I come from a big family. I have three brothers and two sisters, of which three are older and the other two are younger than me. The college experience thus far has allowed me to reflect on how I manage myself without family. Although I would like to give all the credit to my parents for shaping me to be the independent, confident, and giving Muslim, Bengali-American woman that I am today, I cannot. Although they were my very first teachers, they weren't the only ones.
See, I had five very unique teachers with versatile experiences, different ages, skill sets, and knowledge. These teachers just happen to have been raised in the same home as me. I call them my brothers and sisters.
Explore your options. There is no such thing as overachieving
My eldest brother, currently a fifth-grade teacher, is my academic and career adviser. Because he is the first to do everything, I go to him for his experiential knowledge. He encouraged me to look further and push myself to reach out towards more opportunities, especially when I was searching for colleges my senior year of high school. I wasn't planning on leaving home, but he told me the best way to explore who I am is when I'm on my own.
I have learned a lot about my habits. He loves to share his encounters from Binghamton University and what he would have done differently so that I could be prepared here at Stony Brook. There are so many scholarships, aid, tutoring, as well as social clubs and service and other resources my brother made sure I was exposed and not limited to so that I never settle and had to look "far beyond."
Network, network, network
College is a precious time — not just for the laughs, new experiences, knowledge, or friends. Most importantly, this time should be used to connect with people that can help you get to where you want to be in the future. Whether that's people who will help you get an internship or a job or exposure to a career, networking will allow you to meet people from all backgrounds with goals just like yourself. These people are just as important as your other resources and GPA. Their experience and journey towards their careers are one of kind. Talking to professors, doctors, graduate students, etc. gives you an edge on what to expect in the career path they went along because they have firsthand exposure and have actually gone through the process.
Make your mistakes and learn. Give yourself time to move on
My older sister is seven years older than me and unlike my older brothers, I spent my 18 years sharing our bedroom. You can imagine how different it feels without her when I go to bed. My sister's high school years were very different than mine. I learned from her to choose your friends wisely, think thrice before you act, and anticipate the consequences of those actions.
Mistakes will always happen and the best way to prevent them from happening again is learning from them. Some mistakes cut deeper than others, affecting you and the people around you. But she dealt with it, took responsibility, and moved on. I learned that that holds a level of maturity and strength to keep moving onto the next day and focus on the present rather than the past that you're not proud of. It gives me hope that no matter if I fail or what bad may come along my journey as an adult, I will be ready to overcome it with time. It's never too late to start over.
Always be grateful
My siblings always remind me how grateful they are to have me as their sister. They emphasize thankfulness, not only to me but also people in their lives that have impacted their choices such as best friends and teachers — but most of all, my parents. My parents and siblings have had many disagreements throughout the years. Regardless of how many arguments that they may have had, all my siblings are very grateful for my parents. Each realizes the hard work my mother and father had to go through to raise six kids. We may not have everything we want, but we do have everything we need, thanks to the sacrifices and determination of my parents.
I am grateful for every new day I get to live healthily with a supportive and loving family.
Think logically and realistically
Just do it. Do not be afraid to question anyone or anything. My older brother, currently a nursing student, is fearless. Ever since I could remember, he was physically and emotionally strong. He's not heartless. He just knows how to control his emotions, especially in times of grief and stress. He taught me that sometimes you need to be emotionally inexpressive so that you can think rationally when other peoples' judgments are clouded by the rush of emotions. My brother emphasizes the dangers of following others blindly.
I find myself researching on my own time rather than believing a response someone may give to me from a question I asked. At the end of the day, it's my opinion and judgment on what's true or not, what makes sense and what doesn't. I think for myself as logically and realistically as possible. I question to learn.
Remember to take care of yourself first
We often lose track of time. In those stressful times before exams or when life hits us with an unexpected tragedy, we forget to eat or eat too much, we're sleep deprived or sleep too much; we lose all balance. In those times, we want to help others relieve their stress or grief before we think of relieving our own. I learned from my siblings that you cannot help others to the best of your ability if you are not well enough to help yourself. So eat healthily, sleep well, exercise, and stress less.
You are your worst critic
My younger sister is currently a senior in high school. Her teenage years were completely different from mine even though we went to the same high school. Like many teenagers, she has insecurities about herself, especially in an era of social media where many teenagers look for attention through the count of likes on an Instagram picture or number of followers on Twitter. I made my social media as a senior in high school because before that, I didn't see the point of it.
But even now, I do not use social media except for club announcements. I have insecurities not with my physical being but sometimes with my academic ability, especially in classes where I am struggling. I've watched my sister criticize herself, and I learn that I do that to myself in my school work, striving for an A. I've encouraged her to love herself in all the talents she has with sports, art, school, and simply being a giving person. It's not a bad thing to be your worst critic. But you also have to remember to be your best fan.
Life has thrown my siblings their own set of unexpected events. My older three siblings taught me to plan ahead and accept that it's okay when things do not go according to plan. Not everything is in my control, but adapting to interruptions in my plan is. Making a list helps with prioritizing what is important so that time is not wasted on unnecessary things. It is also a way to be prepared and stress less because knowing is better than not knowing. Now I make sure I utilize my calendar to mark tests and deadlines so I can start preparing for them ahead of time rather than waiting a class before to find out.
Find a hobby to de-stress
Sometimes we get too overwhelmed, not because of the tasks in front of us but because of our own thoughts. Each of my siblings has their own way to de-stress. My eldest brother plays baseball with his league on the weekends in Long Island. My older sister likes to go out with her friends to the beach, park, or meet for lunch/dinner. My older brother goes to the gym every day. My younger sister likes to draw or go out for a walk alone. My little brother plays "Fortnite" or basketball with his friends. As for me, I like to sleep and go for runs to clear my head.
Remember to laugh and enjoy life
Last but not least, my baby brother reminds me of all the good times I had before I grew up. Watching him grow up, I'm always shocked by how fast time flies. He's going to start high school next year, wears a size 10 like my dad and my brothers, and his voice has dropped an octave or two! Not to expose him or anything, but it makes me emotional to see my baby brother growing into a man.
His energy and kindness, even in the most inappropriate times, reminds me to hold onto the goodness within myself. He reenacts vines, watches silly YouTube videos, and dances like he's going to snap like a twig. That's what I strive to do every day, whether it's a good or bad day. I'll share a story with someone or show them a video or simply smile to remind someone else to smile, laugh, and simply enjoy life. It's the little things my little brother does to lighten up the mood.
Not all siblings are perfect, but they all have something to teach you.