Life lessons: What my brother taught me

My brother is about 5 years older than me. Growing up, I instinctively wanted his approval and for him to think I was “cool” just like how I thought he was cool. But it was weird because my brother and I definitely were not close. We really aren’t that close to this day. We just happened to have lived in the same place for 20-odd years and were two people whose lives happened to intersect every once in a while. Yet, despite the distance between us, I learned a lot from my older brother.

  • Be strong enough to show your gentle side – My brother was not a hugger. I don’t think any of us were in my family. And my brother always acted brave and macho like most teenage boys do yet somehow, he was never scared to show his gentle side. My brother constantly rescued kittens that were being abused. He’s fully grown now with tattoos everywhere but goes everywhere with this shitzu, Gizmo. No fear. No apologies. He owns his gentle side.
  • We all have a dark side – As gentle as my brother might have been at times for certain instances, I mostly witnessed his dark side. My brother’s temper could go from calm to steaming in milliseconds. He could cut you up with just one sentence. He could turn into a bulldozer in only moments if you did not do what he wanted. Physical space and boundaries were nonexistent for him when he was really mad.
  • It’s not about changing who you are – Like I said, my brother had a dark side. He could be both physically and verbally abusive. But one day, I don’t know when, he must have had a coming to Jesus moment because, in front of our family and years after the abuse, he apologized for the abuse.  He cried, exposed his shame for his behavior, he owned his actions, he made himself vulnerable and he asked for forgiveness. My brother had a gentle side – he saved kittens for goodness sake! But he also had a terrible temper and he wasn’t shy to show it. I know my brother hasn’t changed. That temper is still there. But so is that side of him that won’t allow a small animal to go through suffering. At the end of the day, it’s not about changing. It’s about showcasing a side of yourself that you can agree with and that can help you fulfill your goals in life. It’s about deciding which side of yourself you want to be and show that side to the rest of the world. It’s about working your way even just a few steps closer to your authentic self, until you no longer need that dark side.
  • Fear is debilitating – Like I said, my brother is about 5 years older than me. He should be a trailblazer because he was the handsome star athlete in school – the most popular kid who was friends with the nerds and the jocks, teachers loved him and he even saved kittens on the weekends (I know I’ve mentioned the kittens quite a bit, but it’s pretty awesome). Being outgoing and “big man on campus” should have helped to set him up for success. But instead, he allowed fear and doubt debilitate him. He allowed that ego to take hold and keep him down from going after his life’s dreams.
  • We are all lost and searching for our way – knowing this now is how I know that despite us all having a dark side, we all definitely have a gentle side as well. We are all just trying to find our way. It’s just that when we bump into someone, there’s no telling if their search is being fueled by fear or love – so be patient and forgiving. Always.
  • Don’t be scared to ask for help – this is definitely something I’ve learned from my brother due to his failure to ask for help when we were growing up. And from this, I learned, it is always better to ask for help. And to ask for help before it is too late. I’m proud to say that my brother learned this lesson now (at least I like to think he did). It’s actually something that makes me happy to see. And it is something that I am very grateful to have learned. I use this lesson in my personal life but also in my professional life. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. If you need help, ask for it. People actually want to help. Let them. You will definitely feel better when you do.



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