My sister is one of my favourite people in the whole world. She’s the person I miss the most from the UK, and although I love my three Canadian sisters-in-law dearly*, it’s just not quite the same.
Sis is two years younger than me, and always managed to be better than me at everything. I got excellent grades, but she always went just a little bit further, taking more subjects and managing to avoid the B I got in GCSE music. I sucked at sports, but she was in the school and county and/or city netball, field hockey, and cross country running teams. I got my Grade 6 music exam (classical guitar); she got her Grade 7 (clarinet). Thank the flying spaghetti monster that I’m the older one and didn’t have to follow her and meet the expectations she set!
Fortunately for me, we chose different subjects in high school. There was lots of overlap in the GCSEs (the exams we took at the age of 16) we got, since certain core subjects are compulsory. However, when it came to our A level courses, we diverged significantly. At the time, students had to choose three (or occasionally four) subjects to study for the final two (optional) years of high school. I chose biology, chemistry and maths; sis chose history, French, and English language.
The interesting thing – and a sign of what was to come – is that when sis was making her choices, my Dad asked what we each would have chosen if we could have taken five subjects. I would have added French and history to my choices, and she would have added biology and maths to hers. So from no overlap at all in our three actual choices, with five we would have 80% of our subjects in common.
As it was though, we each followed our own paths. You know mine: undergrad degree in genetics, PhD in molecular cell biology, postdoc in molecular biology and genome evolution, marketing in the biotech industry, cancer research grant wrangler. My sister followed in the footsteps of both our parents, plus an auntie and a cousin, and did her degree in modern languages – French and Italian, to be precise**. Her department wanted her to stay and do a PhD, but she decided that this time she wouldn’t try to outdo me, and went off to do an internship in the publishing industry in London (hence continuing her trend of moving ever further south, while I kept moving north and/or west).
Sis chose non-fiction, rather than fiction publishing, because editors get to have more input into the final product than in the fiction industry; they can suggest additions to the content, for example. To be honest I’ve lost track of her exact series of jobs because she moved around a lot in the first few years, but I know that she started off in the mind/body/spirit field (everything from astrology to fitness to psychology) before moving into a more medical/scientific space; her last job was at a journal publishing company that specialises in annual compilations of scientific review articles.
She just started a new job though, one she’s very excited about. Like me when I moved into my current job, she’s absolutely delighted to find herself in the non-profit sector, where the pay may be lower but people are (generally) nicer and everything’s not just about the money. She’s now helping to manage the publishing arm of one of the British medical professional societies, or Royal Colleges. Their output includes a journal, textbooks, electronic learning resources, special reports, clinical guidelines, and information for the public.
So, although we took very different paths through high school, university, and the early years of our respective careers, my sister and I now both have jobs where a large part of our role is to write and edit text about the same kind of cancer.
I say “it must be genetic”, she says “Mamma Mia!”, but we both think it’s hilarious and awesome.
*I decided at the weekend, at the wedding of Mr E Man’s brother to my newest sister-in-law, that if men get to “brothers from another mother”, we get to be “sisters from distant misters”