A Tale of Two Siblings

Patrick McCorkle
5 min readMay 23, 2022


The circle of live moves.

No matter your age.

No matter your job.

No matter your background.

New becomes old.

Fresh becomes stale.

Children become adults.

Though when you’re directly involved, the reality hits a little different.

Last weekend, my younger sister Kelli graduated college.

After countless hours of toil.

After countless hours of stress.

After countless hours of frustrations.

Delicious, sweet triumph.

It has been eight years since I crossed the stage.

Watching rather than participating…was odd.

Thoughts swarmed and invaded my mind as Kelli crossed the stage.




Between her and myself, it’s a tale of two opposites.

Almost yin and yang.

Female versus male.

Gen Z versus millennial.

Stylish versus frumpish.

Weightlifter versus runner.

Singer versus writer.

STEM versus Liberal Arts.

Pragmatic versus idealistic.

As I compared our journeys, I became the first angsty millennial. (heavy sarcasm)

From a young age, Kelli demonstrated multiple artistic talents. She wrote her own stories and drew her own characters, participated in both gymnastics and dance and developed a great passion for music and singing, all the while acquiring excellent grades.

In middle and high school, she went to solo ensemble multiple times and did quite well, as this unbiased brother reports. Voice lessons enhanced her already impressive natural talent. It seemed like a career in music, whether it be as a singer, teacher or arranger, was viable.

By the time she turned 18, Kelli had determined a different path would give a greater chance for a quality life and gainful employment. She initially began with nursing and changed to medical technology, studying biology, chemistry and microbiology along with it. Her practicality provided countless job offers before accepting a position at a Veterans Hospital prior to graduation.

Unlike Kelli, my artistic talents were not nearly as varied in childhood. From an early age, my parents took me to the library, influencing me to read as much as I could. I often checked out five or more books at a time, reading one or more per day in the summer.

Inspired by tales such as Star Wars, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, I aspired to create my own master story. Between bouts of writer’s block and perfectionism, I never got very far. Instead, I stuck to my academics, achieving solid grades and awards. I got into running, but could not do sports which involved coordination. My hobbies consisted of copious amounts of video games with the occasional foray into fiction. I felt rather one dimensional.

Besides school, what did I offer?

My maternal grandfather, a retired professor, took me under his wing. Grandpa Keith encouraged me to read about history and politics. I distanced myself further from artistic pursuits, becoming more and more interested in a career in public service or academia.

Unlike Kelli, I followed my passions when I turned 18. Boosted by being my (small) high school’s co-valedictorian, I contended that any field could and would deliver the hallowed ‘American Dream’ through determination and grit. My idealism and ambition widened my already ambitious career paths: politician, law school or graduate studies, translator, teacher and/or reporter.

I had a quasi-mid life crisis in my freshman year of college at Lawrence University. Beaten and ashamed, I transferred to UW-Oshkosh, finally managing to eke out a triple major in five years amidst more setbacks.

Unlike Kelli, I didn’t have a job lined up before graduation. Paralyzed by many careers of interest, and unable to pick one, I wandered for a bit prior to working for a local company. After a couple of years, I realized my dream of living abroad as an ESL teacher in Mexico. Upon my return, I taught English online.

In the spring of 2018, I stumbled upon my old collection of fiction books and remembered that I aspired to become an author like those who enthralled and motivated me as a child. For three years, I worked part-time, copiously reading, writing and attending critique groups to hone my craft. On the side, I developed this blog.

As you may have guessed, part-time ESL work doesn’t pay too much, so I got a job as a salesman, a career I hadn’t envisioned before. While my writing aspirations have slowed, they yet live.

Kelli’s graduation prompted such reflection, regret and reminiscence.

Perchance because we switched paths.

When I graduated high school, I thought I was on the fast track to ‘success’ as a journalist, academic or politician. I would find my life partner in college, purchase a home and have children before I turned 30.

Life had other ideas.

Kelli’s on the track I intended for myself: a stable career right out of college, well positioned for both home ownership and children prior to turning 30.

The more artistic, talented singer transformed into the more pragmatic medical professional.

The more pragmatic political aspirant transformed into the idealistic, artistic salesman.

As I chewed over these realities, I contemplated what would have happened if my younger self had had its way.

I might have incurred considerable debt pursuing careers without guaranteed financial success.

I might have achieved political power, only to become frustrated and disillusioned with growing partisanship and paranoia.

I might have entered into a relationship too early, producing children I wasn’t ready for.

I might not have been able to teach abroad in Mexico, missing out on cultural and linguistic experiences you cannot define in monetary terms.

I might not have had the free time to let my mind wander and explore.

I might not have played, read, watched and listened to works of art I always have wanted to.

I might not have more nuanced beliefs and values.

I might not have found a whole new realm of inspiration for both my fiction and non-fiction.

Sure, I still will grapple with those younger than me being ‘ahead’ in some societal measures.

Sure, I still will grapple with the ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda’ feeling.

Sure, I still will wish I did some things differently.

But life’s beauty can lie in the unexpected, rather than what you planned.

The tale of my sister and I teaches me that.

Old becomes new.

Stale becomes fresh.

Adults have children.

No matter your age.

No matter your job.

No matter your background.

The circle of live moves.

Simply be ready to move with it.



Patrick McCorkle

I am a young professional with keen interests in politics, history, foreign languages and the arts.