As I continue to go through this reflection period and have dipped into the memory bank of my earlier days it never dawned on me how many obstacles were in my way to grow as a person. Some of them I conquered, others it took many years to overcome, and others were sheer luck when they were removed for me, hence is the case with my older brother.
As a middle child, it was a brutal upbringing. Never feeling adequate enough as the 2nd son but certainly not new or different enough as the younger daughter. I felt stuck. I didn’t have many friends outside of school and hung out with a lot of my brothers’ friends. It’s funny now, really, but back then I looked up to him as an older brother and wanted to do the things he did. That’s pretty natural in most families and definitely wasn’t different in mine. Being only 17 months apart, we were close enough in age to play a lot of sports together and enjoy some of the same things. But we were so different it wasn’t even close. We thought similarly as we do to this day, but our actions were different which makes sense with his position as the first child and my place as the 2nd fiddle.
It was like that all the way through school. He was the cool, obnoxious, funny kid and I was, well, Nick’s brother. I played the role well and hid my feelings which most kids do and went on with it. What else was there to do.
But then my chance came to break out of the funk. A glimmer of hope to break free from the shackles of that existence. My big brother left for college.
So here I was, atop the mountain I so desperately was looking for. Finally, I took advantage. From afar you might not have noticed, but I knew there was a change. I was more outgoing, more sure of myself, and more the life of the party. See I too had quite a sense of humor, self-deprecating at times, and since I had forged my way as the “everyman”, I fit into many groups. I could hang with the athletes, spark conversations with the smart kids, and didn’t have a hard time talking to the girls (well unless it meant asking them out!). Still, some work needed to be done there.
What I noticed looking back is that I had built the tools in place to “win over” the crowds and be very likable and fit in almost anywhere.
I had learned emotional intelligence from being the quiet one and observing my surroundings.
I built my confidence slowly from working hard on my golf game and earning my own money through various jobs.
I learned empathy and compassion from hanging around with my grandparents
I learned to listen from watching a lot of interview TV from Regis and Kathie Lee, David Letterman, and Oprah.
It was only when the main obstacle was moved to the side that all of these things, that I didn’t really realize back then were strengths, came to life, and allowed me to open up as a person and spread my wings.
I think this can be a lesson for anyone out there struggling to find their own way. You may have what you need already to push forward and succeed but maybe there is that one obstacle standing in your way. Maybe it is the wrong job, wrong city, wrong group of friends, or something completely different. I got lucky that my big brother went to college, but you may have to pull back the layers a bit more to find what is holding you back.
Look at all the clues and whiteboard it if you have to but more times than not the most logical answer is probably the right one. The right answer may not be the one you want it to be but at least you have identified the problem and can take action to overcome it.
Once you get that boulder out of the way I’m confident that you too will be able to spread your wings and fly.