In 2007, Lauren Slone was the coolest high schooler to ever walk the halls of Goshen High School. And she was only a sophomore. For her 16th birthday that year she received what came to be a life changing gift: an Acer laptop. This wasn’t a Gameboy Advance or a new makeup set; this gift was on a whole other level. Lauren was no longer the orchestra girl with braces and a Red Volkswagen Cabriolet that barely started; she was empowered by this $300 Acer Laptop. She could travel to any sector of the internet, she could find any home video and she even discovered this new site called YouTube. I envied this girl so much that it almost didn’t matter that she was my bossy, nerdy older sister. 

For the most part my older sister and I got along very well as kids, however that doesn’t mean we didn’t have our battles (board game fights, who gets to watch TV). The moment she opened the laptop box, I realized that she now claimed all sibling bragging rights for years to come. I couldn’t believe it, but I wanted to be as cool as my sister! Some nights I would lay in bed until one or two in the morning without going to sleep because of the persistent keyboard clicking that pursued through the night hours right outside of my door. The opportunities must have been endless: AOL, MySpace, “The Sims,” and her personal favorite, “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?” What couldn’t my sister do with her Acer Laptop?

Music has always been a key dynamic in my relationship with my sister. I must give her some credit for my diverse musical taste. The reason for this is that her computer had this new program called iTunes. I soon discovered that this program was a massive musical library with archives of hundreds of genres. No longer would we need to buy cassettes or CDs or even listen to the radio; iTunes forever changed how I consume and discover new music.

One day after school, I scurried my way up the stairs to my sister’s bedroom, and as I approached the door I could hear a funky groove coming from within: “Don’t go chasing waterfalls, please stick to the rivers and lakes that you’re used to.” It was one of my favorite songs, Waterfalls by TLC, because of the catchy chorus and the funky guitar melody in the background. I wanted so badly to download songs of my own. Day by day new songs would pop into my head and when I would get home from school I would instantly download them. Little did I realize that downloading iTunes on that little Acer laptop would completely change how I listen to music. My sister could sense my eagerness to download every song that popped into my head from Blink 182, “Let’s make this last forever and ever,” to Outkast, “I’m sorry Miss Jackson WOO! I am for real.” Our collective musical library was expanding with every download, thanks to this nearly handheld computer.

Our mom was never concerned with our computer usage as tweens, because to her it seemed harmless and, better yet, it kept us occupied. On the other hand, my sister monitored my screen time like a hawk does its prey. Granted, since it was her computer, she made a single rule for me to follow: I was to not use her device unless she was home. Now, to 21-year-old me this seems quite fair and respectable. But to 11-year-old me this was atrocious and completely uncalled for. What right did she hold to minimize my computer time when she wouldn’t even be here to know if I was on it or not? So with that mindset, my sister’s golden rule was broken many times. I can recall sneaking up to her room and slipping on her circular Sony headphones, or if I was feeling extra rebellious, I would unplug the headphones and let the computer speakers blare. It was a combination of comfort and excitement; I felt productive, yet in my element. I was discovering new music and new artists every day. At school I always felt like the cool kid when I would tell my friends about a new song that I heard.

When my sister went to college (granted, Goshen College is a three-minute walk from our house), I felt a little lost when it came to new music and good advice. This past summer my sister made the decision to move out west to San Mateo, California with her longtime boyfriend Alex. Little did I realized that in that moment so much growing up would occur. Although on different paths, my sister and I were ready to take on the next challenge, whether that be dealing with San Fran traffic jams or sleepless nights working on homework. With the distance between us now, I have found a much greater appreciation of the time I had with my sister during those tween years exploring the web, playing bubble shooter and listening to music for hours on end.