With teendom came an admittedly absurd attitude problem. I grew stubborn, highly opinionated, quickly agitated. This did not bode well with dad.
I remember fights between him and me tearing us apart. You'd often side with him, though I considered you my ally. Mom was typically neutral, and I always appreciated her sensitive approach even when I was in the wrong. I hated myself for feeling betrayed, because I know you well enough to know your intentions.
Over my four years in college, you and dad seemed to become even better buds. I distanced myself from religion, and in doing so, you outpaced me by another few miles. No matter the fact that you'd written religion off many years earlier.
I remember coming home on the weekends and feeling like a second-rate family member. You and I would have a disagreement and he'd blindly defend you no matter what. You were now the kid that could do no wrong.
This could've torn us apart, because to this day, my relationship with dad is still quite fragile. We're often stronger under different roofs. A short two-minute phone call everyday temporarily rekindles our delicate bond. A short two-minute conversation at the dining table may break it.
But I have to admit, everything he loves about you, I love about you. I can't even blame him for loving you that hard. Though I've outgrown the teen angst, it's no secret that you've consistently been the sincere one, the unselfish one, the one they call when there's a problem. I still feel a little second-rate every now and then. But it seems any resentment for you has transfigured into pride and gratitude instead. I feel lucky to have you, even when you're a distant 2,218 miles away. I feel even luckier to keep you home for a little longer this year.
When you went away to colleg four years ago, I felt alone for the first time in a long time. It didn’t help that we parted on bitter terms.
It was after your second visit home during college that I nearly gave up on us. Despite my supposed ability to communicate through my words, I struggled to make you hear how your absence pained me, how insignicant I often felt around you. I wanted you — no, needed you — to myself. I think I just needed someone around.
I took a few steps back that year. It wasn’t easy, and I’d cry to Sehar or Sharmeen about it. But I think the physical and emotional distance fixed me. And fixed us.
There are very few people out there who make me feel at home. Sitting in the car alongside you on one of our long drives, silently jamming to The Beach Boys, Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone — it isn’t the music that soothes me. It’s you.
The last couple of years have been heavy. The politics, the loss, the change. Many a time I’ve lost the will and want to live. But one thought about my baby brother’s crooked smile and I’m saved.
I think back on my favorite memories, and there you are. CLASP, your
I'm honestly rushing the end of this letter so we can make it to our dinner reservations, but before I go, I want to offer some of my loudest wake-up calls, epiphanies or learnings as an "adult" these past four years. Hope they help.
- You have to show and tell people you care if you want them to know.
- Keep track of how much time you spend on your phone.
- Read stories and books you wouldn't typically read to gain perspective and improve your writing.
- Therapy is magical. And expensive.
- Family over everything, always.
- Apple cider vinegar is a cure-all for pesky fruit flies.
- It's okay to grow apart from friends you never thought you'd lose.
- Unaddressed guilt can drive you down a dangerous path.
- There isn't always a silver lining. Let yourself feel like shit. Negative emotions often serve as important motivators.
- Context is everything.
- Never paint a person with a label. Most of us didn't choose the environments or families we grew up in. Remember that.
- The only thing in life (and journalism) that's constant is change.
- Some people can compare themselves to others and it helps motivate them to do better. Others may feel worse about themselves and self-sabotage their own potential. Know where you stand (or fall). Research how to adjust your perspective if you need to.
- Always keep a passion project on the side.
- Ask people how things are really going in their lives, whether they're happy or not and what they hope for or dream about. It's daunting, uncomfortable, but I really believe it's necessary for human connection.
- If someone shows excitement for something you don't understand, don't rain on their parade.
- Chill with the Amazon Prime purchases.
- Don't go to graduate school for the sake of going to graduate school.
- Always keep an eye out for a good mentor.
- Ask for help.
- Throw a paper towel in with your romaine lettuce/leafy greens to make them last longer.
- Your self-worth is not determined by how much you've suffered in comparison to anyone else.
- Dogs are better than people.
- Show your gratitude often.
- It's all about who you know. Network, network, network.
- Be careful which coworkers you choose to trust.
- Don't. Ever. Settle.
- You don't have to wait for another milestone to make an impact. Start now.
- Give social media a rest every now and then.
- You might never feel like you truly belong.
- Gut instincts are telling. Trust them.
- Don't just send out resumes and hope things will happen. Get hungry and find other ways in.
- It's okay to change your mind.
- Be smart about your money.
- Keep your commitments. People will notice when you don't.
- People will also remember your punctuality.
- Be an optimist, but be aware of how your optimism may affect the people around you. It can both inspire and isolate.
- Always be open to constructive criticism.
- Don't waste your time on people who don't give you the time of day.
- No one will ever truly understand you. That's why you have to learn to give yourself the advice you need.
- Count your blessings often.
- If you're not feeling challenged, let your boss or teacher know.
- Use your resources well. They're a privilege.
- Smile at strangers, even if you look like a goof.
- If you go grocery shopping on the weekdays, you might be paying less.
"The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers." - Erich Fromm
And I'll leave you with this, a quote your Chancellor read on Commencement Day that really stuck with me.
Congratulations baby brother. You grew up good.