I'm a former high school English teacher and I specialize in student publications, like yearbooks and school newspapers. I was very good at what I did
and my students won several national awards under my teaching I'm quite proud to say. I have always hoped one day after my children are older to continue to work in the yearbook world, but on the publisher's side, where the money and opportunities are more plentiful.
My sister was having (a lot) of trouble fitting in at her children's elementary school. She had developed a reputation at the school as pushy and difficult to work with, and while she is both those things, but she is also a wonderful person who is just very tenacious and driven when trying to get things done. In an attempt to make a positive impact and rehab her image, she volunteered to help out on the yearbook, which are done by parents on the elementary school level. She begged me for help that first year, and I was happy to lend a hand. In the end, after a lot of hounding, I did so much more than help, completing most of the book myself, especially the design and aesthetic portions of the book. It quickly became clear to me when the book came out that she was taking credit for the work I did. It bothered me at first, but the book was getting tons of praise and she really needed a win in that community. Plus, it was work I enjoyed and I liked helping my sister out, so I let it go. I 'helped' her in this way for two more years, but finally let her know I was done 'helping,' and would, in fact, be working on my own child's book as she was now in school. She said she was done doing yearbook anyway, as her oldest was going off to middle school.
When the school year started, I found out not only was she continuing to volunteer for the elementary school yearbook, but she had gone over to her son's middle school, shown them the (beautiful) books I designed and offered to help the middle school yearbook teacher and student staff fix up their book. She even I found this out when she called to ask for my help with both the books. She even asked me for teaching materials so she could teach the yearbook class. I immediately became very uncomfortable. Somehow it was ok for her to pass my work off as hers at her small elementary school, but now she was using my work to sell herself to a much larger audience, one that included yearbook professionals and publishers, the very people I hope will one day hire me.
I immediately sat down with her and told her how I felt, explained that on this new, larger stage, I really needed credit for the work I had done and I felt very, very weird about the whole situation, especially her teaching yearbook, which was my profession, and which felt like she was setting herself up as an expert in my field. I reminded her I one day wanted a job in this field, and that work should get proper attribution. She seemed to get it, but then she immediately asked me for help designing the elementary school book that very day. I gave her a tip or two and left.
Well, she was just offered a job with the yearbook publishers, based on her beautiful books, how easy she was as a client (she ran any problems or questions by me and so appeared to know it all), and how generous and professional she appeared in offering to help out the middle school yearbook.
I'm devastated. I realize I put myself in this situation, but I never dreamed it would come to this--and perhaps she didn't either, but goodness! I feel used, betrayed, jealous, and every negative emotion you can name. That she got a job offer hurts, but I honestly believe she didn't seek it out. The real betrayal for me happened the minute she set herself up as an expert in the yearbook world, based largely on my work and help. Also part of me looks back and says, why did she choose yearbook in the first place? She has a resume that includes positions with major television networks. But yearbook is my only claim to fame. I go between feeling small and jealous and selfish to feeling justified in my anger and hurt.
How do I feel about this? Am I being irrational? And how do I deal with my sister going forward? I'm so hurt.