My family is what some might consider “abnormal” or “weird”. Others would say that we are no fun sticks in the mud who need to get out more. The truth is, is that my family is a group of individuals who help each other live. We are so much alike, while at the same time being nothing alike that it brings us all closer. So the idea of a ritual or a rite of passage is foreign to me, none of us do the same things and all of our interests are completely opposite. That’s when I thought of the thing that everyone in my family does, we find ourselves.
One common thread that runs through all of us is the need to be the best. My mom, Jennifer, raised me and my 22 year old brother, Alex, like she had two roommates. From day one we were given as much respect as we deserved and as much trust as we could handle. My mom never really gave us rules as kids; she taught us how to behave, and her only discipline was sign language and an evil glare that would send chills down your spine. That was all we needed. If me or my brother ever acted up my mom would sign for us to “knock it off now” with a serious glare and we would stop.
I raised my kids to be adults, you never got away with things because you were kids” said my mom, “You guys were expected to act like adults if you wanted to be treated like adults. ” And that was the truth. My friends would always tell me I had the coolest mom because I didn’t have to ask her to do things or go places. My house was the kind of house where you can eat cake before dinner, but if you ate so much of it that you got sick then you better find the tums yourself. So with the idea that me and my brother grew up like adults, naturally we thought differently from most children.
For example, we didn’t learn how to ride bikes until we were 12 because if we were not good at something, then why do it. My brother is the epitome of the idea, if you are not good at something then don’t do it. So naturally I am the same way. Floating from thing to thing we both finally found ourselves about 5 years ago. My brother was just entering college to become a computer software engineer. I was going into high school having no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Then our “family tradition” came into play. I would say everyone in my family is above average when it comes to school.
My mom, however was way above average. It is cle see how the need to be the best runs through our blood. My mom was the high school cheer captain, NHS leader, and valedictorian. My brother is also above average, receiving an Obama scholarship, which only 13 students a year receive, while also being a published poet, starting in the fourth grade. All of these things are normal in our family however. We strive to be the best in whatever we do. Then there’s me. Erica. Born with the knowledge that my family has to be the best I knew that I needed to find something that I could succeed in.
The obvious option was school, however with an older brother like mine, I decided that I needed to pick another route. Going into high school, I knew in the back of my mind that I had to find what I was good at soon so I could perfect it. My first week of high school was almost over, just one more class and I was done and it was the weekend. All I had to do was turn in some pictures to my photography teacher and two days off here I come.
That was until we got to my pictures and my teacher who I would have for the next four years, says “Wow, this picture is awful, if looks like you dropped your camera and this picture just happened to take. I could feel my face heat rapidly as the embarrassment took over. Looking back this is when I knew that I could do better, and not only do better but be the best. The ritual of being the best in my family is not an option. Once you find yourself and what you are good at, you devote yourself to it until you have accomplished being the best. My mom’s was her valedictorian speech, my brothers were becoming a poet and winning a nationwide scholarship. Mine was getting my photograph in the white house. The contests I won were not good enough in my mind.
The idea of being recognized by local congress was alright. Winning a spot in the congressional building was getting there. However, when the announcement was made that my picture would hang in the walls of the white house for years to come, that’s when I knew I had accomplished being the best. The ending of our “rite of passage” is celebrating. Coming off of the high of winning while still being humble is a great feeling. The feeling of shaking hundreds of hands, the low murmur of people commenting on my photograph, the bright flash as I get a picture taken with my photograph, it makes everything worth it.
This is how my family is weird though, once the night was done, it was done. My winning picture would be brought up at large family gatherings like Thanksgiving or Christmas. I will get the occasional e-mail about someone wanting to use my work. However other than that it’s not talked about. To my family, being the best is not something to gloat about. It is to gain confidence in yourself and to know that you are great at something. This is why our family tradition is finding ourselves. No one makes rules for us, and there are no standards we have to meet.
It is just a personal goal that we want to meet earlier on in our life so we can look back and be proud of ourselves. Just because we each consider ourselves to be proficient in one thing or another does not mean everyone has to hear about it. In our family knowing that you accomplished everything that you could is better than a long written out tradition where in the end you are “considered an adult”. To us, you are born with all the rights and respect of an adult. You just have to find yourself and what you are good at, then the challenge is to not let the success go to your head.