Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. –Leo Tolstoy
So, here I am living with my two amazing sisters and wonderful niece in a house in Washington D.C. My sisters and I had a heart to heart a few nights ago. One of my sisters looked at me and said “You have got to be one the luckiest SOBs I’ve ever met.” My first reaction was agreement. Not many people have a the family support, friends, and opportunities that I’ve had. Then I thought about it. I remembered the year spent living with my parents because I couldn’t afford to go the school. I remembered the hours spent in the library studying. I remembered months spent feeling like a failure after graduation. I remembered working 60 hours a week at a school in Englewood. I remember hours of meetings and mountains of stress living in a homeless shelter in Back of the Yards and I was reminded of the all the work. Then all I felt was anger. “I made my own luck” I announced before recounting all the things that had happened to me over the years that I never told anyone because I knew that they would worry. I realized that I always make my life seem easy and make every good thing that happens to me about chance because I hate to brag about my accomplishments. It is not humility, I wish it was but its not. I realized in talking to my sisters that I don’t tote my accomplishments with my family sometimes because that is not the role I’m expected to play.
I am the lazy but brilliant slacker of the family who is always content to have others do for him what he could do for himself. That is the expectation, the default narrative. I realized that I purposefully reinforced that narrative as the path of least resistance. They was no way that I could foresee convincing my family that I was no longer the baby, that they didn’t need to treat me like one. So instead, I decided to reap the benefits to fullest extent possible. My sister was amazed by my rant and realized that I had never let my self admit that fact before. My sisters then went on and talked about the roles they felt forced to be in our family and whether or not they want to change them. It was really transformative to hear their accounts of our childhood.
We all viewed arguments, vacations, presents and statements very differently. I realized that while I have a happy family, I think it must be a happiness unlike any other.
This left me wondering what it is like for other people becoming adults along side their siblings. How did or are your relationships changing now that you are becoming adults? Do you have a role to fill in your family?