When a Sibling Leaves for College

By Sarah

College. The famous word that stirs a whirlwind of emotions. The place that millions of young adults in the US flock to in the fall. The place known for its lectures, dorms, and newfound independence. The place that’s a blessing and a privilege to attend. As high schoolers, we are constantly reminded of college, watching it on the horizon as it nears year by year. This summer, my own older brother began his freshman year of college. I waited excitedly, anticipating his arrival at school and the new life he’d begin. 

When the day arrived to drop my brother off, there was one word to describe it: bittersweet. Like a sugary drink with a sour aftertaste, we pulled into the college parking lot with smiles tinged with sadness. We’d spent fifty-five hours in the car driving across the country, crammed to the brim with suitcases, boxes, and dorm decor. Now, at last, the highly anticipated moment had arrived: we were arriving at his new university. Everything was coming full-circle. 

My sister and I climbed up to his dorm room, surveying the lofted bed, bright windows, and malfunctioning air conditioner. It was so different from home — a brand-new space, with new experiences and a new life for my brother. The room was brimming with excitement and anticipation, and I felt relaxed. I was thankful that he was even able to attend classes in-person due to COVID-19, at least for the time being. These four years would be a whirlwind, and we were all beyond excited for him. 

Still, it was difficult to see him leave. In a way, it felt like the end of his childhood. Almost more significantly than my brother’s 18th birthday, life would never be the same for him. He would no longer be living at home full-time for at least four years, if not for the rest of his life. The town that we’d grown up in, with its familiar stores and streets, was no longer his home. He was starting a new life thousands of miles away. 

Returning home after dropping him off, my family attempted to find our new normal. We cleaned his room (which he left a mess, I might add), created a new study space for me at his desk, scheduled family FaceTime calls to keep in touch, and switched around the chore schedule to account for his absence. Our brother was no longer downstairs anymore to say a quick hello too. Our dinner table, once set for five, was now down a seat. What I had known for my entire life was certainly different.

While not every family has a situation similar to that of my brother’s, in general, one’s older siblings will eventually leave. Anna and I smiled and waved, carried boxes, and said good-bye on his moving day. Despite the bitter taste, the sweetness in our mouths has continued to overcome our worries as time has gone on. Things may never completely return to normal after a sibling leaves. The “void” of their absence will never be properly filled. But life has beautiful twists and turns, and we can only enjoy the ride and hope for the best.

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