Being yourself may be one of the hardest accomplishments anyone faces in this lifetime. I wonder if this thought is a consensus among us or a dissenting opinion. There are so many contributing factors in identifying exactly who we are and/or who we want to be. Or at least there are for me.
I have shared that I grew up in a “Leave It to Beaver” family. For you older readers that also equates to “Father Knows Best” and “The Donna Reed Show.” If those examples seem like I am talking in riddles to you, “Happy Days,” “Family Ties” or “Malcolm in the Middle” might be a better reference. Bottom line, we were a middle-class family. Nothing particular set us apart from most families. My father was a math teacher and coach turned GM engineer and my mother was primarily a stay-at-home mom. Until I was thirteen, we were a typical family of four. We lived in a nice neighborhood, drove a four-door boat called a sedan, and enjoyed vacations that ranged from camping to sightseeing excursions and fishing adventures. It was a genuinely ideal existence. So why is “being myself” such an exhausting accomplishment?
I was the youngest child. My older sibling was the perfect child. You know the guy: Mr. Good Looking, Honor Student, Star Quarterback, All-State Pitcher, Social Climber, Teacher’s Pet, All-American, Apple Pie, American Flag and Hotdogs overachiever. Let’s see, did I miss anything? Oh yes, he was the apple of my mother’s eye. He could do no wrong. And honestly? He was a pretty cool brother. His best friends were the hottest dudes in school (ah, now there is another blog). But there was one little problem. I had to walk in his shadow.
Growing up I was never called “Jacque.” I was always “Mike’s Little Sister.” In the early years, this was a crown of glory. I loved being the next in line to his throne. But as I grew, I realized that title came with the burden of expectation to walk in those unbelievably huge footprints on a path that was predetermined by his legacy. It had nothing to do with me. Forging my own journey was a challenge. I was so very blessed to easily match his intellectual capacity (and sometimes surpass it!), but his athletic successes far eclipsed my ability to shine. I could easily waltz with teachers, but I was not a social butterfly. Looking back, I wanted to be just like him – a Rock Star.
His red hair and freckles made him attractively charming. My red hair and freckles made me a female Howdy Doody. Yes, I am carbon-dating myself again. Google it and giggle! I am certain that was because of his 5’11” athletic stature as compared to my 5’3” comedic stance. But, while we walked the same hallowed halls, he and his friends were my great protectors. He was my idol.
It was not until he left for college that I was able to build my own legacy. To this day I question if I would be the same person had I not been forced to shine through his shadow. He and I grew to be completely different people and many of the anchors that secured his prestige and honor in his youth became the burdens he harbored as an adult. As a Senior when he ceremoniously tapped me into the National Honor Society (I was a Sophomore, a feat he did not achieve until his Junior year), it was the beginning of a new rivalry between us that never ended.
Is the me that I am the me that would have been without his influence? I have no clue. But maybe it is why I always feel like I am searching for something more. It is a race where I cannot see the finish line. When we move from young players to old coaches, our life strategies most certainly change as well. All I really know for sure, is that I had better speed my search because the minutes on the game clock are running out and I have no time to buy a vowel. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
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