Monday, April 26, 2010

2nd Best

We have all been there at one point. 2nd place. Not quite good enough for first, but still “acceptable”. More than acceptable by some people’s standards.

I know this really amazing guy. He’s funny; he’s smart, good-looking, sweet, selfless, and thoughtful. I could go on and on. He is just a great guy. This guy did something that most people wouldn’t have the guts to tackle and see it through. It probably isn't amazing by some people’s standards, but for him, it was.

At 29 he went to college. For the first time. Ever.

While that might not be a big deal to some, it was to him. It still is. He works full time, travels out of town every other week so that he can do his job. He helps care for a 77 year old man, as well as his house, when he is home. To say that he is busy is an understatement. Yet, he still manages to find time to spend with his wife, and maintain an A average.

Sure, some people would have it worse, if they were to go back to school today. They would have kids, chemo, jobs, friends, spouses, and families, all to deal with. I’m not trying to diminish their own obstacles, if they were to go back to college. They would have their own struggles and probably see his as a walk in the park in comparison. They might be right.

He has a younger sister, who is also going to college. She has been going quite a while, and changed her major several times. If she had stuck with one she would probably be working on her master’s degree by now. I can understand changing your major, you might as well find something that you love to do, so you didn’t waste all that time, and money.

When this guy shared with his family that he would be graduating with his associate’s degree several months before his baby sister, he was told that she had so many problems, and that her life was so much harder than his. According to him, and my impression from him, they made his accomplishments seem less than stellar. They made his hard work, seem like nothing. Like he was just “playing” around with school. Like it wasn’t important. Like no matter what he did, it was still just 2nd best.

I have spent the better part of today wondering why he got such a raw deal. Out of his siblings, and I have met them both, he is the more upstanding one. He is there in a bind if they need him, he is honest, decent to his parents, has worked since he was 16 years old. He never expected a handout. Maybe just a hand guiding him, not pushing, maybe just a hand pulling him up, when he fell, but never a handout.

Instead he just doesn’t quite measure up. Oh sure, they are proud of him, but his brother cooks better, or his sister has a B in chemistry. It just doesn’t ring true when they say, “You have a 4.0, that’s great. Well, your sister has a B in chemistry and she has tried really hard. You know how hard she works and studies. It’s just so hard to believe, and she has a B. We are so proud of her.”

And instead of lashing out, that wonderful man, sits there, silent. While his family, oblivious to the hurt that they just inflicted to their 2nd born child. He sits there, and silently prays for understanding, and patience, and for an escape.

It hurts me the way that parents, sometimes unintentionally hurt their children. His parents have no idea, nor do his brother or sister, what his never measuring up is doing to him. It’s changing him. It will make him work harder, so he can finish what he started. It will also make it easier to walk away.

Trust me. I know.

My “father” (at least on paper) did the same thing to me as a child. I was never good enough, my grades were never good enough, and nothing I did was ever good enough. There was always someone who did it bigger and better. But instead of having a sibling to compare too, I was compared to my friends. One of which wouldn’t have known what to do if she saw an A on her report card. Yet, me, making the all A honor roll, wasn’t quite good enough.

And it changed me. It made it easy to walk away, and not see him again. To be thankful that he lives across the country from me and that I don’t have to worry about running into him when I go back to my hometown. He didn’t make me try harder. The people who cheered me on, who were proud of C’s, who were proud of zits on prom night, crunched fenders, and everything else that meant something to me, they were the ones who made me try harder. The “father” made it easier to walk away from the people who wouldn’t cheer me on.

He talks often about moving away. Far away from his family, brother, and sister. Just packing up his wife and dogs and moving somewhere, where he can’t always be reminded of how he just doesn’t measure up.

Do you know what bothers me the most? His family. They don’t realize the damage that they are doing. They don’t realize what they are losing. Perhaps, like my “father”, it will take them a few years of not having him in their life to see what they are missing, what was right in front of them the whole time. For their sake, I hope not.

That man. That wonderful, sweet, selfless man doesn’t realize how many people he has cheering him on. And that he isn’t the one “missing” anything. His family is. That man also doesn’t realize that to me, and at least a dozen other people, he will never be 2nd best with us. He is 1st class all the way.

“How do you know?” You ask.

Because I am honored to be his wife. And I wouldn’t settle for 2nd best.

~Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else. ~Judy Garland

~It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. ~e.e. cummings

~Almost every man wastes part of his life in attempts to display qualities which he does not possess, and to gain applause which he cannot keep. ~Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, 1750

~Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself. ~Harvey Fierstein

~Learn to... be what you are, and learn to resign with a good grace all that you are not. ~Henri Frederic Amiel

~It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for something you are not. ~Andre Gide

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...