Being the Firstborn

When I compare you to other guys, I just think to myself, Damocles wouldn’t have done that. He would have taken care of that differently. It’s strange … none of the guys I know just help people, because they want to. But you do.

When I look back at my own life, all I see is a boy who became a man extremely quickly, because he truly believed that you were never too young to die.

There was almost zero hesitation, in how much I wanted to transform myself into an adult. I had no particular illusions about the “romance” behind childhood. I didn’t want to be babied or treated like some naive child.

I wanted to be a man.

Part of that mantle, meant that I had to grasp the concept of “responsibility” early on. I had to learn how to deal with the stress, the commitment and the rigours of accepting tasks. I couldn’t fail in doing things, because they were now in my charge.

I was beholden to my word.

And the only difference between me and a child, is that I am answerable to something greater. People are counting on me to do right by them, and I can’t let them down. Nor will I ever let my standard slip.

I’m stressing this, because recently, I’ve come to realised that I’ve always behaved like the oldest sibling in any scenario. It doesn’t matter whether the person is a stranger or a close friend, I’m always going to default back to the big brother act.

This means that I can’t drink as much if at all. I’m not allowed to let people out of my sight. I’m always watching for trouble. Cleaning up after people. Making sure everything is going smoothly. Checking up on whether people are OK. Driving people home.

I literally can’t relax properly. Perhaps, I never really will. There’s always some kind of duty I have to fulfill wherever I go.

If I could describe this feeling, it would be one similar to a military or police officer, who happens to be off-duty. You can’t switch off your situational awareness or the mantle of responsibility that you carry on your shoulders.

You just have to embrace the fact that you are always going to be more conscientious, more alert and more dutiful than the average person out there.

I’m not bitter about it either.

I think I learned that about myself ever since I was a teenager and my indecisive friends couldn’t find a spot to eat. I would take charge and literally march all ten of us into a restaurant that actually had space for us and help them order their food.

Even then, at the dumb age of 17, I was looking after people. Solving problems for them, that seemed easy to me to break down into logical conclusions and steps.

Do you feel like chicken? OK. You don’t like sauce right? OK, so avoid that dish. Yeah, yes. You want to eat that one. Hi, waiter, yeah this table is going to have ….

It’s come to the point now, where the menu is automatically handed to me and I’m ordering for the table.

But it’s not just that either. Having worked years in hospitality and now retail, these industries have left an undeniable mark on my personality and attitude.

Beyond my no-bullshit outlook to life and my favouritism to people who have thankless jobs, I am always conscientious about how I treat staff.

I clean up after myself in food courts, placing my tray at the bins, instead of leaving them at the table and am always trying to be as friendly as I can be and make staff jobs as easy as possible.

I don’t even like doing refunds, because I know it affects people’s KPIs and so I make an effort to get my size right, the first time. It’s the least I can bloody do.

I know how rough it is, and I will never try to make life more difficult for the staff than it has to be. Because hospitality was my first real job, I’m always thinking about how tough it is for the workers, and the shit they deal with. I’ve been there and done that and been disgusted by some of the thoughtlessness that people espouse at workers.

I never want to be that customer that ruins some poor, humble employee’s day. I do my best to assist, from stacking plates, delivering dirty glasses, eating neatly and tidily and reading the room when they clearly want us to leave.

Even when it comes to the humble cleaners, I make an effort to smile and nod at them, to show some appreciation. It is these unrewarding jobs that always tug at me constantly. At work, in the big shopping centre, I’m always trying to make an effort to acknowledge these poor guys, for all the walking and invisible work they do.

Picking up rubbish is another big proponent of my life, that started way back when I was in primary school and participated in my first ever Clean Up Australia Day. I found it immensely gratifying to clean up areas that have been littered and even though I am not as conscientious as I should be nowadays, I still make an effort to pick up rubbish if it is near me and near a bin.

Some people would call it being ridiculously Japanese about it all, but I really just see it as “if I can do it, then do it.”

All these examples were listed to me by my partner, whose quote I used above.

Which honestly, pleased but also puzzled me.

Because when I look at my behaviour, I don’t really have a proper answer as to why I do what I do, except … something incredibly lame called duty.

I hear that call of duty constantly in my head. I can probably track it back to my obsession with the military and always feeling the need to be ready to serve the greater good.

But if I look further than that, I suppose I resonate strongly with the mythology behind America’s Greatest Generation, men and women who responded to the call of duty, honour and country without hesitation. They put their health, lives and livelihood on the line, because it was the right thing to do.

Nothing lesser or greater.

Just doing something, because it’s the right thing to do. No reward, no praise, no bragging, just doing a good deed because it should be done.

It explains why I love the modern comic book myth behind Steve Rogers, and if I was to dive even deeper than that, I can probably thank my Christian upbringing for a lot of my moral compass’ decisions.

Whilst I’m more or less atheist, with a teenage obsession for Christian mythology (not religion) and an appreciation for Zen Buddhism, my upbringing was relatively devout.

I am baptised and confirmed, my younger self being quite into the religion, to the point where I was rereading my favourite stories from the Bible, out of sheer joy of reading an exciting story.

I suppose I’ve never really acknowledged just how much of an impact Christianity had on me growing up. It was always something I’ve dismissed, because of my current attitude towards religions and in a way, I am faintly embarrassed about the whole thing.

There is no mistaking though, the effect of being a Christian had on me though. I’m tougher on myself than most people are, more aware of my actions having a significant impact and more guilt-prone than the average person.

Guilt … it’s something that always weighs heavily on my mind. I despise the concept of Original Sin as much as anyone, it’s stupid, unnecessarily harsh and overbearing.

I still can’t deny the fact though, that I always feel like I am doing good things to secure some mythical spot up there. It’s foolish and I’ve often said with plenty of bravado that I’d rather go to Hell, than obey some phony God who thinks he can dictate what I can and can’t do.

Still, the fact that it plays on my mind, all the time, is an indication that at some fundamental level, I can’t shake that belief away.

I think that hidden fear, is what drives so much of my good intentions. I always care about people who are below me, work hard to make my friends happy and do my best not to burden them too much with my own problems.

I pick up rubbish, clean up after myself, eat neatly to avoid creating additional mess and am constantly greeting people in thankless jobs.

Hell, I even have this habit of giving a thoughtful salute to every single first responder I see blitz past me with their blue and reds flashing.

It all comes so naturally to me, that I didn’t even realise what a Boy Scout I am, until it was pointed out to me.

In a lot of ways, I treat my elder brother status almost too seriously. I should really just turn off this side of me and learn to loosen up, but it’s so deeply ingrained that I can’t help it.

I find myself rearranging empty plates, tidying up napkins, and serving water to my friends, when I don’t have to. It’s autopilot now, a role that I’ve accepted with both hands.

Sacrificing my fun for others, but not in any way where I expect thanks. I just enjoy it now, being the sober, responsible one and I know how to unlock the fun side of me, so that I can put people at ease around me.

After all, no-one really likes the guy who is the only sober one, when everyone else is blasted.

But that’s part of the role I inhabit. I’m always going to be one that makes sure you get home safe, the one who is always in control of any situation, the guy you know you can depend on, to have your back and make sure nothing happen to you.

You can start the fights, but I’ll be the one that will come in and finish them for you.

I used to wonder what it must feel like, to know that someone has your back always, that there is a warm reassuring presence by your side any time, anywhere, until one day I realised, that there was no-one who would ever provide that feeling for me, because I filled that void for them.

So I just had to fend for myself, and be the self-sufficient, tough sonvuabitch I was born to play.

Being the firstborn taught me the power of responsibility. I had to look after people under me, age, experience or rank wise. I had to grow up faster, smarter and deadlier than everyone beneath me.

Perhaps I learned this lesson so early on, I’m not afraid of leadership or being the responsible figure in people’s chaotic lives. I didn’t mind being different to my peers. Yes, I was duller than your fun-loving type, but infinitely more capable and dependable and eventually that would shine through.

When you’re the oldest child, duty is thrust upon you, whether you want it or not.

It’s up to you whether you listen to that call of duty.

I made it my mission to always answer, no matter how big or small the task is.

Because at the end of the day, you’re only ever going to answer to the standard that you walk past.

And despite being a civilian, I’ll always try to uphold the highest echelon and standards of military service members.

Because that is the kind of human being I want to emulate.

~ Damocles.

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