It’s just me and Brooke, Brooke and me. Ever since I’ve been alive, I’ve been lucky to be her only younger sister and best friend. (I’m just claiming this best friend status. Pinning my own badge on)
In middle school and high school, most of my teachers had her in class before they had me. Not a bad thing, since she was a good, nice student. I learned to respond to her name when they would slip up. They did their best. We really do look quite similar.
She’s three years older, but in the past ten years it’s been harder for some people to tell if we’re twins or if I’m older or if we might just be the same person? There were many times during our college years that the older folks at church would come up to me and ask me about college (Oh, I’m the one still in high school. I’m Ashley. Oh!) or my husband (I’m Ashley; Brooke’s the one who got married. I guess I don’t know how my husband is, hahahaI’meighteen.)
I’m sure she’s been mistaken for me too.
It seems like I’ve always followed in her footsteps. I didn’t know any better when I was four and decided I also wanted to take figure skating lessons. I didn’t know I should just pave my own trail so as not to accidentally end up doing EVERYTHING she did.
We weren’t really well-suited to skating. Something about having a continual growth spurt for like ten years while trying to learn to balance and throw oneself into the air off a toepick just didn’t work out. So many bruised tailbones and egos.
We learned humility and failure in figure skating. And how to get back up and try again. And continue to fall. And then to quit and try something else.
I promise you, I wanted to play volleyball before she said she did. But we ended up taking up that sport the same year. And we played play on the same team for a couple years before she graduated high school.
We learned teamwork and how to not compare yourself to others in volleyball. Well, maybe we didn’t actually learn not to compare. But we saw how much more painful and dysfunctional life is when you do.
By this point, I had learned that I needed my own identity. I needed to do something Brooke did not do. I couldn’t go to Hope College since she had gone there. I needed to create my own self, distinct and unique. I had taken a small step down my own path in fifth grade when I chose the clarinet instead of the flute and a few more when I joined the high school newspaper and started making jewelry. But now was the time to assert who Ashley was (I didn’t know yet, either).
I picked a school in Chicago, decided to major in Communications so I could be a journalist, and broke up with my boyfriend so I wouldn’t do long-distance like she had (it worked out really well for her, by the way).
By the end of my freshman year, I didn’t want to be a journalist, had gotten back together with the boyfriend (and also broken up again because it wasn’t meant to be), and decided to major in English and Philosophy. She had majored in English with the same Creative Writing emphasis, but I told myself it was different enough because I was also going to be a philosopher.
We both graduated in 3.5 years. We both wanted to write books. We both loved reading books, smelling books, shopping for books, sitting by books, talking about books. We both blogged. We both moved back to Minnesota.
We learned how to write better in college. We learned what friendship in close quarters looks like. We learned how to be long-distance sisters.
Post-college now, our lives are differentiated by suburbs and city, married and unmarried, different churches, different groups of people.
And different jobs. Well.
When I started looking for a new opportunity a little while ago, I looked at a bunch of places in my industry. Not much turned up. I looked at related places. Nothing quite fit. I couldn’t apply to be a VP, wasn’t well-versed in Java, or just didn’t get excited about any of the options.
So I stopped looking for a bit and told God I’d just hang out where I was until He was ready for me to move.
A sure sign that I’d better get ready to move in a way I didn’t expect.
If I’ve learned ANYTHING from following Jesus, it’s that He’ll let me think about what I want and look around, and when I get tired of not finding what I want and finally say, okay, I’m open to whatever else there is, He ushers in a new opportunity. Not always when I wanted it, never what I would have picked on my own, and always better in one way or another.
What he brought this time was a job at the same company Brooke works at.
In the same department.
Actually, the same role she started in when she first was hired.
This is the moment where we all roll our eyes and say, “Of course. This is how God does things. With great irony, He turns our plans on their heads.”
So not only will I not be taking the path opposite of what Brooke took, I will be following in her footsteps almost exactly. And will work three cubicles away. And I am thrilled to pieces over it, having finally embraced our similarities and shared strengths and weaknesses.
I don’t know what we’ll learn from this, but we’ve always learned something. And He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it. So stay tuned.