Surviving and Thriving as a Firstborn

Many moons ago, my mom presented the “There’s No One Like You” book series by Dr. Kevin Leman to my sisters and me. Through five books, Dr. Leman narrates the inherent traits, personality quirks, and a behavioral analysis of the first, middle, last, only, and adopted child, through the voice of a sweet mama bear who explains what makes each of her cubs “special” and “unique.”

Birth order is intriguing. And sure, there are exceptions to the norm and qualities differ from family to family. No person is the same and I’m not about to delve into a messy philosophical nature vs. nurture debate. However, the study of birth order and Dr. Leman’s books present one irrefutable conclusion: The firstborn is the best. Okay, fine. Settle down. What I meant is: Birth order matters and it affects behavior, relationships, job performance, and just about everything in between

Mindfulness of the undeniable features of the first, middle, and last child, and through 22 years’ worth of experiences and gained wisdom, I’ve developed a few tips on surviving and thriving as the oldest child, specifically of course, the oldest female child.

1. If your sibling needs to make a tough choice and you know for absolute certainty that if you just told them what you did in a similar situation, how you fared, and what they should do now, you would make their life so much easier and they should appreciate your true and tried solution, because gosh darned, they are lucky to have you, take a breath and tread lightly. With the purest of intentions, firstborns love to boss…ahem…I mean guide younger siblings. So go ahead, offer up a little advice. But ultimately, let them make the decision just as you did. You’ll sweat and worry as you watch them sink or swim, but fortunately, they have you as a lifeguard.

2. Your parents will parent your younger siblings differently, and the sooner you embrace this, the merrier your home will be. Let’s face it, you were the guinea pig, and for a little, it was just you. By the time the second or third child comes along, parents have learned a bit, relaxed a lot, and may try new techniques. For example, your parents may let your siblings pierce their ears at age eight though you waited painfully until age twelve. And you may find Fruity Pebbles in the cupboard while you long ago munched on Cheerios, begging for artificially flavored breakfasts. It’s best if you just compliment the earrings, pour yourself bowl of sugary cereal, and move on.

3. It is perfectly safe and quite healthy to let go of the reins every once and while, sit back and let the siblings plan something for the family. I understand you’re the natural planner and born leader and you take care of family arrangements, send reminders, and pay up front for everything, but let it go. Your siblings need to learn how to pick the perfect gift, plan a birthday party, and collaborate with others. By all means offer suggestions and do your part, but the siblings will appreciate your confidence in their ability to get the job done and not every gift, party, or collaborative idea, needs to be perfect. *Cue the perfectionist’s cringe*

4. Despite the kicking and screaming, you are indeed responsible for your younger siblings’ actions. I bet my bottom dollar you’ve heard many times, “Where do you think she/he learned that from?” or “Set a good example” or “Your siblings look up to you.” No wonder first-borns are over-achieving and ambitious. The fate of their younger siblings rest in their hands! In all honesty though, you do indeed set the stage, and your siblings take will be compared to you every step of the way. Raise the bar high and hold yourself accountable. It’s a grand responsibility but hey, responsibility is your thing, right?

5. Finally, learn something from your siblings. You may be the oldest, but contrary to popular belief, you do not know it all. Your siblings may not heed your golden advice, they may wear earrings before you and eat fruity pebbles, they may not jump to suggest an anniversary gift, and they may do most of the looking-up-to, but they are also the best of friends one can find, and come hell or high water, they’re there. So take the weight of the world off your shoulders, first-borns, you have someone to help carry it.

Thanks for reading,
Kelsey

What it’s like living at college after college

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“See ya, mom, I’m headed back to school. I mean work. I mean my room. I mean Saint Vincent. I mean..never mind.”

During one’s momentous senior year of creating lasting memories with friends, completing a program seventeen years in the making, and tediously applying to just about any job that semi-fits into your field of study (as a history major you do not have the God-given right to be picky when it comes to career selection, because as it turns out, treasure hunting is not a legitimate job…yet), every undergraduate is asked by every single person they know, or don’t know, “what are you doing after graduation?”

At first, from about August to December, its an innocent inquiry that provides a wide-eyes senior with a gracious reminder to keep the eye on the prize and that life exists after the turning of the tassel. At the start of the spring semester, with the pressure mounting and the reality of an “end” to the glory years sinking in, this question invokes a sense of uncertainty and urgency. If you have yet to nail down an employer and/or decided against deferring your loans and chasing a Master’s degree, you may find yourself avoiding an answer and instead, ramble about the terrible job market and focusing on grades. By the time March rolls in like a lion, so does the fear. Every time you hear this agonizing question, the fear grows bolder. It creeps up in the precious moments spent with friends. It invades your schoolwork, and persuades you to ignore and procrastinate assignments, just to meet one more precious deadline. And it renders you sleepless on occasion.

Fortunately in my case, March went out like a lamb. An organization in Pittsburgh offered me full-time employment (the crowning jewel of a job hunt), and I planned to embark on this new adventure just one week after graduation. Finally I had an answer, and it felt fantastic. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending how you see your glasses, this job lasted a grand sum of 2.5 months. But that my
friends, is a story for a different day.

God’s plan is truly awesome. Don’t ever underestimate what he has in store. Soon enough, I was hired as a Residence Hall Director of Saint Vincent College, my alma mater. This misunderstood term, in its broadest sense, means I live in a college dormitory, manage a staff of prefects ( or RA’s if you will), and serve as an on-call administrator for campus.

For those taking notes, that folks, is how you never leave college.

Interestingly enough, if I thought the above-mentioned interrogation was a tough one, the “where do you live now” is a real doozy. Some people really struggle to make sense out of my situation. I can’t really blame them. Next to no one can fathom why I continue to reside in a dormitory after graduating, and its difficult to describe my role to a non-residence lifer. You gotta live it to get it.

So here is what I’ve learned thus far:

My job is emotionally draining and physically tiring, but immensely rewarding and meaningful. I don’t have a full apartment equipped with a kitchen, but I am honing my microwave cooking skills and savoring short grocery store trips and meal prep time. My inaugural Homecoming weekend proved a bit anti-climatic since I was already there, but I saved a ton on gas and a hotel. I work until all hours of the night, but the stars are brightest at 3 am and sunrises rock. I live among college students, still look like a college student, and am often the same age or even younger than college students, but hey, students is what made college a blast in the first place, right?

I could practically write a book with all these unique aspects of my living situation and maybe someday, I will. But for now, I will leave you with this. We all have a story and it is a part of a much greater plan we cannot begin to comprehend. Do not compare your story to others. Yours was written just for you. Relish your reality and proclaim it loud and proud.

“See ya mom, I’m headed home.”

Kelsey

The “Big Purple Candle”

Today marked the final Sunday of Advent and the last weekend in our impatient anticipation and excitement of C-Day. Just look around at the 14,832 people who crammed into the Johnstown Galleria Mall looking for last minute sales. Or take a gander at the grocery store’s painstakingly full parking lot. It’s nothing less than a carnival fun house. I triple dog dare you to turn on your radio and find a station not playing Faith Hill’s “Where are you Christmas?” I’ll tell you where Christmas is Faith, it’s everywhere. How did you miss it?!

But the lady’s got a point. Christmas, the Christmas that includes the birth of a Savior, God made flesh, sent to live among us and die for our sins, is kind of lost. I struggled today to find meaning in the mall, the parking lots, or on the radio. I humbly recognize I’m not the first to notice or mention the lack of preparation for the real holiday present. Books, homilies, songs, and even billboards proclaim this obvious phenomenon. But I was fortunate to experience a small moment of Christmas clarity, and it’s worth sharing.
This moment is brought to you by an overly adorable 2 year-old who looked at an advent wreath and pointed to the recently lit, “big purple candle.” This candle, the last to shine, stood the tallest. As any 2 year old does best, she asked “why,” why was it the biggest? I offered a simple answer as she stared at the wreath. I mean she really stared at it. She took it in. She was monetarily mesmerized by that big purple candle.

When was the last time we allowed the big purple candle, the final week before Christmas to mesmerize us? To fill us with the wonder of the season; the strangely satisfying incapability to understand the mystery of Gods unfailing love for His chosen ones. Personally I recommend it. Give your soul an early Christmas gift and sometime in the few upcoming hustling and bustling days, take it in.

It took a 2 year-old to silently remind me of the significance and holiness of this Sunday. But I guess that’s appropriate. After all, it took a baby to redeem the world.

Merry almost Christmas!

Kelsey

What to Say…

What an intimidating beginning. An endless white page overflowing with blank space and crammed with possibilities patiently waiting to emerge.

And here I am, bringing to life a speck of an idea, stoking the spark of an inspiration, starting a blog. And here you are, reading. So welcome. Welcome to my immensely satisfying and daring adventure.

Why me, you wonder? And rightfully so. My dearest and most honest family and friends can attest that my talent does not lie in transforming thrift store bottles into a chic chandelier no matter how encouraging the DYI Pinterest pictures promise to be. I often forget important ingredients in recipes I’m faithfully following step-by-step in the simplest of cookbooks, often written for beginners. I do not follow a new-age health and fitness routine filled with flax shakes and underwater yoga. And I often choose against the gym when I have to defrost my car. Configuring my finances every month is nothing short of a Christmas miracle. I don’t buy eye shadow, lip liner, or curling irons because I don’t know how to operate such things. The extent of my couponing is flipping through the Red Plum insert on Sunday mornings. And finally, I don’t have the answers to a happy marriage or the art of growing old.

So if you weren’t wondering before why someone like myself would embark on a blogging escapade, you are now. And you are not alone. I myself don’t fully understand why I chose to start a blog or am capable of comprehending the outcome. I don’t know where this writing may lead, what path I plan to tread, or what tomorrow will hold.

But there, my friends, is the beauty, and there is the inspiration. That is LIFE. And I myself am in a deep, confusing, and spiritual relationship with life. And here’s what I know about it, it’s not much and it’s not novel but here it is.: Life is a journey and the destination is now. Buckle up because it’s a rocky road with a breathtaking view and I want to share it with you. See you along the way.

Kelsey