22 June 2017, by Nicholas Quek
As I’m writing this, my siblings are behind me giggling about a photo I took of the both of them at a lagoon earlier on that day. We’re in Hong Kong on a siblings trip – no parents.
My brother laughs off comments about his ‘toned’ back, while my sister insists that his back looks good. They bicker for a while before each returning to their beds to call it a day.
Frankly, I should be annoyed at the both of them.
You’d think after 19 and 15 years respectively of living with my sister and brother, that I would’ve gotten used to their idiosyncrasies.
My sister still drives me crazy with her typical animated mannerisms; getting a panic attack while in a 3 feet deep lagoon out of fear of drowning, getting directions wrong with every single navigation endeavour, and dragging me and my brother around for hours on makeup shopping sprees.
My brother frustrates me with his brash and abrasive style, often cutting me and my sister off mid-sentence, imposing his own ideas over ours, and sometimes being downright stubborn. I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much effort convincing someone to order har gao (Chinese prawn dumpling) at a dim sum restaurant before.
The past 5 days travelling with them has been enjoyable, but trying nonetheless. We clash often with our varying ideas and plans, even though most of the itinerary was planned long beforehand. We argue over directions, routes to take, transport options available, what food to order, clothes to buy, budget to spend – every point of contention we could’ve possibly had, we had. It drove me up the wall, and even as I’m writing this the weight of the day’s arguments weighs heavily upon me.
Why do I still love them?
When it comes to romance, we’re so quick to write people off based on certain red-flags,
“He bites his nails, so unhygienic”
“Wow, he has such a terrible taste in music”
“Really, that’s the kind of fashion he likes?”
And with those few statements, we remove entire groups of people from our list of potential partners. I’ve seen people written off for less. Yet, my siblings here are proof that love takes time. A lot of it. Yes, they annoy me incessantly, but I love them boundlessly. It’s something that grows and matures, and doesn’t entirely depend on the situation at hand. When my sister went into her ‘regular’ panic attack, the old me would’ve laughed her off and told her to go away, but today I kept my cool and calmed her down before helping her. When my brother insisted that we not order the har gao even though me and my sister both wanted it, I took the time to listen to his argument and hear him out, instead of shutting him out.
We can choose our life partners, but not our siblings. And I think that’s for the best.
I’ve been an older brother for 19 years thus far, and the job hasn’t gotten any easier. Old habits die hard, and the same can be said for old pet peeves. They were annoying young; if anything they’re more annoying now. I didn’t choose to be an older brother, what with all its responsibilities and expectations that follow. Yet because of it, I’ve had the privilege and honour of learning to love those hardest to love – the ones closest to us.
My siblings have taught me over the course of this trip that while I didn’t have a choice in siblings, I had a choice in loving them – I still do. Even after 19 and 15 years respectively, I’m still discovering new ways to love them better as an older brother.
The decision to love them remains as intentional as before, as their idiosyncrasies remain as annoying as ever.
I hope I continue to choose to love them anyway.