How Extended Family Made Me Re-Evaluate Success

Last week, an extended family member (read, my play play cousin) stayed for two days at my place (read: I live with my mother so basically he couch crashed) while on the quest to land his dream job in marketing. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, he’s had this starry eyed view of New York that I just can’t understand; I blame it entirely on being a jaded street wise New Yorker who often visited his side of the family to get AWAY from the city he dreamed of.

I work in digital, I’m a digital person with awkward people skills, fast fingers and the ability to adapt to things (pretty much after I have a self induced panic attack where I wonder how the hell I’ve been able to function as a person for so long) He’s bee fortunate enough to be able to go to a school that fosters growth, development and that he paid his way to go through after leaving a top ten school because he wanted to pursue real money (broker life being vs being an athlete) He worked various jobs, took internships and did all the things expected of a 22 year old trying to make a splash in the world.

I should know. I did the same thing.

So why is it that my mom and by extension his family are swearing that the sun is shining out of his ass?

Because it’s all so fake.

When I was 22, I had the first of what would be multiple nervous breakdowns where I’d spend weeks in bed, occasionally eating when I remembered that I hadn’t and trolling job sites because I was frequently bouncing around the workforce. At the time I was seeing someone less than financially supportive (emotional maybe) and we were already on the roads to the end so the only thing I really had left were my wits and ability to continue muddling through life despite the crippling depression I was suffering from.

He’s 22 and has been to three different cities, spent time in Mexico and is planning on traveling after graduation.

My mother fawned over him, all 6’2 180 lean muscle inch of him.

As a kid (there’s a 8 year difference between us) he was a shithead. The nightmare child. I told him (again at a family gathering in PA where the city was miles away) that life was going to punch him in the face and fix his attitude. I avoided that side of the extended family for years; the irritating ghost of their success looming over all my failures like a condescending cloud of shit that I thought it was. I heard the occasional update from my mom about their sports related successes, both brothers being accepted into college on sports scholarships blah blah blah. I didn’t care. I didn’t ask why are you telling me? (Yes I’m a cranky shithead) With each unwanted update I felt that my own personal successes meant nothing. I was gainfully employed, moving up in the exciting world of retail (I’ve got some stories for you on that one) and also getting back into my world of digital production. I was keeping it low and simple. I met someone I was super into and we were talking and flirting and things were starting to look like I was going to have a decent normal life after years of just cobbling things together.

Fast forward: its 2015, I freelance everywhere, I hustle like I’ve always done and I’m currently in hot pursuit of that which got away. To put it mildly. I’m a fucking mess at 30.

My mom ‘understands’ but we all have parents, parental figures, significant people in our lives who pat us on the head and basically try to understand how one can become such an epic testament to Murphy’s Law.

stay humble.

Maybe it’s just me and I’m in that space where as an aged person I feel like I’ve failed my foremothers by not being a high powered gun toting penthouse living egocentric maniac. Y’know, as God intended. Maybe it’s just that in this kid I see where all my potential fell flat and where his still has a chance because of the advantages he was given, things he gained and things that just happen when people don’t let their ambition die. Here’s the thing. At 22, I WAS successful, succeeding and thriving, I just didn’t know it. Perhaps depression and sadness truly clouded the blessings that were around me and when I look back now I can SEE where all of those things you that are missing now were in place then. I can also see where I wasted the shit out of my time with people who were so clearly not worth it. I don’t see that for this kid and for some strange reason I feel bad. I feel bad that he’s had this simple, easy, spoiled life and that he will feel entitled to come into my city, my backyard and force people like me to work under them because they were too stupid and lazy to learn how to press record, light a set or understand what goes into my line of work.

The kid is an elitist shitbag.

He showed up in fucking Express jogger pants.

who does that?!

then, fresh off the train had the nerve to walk through Penn Station like he owned the place.

I’m not at all above calling someone out on their douchebaggery so when I saw him coming up the escalator, headphones blasting, my out of breath mother (she’d been calling for him while trying to walk as fast as she could towards him) I said, “So basically I could’ve run up on you and shanked you.” he stopped, turned, noticed what was going on and pretended that he was aware the whole time.

He smugly replied, “I was in Mexico City and I survived that.”

Me: “You were in the safe tourista side of town.”

When we got in, I went to bed and pretended that my mom and aunt weren’t up fawning over him while he fielded phone calls from firms that sounded like they were up for the cast of Boiler Room to use as fronts for business. (you ever see that movie? Giovanni Ribisi and Vin Diesel? Good stuff) In anycase, I read some comics, self loathed and went to bed.

In the morning I had to walk him to the train (he doesn’t get directions) and talk him through the travel process around the city. Here’s a metrocard, ignore the candy sellers, buskers are pushy and strollers are everywhere.

He spent the day roaming around, visiting firms and when he got back we went out to dinner.

I really wanted to get sauced on BBQ’s Texas tequila sunrises because I don’t care about my physical health and damnit I earned it. He had never been, did a poor job of flirting with our average Dominican waitress (he has a girlfriend who reminds me of Lyndsy Fonseca so I was very disappointed to A) be a cougar and b) that he has terrible taste in eye candy when not around her) and then proceeded to condescendly tell me that my job and existence hinged on whether a firm understood what values I had.

I told him, “I’m a woman, that’s basically my whole life power suits don’t scare me.”

fuck you very much

After dinner, I wound up thinking about what it is that makes me work as a person, what makes me a value in this weird industry made of cool people who to whom I exist to remind them of how cool they are.

Why should someone in a power suit who assumes his power is in the label tell me how I’m living and what I’m doing?

The weird thing is, my mom hasn’t even congratulated me on what I’ve been working on, not in the way she fawned over his interviews. He’s graduating Sunday and I’ll be working on the weekend. I wasn’t planning on going because honestly, that entire side of the extended family feels like like a bad Spanish translation of Modern Family or Desperate Housewives and I hate both of those shows. To be fair, I hadn’t even told my mom I’d landed the gig because she has a habit of accidentally on purpose telling people of my exploits; I told Waffle who still doesn’t understand what I do but in the time we’ve been trying to do whatever it is that’s happening between us, I’ve come to understand that I can’t expect someone who doesn’t get what I don’t get I do to get it. Get it? She and I processed it as a blessing and categorized it as, thank God it was a long time coming. I learned from the mistakes, growing like the little stubborn weed that I am and paying close attention to the things going on in the world around me. I don’t really care whether this kid makes it or not, his attitude is going to get him punched in the teeth and I don’t have insurance so I’m not covering that shit. Perhaps the thing that’s making me crazy is the fact that I still haven’t figured out things and that he’s apparently so well put together everyone’s admiring him.

I’m a Jackson Pollack to his whatever opposite of a Pollack is.

He’s polished and shiny and I sniff my socks to make sure I can squeak out another day before I have to just barefoot it or beg for a day off to atleast take care of the essentials.

My mom admired that whole visage the way that one does when they see what could’ve happened if things had been done differently. I think that’s really the part that sucks. She thinks this is her fault and she’s pretty far off mark with that. She raised me to be someone who just does what needs to be done. It’s the fact that she thinks that she did a poor job of raising me to be a shiny happy person, that I struggle with the things that I struggle with and that I continue to belligerently put on armor and charge into shit like Brienne of Tarth. I was built to be a warrior, to fight and continue even if I’m bleeding out, tired and just want to get the fuck out of there. It’s not her fault that I didn’t become a shiny happy person, it’s mine and that’s one of the things I’ve come to accept; I’m a dark little firefly and that’s just the way it is. His success doesn’t impact mine because I’ve got a head start on him. All the education and smooth talk doesn’t make up for the real skill sets; just fucking doing it. Even if I’m faking it til I make it, I’m doing much better than I thought I would. I have options. I’m adaptable, I can change and evolve in a way that people like that, stiff suit wearing shiny people can’t. I’m not jealous. I don’t envy his life. He wants into a place that eats people alive and that can very well turn from being a welcoming place to the bowels of Hell pretty fast; I should know, these streets raised me just as much as my mom did. I know people who’ve moved from other places to live here and have thrived but they didn’t walk in with an unearned sense of entitlement the way this kid did. They knew this place is a savage beast that quenches it’s thirst with blood, sweat and a $2.75 price-tag on sub par transportation services. He doesn’t and honestly, maybe that’s where I feel like I’m successful. I didn’t break when I could’ve.


come the dystopia they’ll inevitably bring about, I’ll be the first one to say fuck you and rip off their heads.