The Crushing Weight of Being First

Illustration by Kiery King.

Illustration by Kiery King.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the Gap.  It was originally published on January 15, 2015.

I graduated high school three years before my friends did. I was getting married at the same time they were getting their diplomas.

I felt the eyes of all the parents and their kids on me as I navigated the hell that was my courtship – even the families with kids in their 20’s hadn’t let them do much more than breathe around someone of the opposite gender. So I was 16, and everyone I knew and the few people I saw on a somewhat regular basis were watching, curious. I felt like I had a lot of live up to.

There was a lot of peer pressure to “do it right” as defined by Josh Harris and Amish courtship fiction.

It added a crushing weight that did so much damage.

I can’t put into words how utterly lonely it is to be the first, and then observed like a test subject, because your life skipped several grades and there wasn’t anything you could do about it, or anyone you could talk to, because there was no one else with a frame of reference for what you were going through.

Accelerating life is isolating and confusing – time is a blur and weird hangups are just waiting for you to sort out. All while you’re waiting for someone to catch up with you so you won’t be the only one anymore. It’s like being an oldest child forever, with no hope of finding people your age.

It gets really lonely, being the first in your group to pass life milestones. Really heavy knowing everyone’s eyes are on you and you’re an example for who knows how many people because that’s how the families you knew operated. It’s complicated knowing your parents are talking to other parents about you and your life as a warning, and justifying their response to your siblings.

I was the first in my group to go through the idea that our parents got wind of and excited about, I felt the heat of people’s eyes like lights on a stage, and I am the black sheep…..because I got tired and couldn’t be the example anymore.

It’s not worth it.

5 comments

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    I hear ya, KK.

    I got a similar treatment (being the first and observed as a test subject) growing up as a Kid Genius in the First 1960s, except my “firsts” were all intellectual — Giant Brain in a Jar Syndrome. To this day I can empathize with fictional characters more than I ever can RL people.

  • Amish Courtship fiction? The Amish don’t believe in courtship though. Just curious as to what you are referring to.

  • ok, A: I hate that you had to carry that weight. 😦 I am so sorry. I know some of it, I have borne similar myself in some ways.

    B: OMG, Courtship of Sarah Mclean and Waiting for Her Isaac were my very favorite books. And FOR ME, the most damaging of all of the courtship type books – because I really believed after reading them that if I could just be Godly enough and pure enough and sweet enough my prince would come and rescue me… and I was the second to LAST eligible woman in my church to get in a courtship. I want to reread them now and see if they actually were as bad as I remember or if it was just my desires twisting the words. Did you ever watch Pamela’s Prayer? :-p

  • My husband and I met and married young (18 & 19 when we met, a month-shy-of-22 & just turned 23 when we married) but 16 is CRAZY to be thinking of marriage. We started talking marriage 6 months into the relationship but it was definitely a “some time after we both have graduated college” thing. We got engaged shortly before he graduated and I had one term left. He went off to start his Army commitment (he’d financed college via a ROTC scholarship) and we were both so miserable without each other that at Thanksgiving we moved up our wedding by 18 months. Seventeen years later, I can recognize that was a totally impulsive act and why my parents were so opposed to it, but it worked out fine in the long run.

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