Yesterday, Tomorrow, and Today

by Bella L.

The familiar knock jolts me away from my reading. Not again.

Reluctantly I’m pulled from the red blood cell’s journey through the alveoli back to my cluttered desk. I look up to see hopeful eyes peering through the half-open door. “Do you wanna do something with me?” The dreaded question. “Yesterday you said you would tomorrow, which is today.” I glance at my planner. “You know I really want to, Zach…” My little brother’s eyes shine with disappointment, and then find the ground as he turns to leave. “Maybe tomorrow?” I call out hopefully. The door slams across the hall, and I return to my biology book.

“Yesterday you said you would tomorrow… How about just around the block?” my 8-year-old self negotiated with my father. “After I finish this paperwork,” he would say. I remember lying in bed watching the bright red numbers on the clock, until it was far too late to go outside.

My parents are both doctors, and my brother, Zach, and I grew up with nannies. Instead of investing my time with nannies who came and went, I spent all of it with Zach. Long before I was a camp counselor responsible for thirty-five 5-year-olds, I was a big sister. I didn’t just look both ways for myself before I crossed the street, I looked for Zach. We spent our childhoods playing Volleysoc (a compromise between volleyball and soccer), taking turns standing on an old green trash can picking mulberries, and searching daily for secret hideouts. While listening to Dani California, we traded embarrassing stories from school, shared first crushes and heartbreaks, and always took each other’s side, no matter what.

Then I started high school, and we started fighting. No matter how I tried to explain it, he didn’t understand—it wasn’t that I didn’t want to play with him. I had seen life from a kid’s perspective, and then overnight I began to see things from my parents’ point of view. The day Zach slammed his door and left me alone with my conscience, it finally clicked—I didn’t know when I would ever have time to play. But my real epiphany came later, when I heard Zach playing basketball with my parents. Watching them from my window was not a good feeling. Suddenly, I realized that my parents must have felt left out too—it wasn’t that they didn’t want to join the fun, rather they were simply too busy.

Juggling schoolwork, friends, and family has proved difficult. Living life to the fullest is important to me, so I will always sacrifice sleep for time with my books, friends, and family. I tell my friends, you can sleep when you’re old and retired. Balancing a busy life and relationships is tough, but my upbringing and bond with Zach taught me what’s important in life. Because of him, I’m not just a better sister, but a better friend, colleague, employee, and student. I’ve learned that each chapter of life has its challenges as well as its own unique happiness. Zach and I may no longer spend entire afternoons debating whether red or black mulberries are superior, but we can still play ping-pong in the basement, brighten our morning drives to school with the Chili Peppers, and crack each other up with a simple text.

Working on this essay in the hotel room while visiting colleges, I had the ending planned out: I would set aside my books, walk down our hallway lined with family photos, and knock on Zach’s door. His smile would be instant and radiant.

But we just got home from the airport an hour ago, and Zach is already upstairs studying. He’s going to be a freshman this fall; he has his own summer homework. I knock on another door. My father looks up from the mounds of work he has to catch up on, and smiles. “How about a short walk?”