Saturday, December 28, 2013

He's Feeling 22: 22 Things I've Learned from My Brother

Today is my brother's 22nd birthday. He graduates college in one more semester and then will start working full-time at Foursquare in New York City.  In my personal opinion, this makes him officially old and means that in one more semester, he will be a real adult.  It's hard to believe.

My brother and I at my high school graduation.
My brother and I, like all siblings, have not always gotten along.  In fact, we got into fights frequently, possibly much more frequently than other siblings, as kids.  We argued over whose turn it was to play the Game Cube, who got to sit in the front seat, and who had to do what chores with the rabbits.  We called each other names and got into physical fights on occasion.  I remember the time when he accidentally nailed me in the head with a saucer sled because he thought it would be a great idea to use it as a frisbee (I have a scar on my eyelid from that). But I also remember the times when we got along great.  The days we would spend playing Mario Kart together, the times we went sledding together in our neighbor's backyard, evenings spent snuggling with the rabbits.  I remember that he was the first person I went to when I slipped on a rock in the ocean and cut my foot open on some broken glass.

Being two years apart, we only spent a year in middle school together--Jacob as an 8th grader and me as a 6th grader. When my mom got sick, I remember all of the disagreements with my brother fading away as he stepped up to take care of me.  He protected me when the ambulance came by making me go out into the backyard and playing with the rabbits with me.  He let me pick the video game we played that night, made sure I got dinner, and didn't let me stay up past 10.  We didn't fight that week and I really gained a lot of respect for my older brother and his strength.

Spring break/Easter my junior year of HS
and his freshman year of college.
When we both got into high school, we were always fighting about what time we were leaving for school and how soon after the final bell we would head for home. We had countless arguments over this, and I always felt anger towards him because I was living in his shadow of brilliance--he is so much smarter than me, and I always felt I was never measuring up to his intellect and the reputation he had made for himself in our high school.  But in the midst of this, my brother was who I went to for advice on what classes to take, thoughts on how to get on a specific teacher's good side, and help with math homework when I just didn't understand it.  I wouldn't say that we were ever really that close, but we definitely grew closer.  When he left for college at the beginning of my junior year of high school, I realized how much I missed him.  Sure, he wasn't around to fight with all the time, but he was gone and that left a hole in my life.

In the four years since then, we have grown a lot closer.  I am now starting be able to talk to him about real things, like my eating disorder, depression, and anxiety problems.  Not a whole lot, but more than I used to be able to do.  And I think we've both started to enjoy spending time with each other, whether it's kayaking and going shopping together at the beach, watching a movie, or talking on the phone when we're both at school.  My memory is the time when we saw The Bourne Legacy together and then went for a walk on the beach that night.

Most recently, when I made the decision to come home and he made the decision to accept his job, we had a very brief text message conversation, during which he reassured me that my anorexia would not make me feel better in the long run and that he had faith in my ability to overcome it.  That's something that I've always found in my brother--a kind of strength that I am unable to find in myself.  Whether it comes from a simple text message, a strong hug when we finally see each other after being apart, him letting me hold onto him when I feel scared and lonely and sad at my grandparents' funerals, his ability to turn something I'm freaking out about into something very manageable... I could go on and on.  The past couple of days we have spent together, although they have been stressful for me, have been made better by his presence in our house.  We spent Christmas Day watching movies together (I saw Batman Begins for the first time!) and yesterday watched The Dark Knight.  He, without knowing it, is slowly helping me get out of my isolation mode and back into the real world.

Today, I celebrate the nearly 20 years that I have gotten to spend with my brother and I look forward to the next 20.  But most importantly, I celebrate a man who has no doubt helped shape me and mold me into who I am today, who gives me strength and courage when I need it, and who is always there for me, even though I sometimes feel like he's not (mainly because he always forgets to actually call me).  We don't have a perfect relationship, but no one does, especially not when you've grown up together.  We're siblings and because of that, we have a bond with each other that we cannot possibly have with anyone else, and for that, I am grateful.

I have learned so much from our relationship over the years. So today, because Jacob is turning 22, I would like to share 22 things, in no particular order, that I've learned from my brother:

1. To relax and calm down. 
2. That no one is perfect.
3. That being late is not the end of the world.
4. That I hate aquariums but should still go to them. 
5. How to kayak.
6. That Google is the best IT person.
7. To explore the world.
8. To go after what you want.
9. How to build a fire. 
10. That the world does not, in fact, revolve around me.
11. How to argue. 
12. How to stand up for myself. 
13. Humility. 
14. That a relationship will come when the time is right.
15. How to be strong.
16. To play video games. 
17. That family is important. 
18. That asking for help is okay. 
19. There's always someone who knows more than you. 
20. What not to do to avoid being in trouble with our parents. 
21. How a woman should be treated by a man. 
22. That one person can make a huge difference in your life. 

Happy 22nd Birthday, Jacob! Thanks for being the best older brother that I could ever ask for! I love you very much.

The most recent picture of my brother and I.