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Bryan Cranston’s (possible) message for oldest daughters

August 15, 2013 6 comments

      A recent comment by the star of AMC’s Breaking Bad struck me as being significant for oldest daughters.   

     Bryan Cranston told CBS’ Lee Cowan that before this current hit series,  he had been offered many opportunities to play another role like Hal in Malcolm in the Middle.  But he had declined all of them, explaining he didn’t want to just do the “safe” thing.

      The safe thing…

      This past spring my husband I made the decision that since our children had grown and left the nest and our parents had passed on, it was time to sell our home of 32 years, significantly downsize, and move from the midwest where we had both grown up to head West.  The move also included leaving life-long friends, siblings and colleagues.   While it felt so right to us from the get-go, our decision from others’ perspectives obviously did not fall under the heading of “safe”: 

     “You are so brave.  I could never do what you’re doing.”

     “I knew you’d always talked about doing something like this.  I just never 

thought you’d actually do it.”

     “How can you leave family and friends behind?”  

     The comments were all made by long-time, caring and supportive friends.  What was unexpected was the sense of awe that came through.  What was more surprising was that each comment  was made by an oldest daughter.  Surprising because studies and stats repeatedly describe  oldest daughters — especially if oldest children — as trailblazers,  leaders, and risk-takers.

     It  had never occurred to me that there might be a time limit on those traits.  

     However, it has often occurred to me that nurturing, the other recognized characteristic of oldest daughters, does not expire either.    And as we oldest daughters go further into adulthood, those two attributes can find themselves in a tug of war.   I’ve felt them and spent months weighing and wrestling with them.

    Which brings me back to Bryan Cranston’s comment.  Comes a point when each of us, even oldest daughters, has to decide what is most important at whatever juncture of life we find ourselves. Leaving behind a safe, comfortable life is not for everyone.  But for my husband and me now, the choice lay between what was known and safe and what was unknown, adventuresome and — just possibly — the opportunity to discover/re-discover self.

    Two months into this new life, I find myself repeating the lines poet Gerard Manley Hopkins penned more than a century ago in “As Kingfishers Catch Fire,”  

    What I do is me; for that I came.   

    Breaking good.