In Their Shadows

October 23, 2010
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Have you ever been watching your favorite TV show and feeling absolutely disgusted at the thick foreshadowing of the ‘younger-sibling-in-older-sibling’s-shadow” storyline? While the situation may be poorly represented on TV, it really can become a problem for younger sibling, and even older siblings, everywhere. How do I know? I happen to be a picture-perfect example of the American middle child.

When I was a little girl, my older brother was my hero, and my younger brother was one of my most prized possessions. Diego, my older brother, was amazingly fast, tall, and skilled in the everyday-activity arts. He wasn’t shy and he didn’t need mommy and daddy all the time. Nicholas, my younger brother, was small, confusing, and smelly, yet oddly fascinating. His cheeks were round, his belly was plump, and all the adults thought he was so special. I felt lucky to have such impressive family members, them being special made me special, right? As it turns out, that wasn’t necessarily a transitive property, which brings us to the current day.

My name is Ellen and I’m not your typical high school freshman. I’m quirky, intelligent, weird, and possibly a little bit insane. I take pride in my creativity, even if it scares people away. Diego, on the other hand, is your typical popular high school senior. He’s tall, on the varsity basketball team, and has a great girlfriend, who I only approve of because she watches Glee, my true passion in life. Sure, I play a varsity sport too, but most people at my school need to have “cross-country” defined, so it doesn’t earn me many merit points.

Being on the cross-country team is truly an amazing experience. I’ve discovered a new family of friends who I can rely on, and we use each other as healthy competition to improve our times. While the season is coming to a close, I know that even my teammates who won’t be joining me for winter track are still going to be there for me. However, as stated above, being on the cross-country gets me absolutely nowhere in terms of popularity, not that it really bothers me all that much.

I have everything required for a happy life. I have a complete family, some best friends, and good grades. It’s not my unpopularity that bothers me; it’s that when our peers compare Diego and I, Diego always comes out on top. Why? Here’s one reason: Even though I am the one on the cross-country and track teams, Diego is the one who currently holds our school’s pacer test record. What is the pacer test? The pacer test is a fun little cardiovascular endurance test. In other words, it’s running across the gym with specific time frames determined by how far into the test you have gotten. Yeah, it’s just a ball of fun, but it makes me wonder, why does he get to hold the record?

Now, I have to give Diego some credit here. He went through a whole stint of knee injuries which ended up in him getting surgery and just barely being cleared in time to make the basketball team. He works hard for his achievements, and I’m not saying that he merely gets lucky; it’s just that I feel as if he’s so much better than I am. He’s better than me at my own sport, he’s not pathetically single, he has more friends, and everyone knows who he is. If you ask twenty people at my school if they know who I am, I bet you at least half of them will answer with something along the lines of “that smart girl who runs?”

So, how do I deal with this? I take pride in what I have. When I’m feeling low, I think of all the semi-positive qualities I have that none of my brothers have. While Diego may be a great runner, he doesn’t feel the pure joy I feel from grinding out five miles, which is why I’m on the team. While Diego may be more popular than I am, I’m pretty sure that his friends aren’t as crazy as mine are which I take to be a good thing. I see things a different way than he does. I see life to be full of colors and opportunities to chase down curiosities, and if that makes me crazy, that’s fine, because the way I see things makes my life fun. My sole advice to people in similar situations is to love yourself for who you are, not for who your siblings are.

In three years, I’ll be the senior and Nicky will be the freshman. I wonder if my little brother will feel like he has to live up to me. Probably not. After all, he’ll probably be the star of the soccer and basketball teams, and I’ll be back to square one. Oh well, I’ll just have to keep on being me, and secretly hope that I embarrass him. Until then, my cross-country jacket will just have to do. Cheers!





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