It’s disheartening that this post starts with yet ANOTHER story of a talent show I didn’t win. And, in retrospect, I’m pretty sure that of the many talent shows I participated in, I won none of them. What the hell?!
When I was in sixth grade three girlfriends and I decided to lipsync and dance to “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B” by The Andrew Sisters. Each of us had old military uniforms of our Grandpas, added skinny pants or a pencil skirt, and then we had our hair curled/set (one of our Moms did hair) and make-up done to resemble women of the 40s. It was AWESOME. I wore the top to my Grandpa’s Navy uniform from World War II. We went into this talent show knowing we had it in the bag. No doubt about it. The costumes, hair, and make-up should have sealed the deal.
There was a girl in my class named Monica. She was also signed-up to perform in the talent show and she came to school that day wearing a floral dress and flats (her outfit had nothing on ours!). She was shy so nobody really had any idea what she’d be doing in the talent show…well…that is until she blew every person away in our elementary school gym. She sang…that’s right folks there was no lip synching here…she sang “Make it Real” by The Jets. She walked up and down the aisles of kids sitting cross legged in the gym and performed the song like she was a veteran performer. Her voice was remarkable. Her performance was that of a much older woman who actually understood the lyrics and the heartbreak of the song. When she finished there was silence. Silence and awe. Silence and awe and disbelief. And then there was wild, crazy, and uproarious applause. Everyone in attendance knew full well what had just happened. We had witness something truly amazing.
Monica (deservedly) won the talent show and was elated. She had no idea people would respond the way they did. Maybe for that reason, she hadn’t told her family that she had even entered the show, so she was excited to bring her trophy home. The next day Monica had the trophy with her and at the direction of her parents had to return it. Her family practiced a religion that didn’t allow for celebrations that weren’t specific to the celebration of God. While they thought it was nice that she’d been well received, they weren’t particularly pleased with her song choice, and the trophy was a celebration of Monica’s talent…and they wouldn’t allow it in the house. She was totally heart-broken.
She had this talent that was rare and beautiful but, because she was surrounded by a big family that followed the rules and traditions of their religion to the T, she wasn’t able to pursue her passion or really shine. Even when I hear the song today I get verklempt!
I have a brother who is 15 years my junior. He turns 21 this year. Our upbringings were very different. My Mom and I lived in the city until I was 12, he lived in the suburbs from the time he was born. We didn’t have much money, he has never wanted for anything (reasonable). I went to public school, and in seventh grade he switched to private. Upon switching to private school, he started to experience some bullying, and he never fully recovered. After enduring four years of bullying and a school who did nothing, he was switched back to public school, and he completed high school at my alma matter (Go Orioles).
I moved back with my parents part-way through college and stayed there for the majority of my 20s. I accompanied my parents to almost every soccer game, hockey game, and baseball game of my brother’s for nearly ten years. We had the opportunity to become incredibly close in spite of our age gap. He was a very different child than I was. He was sensitive, and kind, and sweet, and his heart was gentle and fragile. I’m not saying I was an a-shole but I was a little tougher skinned, more independent, and more ready to take on the world. He was this tender boy in a family of very strong-willed, opinionated, successful, and smart people. It’s not hard for a tender boy to get railroaded when the three other members of the family are…well…us.
Last night we had one of our famed “family meetings.” My brother is considering a major purchase and it flies in the face of reason, is crazy, potentially dangerous, and nuts (according to us). Yesterday as I went about my work day I had a lot of drive time to think about him. Because he’s grown up in this family, still lives at home, and works for my family’s business, it started to occur to me that he’s had very little opportunity to shine on his own. There isn’t much that he can call his very own. Everyone around him has had success and has things that they have pursued with vigor…but he’s just kind of been along for the ride.
Behind his back we want so much for him to find something that he loves, loves, loves. Something that he can be passionate about. Something that he can pursue with vigor and with which he can enjoy enormous success. He has it in him…he’s ridiculously bright. He’s also ridiculously funny. And good looking too (any 21 year-old cutie girls out there???). But yesterday, and last night in our discussion, I realized that sometimes we (generally speaking…not just me and my family) can want something so badly for someone, can offer help and insight and advice and incentives, can show how WE have been successful, and instead of it allowing that person to really shine, it makes them recoil and do nothing.
I’m hard on my little girls. I expect a lot from them and I want them to be good good people. As I’ve thought about Monica, and my brother, I’ve started to wonder about letting go a bit to give them room to really shine on their own. Now…to be clear…I’m pretty sure most of my opinions/ideas/actions/tactics are, in fact, right and correct. But people aren’t really receptive to hearing that. They want to figure it out on their own. They want the ability to go after things themselves.
We have to give people space to shine and to find things that they can call their own. Whether it’s our children, or family members, or spouses, or friends…we have to trust that they will be okay and we have to let them figure it out and find their own way. For someone with control issues, a strong personality, and who comes from a long line of women who are pretty sure we’re right all the time, this is a difficult one.
TODAY: What if we have to give our loved ones space to really shine and become the people they are supposed to be? What if that sometimes flies in the face of what we consider reasonable or proper but we need to do it anyway?
PS – My brother totally rules and someday he will be famous for something. I think it should be for sports writing…but it will be for whatever he chooses…and you will surely know his name.