If you asked me which fictional character I relate to the most, you might expect the answer to be Hermione Granger, Ella of Frell or Matilda Wormwood, but no. The answer is actually Ron Weasley.
The most relatable line ever spoken is this one from Ron’s first conversation with Harry Potter in The Sorcerer’s Stone: “I’m the sixth in our family to go to Hogwarts. You could say I got a lot to live up to. … Everyone expects me to do as well as [my brothers], but if I do, it’s no big deal, because they did it first.”
As the youngest of nine children, I relate to that so hard. Like Ron, I’ve often been the last to do something, simply by virtue of my birth order. The last to reach adulthood, the last to move out of the house and now the last to graduate college.
And no matter what I do, my siblings’ shadows follow me everywhere: A professor at my local community college told me in our very first conversation that she wanted to put up a statue of my family in the quad because of how much she admired my siblings.
Sometimes I feel like Tony Stark facing up to Loki:
“Let’s do a headcount here: my brother, the mathematician; a dynamic wordsmith who kinda lives up to the hype; a man with breathtaking computer science skills; and a couple of mad scientists.”
“I have an army.”
“We have a librarian.”
And then there’s me? I guess? Sometimes I’m honestly not sure what to make of myself; perhaps some of you can relate.
The weight of comparison my own mind puts on me can be incredible. It’s not my parents’ fault or my siblings’ fault; they have never done anything to make me feel inadequate. They have simply lived out their lives in amazing ways. This mental burden is self-inflicted, and there’s no easy way out.
I have often despaired of ever making a name for myself as Aida, not as the Youngest, Smallest and Most Annoying.
Do I want to be better than my siblings? Do I want to be the Harry Potter or Hermione Granger of the story, instead of the Ron Weasley? Yeah, a bit. But whenever I feel the weight pressing down on me, I recognize that weight for what it is. I’ve even developed a couple strategies for lessening the weight, although I’m not going to pretend to be some kind of expert.
1. I make a conscious effort to recognize my siblings’ achievements. This may seem counterintuitive, but I’ve found that showing my admiration for them leaves a sweet instead of sour feeling in my heart. Tell your sister you’re proud of her for going back to school. Thank your brother for that beautiful poem he wrote about how much he hates your knife-like elbows. Recognize when your sister gets a new job.
2. I do what makes me happy, not them. Living away from my family, both as a missionary and as a student, was a boon, because I had to find what I liked and what made me happy. Coincidentally, this has led to me accomplishing things none of them ever did — like being the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper. But you can’t do things just because you want to one-up them: You have to do them because you want to do them.
3. I search for my own achievements. When I was deciding whether to serve a mission or not, I had to think long and hard: Was I doing this because I wanted to, or was I just searching for the one thing my sisters hadn’t already done? Like I said earlier, avoid doing something just because it’s unique. That’s not the way to happiness and fulfillment. As I have done what makes me happy, I’ve accomplished so much more.
And even though I am “finishing last” when I graduate on April 12, I’ve realized it’s OK to be Ron Weasley. It’s OK to be me.