Poem: To My Sister


To my sister
Who feels like she has just woken up
Half-past “too-late”
On the timeline of everyone else’s Expectations

Somehow she’s not rested though
Her muscles and her mind are sore from
The days studying
The nights writing
The months traveling
The years training

Despite these efforts and her fatigue
They keep telling her she has
Woken up half-past “too-late”

See, she was born into a house called Expectation
Visited by well-intentioned parents, aunties, uncles
Who add to a list that curiously never ends

So she was raised to know how to please
How to win approval
How to keep up with that list
To keep the foundation of the house intact

Never say no
Always say yes or figure out how
“Inner voice?”
Not important when you’re too young to have one
She’s still waiting for the day they tell her hers is legitimate

So she played the game
Fulfilling each Expectation
Not knowing, always knowing
They were never any of her own

Accolades, grades, trophies
Degrees and awards
Sculpted body, perfect outfits
She became molded in the face of all those

Each time she’d finish an item on this list
She’d think
“Then they’ll finally be happy”
“Then I’ll finally be worthy”
“Then they’ll finally leave me alone”

But this list was a tricky one
Every time one item was completed,
Two more were added
And list wasn’t shrinking
They weren’t getting happier

She didn’t feel any more worthy
She never felt worthy

All the M.D.’s, J.D.’s, Ph.D.’s and awards
Were replaced by husbands and weddings
Were replaced by number of children
Were replaced by salary and homes

When invariably she couldn’t keep up
With the list that no one else held themselves to
But expected out of her

She was treated as an outcast
She was treated with yelling, silence
She was treated as if she had betrayed
A covenant she doesn’t remember signing

They started to use time against her
As if reminding her of the clock
Biological or otherwise
Would shake her back into submission

What they didn’t realize
Couldn’t understand
Wouldn’t understand
Is the exhaustion that comes with
Fulfilling everyone else’s Expectations
But none of your own

She tried to leave
But when the house of Expectation
Is your own home
Your refuge is your oppressor
Leaving is not so easy

To my sister,
Who feels like she’s just woken up
But would rather stay sleeping
To relieve herself of the weight of this house

I would tell her:
Let Go
Let God
You are loved
That weight is not yours to carry

Sometimes you need someone to tell you
What those around you are not willing to say
To give yourself permission
to breath.