Keep your friends close, your enemies closer.

For the purpose of this post, see: Two Sides of a Same Coin
For the ‘other side”s take on this topic, see: Competition is the wrong word

Fortunately for me, I’ve only had to deal with one person – my sister – when abiding by that golden rule. Okay, maybe the word ‘enemy’ is a bit too harsh, but in the Asian spirit of ‘true competition’, the one that distinguishes between a clear ‘loser’ and a ‘winner’, and not the white mushy-mushy kind where ‘everybody is a winner’ (eyes roll), I’m going to go ahead and use the word ‘enemy’. Deal with it.

The longest and toughest competition, hence, with my ‘friend and enemy’ I’ve had to deal from a youngest age was probably the one revolving around ‘English’. The reason I call it to be the longest and toughest mostly has a lot to do with the simple and heart-breaking fact that I’ve never been able to ‘win’ in this category. Now, if you think the ways to compete about ‘language skill’ are rather limited, the Lim sisters are here to show you that is not so. You can make it as competitive as possible.

Sure, you have the test scores, the TOEFL, the SATs, the GRE, and so forth. Pfft, yes, let me call them the ‘boring ways’ to compete in English – in which I’ve never once been able to win by the way. Despite the whole year I have ahead of her in studying English, not once have I managed to scratch a higher score. After the first TOEFL, I was bitter and disappointed, because I had always been the one to ‘talk more’ with the Peace Corps Volunteers and clearly the more outgoing one (or maybe it was all in my head). But after the SATs, and the second TOEFL, I gave up. Let her be the smart one in English tests, I’ll simply survive by charming my way into the ‘real world’. Ha! And of course, she had to get a nearly perfect score in the GRE Verbal at her first trial – which, frankly, she didn’t REALLY need to, since she’s in the Natural Sciences – while I struggled with… my far from being perfect score across two trials.

I reminisce about the times when we had no internet and when learning all the lyrics of our favorite boy and girl bands by heart was a ‘cool’ thing to do. We would sit by our cassette tape player, hit the buttons Play, Rewind and Pause hundreds of times to figure out the lyrics. It was the perfect combination of having fun AND studying English at the same time. While it is not difficult to catch the lyrics these days anymore (I just choose not to), for 12, 13 year old girls who took on English as, technically, their third language, this was not an easy task. I want to go ahead and believe that my hearing skills are not my forte and apparently never have been, since I would come up with the weirdest lyrics, which didn’t mean anything, basically just a list of words I thought I had heard. But of course, she would always get the right lyrics, which, obviously, made more sense than mine. I don’t know if I were able to hide my true emotions back in the days, but I can still taste the lingering feeling of embarrassment and resentment when she would carefully present what she thought, and what indeed were, the right words to the song we both had just listened to.

Then, there are the moments and memories with less impact, but still worth mentioning, like how she would always be the first one to finish reading the pages of Harry Potter books when we were eagerly reading them together. Or like how we would type away in English to see who would type the fastest.

Today, thank god we are in fields of studies that could not be more different, her in Natural Sciences and me in Social Sciences (although, apparently the use of the term ‘Sciences’ in my case is debatable, according to Miss Scientist, but well, maybe that’s discussion for some other day). Otherwise the mighty and dark power of Competition might be tainting our relationship in a more negative way than we would like it to.

But still, there are ways the Dark Force of Competition manages to overwhelm me to this day. It bothers me that she gets to discuss about social issues and I could never manage to utter a single coherent sentence if I were ever to talk about Biology. The worst part? She often has better and more articulated insight and opinions… Or like how I find her blog posts funnier and wittier than mine. Me writing much more often than she does could be interpreted, if we dig deeper in my psyche, as a feeble and miserable effort at ‘winning’ in ‘quantity’, since I can’t, ‘quality’ wise.

Now, to end in a more… heart-warming and harmonious note, since I’m not a bitter person, competition does have its positive sides, of course. I would never be where I am now, hadn’t it been for my friend and enemy. The thought of going back to school after working at a private firm might have been less appealing. The idea of pursuing a PhD after an MA might not have occurred to me as naturally. The possibility of studying in the States might have been more daunting. And yes, I realize that I, once again, ‘lose’ at this competition where I’m supposed to set the precedent for my little sister, but at least, I’m now mature enough not to resent it and be thankful. Okay, maybe I am a bit bitter, but just like, 10%. The whole other 90% percent of me is truly grateful.

Competition is going to stay and hold us together for a long time. It may manifest itself in more subtle ways, but it’s not going anywhere. And frankly, I do think competition does push us to be better people most of the times. I also believe we have reached a stage where the expression “friendly competition” is no longer a myth, but a reality.

And may the best sister win may we both come out as winners.

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So, did you think about creating a picture like this? Did you? Or have I managed to ‘beat you’ on this one? Just kidding… but no, not really… :p