Golden Child

I’ve been comparing myself to my brother my entire life.  I’ve never felt like I could possibly measure up to whatever it is that my parents see in him.  In fact, it is so bad that over the past few years I’ve taken to calling him the Golden Child.  Like he can’t do anything wrong no matter what he does or says that is so clearly screwed up.

The bad part in all of this is that I really love my brother.  Having grown up in a military family environment, moving on a fairly regular basis, we became great friends.  I guess it is safe to say that we were each other’s constant.  But we were very different people and as we got older those differences started to show.

But our differences aren’t really the big deal here.  The big deal is how I perceived my parents treated us, and still treat us.

Golden Child got screwed up royally in his high school years.  He was strung out on drugs, dropped out of school, left home, and basically told all the family to shove it.

But eventually, like the Prodigal Son, back he came.

And life has been me trying to get attention ever since.

Golden Child cleaned up his act.  Finished high school.  Went to college.  Joined the military.  Earned for himself not one, but two master’s degrees.  Goes on great trips all the time (unrelated to work).  Buys all the fancy things he can with the ridiculous amounts of money he makes.  Got married.  Had a kid.  Planned out his retirement at an early age, started a fund to get his kid’s Ivy League education paid for before the kid even hit five years-old… He has his shit together.

And then there’s me.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard about the greatness of the Golden Child, I’d be rich.  My college degree doesn’t measure up.  I really don’t give a crap if my kids go to college – that’s their choice – so I didn’t plan out their educational careers in advance.  I don’t have a ton of money and have to meticulously plan out every purchase I make.  I haven’t traveled since 2014, and that was just cross country to visit the famous mouse.

I know this isn’t nearly enough detail to even begin to let anyone reading know just why I’m bothered.  It’s all incredibly superficial.  But it’s something I am trying to deal with.

I’m trying to come to terms with why my parents couldn’t bother to come to my college graduation, yet they traveled across the country for my brother’s.  I don’t understand why I have to hear how amazing his life is, but not once have I heard them say that they are proud of me.  I just want to hear that they are proud of me for once.

I love my parents, but I’m angry with them.  Every time I see them and tell them about what’s new with me, they proceed to one up it with whatever my brother is doing.

They aren’t bad parents or bad people.  I’m just angry.

Deep down, I know that a lot of how they treat him stems from his having been so screwed up and them worrying so much and his finally getting to a good place and then succeeding so freaking much in life.  I never really made them worry like that.  I never wanted to.  I kept a lot of my life and my feelings to myself because I didn’t – and still don’t – want them to know.  If they really knew what went on in my mind…

When I Grow Up

My earliest memory of what I wanted to be when I grew up comes from when I was ten years old.  I’m sure that up until then my greatest desires centered around mothering my dolls and doctoring my stuffed animals.  I used to play school with my toys and pretend to be a teacher.  But when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, none of those things came out.  Rather, my answer was, “I want to drive a tank in the Army.”

I suppose my upbringing had a lot to do with my answer.  I grew up in a military family, we lived on base most of the time, and military vehicles were a common thing to see as we went about our day to day business.  By ten years-old, most of my friend were planning for their Barbie dolls to marry Ken.  As for me, I was planning for my Barbie dolls to go to war with my brother’s G.I. Joes.

But that dream of driving a tank came to fairly abrupt end.  You see, I have a medical condition having to do with my feet that actually prevents me from being eligible for military service.  Now, at age ten this was not something I really cared about.  I was a kid.  I was dreaming.  I was imagining a life that might be cool.  But pretty much as soon as the words “drive a tank” started coming out of my mouth, my parents made sure to let me know it would never happen.

So I moved on.  I found other interests.  And by age twelve, I wanted to be an astronomer.  All things outer space filled my mind.  I had stacks of books about the universe, the planets, comets, and black holes.  I loved looking at the stars and imagining my life as one who studied them.  Yep, I was dead set on being an astronomer.

Then my parents reminded me of my lacking math skills.  I’ve always found math difficult, but I was twelve.  I was dreaming.  And I had years to boost my math knowledge (which, by the way, is no longer lacking).  Even with years to go, I still got reminded all the time about how science requires math and math was not a skill I then possessed.  Another dream died.  It was sucked right into the black hole that was beginning to form around my life.

During all of those years, I was taking piano lessons.  And I continued taking them.  By the time I was fourteen, I started to dream again.  I would spend hours at my piano.  For me, music was a release of every emotion I had.  It was an escape from a life that I felt didn’t want me.  I would drown out everything and everyone in a sea of Beethoven and Chopin.  Playing music, feeling music, living music… I lived for it.

I dreamed of Juilliard.  I dreamed of Carnegie Hall.

And when I was sixteen, I applied to a performing arts school.  I was three weeks away from my audition when that dream came to a screeching halt.

My parents decided to make a sudden move, and they did not consult me.  It was immediate.  It was needed for them, and I do understand that… there was a sick family member.  But no one considered what I was giving up.  I was basically told that family was more important than piano and I needed to just deal with it.  I could take lessons anywhere.

Yep, I sure could… but that performing arts school audition was mandatory for admission.  And when I didn’t show up, I kissed my chances goodbye.

I still played piano.  For hours every day.  Locked in my room.

But Juilliard and Carnegie Hall faded… and a new dream took root.  If I couldn’t train for the big time, I could most certainly become a teacher.  I finally knew what I wanted to be when I grew up… a music teacher.

But there are only a handful in each state.

One at each school.

You won’t make a great living.

That job is almost impossible to get.

Music won’t pay your bills.

Yep… those are the great things I heard from my parents.

Time passed… senior year of high school came, applying to colleges took priority, and I wanted in a music program.  But the voices, the opinions, the insertion of someone else’s version of my life… it all took over.  Despite getting accepted to a great music program, I stayed home and started out at junior college studying computers.

But you’re so good at computers!

Technology is where the money is at!

This will give you a future!

Yep, I studied computers.  I transferred to a major university and got that fancy B.S. in a field I wanted no real part of because hey, music won’t pay the bills.

I gave up on my dream to live out someone else’s, only to find that I wanted nothing to do with it.

After college, I worked in my field of study for a short time.  I was miserable.

I never drove a tank.  I never discovered a far off planet.  I never played Carnegie Hall.  I never became a music teacher.  And I hate the tech business.

So what do I do now?  Nothing even remotely resembling anything I grew up thinking I’d do.  I’m a fitness coach.  Go figure.