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Big, Middle, Little Sister by Milan George

Milan George shares an intimate reflection on the bond only sisters share. Milan is the eldest of 3 sisters.

We used to sleep in three single beds in one room, all side by side. Two of us had a secret code, a little flick on the other’s shoulder meant we wanted to hold hands. The other sister didn’t know this until recently, although she wasn’t upset.

We used to swim together every evening after school, all our hair turning green. We would play our own imagined games, sometimes alone sometimes together.

We were mermaids, we were explorers, we were dolphins, we were heroes.

Ella would always dunk herself in the cold pool, freezing herself and turning her lips blue but laughing anyway as Lucy and I looked on in awe. We were never that brave. We used to make little movies together, swapping the parts so we all had a turn playing the monster in the cave, the adventurer, and the videographer. We did sometimes have set roles, Lucy (ever the star of the show) was the princess, I would be her designer and create her outfit, and Ella would be her bodyguard protecting her from imaginary villains. I loved playing with my sisters, and our imagined stories and characters have created fond memories that have lasted throughout the years making us laugh about how strange yet sweet our inventions were.

"individual interests and quirks that began to separate us a little."

When there are three of you, little things create bonds, but sometimes not in a trio but rather in pairs. I went to boarding school first, forever the one to test the waters as the oldest, so Ella and Lucy had to learn how to play without me there. I heard they had a midnight feast once, sneaking into the cupboard and stealing chocolate. At school, I loved climbing trees, building camps with my new friends, losing my American accent immediately for an English one as I settled into the countryside. Each subsequent year one sister would join, and they two both loved the woods. Then, Ella and I moved to a seaside town where we gained much more independence, as well as learning how to live with new people every term as we changed dorms. We learnt how to choose friends that would last beyond our school years, how to survive living with people we despised and how to balance immense academic pressure without our parents around. Lucy went to a different seaside town to go to senior school, with less academic pressures but still with friendship drama. To be a big sister to a sister you see rarely is difficult, we had phone calls and would message, but it isn’t the same. Lucy had to learn a lot without an older sister’s support. Although Ella didn’t always need my help, I liked that I knew all her friends and we could bond over shared experiences in the same environment. She may have entered the school as “Milan’s little sister”, but she shook that label pretty quickly. As we grew up, we all began to develop our individual interests and quirks that began to separate us a little.

What bonded us when we were kids was playing together, sharing a room and being at the same school together, but getting older means changing. I once thought this was sad, wanting to stay as close as we were as kids, but it's natural to grow into different people. Sometimes this creates a bit of pushback of us desperately trying to be independent (I had an awful phase when I was 13 of ignoring my whole family and being grumpy all the time, although we joke about this now). We have similar mannerisms because of our shared DNA, and interest in films, documentaries and being creative in our own unique ways (all three of use took both English Literature and Art A Levels). We love books, although Ella consumes them at a much faster rate than any average person, whereas Lucy takes her time. Regardless, we all love the development of stories, being consumed by real life and fictitious narratives. Our different interests are also not that far apart, Lucy is obsessed with drama and acting, creating stories herself. Ella loves the historical and political, the academic. I prefer art, music and creative writing, be it prose or poetry (or something in the middle). All three of us have remained in the humanities, as I’m sure as we grow, we will find more interests that we can bring home and share with each other. I have learnt to take more interest in what is going on around me and having a rotation on who picks a film each night means we get to share stories with everyone that we loved and now everyone loves too.

"I am in awe of my sisters all the time."

A sister relationship is unique. I see my friends interacting with their own sisters and it’s like I’m back with my own. Everyone has their own inside jokes and specific sense of humour, yet the unconditional love is identical to my own. Even though we have our differences, we are still so close, and I am in awe of my sisters all the time. I remember when I first heard Lucy sing and I was blown away. I remember when Ella got into Cambridge (although I had an inkling she would) and I was so proud of her. It’s so important to me to have inspiring female figures in my life and how lucky am I to have them right in my home, loving me right back.

Milan George

When I met Milan it was really refreshing because, unlike many other meetings, she was immediately chatty and there were no awkward introductions. We quickly found a shared interest that boys were silly and to say we clicked would be an understatement.

Only a few times in my life have I had the experience of being so on the same wavelength as someone else and it's a really special feeling. We can either be talking for hours straight or just sat reading with each other and the natural affinity between us is there.

Milan is a gorgeous, generous soul who motivates and encourages me to keep going every day. Plus she's always brilliant at lending perspective, a quality that is hard to find.

Milan is studying English and Art History & Visual Culture at the University of Exeter.

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