Born and raised in Lexington, Massachusetts, Dara Gilmore led a fairly unremarkable, if not busy, childhood. Her well-to-do parents, concerned that their youngest kid might follow in her sister's very stubborn footsteps, threw every hobby at her to see what would stick: gymnastics, tennis, ballet, Little League, ice skating, Kumon; you named it, Dara had tried it. It also ensured that she had plenty of outlets to burn off any excess energy, which in turn provided her parents with some reprieve from any mischief that might have been brewing at home between their two daughters. The way they saw it, if Dara was too worn out or had too much homework to do to want to mimic Hailey's every move, the day would be considered a success.
Her report cards were filled with smiley faces, and later on, nothing but straight A's. She was a model student, and to this day, Dara has yet to receive a grade lower than an A minus, blaming that particular semester on how distracted she was by her high school physics teacher's spitting habit. Unlike Hailey, she rarely caused trouble in school, choosing to laugh at or alongside the class clowns rather than to stand in the spotlight herself. She had a small handful of friends that she stuck with through middle and high school, with their endlessly loyal clique parting ways only when they all left Lexington for college. With her grades and a fair amount of well-balanced, diverse extracurricular activities, Dara had her choice in colleges, some of which were practically just down the road, and others of which were on the opposite coast.
The desire to carve out her own niche won out, and in fall 2008, Dara left home for Washington, D.C. in an attempt to assert her independence staying close enough to her older sister, and to home, to have a safety net nearby. As a student at Georgetown, she chose to declare a major in Global Health and minors in Anthropology and Psychology, but only after spending the first two years of college trying to find subjects that interested her the most. When major declaration day arrived, Dara, still unsure of where her focus was, tallied up all of her classes and made a decision based on how far along she was in each department. Her major wasn't the most interesting subject in the world to her, but she liked it enough and the work came easily to her, so she chose to stick with it. The last two years of college flew by, but not without interruption: part way through her junior year, she received a frightening early morning phone call from a hospital in New York, where a nurse calmly explained that her big sister had been admitted for alcohol poisoning. As her emergency contact, Dara was the first in their family to be notified, and not knowing what else to do, she sounded every alarm as she hurried to get on the first train to New York. Though she loved and admired her older sister for being her own person, the trauma of Hailey's hospitalization put a wedge in their relationship. It stood to reason that if Dara wouldn't let herself get too close to Hailey again, then she couldn't scare or hurt her like that again. Her logic was flawed, but she too could be stubborn.
By the time Dara's senior year rolled around, she found herself quickly approaching graduation without any sort of direction. Like many college seniors hoping to ward off the real world for just a little bit longer, Dara turned to graduate school. Several applications, essays, and interviews later, she had found her path, this one leading her begrudgingly back to the Boston area. The summer of 2012 was the last that she enjoyed in D.C., and in the city's angry heat, she packed up her belongings once again and headed towards Cambridge to start her first semester at MIT. Unlike two years prior where the work she was doing only suited her liking just enough, she found that she was actually excited for graduate school, and not just because it was new and shiny. She found herself faced with new challenges and was eager to learn, soaking up as much knowledge as she could as fast as she could from her new peers. She truly enjoyed how her new academic environment indulged her intellectual curiosity—and how her new schedule also allowed her to get away with more than a healthy dose of procrastination.
It wasn't all nerdy fun and games, however. Being closer to home meant that she also had to answer to family. With her sister having been forced to move back into their childhood home in Lexington just a few years prior, Dara knew that trying to bridge the gap that she had put between them was inevitable. More often than not, she managed to weasel her way out of family dinners at the last minute, claiming that she had a big paper to finish or that she that she was TAing, or rather unconvincingly, that she had forgotten about her weekly Bahá'í group one too many times and absolutely had to be at their next meeting or else. Her excuses began to run out, as did her family's patience, and after two years of dancing around her big sister's presence, Dara was faced with a choice: renew her shoddy apartment's lease in Cambridge, or live practically rent-free in a luxury apartment...with Hailey. The thought of it all wanted to make her hold her breath and throw the third tantrum she had ever had in her life, but the prospect of cheap rent, no more Craigslist roommates, and a working hot water heater was too great to pass up. In 2014, she was coerced into a détente and moved into an apartment with her older sister.