“The boy who expects every morning to open into a new world finds that today is like yesterday, but he believes tomorrow will be different.” ~Charles Dudley Warner
I always felt inferior to my sister, for one reason or another, throughout those early, formative, years. It was never her fault, of course, but you couldn’t have sold me on that back then. It was an odd mix of pride / resentment / determination that fueled me from the moment I could form solid thought until I became a young adult. And maybe a little bit after too.
Because she was older Joy liked to tell me often that she was “paving the path” for me, but that path was full of accolades and superlatives. Talk about hard to live up to. I remember going into the schoolhouse in those early years, being introduced to my new teachers, and the first thing they told me was:
“Joy was one of my best students ever. I’m expecting the world from you.” Or something similar.
And the pressure was on. Luckily for me I was a good student in my own right, and I often got better grades than Joy, but I wasn’t Joy, so it didn’t matter, at least in my mind, and in the responses I got from my teachers. Sure, I got excellent grades, but they already told me they expected that. There was no way to impress them, so I would inevitably fade into the woodwork, not to mention the other kids thought I was a kissup so I didn’t have many friends. A’s were my friends, I guess you could say, and that made for a lonely existence. You know, because A’s aren’t good at hanging out.
I suppose it wasn’t the teachers’ faults, these expectations, and the inevitable letdown regardless of tangible results. It was just the way of the world, having ties to someone who was just so dynamic (and who still is). It was just a horrible reminder that I would always be just second best, when I guess I should have held it up as a signpost pointing the way to just being myself, to not caring what others thought. It would have certainly saved me a few ulcers along the way. Those teachers didn’t know any better. They thought they were paying me some kind of compliment by telling me how amazing my sister was.
But it was more like I was the waiter, and they were there telling me how amazing the food was. I had nothing to do with that. Can you just tell me how incredible my service was by giving me a sizable tip instead?
As I got older I realized that it wasn’t my sister’s fault either. She possesses a strong drive that has gotten her so many places in this world, and I’m happy for her. I needed to learn that comparing myself to her was neither healthy nor constructive because I would never be her. And expecting the world was unrealistic because it was her world, not my own. I needed to go out and find my own world, to bring it into being, to breathe life into it so that my expectations of it would certainly match, so that they were attainable. So I did. And in doing so I forgave myself for the past, and I forgave others for their lack of perspective.
It’s easy to compare people, especially when they happen to be siblings. The hard part is realizing that even siblings are individuals and want to be treated as such, and appreciated as such. And I love my sister so much for everything she is, but also for the things that she’s not, because it all goes into making her a person I can emulate and appreciate, but without expectation.