How To Be There For Your Sibling When They Head Off To College

Last week my little sister hopped on a plane (to LAX) to begin her college career at Coastal Carolina University. She is the fourth and final Doherty to head off to college, but the first to do so in a different state. While all of her siblings stayed in Massachusetts for college, Kara will be attending school in South Carolina, a state where frat culture reigns supreme and Jesus is more than something you exclaim when you stub your toe or see a girl yacking on the subway at 1 in the afternoon. She will take baths in sweet tea, befriend girls who will drop out after freshman year due to unplanned pregnancy, and come home to visit with new thoughts on my homosexuality…at least I think that’s what will happen. I have to be honest and say that the only thing I know about South Carolina is that The Last Song takes place there. And if you’re wondering, no, I was not paid by Miley Cyrus to make two references to her in the first paragraph of this blog post; I’m just an awful person who doesn’t know any contemporary pop culture references.

I’m worried for my sister; I don’t think I’d be a good big brother if I didn’t worry. I’m worried that she’ll hate her classes or get stuck with a roommate who masturbates furiously; I’m worried that she’ll rush a sorority and get hazed by a girl named Krystal, and I’m worried that she’ll make friends with shitty people, but more than that, I’m worried that she’ll experience depression or feel cut off from home. When I was a freshman I experienced a type of depression I had never known before. I couldn’t sleep, cried almost every day, and felt like I was trapped in some hellish prison with no way out. I was fortunate, however, to live close enough to home that I could go back whenever I wanted, and it’s scary to think that my little sister doesn’t have that option. She can’t just come home for a weekend or visit her friend at a nearby school on a whim, hell; she can’t even go to Walmart 6/7 days out of the week.  I have to remind myself that my sister isn’t me though; my sister is a strong person who has experienced as much as I have in life  but from a much younger age, and I’m confident she can handle what college will throw at her.

I’m not so far removed that I’ve forgotten that college is an emotional journey you can’t prepare people for. The first few months of college are terrifying and it can be hard to tell yourself that it’ll get better, even if everyone around assures you of that. I know that there are as many drawbacks to going to school in a different state as there are benefits, and I know that terrible college girls exist on every campus (I blame Starbucks for this). Change can be tricky and heinous but rewarding beyond belief, and I am excited to see how college transforms my sister. And I’m truly praying it changes her for the better because God knows if Kara comes home bitchier than she is now that I will burn her at the stake just like the French burned that heinous bowl cutted wench Joan of Arc. College certainly changed me for the better (I eat vegetables now).

For those of you reading that have siblings starting their first year of college, I want you to know that even though you and your baby sibling are technically adults now that you are still obligated to be their watchdog. YOU are obligated to call them, even if they tell you you’re being annoying, and ask them about their daily routine, even if nothing particularly eventful happened that day. YOU need to ask them how they’re feeling and coach them through the bad times, and constantly remind them of all the good qualities they possess. I know firsthand that depression can often stem from uncertainty and fear, and while college can be a place where you find yourself, it can also be the place where you feel the most insecure in whom you are. It’s important that you remind your sibling how smart and funny they are, and it’s vital that you tell them they are worth something. Basically what I’m saying is that you should reenact that scene from The Help where Viola Davis tells Honey Boo Boo that she’s not the worst. Now is your time to be the annoying older sibling and be there for your sibling way more than they actually need you to be.

Kara, if you’re reading this I want you to know that I already miss you. I miss your foul mouth and physical threats of violence that are somehow intimidating despite you being the size of a large eggplant. I miss your incredibly ability to watch Netflix for more than six hours of time and your reckless driving that has made me feel that I could die at any second. I miss your incredible honesty and ability to stay true to yourself in any situation, and I miss those big ole knockers you’re going to get rid of in December when you get your “boob abortion” (your words not mine). I know it’s lame to say this, especially since I’m so *popular*, but you’re one of my best friends. You were the first family member I came out to and you’ve always been supportive of me and surprisingly interested in all the graphic details of my homosexuality….in fact, you’re probably more interested in that stuff than I am. I am grateful to have you as a sister and Coastal Carolina should be grateful to have a student who isn’t the result of severe inbreeding. I hope that you bring your honesty and hilarious sense of humor to school. I hope you make decent fashion choices and even more decent friends, and I hope you figure out who you are in the least painful way possible. And most importantly, when you get the choice to sit it out or dance….I hope you DAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNCE!

(this post was sponsored in part by the LWF: Lee Ann Womack Foundation)

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