representation, but aside from the fun characters and songs, the movie explored deeper topics that really stuck with me.
One moment that resonated with me was the song “Surface Pressure”, which focuses on being overwhelmed by having to be the “rock” of the family.
I am a first-generation older sister. Although I feel proud of all my accomplishments, sometimes being the first in my family to do everything with little guidance is frightening.
My brother and I are the first to go to school in the United States. I’m the first applying to college, and to be honest, it has been a bit of a challenge.
The college process is completely different in Mexico. – My cousins in Mexico only have to take an admissions test and get decent grades. On the other hand, I have to be an involved student, keep up my grades, and take the SAT.
Although my parents support me the best support they can, there are moments where all three of us are confused by the US college requirements.
Experiencing the college process in the U.S. first hand, was something that gave me my first taste of the pressure that was to come.
One evening during sophomore year I was scrolling away on TikTok, and this girl giving advice on how to write a good personal statement came up on my feed. I didn’t have a clue what a personal statement or college essay was, and I soon found myself, confused and disoriented, tumbling down a deep rabbithole complete with funny-sounding acronyms and technical requirements. I didn’t know that so much was required to apply to college. These extra requirements were completely new to me and my parents.
After that moment, I felt the growing pressure on my shoulders get heavier. I felt weak. I’m supposed to be the older sister who knows what she’s doing, but in reality, I felt like I was crumbling to it all.
I felt like I was failing. I’ve always been told “eres la mas grande” (you are the oldest) and even though I am, I felt more like the youngest. Sometimes I feel like this because I feel misguided. I am supposed to know everything as the oldest and when the time comes that I don’t know it makes me feel naive.
Although being thrown into everything first is scary, I have learned to look at the benefits and focus on how it’s built my character.
Being the first to do everything has helped me become persistent. For example, when studying for the SAT, I had no idea where to start. I tried Khan Academy which didn’t help. I then turned to numerous workbooks which also failed.
But I kept researching and found a tutoring company called Study Point. I got matched up with a tutor and over countless Skype calls I found study habits that worked for me.
If one way doesn’t work then the answer isn’t to get frustrated, instead keep looking because there are a thousand other ways to do something.
I have also learned how to be a good leader and set an example. Because I have had some I am aware of how strong my influence has become because my brother takes up almost everything that I do and say. I know that my brother will have me to guide him through life and answer his questions because I’ve done it first. For example, I always display a good work ethic. I do my assignments on time and study really hard to keep my grades up. I want to show my brother good study techniques that he can use or even inspire him to develop his own.
Most importantly, I’ve realized that I can learn from my mistakes. I don’t always have to be perfect all the time. Being the older sibling has made me develop this sense of perfectionism. When I do something it has to be done right because I’m the oldest and I am supposed to know more. I set these unrealistic standards because I don’t want to let my family down. If something that I do isn’t up to my standards then it’s a failure.
During the college process, I learned that trial and error is necessary to create a set plan. By making mistakes, I reflect on how I could change my approach to a challenging situation.
Although I am beyond proud of being a first-generation older sister, it is terrifying to be thrown into everything first. I got my first taste of this reality when I found out how different the college process is here than in Mexico.
It’s frightening and frustrating to be clueless as an older sibling. Everyone looks up to you to withstand the pressure. Sometimes upholding the image of the “rock of the family” becomes too much and we crumble.
But despite these feelings, I realize how much I’ve learned from doing everything first. I’ve learned how to problem solve, be a good leader, and learn from my mistakes.
Older siblings, I know it’s scary to be thrown into everything first, but trust me you’ll figure out how to withstand the surface pressure.