3 Points In Defense Of The Youngest Sibling

Malcolm In The Middle
Malcolm In The Middle

1.

Youngest children are kept something like pets.

There’s an expectation, a coddling that preserves you as young. You’re wrapped up by love like a mummy that removes you from the hardened corners of maturity, and holds you back to comparison points you haven’t earned.

That’s the simple truth of relative youth. Wherever you go, you’re outpaced. I remember, at four, counting down the years until I was older than my brothers and later, being informed with dashed hopes, that they would age too.

At that moment, I understood I’d be younger forever. And maturity, responsibility, and their matching milestones came to me at slower paces. And, as I passed them, I turned back onto myself to sneer at the person I once was, defining myself with what my brother once called the narcissism of small differences.

Anyway: that’s something I saw about myself. There was a time when I actively avoided a mirror because I didn’t like to see myself. But, further on, I began to avoid the past. I didn’t like to remember. I could barely stand myself in the present- how could the beta possibly live up 

And so I moved my mind to future tense. I planned indignant, of all the future successes that were due to me. Who cared that I was younger, a failure, behind on a vague checklist I’d grasped at blind- soon, I assumed, I’d be older. I daydreamed and planned for impossible glory the way a starving man dreams of a feast. I anticipated success proportional to my perceived failure until, slowly, I caught up to myself in the distance.

As my teens shed into twenties, I found out I was nothing more than myself. 

Cue the gnashing of teeth.

2. 

There’s a bias against the past.

The immediacy of the emotions get dulled. Your failures and errors get condensed to the distance of the past, treated as foreign misadventures a time-zone away. That’s fine. That’s how you mark growth. But it encourages a false equivalency; how dare somebody know less than me- politically, artistically, or otherwise- than I do, at this moment. 

By divorcing yourself from the past you propel yourself into a false present of success.

Everyone learns things the hard way. Nobody can skim the playbook of inevitabilities and spare themselves more than a handful of failures. That’s because failures are inevitable for growth, as cringeworthy as they remain branded in our mind. We learn things the hard way because they’re hard. Without that, those lessons wouldn’t linger. 

You probably can remember some that stick clammy in your soul. Words said or unsaid, cues and moments that remain raised and thorny in your life. It’s universal, after all.

But sometimes you forget that they’re needed.

And, to criticism I might not be getting, I’d like to say: I wish I was better too. Trust me: my failures do not elude me. But as epiphanies are non transferrable, I have to struggle my way to them. I have to sweat and fail and stutter to learn what not to do on a second date, what not to eat from a street cart, what not to say, angry, to a friend in a dorm. 

It’s the burden of youth to earn the smug detachment of age.

3. 

So what do I do with self awareness? Not much. I’m fated to fuck up, as surely as any of us are. I just have the unique privilege of seeing it coming. It doesn’t make forgiving myself any easier- the inevitability of my failure sours even my successes- but it is what it is.

Even this isn’t a understanding of it. It’s just a scratchpad of thoughts and mistakes, public in the hopes that it might make sense if said aloud.

So much is lost between theory and practice. I’m sorry. This is, terrifyingly, the best I could do.

Or not. In fact, it isn’t. But it’s the best I did, because theory and practice have a gulf between them.

Much of that is seen as narcissism It is, but of the lowest brand. Look: I wish I had something else to write about, too. I wish I had political points or grand, unified theories. But I don’t. All I have is some lonely corner of self and a platform to write it in.

It’s not much, and it’s not even enough, but it’s mine. And for now, that’s what counts. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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