What my brother taught me about life, even when I didn't want to listen
Brothers can be the best and the worst. My brother and I didn’t always get along, we were family after all. But we had our fair share of sibling intrigue and adventure. After we grew up, we became very close. Even though I didn’t always know it, I was learning lessons growing up beside him.
Sometimes the person who annoys you most will become your best friend
They make farting noises when you are on the phone with your crush and they have Nintendo parties you’re not invited to. Brothers, amirite? Growing up, there were times that I definitely thought my brother was the bane of my existence. Then, as we began to mature, there were a lot less fights and a lot more times we were supporting each other. It seemed overnight I had a very close friend. Despite all the annoying, outrageous and sometimes hurtful things we did to each other growing up, it was all worth it to be the friends we are today.
It’s usually going to turn out OK
I was always kind of an uptight kid. My brother was more carefree. It was like nothing ever got to him no matter how serious the situation seemed to me. He truly felt that there were some things you could change and some you couldn’t. Perhaps because I was the younger sibling I didn’t have this insight. But watching him as I grew up I was able to incorporate a little of his approach. Today I am able to calm myself down by asking his patented question (and now I bequeath it to you): “Are you dying? No? It’ll be OK” Ah, the wisdom of an older brother to a whiney younger sibling. I have a confession: The answer is almost always “no.”
There’s no reason to segregate toys for girls and boys
Long before Amazon made the groundbreaking decision to de-segregate the “boys” toys from the “girls” toys, a similar event entered into our family’s lore. As a child I carelessly abandoned a small baby doll that had a pink plush body and plastic limbs. My mother was about to throw it out when my brother protested in its defense. He loved the baby. Long story short, we have the baby to this day.
He never said I couldn’t play with his G.I. Joes or join the same little league team as him. He was equally up for playing a game of Dream Phone or watching Sailor Moon as he was playing Crossfire and watching Dragonball Z. Because I so closely emulated my brother, and he always encouraged me, I grew up not seeing the difference between boy activities and girl activities – because there is no difference.
Working hard pays off
When we were in middle school my brother, my mother and I did a paper route to make ends meet. It was a difficult time for our family. I admit it was especially hard for me and sometimes I slacked off. My brother never did. He was always up right on time and working hard to get the job done correctly and quickly. As I worked beside him I began to pick up his work ethic. I, too, wanted to be good at the job even though it wasn’t something I particularly liked.
We stopped doing the paper route after I entered high school but the discipline stuck with me. There were subjects I loved and ones I hated, but I tried especially hard in the ones I didn’t care for. To this day I am able to do things I don’t always want to do because I learned that you have to take what life throws at you even when it’s not so great.
Everyone has a story
My brother can strike up a conversation with anyone, whether it’s a stranger at a concert or someone in line next to him. By doing this, he has learned interesting thing about a variety of people. Things he never would have been able to learn if he had stayed silent. Thanks to my brother, I started talking to more people that I wouldn’t usually strike up a conversation with. Even when I’m not able to talk to people directly it has made an impact. I know through my brother’s example that most people just want to talk and that everyone has a story to tell. You just have to be open to listening.
Be your weird self—you’re awesome
My brother always makes people laugh, whether it’s from spontaneous dancing to spur of the moment jokes. He was never afraid of what people thought of him. Or at least he didn’t let that fear stop him. My brother firmly believes that there is only one him so he should rock it out. I followed his lead when it came to expressing myself. Because I didn’t worry about being myself I was always able to be genuine. By being so I was always able to form sincere and lasting friendships, and I am grateful for that.
You’re never alone
Growing up my brother and I faced some hard times. Though we were both going through some of the same things, we were experiencing them differently. It could feel like a very isolating experience. But my brother always talked to me about the things we were facing and having someone to talk to let me know I was never really alone.
I carried this lesson with me in later life. Even when my brother wasn’t around, if I had someone to share with, I was never alone. It can be anyone who listens—a friend, a counselor, or a religious leader. As we get older we make our own families. Seek out those who will support you and don’t be afraid to share your feelings.
Tiffany Belieu is a lifelong Midwesterner. She is a lover of tea, books and cats (not necessarily in that order.) Her work has appeared at xoJane, The Skirt Collective and Kabooooom. You can follow her twitter @Tiffobot or check out her podcast about comic books at https://conversationalcomicscast.squarespace.com
[Image via Nickelodeon]