All throughout my life I always felt like I was living in the shadow of my older brother. Because I’m the younger sibling, there was already a preconceived idea of who I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to accomplish based on his previous success. He was a straight A student in the top percentile of his class, charming his teachers with his natural ease in academics. He played soccer and was in the school band, showing off his well-rounded character. As soon as I entered high school, I was met with “Gordnier? Are you Beau’s sister?” in almost every class, as I was motivated (or rather forced) by my parents to follow his same curriculum. I would smile politely and confirm their guesses, all the while my heart would sink in the slightest sense as I realized my teachers were now assuming that I would do just as well as my brother did. But what if I didn’t? Would that really be so bad?
At the time I was a freshman, my brother was a senior, so I was able to experience his college application process. I went on college tours and helped him brainstorm ideas for his application essays. I watched as he received acceptance letters from well-respected universities and began to worry that I wouldn’t have my life figured out like he did by the time I was a senior. Finally, he decided to go into the School of Engineering at the University of George Washington to study biomechanical engineering. My parents were so proud of him; I just knew that I wanted them to feel the same way about me some day. But things changed.
My brother ended up failing most of his classes his freshman year. My parents were unbelievably frustrated and I was so taken aback. I didn’t think it was possible for him to fail at anything. There were screaming matches between him and my parents. I would sit in my room and listen from the crack under the door as they tried (and failed) to figure things out. Eventually they brushed it off as a “bad year of adjustment” and he promised to make his sophomore year more successful. Sophomore year came around and he received his midterm grades while we were in Connecticut for Thanksgiving. He failed again. Here was my brother, who had gone through his life so easily, hitting a wall in college, and it terrified me. I was always trying to live up to my brother’s standards, but now what?
I watched as my mom would randomly panic while we were at the store, worrying about my brother. He was put onto academic probation and was almost not allowed to return for his third year. Soon enough, it became my turn to start filling out college applications and I was afraid of turning out like my brother. My mom and dad would voice their fears onto me, creating a mental burden that was only getting bigger. Either seriously, or jokingly, they would say, “Lea, maybe you’ll have better luck” or “There’s a lot riding on this, don’t mess it up”. So, I made it through senior year and college applications, happily deciding on Pitt for nursing, but still hearing my parents’ voices in the back of my head: “Don’t mess this up.”
In Rodriguez’s story, he explains his feelings of resentment, but also guilt, towards his parents for their differences in language and lack of education. As I read “The Achievement of Desire”, I found myself relating to those same feelings. My brother was my role model, the highest standard I could become, and I resented him for it because he made everything seem so simple and easy, whereas I had to work harder. And then, as he started to struggle in college, my parents put pressure on me to not make the same mistakes as he did. This made me even more confused and frustrated because my whole life I had been trying to be like him. But then, I felt the guilt creep in. How could I feel that way? I was supposed to love and support my brother no matter what happened; and I do. Seeing my brother go through this has helped me realize that I am my own person, and I don’t need to follow so closely behind him. His mistakes are not mine.