Congratulations, baby bro. You did it. And your family are so, so proud of you.
I missed your graduation because I’m half a world away but all of our grandparents were there and that’s more important. I’m proud of you because I know you worked hard, took chances, made choices, and had adventures. Our grandparents are schepping nachas because you were their first boy and no one knew what to make of you, but everyone loved you immediately. Everyone continued to love you as you grew into the cheerful, funny, passionate person that you are. And look at where you are now. I’m so glad they were there.
I couldn’t be there but I’m thinking of you. I know you have a good head on your shoulders and that’s why there are things I want you to know. Putting my educator hat on, I will say that I wish they’d taught you differently in school. You graduated from an undergraduate business program, after all, and I wish they’d taught you about things that matter. You know you’re supposed to go into the world and make money, with which you’re then supposed to do . . . something. Make more?
But as your older sister, and as person who shares the planet with you and identifies in relation to you, there are a few things I want you to know:
You will always have my love and support, in any way you need it and at any time of night or day. Just call and I’ll be there.
It’s important to take care of yourself. It’s important to eat well, sleep well, and make the time for things that matter. Work can wait, even if it’s just for a few minutes. You can’t do the work if you’re not healthy.
The world is full of choices and they only get bigger as you gain life experience. Make the choices that will help you become the person you want to be. Surround yourself with people who will help you grow.
It’s hard to ask difficult questions and even harder to answer them. Think and feel deeply. Consider the questions, “Who am I? What am I?” Consider them over and over and over. Act accordingly.
You will make many, many mistakes. You will hurt people without knowing you did. You will be hurt. You will cry. And you will learn. Learn from your mistakes and experiences and let them make you a better person.
Beauty is easy to pass by. Don’t. Really, actually, stop and smell the flowers. Spend thirty seconds just looking at a tree. Dance in the rain. Climb the mountain. Look around and protect the simple things – they matter.
Remember that small acts create big ripples. It’s not hard to remember a birthday or write a note or say hello to someone new, but all of those things make a difference. Make them part of who you are.
It’s okay to stop. It’s okay to decide this isn’t working and do the difficult thing and walk away. It’s okay to start over. It’s okay to try something completely new. This is how we learn and grow.
Speak up for what matters to you. It’s one thing to grumble in private and quite another to stomp your feet in public. Stomp your feet and behave with integrity.
The most important thing is to be a good person. Money can wait. Buying a house can wait. Your new avalanche skis can wait. Be a good person. That cannot wait.
Congratulations again. Take some time to celebrate . . . and now go change the world.
I’ve already received a message that my departure flight is delayed, but in a matter of hours (perhaps 7, but possibly 16, 24, or 40) I’ll be on my way to Europe to meet up with my brother who is studying in London for the semester. I haven’t seen him since July and can’t wait to give him a hug, buy him a good dark beer for a reasonable price, and hear all about his adventures. I’m also excited to travel with him because we haven’t done that before. My sister and I hadn’t traveled together, either, until she came to visit in December and we played tourist in Singapore, drank many a coffee in Hanoi, trekked in Sapa, and basked in the myriad vegetarian food options of Chiang Mai.
To their chagrin, my parents are fully responsible for the restless exploring of their children. We first went overseas as a family when I was fourteen and we haven’t looked back since. On the unfortunately rare occasions when all five of us are together, “Hey, remember that time when we . . . ” segues into a travel story more often than not.
Since we’re only two years apart, my sister and I mostly grew up together and shared many experiences and activities in similar ways. On the other hand, my brother is seven years younger than me and I left home for university when he was in middle school. I had returned home and started teaching when he was in high school, allowing me to watch him come into his own, play a lot of hockey, and begin to make decisions about who to spend time with and where to direct his interests. My brother and a couple of his friends helped me move into my first apartment (I paid them in gift cards to their favorite plate shop) and I’ve run around town with him to pick up essentials on his weekends home from camp or college. As we’ve both gotten older, we’ve had some pretty serious discussions on impromptu trips to the grocery store or when one of us volunteered chauffeur the other around town. He was awed and curious when I took him to dinner in Hell’s Kitchen when he visited me in New York City and excited to share his college life with me when I returned the visit to him just outside Washington, DC.
It’ll be great to be somewhere new to both of us and have a unique shared experience. It’s really important to me to keep my family close and this year has been particularly special for that.
My sister and I said goodbye today after a visit lasting almost three weeks. We explored Singapore, northern Vietnam, and northern Thailand before returning to Singapore for the weekend. (Blog posts in progress!) She left mere hours ago and I miss her.
Whenever I leave my family after any length of time at home, I experience a sense of restlessness, an inability to focus, loneliness, and a hint of anxiety. I recognize those emotions in that order every time. I felt the same way as soon as I hugged my sister goodbye. And I laughed inwardly because I hadn’t expected that at all.
We don’t talk much when we’re apart and we have a history of becoming very easily frustrated with each other. We’re stubborn in different ways, readers of usually different works from different schools of thought, and very different in our habits and preferences. But we’re both independent, open-minded, and flexible. We often have similar goals but very different approaches to achieving them.
So while we traveled, explored, and experienced three different places, I felt like I was doing the same with our relationship. I learned a lot about my sister, about who she is and who she is to me. I learned about myself, too, which is what happens whenever I begin to really see other people. We had some conversations that have made me think and question and others that have added new layers to already complicated ideas.
She’s always been my sister, but we made the choice a long time ago to be friends. The nature of all friendships and relationships change over time and ours is no exception.
For these reasons and more, I miss her already.
Photos, travels, musings, and ideas on education by a twenty-something teacher trying to make the world a better and more peaceful place