My family has always been and continues to be my greatest support, and my biggest obstacle.
As a small child, I’ve had it in my head that life is survival of the fittest, everything’s a challenge, and everyone is an opponent. My older brother constantly reminds me of that, turning everything into a competition, even something as simple as what to buy as Christmas gifts, especially towards our mother. Because of this, I have always been convinced that I was going to die; I’ve always been weak, helpless, and selfish, therefore I’ve been destined to die soon. It didn’t help that doctors told my family that I’d be lucky to live to see my first birthday (however, with every passing year, I continue to think they were really bad at their job).
At the same time, my family has been so supportive in what I do, no matter what it might be. My mom always bends over backward to be sure I have the tools to succeed and have a life that I find worth living. All the while, my dad teaches me lessons (whether I want them or not) on personal safety, professional speech, and self-awareness so I could see the big picture of any situation. My grandparents and uncle give me hope that no matter how bleak my situation is, people are counting on me to live life to the fullest and succeed in my own goals. I guess in that sense, my personal competitive nature leads to self-improvement as opposed to someone else’s downfall.
…Let me talk about my brother. Growing up, I thought he was kind, smart, strong, and someone to look up to and depend on, and he was through our childhood. In elementary school, he was my shield from the Big Bad World. However, once we got to middle school, he changed; we both changed. He became more reserved within his friends and kept his distance from me while I just tried to scrape by as I always have; alone.
I’ll never forget when I first learned my brother’s true intention.
He just started high school and was recently arrested for vandalism. Ever since his arrest, he got angrier than ever; I never saw a day when he didn’t have a reason to hate everyone and everything.
Suddenly, out of the blue, he started treating me well again, being my shield, and even being my best friend again. But one day, he got into a fight with our biological father, who I was stuck living with at the time. Fights between the two of them were nothing new, in fact, I found it routine to go in there and calm the situation, but when I got there, my brother said, “I’m the one who takes care of her!” before turning to me, knowing I was standing right there. “Right? Tell him I’m right!”
Of course, being a twelve-year-old girl, watching my family crumble apart right before my eyes, and coming to the realization that I was nothing but a pawn in his game, what else could I have done but cry and leave?
Ever since that day, my brother and I have been in constant competition. I was jealous of him. He got arrested, went to jail, got sent to court, and his sentence was…to go horseback riding. He started smiling again, but only to rub it in my face that he was doing something that I’ve wanted to do my whole life (at the time). To get back at him, I kept my grades up and went on school field trips and in the summer, I went to Church Camp, a camp he’s always wanted to go but never had the chance to.
Also, because of his arrest, he lost the privilege to keep his pet snakes…one week later, he came home with a bearded dragon, a pet he’s wanted since he was about ten years old. To get back at him, I kept our parent’s attention on me and what I want.
After that, we left one another’s sides and didn’t see each other again for several years, where our feud only continued. When he came home for my 18th birthday, he bossed me around like I was still a child. For payback, all I could do was glare at him (however, if you know me personally, or even have seen my glare, then you’d know that if looks could kill, he’d be dead). When Christmas came around, however, I bought my parents all these large, grand, and wonderful gifts; exactly what was on their Christmas lists. To get back at me, my brother made fun of all the gifts and made fun of the fact that I was sick at the time due to work situations.
Then came Mother’s day. I worked overnight that summer, and on Mother’s day, I came home with a tree my mom said was the only thing she wanted. My brother saw me drive up the driveway at 10:00 a.m., my left hand on the wheel, my right hand holding on the tree hanging on my shoulder to be sure it wouldn’t roll into my neck. My brother didn’t do anything to get back at me, but he glared at me and seemed to even lose confidence with his Mother’s day gift (I don’t remember what he got her).
After that, my brother and I were on thin ice, walking on eggshells around one another because, during the whole summer, he’s tried to force me into situations I’ve worked so hard to avoid. For refusing his attempts, also for becoming friends with his ex-friends, he came back for a second Christmas and made fun of every gift I opened Christmas morning, never allowed me to have my own alone time, and made me feel horrible for not having anything under the tree for my parents, even though my parents and I agreed that the Christmas tree itself is their one and only gift from me that year (apparently I spent so much money the last year, my parents made me agree to a budget, which was eaten up by the new Christmas tree I got for them, which my mom has also wanted for several years).
In return for making me feel bad for that, I took a more direct approach and constantly reminded him that he didn’t belong in my house, criticizing my Christmas tree, nor did he need to monopolize what I do in my free time.
As of January, my brother and I stopped our competition, however, we don’t really have a winner. My brother was so broken, drunk, and angry, he told me to kill myself and laughed when I told him I was already suffering from suicidal thoughts, and have been for years. For my own safety and sanity, I reported it to my mom, and she blocked my brother from any and all contact with me. To retaliate that, my brother called my mom and offered her to be an accomplice to my kidnapping, which she obviously refused. Out of fear for my life, I limited my hours at work, and refuse to stay at work any later than I have to. Earlier today, my dad told me that my brother was reported missing last night. When I heard that, I felt nothing. No remorse, worry, or anything of the sort. My brother was found late this morning, and again, I felt nothing.
Call it what you want, cowardly running away, strategic retreat, or even winning the long war. All I really know is that my best chance of survival, keeping my sanity intact, and living my life to the fullest extent as is possible for me, this petty feud with my brother had to stop. It escalated from just jealous misunderstanding, to who can out-buy the other, to apathetically wishing the other will drop dead and meaning it.
I never want to hate someone as much as I hate my brother and biological father, it feels poisonous to my personality. I’m still healing and trying to stop being destructively competitive. Is there someone out there who you view as a repeated competition? If you do, are you climbing to surpass them, bettering yourself, or trying to cut them below you, sabotaging both of your chances of growth? Think long and hard before you answer; it’s so easy to romanticize our own actions so that you’re in the right and your challenger is in the wrong.