Article 1 – Sibling Distance Rewrite – 10/10/16

The phone stops ringing and at the top of the screen, it says: “Tiffany Facetime unavailable” and with a sigh, I tap the cancel button. Within the next minute, the ringing is back and it’s my little sister Tiffany FaceTiming me back.

This year, Tiffany is a sophomore at the University of Omaha. I tap the answer button. She is wearing a towel and in the process of drying her hair. It’s 11pm. She likes to shower late, just like when all of our conversations happen. Late.

Yet, once the other answers it’s like we aren’t even apart. It immediately goes into a conversation about her day and others just to catch me up on her life. Some days there just isn’t time for us to talk. “It’s really hard being here,” Tiffany said. “Hard because sometimes I just want to talk to someone who understands everything about me, but I can’t because our schedules are different. When one person is free the other isn’t or sleeping or working . . . it’s just hard.” It’s the really bad days that get us to call each other.

Long-distance sibling relationships aren’t your typical relationships because casual relationships fade over time, while sibling ties are forever. When you stop seeing a friend and you meet back up sometimes the relationship is still there but other times, the connection is gone. You don’t really have that problem with siblings; it’s the family connection, blood ties. Whatever you’d like to call it, it’s like how that saying goes: “You can’t choose your family.” You don’t have to talk or interact often because no matter what family ties last.

Brayton Hagge, in her last year of college at Morningside, has a younger sister, Keely, who just started college at Doane. It was between Brayton’s classes when she got a call from her sister needing to talk to her as soon as possible. That’s what’s so good about a cell phone because it keeps you in constant contact with those you love.

Brayton agrees that sibling conversations are never chit-chat, it’s always: I had a really bad day can you listen to me? or Oh my god! This just happened! or This just happened to me! or even Hey, I just wanted to hear your voice.

Those are the only times Brayton hears from Keely, and I agree because those are the times that I hear from Tiffany. It’s the dramatic moments or the big moments in life that make long distance sibling relationships hard because you’re only in contact with those moments. Even when you do get to hear about what happened it’s a couple of days late.

Jordan Heim a resident assistant (RA) on Morningside’s campus is trained to handle problems such as homesickness. The summer before the year starts, he and the other RAs go to training, where they are given a calendar of the year of when the students are more likely to feel certain emotions such as depression, stress, and homesickness.

“You eventually get to know your residents,” Jordan says. “You all live together, so it’s easy to get an understanding of people and their day to day life.” This is Jordan’s second year as an RA. Being a returning RA, he notices more details in his residents, new and old, every year. After talking to other RAs, a big indicator for when something is wrong the resident will stop acting like themselves, they’ll start skipping classes, and do things that they don’t normally do. Also, friends of the resident will even tell their RA that their friend is acting up and these are all warning signs that something is wrong.

Not only are RA’s trained and advised about what emotions will hit at a certain time. RA’s are trained to see the warning signs of certain ailments. For homesickness, residents will begin to isolate themselves from others, keep friends distance, keep communication to a minimum, and overall not be themselves. RA’s are trained and taught to get to know their residents and to listen for certain keywords that students will say. At this point, RA’s would just check in on the resident, engage in some friendly conversation, and just see how things are going. Just being friendly and letting them you’re there for them is a helpful way to battle homesickness.

Telby Madison, a part-time Iowan from Minnesota, thinks a little differently. His home in Minnesota, where his brother lives, is six hours away from Telby’s Sioux City home. He says he talks to his younger brother, Tyber, once or twice a week via phone call, snapchat, or text message. “I think it’s relaxing,” Telby laughs at the distance between the two. “This means I don’t have to deal with Tyber and his nonsense.”

Distance with siblings is a part of growing up and it can’t be avoided. You go to the same elementary school but are in different classes, you make your own friends, you choose your own fields of studies, and you choose different schools. Yet every step of the way, your sibling is there.

There are ways to adjust to the distance such as setting aside time during the day to make plans to talk. Texting is also an option but it can be harder because other things can distract you while you’re texting, while a phone conversation is in the moment with the person.

Jordan, while communicating with a student who may be showing some symptoms for homesickness, will use a technique residence life taught the RAs in training called: verbal judo.

Verbal judo is a communication technique used to communicate with residents and is mainly used one on one to see how the student is doing. There is a difference between small talk and asking how a resident is doing, verbal judo is used when an RA is worried that the resident is isolating himself or herself. When using this technique, the RA uses careful words when communicating when talking to the resident and embracing the silence for reflection on both parties. The silence that would be considered ‘awkward’ is encouraged here because it opens a channel of communication that allows the resident to think about their feelings before sharing with their RA.

The distance of being in another state is the silence for siblings with such different schedules. “This time, when we’re away, it’s permanent because you never know when you’re going to see the person again,” Tiffany says. I agree, you never know the next time you’ll see or even talk to the person. You can make plans, but sometimes plans fall through.

Keely and Brayton for example, Brayton was studying abroad in Northern Ireland last year and because of that, she had to miss her sister’s high school graduation. It wasn’t an intentional to miss her graduation, it just happened that way. Keely was mad, but because they’re siblings they got over it together.

Yet, with the distance and silence being a problem it also brings people together.

“Now that Keely is in college it’s easier for us to better relate to each other because we are dealing with the same challenges,” Brayton says.

Telby says, “Being apart has made our relationship better and I appreciate him [Tyber] more when I do spend with him.”

My FaceTime conversation with Tiffany has changed from crying about how hard the past week has been, to the happy things during the day, to the funny stories of the dog she dogsits, and to how we can’t wait to see each other again. The conversation takes a pause to collect our thoughts to see if either of us is forgetting something.

My sister breaks the silence first. “Hey, I’m getting sleepy. Thanks for talking to me,” she says.

“No problem. Good night.”

We blow each other kisses and then we hang up. Distance doesn’t get easier, but it’s all just a growing process. Some days are better than others, but family will always be there for each other. Being on our own is just learning how to be independent adults that and sometimes we need that distance from what makes us comfortable. And sometimes we just need someone to hear us.

Personal Narrative – Final

I snapped out of a trance and I found myself sitting next to the fire circle with people twirling flames inside and I had no memory of how I got there. Looking around, there were two guys next to me and I didn’t know who they were but in arm’s reach was my friend, Owen. At that point, I wasn’t completely alone, but I was scared because I had no clue how we had gotten there.

“So, how did you guys find each other?” someone asked.

“Oh! Ask her!” Owen waved the person off to me, “my sister is better at telling the story than I am.”

His group looked over at me. Somehow, in our drunken state, we managed to keep the story of us, Owen and me, being siblings rolling and everyone there believed us.

Alcohol abuse is an important topic for me to write about because alcohol is fun, but drinking excessively is not fun. Sure, you always hear the fun stories of how great it is to be drunk, but the horror stories of college binge drinking are real. I’m saying this out of an experience and according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) “One in every twelve adults abuse or depend on alcohol.” If you don’t consider yourself an adult, here’s another statistic, “each year one out of every five deaths among young people is caused by addiction.” That is why this topic matters.

That was me and thanks to this experience, I’ve turned into a better person. I only went to the music festival Revival because Owen asked me to. He described it to me as a major hippy fest. What could go wrong at a hippy festival? A lot of things and because of those things it changed my drinking habits, for the better.

Revival means rebirth. Did I go to this music festival intending to come back a changed person? No, but I did and the lessons I learned from there came with a prince, but because of them, I am better.

Owen is my friend and fake sibling. He was also a resident assistant (RA) on campus for the last two years. When RA’s are trained, they are not trained in alcohol or drug abuse; they are informed to advise the student to talk to Bobbi Meister Morningside’s on-campus counselor or Carol Morningside’s registered nurse.

Have you heard that if you admit that you’re an alcoholic it means you really aren’t one? It’s because alcoholics don’t admit that they have a problem. Yet you know when you start getting out of hand. It’s just your choice whether to believe yourself or not.

Louise Delage, @louise.delage, is a 25-year-old Parisian Instagram star. According to, “her photos are the definition of Insta-envy. Her clothes are always simply chic, and her hair effortlessly styled. Her extravagant, party life translated to Instagram gold.” Louise joined Instagram 2 months ago in August and has more than 47,000 followers. Yet there is more than what meets the eye.

Going to Revival, It was mid-afternoon when Owen and I arrived at the campground. Driving in we saw people dressed as fairies with big torn up wings, others dressed like gypsies with the coin skirts, some dressed in furs like foxes, and some with just jeans with body paint. Revival is one weekend a year and I wondered: Where do these people live? What do these people do for a day job? How do these people live outside of Revival?

Revival happened over the summer going into my junior year of college and now that I’m older, I’ve learned that drinking underage is a hassle. I think it’s a hassle now because when you’re underage you have to find someone to buy you alcohol and if you aren’t with that person when they buy the alcohol you find a time when you’re both free to pick up the booze. If you do manage to get the booze, you aren’t even allowed to have it because you’re underage. So, you go through more work to hide it.

This is a music festival, what’s a music festival without booze? So, obviously, we needed booze. Owen and I needed someone buy for us, our guy brought it for us, I picked it up from our person, we hid the booze, and snuck it into Revival.

Eventually, our friends showed up and the real party had begun. The first night turned from a casual night of drinking to just get a feel of the place into a hard night of boozing. Owen wandered into a tent and stole someone’s goldfish crackers, we lost our friends, the lie about Owen and I being half-siblings who found each other in college began, and then I woke up puking.

This moment was nothing compared to other moments where I’ve drunk way more than last night. I’ve woken up feeling worse and with more bruises than I could count. Last night was baby stuff. This was only bad because instead of being in the comfort of my own home, I had port-a-potties.

Next came an afternoon nap knowing that tonight was going to be a night of even heavier drinking. I used a bag of beer cans as a pillow. When I woke up, I laid there accepting that new way of living was now my life. That’s what camping festivals do to you. You get immersed into the world of where you are and you forget what the outside world is like. It felt like a part of me had died but another part of me was alive.

At this point, I needed to eat something else besides slightly warmed hot dogs. At an overpriced food stand, I got a quinoa bowl with avocado and veggies and paid extra for the chicken. It was a small bowl, but it wasn’t a hot dog. After I ate, I felt better knowing I had solid food in my stomach and that made me feel like I was ready to drink. I think I felt ready to drink because people always say it’s better to drink on a full stomach rather than an empty one. That way the alcohol soaks in the food rather than goes straight to the blood stream.

This was the night that changed my drinking habits. This was when I saw my drinking get out of hand and basically become a problem. The same could go for Louise, who poses in every Instagram picture with a drink or bottle of booze. There’s nothing wrong with a drink in a picture. Yet Aaron White, Ph. D., senior scientific advisor at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) says, “studies show that the life people portray on social media tends to reflect what’s happening in their real life.” Yet, those are assumptions. Alcohol and drug abuse are hard to tell in anyone. So, who’s to say anyone has a problem?

We thought we had everything planned after experiencing the night before. We put balloons that lit up on the outside of our tent. So, our drunken selves would see the glowing balloons and know we live there. Our friends brought some Revival wear like glow sticks and fairy wings. One started to wear a gypsy coin skirt.

When I think of Revival, I still hear the sound of that skirt. It gives me a headache and makes my whole body ache. Just recently, I went to a Renaissance Festival and those skirts were there. My mind went into a spiral downhill, I knew where I was but I wasn’t completely sure. I felt myself freeze and I felt like I needed to run away. When I hear that sound I can’t focus and I lose myself but not in a good way.

The night started off with a pill of Adderall each between Owen and me then a nap. When we woke up we were both surprised that the Adderall hadn’t kicked in. “It’s old,” Owen said.

“Let’s take another?” I suggested.

We shrugged, took another Adderall, and immediately started drinking in the tent. We took pulls from wine in a bag, chugged ber-ritas, and drank our livers dead. We just wanted to get as much drinking in as we can before we left the comfort of our tent. Before we left the tent we filled empty water bottles with booze to take with us to the stage ground.

There was dancing, cheering, lights, pictures, and that’s when things started to become fuzzy. That’s when I woke up from my trance next to the twirling flames.

Sunday morning, the last morning at Revival I didn’t puke but I felt heavy. It was raining outside and I was still wired from the Adderall. I tried to think about the night but couldn’t remember what happened to me or even what I did. That’s what I began to notice the pain; my left knee was bandaged up with gauze being held down by four band-aids, my ankles were scratched up, my ribcage felt bruised, and on my left breast looked like a cigarette burn. All I wanted to do was go home and Owen agreed.

Remember Louise? Well, she’s fake but her addiction is real and relates to many other people. I’m not an addict and if I was, I saw a lifestyle that I didn’t want. I guess, I can say I want to change my life and that’s how lifestyle’s change, but I’m just one example.

Louise was a part of a campaign created by Addict Aide to be used as an eye-opener to help people struggling with addiction. The Guardian says that this campaign goes as far to show people that you see people every day, but never even suspect them of being an addict.

Revival has taught me multiple lessons: know your limits otherwise, you’ll drink yourself sick and go from handling 5-7 drinks like a champ, into only handling 3 drinks and just want to go to bed. Don’t mix drugs and alcohol, I didn’t think anything bad would happen but I woke up with no memories of the night before. You can drink and have fun but drinking in moderation is the best way to go about things.

I mention Louise throughout the piece because she was a fake account created as a reminder that alcohol abuse is dangerous and isn’t always easy to identify. If you know someone is having trouble, help can be found here: Change your life for better, but don’t do it by doing the worse.