Personal column: pressure coming from sister’s legacy

April 22, 2008 — by Uma Sambasivam

Sivakami Sambasivam: salutatorian of the class of ‘07, Speech and Debate captain, member of the PTSA Liaison, School Site Council representative, current MIT freshman … Uma Sambasivam: co- MVP JV basketball player, co-president of science club, and reporter for the school Newspaper… I think you get the point.

When I came to SHS during my freshman year, I heard something about Sivakami everywhere I went. She was like a celebrity. During her sophomore year, she went to Nationals for speech and debate. During her junior year, she took five APs and two Honors classes. Before her senior year, she went to Cosmos, a prestigious math and science program, during the summer.

The minute my sister left SHS, many people told me, “You have a very kind and smart sister,” followed by the question, “Are you going to be like her?” In my mind, I thought, “Uh, no…” but instead I replied yes, just so I wouldn’t let down their hopes.

Now I feel so pressured because of everyone’s high expectations. Even my family wanted me to be like her: Sivakami made sure that I had signed up for extracurriculars, while my parents wanted me to take on some of the same activities that my sister had done. Whenever I diverged from what my sister did during high school, people were surprised. For example, my sister used to be a captain for speech and debate. When she left, many people, including my father, asked me if I were going to do speech and debate as well. The truth is I am scared of speaking in public. I replied no, and then they would ask, “Why not? Aren’t you like her?” In the end, I would usually change topics.

Some even mistake me for my sister. I used to get these cold stares from people in her grade. Many say we look alike, but to be honest we are not alike at all. I am tall, skinny and dark. My sister is shorter, stronger and more fair-skinned.

I know people are trying to help me become a successful person, but why should I follow her steps? She is the smartest girl I have ever met, and there is no way I am going to be like her. I am not even half as smart as she is, and I am just an athletic girl who likes to play basketball, watch movies and hang out with her friends. We are from two completely different worlds. I have decent grades and a ton of extra activities, so I don’t see the need to do the same things she did. I feel comfortable with whom I am, but not with the image everybody else wants me to be.

Sivakami left her own legacy here. I need to leave my own. I need to prove that I am Umadevi Sambasivam not Sivakami Sambasivam.

2 views this week