Baa Baa Black Sheep

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I'd like to preface this by saying that the following post doesn't apply to everyone in my family, but there are several members who make me feel this way.

If you asked most people who know me, they'd say that I generally have no trouble speaking my mind. While this is often true, there are a few occasions where I generally keep my mouth shut, usually because confrontation and conflict tend to make me feel uneasy. This is especially true where my family is concerned. I acknowledge that it would be better for me to actually TALK to my family about this, but I don't necessarily feel comfortable doing it, and I know it would just end with me crying everywhere. If anyone in my family reads this, and I do think there are a few people who do, this post might not go over very well. However, I need to get all this off my chest, because it REALLY bothers me, and this is the only way I can think of doing it without turning into a complete mess.

A lot of the time, I don't really feel like I'm part of my family.

I realize that communication is a two-way street, and that I could definitely call more than I do, but I am always the last to hear things. My mom, who hasn't been involved in my dad's family since before I was born, called me to ask why I didn't tell her that my uncle was getting divorced. I didn't tell her because I didn't know (kind of like how I didn't know my aunt was getting divorced until I came to Thanksgiving -- Christmas maybe? A big holiday get-together, anyway -- and awkwardly asked where my uncle was).

With the exception of my older sister, who has lived in Texas for over a decade now, and my new brother, who lives in a suburb of Indy, I'm the only person who doesn't live within like fifteen minutes of everyone else. I think this is part of the problem, but it's a lot bigger than that. I've lived in the Lafayette area for four years now, and my mom has visited me once (with my stepdad and brother), and my dad has visited twice (with my stepmom and brother). Nobody else in my family has ever come to see me. The last time anyone in my family came to visit me was January 2011. Before I was married. This bothers me, so much, in fact, that I did actually bring this up with my dad. His reasoning is that I'm the one who moved away, and it's just more convenient for me to come visit everyone else since they're all there. While I can kind of understand where he's coming from, it doesn't make it hurt any less. It makes me feel like I'm not worth the effort.

What really makes me feel weird around my family, however, is how they treat me. It's not that they treat me badly, per se, but they make it quite obvious that they think I'm weird. I've always been "the smart one"; my nose was always in a book, and I always had an answer for everything. While I get that my attitude growing up (and even sometimes now) can be a little off-putting (I DO generally always think I'm right, and I have a tendency to correct people without even really thinking about it -- that's definitely my dad's favorite trait, lol), I always got the feeling that they felt like my intelligence was something I was supposed to keep quiet about for some reason (I could be totally off-base, but that's just the vibe I've gotten). However, since I refuse to dumb myself down for anyone, I can sometimes come off like a cocky know-it-all (I might sound that way now, actually -- sorry). I have an excellent long-term memory, and I can recall many events from my childhood that many of them can't; because they can't, they act like I'm crazy and making it up. Whenever I mention a childhood memory, right on cue, someone will chime in, "When I was two...", which is code for "There goes Alex talking about crap that nobody remembers and she probably made up."

My little sister is generally the worst about this. Of course, she can't make it through a family gathering without making at least one snarky comment to me or about me, so that's to be expected. I have always wanted to be closer with my sister, but the last time I tried to mend fences a bit, she told me that she thought our relationship was fine the way it was, and I stopped trying. Maybe I shouldn't have, and maybe I'll regret it one day, but putting in the effort with someone who only seems to put effort into putting me down just wasn't worth it anymore.

I also tend to have different views on things, particularly in regards to politics (which I try to keep my mouth shut about most of the time, because I really don't feel like getting into it with anyone), and I've always enjoyed learning more about other cultures and stepping outside of my comfort zone. When I was in boarding school, one family member told me that I tried to be different on purpose when I mentioned liking sushi, and another admonished me for going to Catholic Mass instead of a Protestant church service, and I was accused of turning my back on Jesus. My dad's family has been Protestant for several generations at minimum, but my maternal grandmother's paternal grandmother's family was Catholic, and I had long been fascinated by Catholicism; there was a Catholic church a block away from our dorm, and some of my Catholic friends let me tag along. I didn't think anything of it, but you'd think I was Hester freaking Prynne from the reaction I got (and it wasn't like I mentioned it in passing -- I had been asked if I had been attending church services). This was especially weird for me at 16 -- I was tasting freedom for the first time, I was surrounded by other students who I felt actually understood me, and I was just trying to figure out who I was; I feel like exploration and self-discovery should be encouraged, not quashed.

I don't think my family takes me seriously, and I don't know why. Granted, I'm sure most of them don't know half the crap I've dealt with in my life, but I still don't think that I've necessarily done anything that should illicit that kind of reaction. Sure, I've made some mistakes (like getting kicked out of school twice), but I think that all things considered, I've grown into a mature (enough), responsible adult. I don't know if it's because I haven't accomplished anything or something, but it seems like I'm seen more like my cousins who are still in high school than as one of the oldest kids in the family. I also get the impression that many family members didn't really approve of my marriage (and by that, I mean the fact that we got married when we did, not that I think they all hate Tom), and I think a lot of them are surprised that we're still together.

I think perhaps my biggest problem, however, is something that I'm (hopefully) just projecting on myself -- that I'm a disappointment, especially to my parents. No matter how many times I try to convince myself that I don't need their pride and approval, that I should focus on how I feel about myself, I feel a need to make my parents proud of me, and I feel like I haven't really done anything to earn it (this has been especially fresh in my mind with my brother's recent graduation from boot camp and my little sister being the first to graduate college -- which would have been me if I hadn't gotten myself kicked out of IU). I'm about 1/3 of the way done with an Associate's degree at 26 (which I'm proud of myself for, don't get me wrong, but I also often kick myself for putting myself in that situation anyway), I don't have an "important" job (even when I was actually teaching preschool, most people just saw me as a glorified babysitter), I can't give them grandkids (although I get the impression that I have family members who think I'm not ready for kids anyway) -- what do I have for them to be proud of?

I was the only one who was an oops baby. I was also the only one that hadn't been intended to be for keeps (that's always a fun thing to find out when you're 14). I don't know if that subconsciously contributes to these feelings, but I have always felt like I am not enough, like I'm just the sucky consolation prize. Even if it's not true to my parents, it's always lurking in my mind, and I don't know if I'll be able to remove that mental block.

And yes, I know I could use some therapy.

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  1. First of all, let me say, Amen!

    I am not sure how we didn't become friends as kids, because I identify with a lot that you write about.

    You're not the only black sheep. After I moved to Indianapolis, my family thinks I act differently, almost as if I moved to Beverly Hills or something, when in reality I live 57 minutes away from good ol Muncie. They rarely visit, and pressure me to visit more often. Additionally, I am actually converting to Catholicism, and dread the day I have to tell my grandparents, and even further dread the day they find out my wedding will be a full mass. I remember questioning every small-minded, small-town ideal when I went to college. I even got in tiffs with the Scroggs in person and on Facebook, because I couldn't understand how everyone in this family can get so set in their ways.

    Then I realized, you can't choose family, but my friends can be my family, and I can choose them. You fit in with Tom, and even though you feel like an outsider, maybe that is a good thing! It's good you've been brave enough to not only make your own choices, but to be brave enough to share your thoughts and feelings along the way.

    People in this family do appreciate your humor and creativity. I for one think you're one of the only sane ones, and I never even see you!

    Keep doing what you do, and I'll keep creepin & sharing.

    Your creeper cousin,


  2. Alex, I think it's good that you're different from your family. I'm pretty different from most of my family too, but thankfully they just kind of think I'm weird from a distance and most of them aren't the confrontational type who harass me. I can relate to being hurt from not being visited, though; my grandparents and everyone else but my parents haven't visited me since I was in high school even though I only live a couple hours away. They expect me to always go visit them. It sucks!

    I bet your family acts the way they do because they wish they were as smart as you and don't want to or can't understand someone who has a different way of thinking. Fortunately as Alexis pointed out, you have Tom and friends who do understand you.


  3. Rob Hayes Well Alex, since you think it's necessary to throw your family under the world wide bus, always remember that we ALL love you and are proud of your accomplishments. We all make decisions in life and we all have to live with the end result of them. I know you've been realizing it for some time and that makes me means you're growing up. We've talked before that you were not the only "Oops" baby. In fact, none my kids were planned. This doesn't mean that I don't love you or appreciate you. I don't understand the need to share your problems with the world but if it makes you feel better, go for it!
    Maybe we can talk more when the room isn't quite so crowded.
    Your Dad



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