A rocket scientist, a college athlete, and a perfectionist walk into a bar…
This is not the start to some cliché joke; rather, this is actually what it looks like when my siblings enter any room. I, on the other hand, am the younger and seemingly less accomplished sibling who is running, desperately, trying to catch up with them.
I have grown up being called “little Bourb,” which I don’t really mind. My siblings are super amazing people and my three best friends. They’re the ones with whom I can make fun of my parents, get into heated monopoly trades, or simply sit and say nothing. I love them and being compared to them is pretty flattering. However, I have struggled with the universally accepted idea that I will be just like them or should be just like them. Coaches, teachers, family, tend to have expectations of me based off of my siblings, which can be a little daunting at times.
My oldest brother, Jack, graduated as the salutatorian of his high school class and was recruited to run in college at MIT. He graduated with degrees in aerospace and aeronautical engineering and economics; he now works as a rocket scientist for Boeing. His was the easiest expectation for me to shatter: I don’t do math. I run slowly. My math teachers and cross-country coaches quickly figured this out.
My other brother, David, was “that guy” in high school. Funny guy. Star baseball player. Star runner. Homecoming court. He also got recruited to play baseball in college and is about to graduate with a degree in business and economics. I, on the other hand, struggled to catch the eye of my high school coaches from the bench let alone any college coaches. More expectations shattered.
My sister Claire is the perfectionist of our family—perfectionist in the best sense of the word. She has a plan for everything, is well-organized, and makes every single one of her plans happen. She graduated from high school and went to her dream school, Notre Dame. After graduating, she landed her dream job while simultaneously planning her dream wedding to her dream guy. She is now happily married and very good at what she does. She is the personable and “popular” one of my family. Me? I am not organized and my plans leave a lot to be desired. It took me two tries to get into my dream school, and I couldn’t tell you what my dream job is. Final set of expectations: shattered.
I am what my family refers to as the “quiet one.” I’m not a naturally quiet person. I’m quiet because every time I speak I feel like there are expectations. I feel like I have to say something as intelligently as Jack, as wittily as David, or as eloquently as Claire. I struggle with my self-confidence and always feel that when I talk I’m being incredibly awkward. I love my siblings and am so proud of them for all their successes, but every time I fail to do something that they make look so easy, I feel my confidence take another hit.
Because of this lack of confidence, I struggle to open up in deep and meaningful conversations with other people, not just my siblings. For most of my life, I’ve operated under the belief that I’m not good enough to be heard. I’m afraid I won’t meet expectations, so I always tend to hang back and do my own thing.
Being away from my siblings at college, though, has helped me realize that my own thing is actually pretty cool. My siblings may have hit the genetic jackpot in terms of intelligence, athleticism, and just overall cool factor, but I can do some cool stuff as well. I study design and English, and while my family jokes with me that I’m majoring in arts, crafts, and reading, I don’t mind. I love the fact that I can explain things to them that they wouldn’t otherwise know. None of them actually understand what a design major is and are convinced that every design major wants to become an interior designer, so they are always sending me pictures of their apartments. (“No, I really don’t know where you should put that futon.”) Because of this passion for design, I finally feel like I am bringing something unique to the table, and this realization has allowed me start to notice my other gifts.
I’ve become the sibling that my other siblings open up to, and they refer to me as the “nice” one. I still struggle to talk in front of people and contribute to conversations because I’m afraid of saying something dumb, but I’m learning to have confidence in my words and in myself. Despite not having a degree from MIT, playing baseball in college, or being super social and put together, I’ve learned that I have my own things going for me.
I’m never going to do what my siblings do, but God doesn’t have some intrinsic hierarchy of talents and gifts that He consults when He forms us in His image. He gives us all different abilities and leaves it to us to use them to serve Him. God doesn’t create uninteresting people. I don’t need to meet the expectations of people who only know me as “little Bourb.” The only expectations I’m going to worry about are mine and God’s.
Anna Bourbonnais is a junior at the University of Notre Dame majoring in Visual Communication Design and English. She served as a Mentor-in-Faith in 2015.