A Heavy Shadow

Everyone knows about the middle child syndrome, and I can honestly say it is true. I have a unique case because I wasn’t always the middle child. I was the youngest for the first ten years of my life, stuck in my older brother’s shadow. He was the perfect little Muslim and scholar, and he was kind to everyone he encountered. Let’s just say I was not, and very subtly, my parents reminded me of that fact. I never desired to be like my older brother, and in fact, the more praise he received, the more I wanted to be the opposite.

I enjoyed being nothing like him, constantly perceived as an underachiever or just skating by, why even bother being anything else; in my eyes, my star would never shine as bright as his. Before I knew it, I was a big sister myself, a little baby to steal whatever shine I had on my star. My saving grace was I still was the only girl, not redeeming my shine but at least left a bit of glitter. Life escalated quickly, I became an older sister, and it was time to grow up expeditiously.

My older brother decided to demolish his star and remove himself from the narrative, again my position in the family has changed. I was the golden star and all of the weight and responsibility that came with it. I was no longer viewed as the middle child; I became the oldest, and the family burden and responsibilities were now on my shoulders. My parents placed all of their exceptions on me, while a little boy admired and I became the example to follow.

The older and more mature I became, the more responsibilities were placed on my shoulder. I added another layer of pressure on myself not to fuck up! I was never supposed to be in this position, but now I have to fill this void. I know my father didn’t want his daughter to be the one to take care of the family in case of his absence, so I always feel the need to overcompensate. Prove to him that I am stronger and more capable than any son. I often feel like I will forever be trapped in this comparison cycle with my older brother. If not in his shadow, then stuck picking up his abandoned responsibilities. I love my role in my family and the trust I’ve earned, but this was never supposed to be my narrative. I wonder how life would have been if I remained in the middle, being outshined by my brothers.


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