Sure, I’m unaffected… by Redjen

Published on 6 October 2003 in Family (Please wait)

I really had a rather pleasant day at work. I woke up, went to the gym, played with the cats and watched the birds and squirrels on my deck this morning. And it was a pleasant day, in spite of suddenly becoming mad this morning on the way to work.

When my parents were in town, I had a bit of a chat with my mom when we were out buying curtains for my house. We were talking about my brothers and how they are both doing now. For the record, they seem to be doing fine and finding what appears to be the right path for each of them. We got to talking about how my parents have a different parenting style now than they did when I was younger. I love my parents unconditionally, despite the fact that they are human. Rugrat is very lucky to have my father as her dad. I’m really quite jealous of them at times. I have a hard time recognizing in him the man I grew up with. He’s grown into an incredible deacon, father, man and human being. He was a pretty good one when I was growing up, but age and experience sit well with him.

My mom said something about my one brother having trouble living up to the high expectations that my dad put in front of him. I think I shocked her when I said, “Yeah, no matter how hard we tried, he couldn’t be a jock and I couldn’t be a boy.” When I told her I had just recently really started dealing with that, she remarked that she thought it hadn’t affected me. I thought that for a long time as well.

It’s hard to try to live up to an expectation that is impossible. I’m not saying that I think my dad expected me to be a boy, but rather I don’t think I’ve ever figured out what he wanted me to be. He wanted my brother to play sports; I earned Varsity letters in three. He pushed my brother to do well in school; I earned an academic letter, placed in the top 5 on State Math competitions twice, was invited to be a part of the National Honor Society, consistently made the Honor Roll, picked up a few scholarships for college and even pulled straight A’s when I felt like challenging myself.

So what did this get me? Well, I feel uncomfortable showing my house to my parents. How’s that for healthy? I worked damn hard to get to this point and I’d really like to just hear a good job. So maybe our parents can turn us into perfectionists. If you are always told that you need to apply yourself, but never feel like your efforts are enough, how do you know how high to jump? I have a really hard time celebrating personal success. My brother rebelled against the pressure and found his own path (rocky though it was). I became Super Girl, but I was always afraid that if I spoke up and demanded attention that my brother would be hit with backlash as a result. I know my brother used to see me as the devil. He felt like he was always being compared to me and coming up lacking. I always felt like I was being measured against a goal that I could never quite reach. So nothing he ever did was good enough because I was killing myself for an unattainable goal. We were both fighting losing battles.

I guess I’ve turned out to be a pretty good boy in some ways. I can internalize with the best of them. I can’t remember who said it, but I think I was well on the road to “becoming the man I want to marry.” I’m educated, logical, articulate, attentive to details, responsible to a fault, big on family values and obsessive about making a secure place in the world. I’ve been told before that I’d make someone a great boyfriend, but that’s a good joke since I don’t want to be the man in the relationship. Unfortunately, in order to have a strong relationship, I’m going to need a strong man to be a part of it. Otherwise, I’ll revert to taking everything over and it will no longer be a partnership. I’m fine wearing pants, but I don’t want to have to wear them all the time.

So this gets to why I was mad this morning. I wanted to yell and ask my dad what it would take for him to be proud of me. What is it would make him want to stand up and say, “Yes, that’s my daughter and I’m proud of her.” I really don’t know what to do, of course that isn’t anything new, it seems like I never did.

Most of the time when I try to think of things to be proud of, I end up feeling embarrassed or ashamed. Feeling like it doesn’t really matter how good I think the thing I did was, because the real prize was just a little bit further down the road. I can’t find the finish line and I haven’t figured out how to pull out of this race either. I might as well be on an emotional treadmill at times, running at full speed, but never going anywhere.

If someone gives me an honest compliment and tries to give me constructive advice (not criticism, but honest, positive, helpful advice), I’ll break down in tears. Conversely, someone can yell and scream their head off at me and I won’t flinch. Calm under pressure, but crumbling under an honest caress.

So, I was upset this morning.

Redjen (Raleigh, NC, USA)

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