The Baby Grows Up

My baby sister started university this week, she moved away from Liverpool to Leeds. I’ve been even more reflective than usual as I contemplate her taking this huge step into adulthood, reminiscing about my own time at university and how it changed my life. She’s the baby of the family – almost 11 years younger than me, and having seen her as the baby for my whole life, I have found myself feeling nervous for her. I know there’s no need to be – she’s about to embark on the most exciting journey, but as I said, she’s the baby and she’s going out alone into the big bad world, so I can’t help but feel a little emotional.

I say she’s going out alone into the world, but she’s not really. She’s in a flat with 8 other people, all of whom are in the same position as her. I’ve found myself mentally preparing to drop everything to go over to Leeds and bring her back to my house for a little break, the minute she feels remotely homesick. I know it won’t happen, she’s already absolutely loving uni all that comes with it, and I’m being completely overdramatic in my own head. But I feel so protective of her because even though she’s 18; an adult, she’s still my baby sister. The biggest irony is that I tell my Mum off for fussing and worrying over her, yet here I am – helicopter sister of the year.

But that’s what happens, isn’t it, when a child so precious to you grows up; you want to protect them at all costs. Not that I’d know, I suppose. I don’t have kids, but she’s the closest thing to a baby I’ve ever felt that I can claim (aside from my baby dog!). She’s off to live on her own in a completely new city, with completely new people and will be fending for herself for the first time in her life. I feel overly protective, and I guess this must be how our Mum feels with us both. I should point out that our Mum is completely bereft about the fact that both her kids have now left home, and was on the phone to me earlier this week asking if I think she should go over to Leeds to see my sister, and check she’s OK. Do I think she’s OK? Do I think there’s anything she might need? It hadn’t even been 12 hours since she left her there with enough food to feed a village, a complete set of bedding, crockery and toiletries that would service a small hotel, and a few quid to spend on going out and getting hammered every single night for the next week for Freshers. My answer was no, I don’t think there’s anything she needs. Aside from maybe some vitamins, a good sleep and a break from alcohol. Oh my god, when did I get so old?

My sister going away to university has also made me feel incredibly nostalgic. When I was her age, I’d go home from university and go out with my home friends (because you’d have uni friends and home friends) and we’d always get ready at my house. My sister would sit with us whilst we had ‘pre-drinks’, and did our make up, hair and tan. She would sit and watch, mesmerised, asking questions about make up and talking about how, one day, she’d be old enough to come out partying with us. Our Mum used to demand that my bedroom was left tidy before I went out, which was always an impossible feat because the room would be like a pigsty, and I’d always be scrambling out the door at last minute trying to neck a double vodka and perfect my make up when the taxi arrived. I’d get home and my sister would have tidied the entire room, placing my make up and accessories into neat piles, whilst having folded the numerous outfits that were strewn across the floor. My bed would even be ready for me to fall drunkenly into when I got home later on, a habit she definitely acquired from our Mum who still does it for us now. I suspect she’d also have a good crack at my make up and perfume too, but that was always fine with me. I used to think it would be a shame that by the time she was 18, I’d be 28 and far too old to be going out partying. Fortunately, that’s not quite the case and we have shared many a night out together (and long may they continue!).

My sister going off to uni has made me reflect a lot on my own university experience. It completely changed me as a person, and was so much more than a degree. I moved to a city where I discovered myself, developed the confidence to not care what people thought about me, and I developed a strong sense of belonging (something I still feel 11 years on). I met my husband, made lifelong friends and was fortunate to have memorable experiences such as living in Spain for a year, all because of going away to university. It really did change my life, and I can’t wait to see how life changes for my sister and to share this journey with her. She works so hard, and has put so much effort in to get where she wants to go, that now is her time to reap the benefits. My dad said that when I moved to Manchester, it automatically took over a little piece of his heart. Leeds looks like a fantastic city, and I can’t wait for it to take a little piece of my heart, too. I think it’s going to open her up to a whole host of opportunities, and I can’t wait to have a front row ticket for the ride.

And most importantly, I’m excited for the student discount she will get on absolutely everything and intend on constantly reminding her of the make up, clothes and perfume that her favourite sister likes. After all, what are student loans for?

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