16th Annual Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest People
The Strain of Expectation

“There’s a lot of pressure when you’re the oldest in the family. you’re raised knowing that you must set the example for your younger siblings and that you’re the one who sets the family name in motion. You can’t afford to be lazy or slip up, you can’t be average, and the standards of excellence are mediocre compared to what you have to do. Failure brings shame and punishment. I was told this at the age of three when my brother was born and again the next year when my sister was born. reminded everyday with everything I do. Again, at fifteen I was reminded of the same speech I always heard, now with the notion of my future knocking at my door. Throughout high school, I was acknowledged by my teachers, peers, and even the state of my academic achievements, leadership skills, and creativity. None of it was enough to satisfy the beast at home. What was I doing? What am I striving for? Chasing this degree of perfection is like crawling to a mirage of an oasis in a desert. It’s always within your grasp but never in your fingers. It started to wear me thin. At seventeen, I noticed the ropes. How they were tied tightly around me. My movement were restricted and controlled. Am I puppet? What was controlling me? I tried to fight back, and the ropes only got tighter as I struggled. They burned and redden my wrists, sometimes drawing blood. I only got more tired the longer I fought. At eighteen, I accepted the ropes. At twenty, I found comfort at the end of one.”

Photo Detail
Date Taken: 03.2018
Date Uploaded: 11.2018
Photo Location: Grambling , Louisiana, United States of America
Camera: NIKON D5100
Copyright: © Keith Matthews