I want to talk about my little brother, since I’m talking about relationships and life changing experiences, after all. Five years younger, and sometimes five years wiser, Nick offers the most insightful and infuriating interactions I’ve ever experienced in my life. When I found out my parents were having a new baby, I can’t quite remember my exact reaction, but I do remember being so excited to meet my new little brother. I told my parents I wanted a sister at first, but growing up, I realized that would’ve been less than ideal.

I’ve seen siblings who barely get along, mostly my mother and her sisters, and I don’t understand it. I don’t think one has to always like his or her siblings, but there’s a difference between common quarrels and a real, honest dislike of a person. And I could never really, honestly dislike or hate my little brother in any way.

I’ve lost track of the amount of times he has picked me up from my own darkness. In high school, when I was struggling between waking up and forever falling into sleep, his young mind and insightful heart reached out in ways I could’ve never offered at his age. When I was fifteen, and entering into my sophomore year, which was likely one of the worst years, Nick was ten years old and always poked his head into my room with little annoyances and obnoxious loudness.

He bothered me so much, but in retrospect, he was bothering his way into my life in order to keep an eye on my wellbeing. Some years after those days, I learned that he would repeatedly report to my parents and ask if they knew how I was doing. He checked in on me to make sure that I wasn’t dying in ways that he couldn’t control.

Somehow, someway, Nick always finds a way to provide the wisdom I’m sorely lacking and the advice I always need. I went home a little while ago, specifically to see him because I needed some sort of informed and honest insight and judgment. I didn’t say it outright, didn’t tell him that I needed the help, but he seemed to know just by glancing at me.

We sat on the kitchen floor and talked for hours. Being that he’s fifteen, turning sixteen in a few months, I didn’t realize he has grown and is continuously growing into a person of his own; he has a life and friends and personal conflicts and transgressions; he has goals, and he makes mistakes. My younger brother is becoming a young man, and with that comes mistakes and misadventures, and we willingly discussed the good, the bad, and the ugly together.

We sat on the kitchen floor, and he told me about things I used to do in my free time, except this time he was the protagonist in the story, and he was the main character fleeing the trouble he was surely causing. It may sound wrong to you, but I’ve never been prouder of my baby brother because he is learning from his mistakes, and he is learning how to right wrongs and how to be his own best friend. He is learning that it’s okay to fail and that it’s okay to be alone, even if for a little while, and he is learning to trust himself, to not rely on those around him for everything and anything.

Sometimes I wonder if that was my problem, that maybe I was relying too much on other people to sustain who I was and who I would become. I’m proud of Nick.

We sat on the kitchen floor for hours, and during those hours, we expelled the negativity, and he let me talk and talk without judging me in the ways that someone I care about so much continued to judge me. He sat there, and he made me feel necessary, much unlike the aforementioned person – he made sure I knew I wasn’t bothering him, and for that, I owe him too much to say. My brother has, for the entire course of his young life, made sure that both within and without our family that I can always turn to him.

I thought I got over feeling badly about what I’ve done to him, but I won’t ever wake up and be completely over him. Nick found me when I attempted suicide. I was sixteen, he eleven, and he burst into my room and found me hanging in my closet. I remember the look on his face, and I remember my initial thought was that I had fucked up monumentally, because it hadn’t worked.

I felt empty, more than I ever had. I felt worse than I did on a daily basis, and every time after that moment when I woke, sore and confused, I thought about the look on my brother’s face after time had passed and potential death cleared the room. His words rushed out of his mouth faster than ever before, faster than any sarcastic joke or annoying comment, quicker than he could manage, stumbling and stuttering and struggling to grasp a reason. The weeks after that happened were hard on us both, more so on him, because he had to stare into my hopelessness without understanding why or how it happened.

He is the most resilient young person I know. It’s hard to be there for someone who so deeply wants to be gone forever, but as each year passes and despite the distance between us, my brother finds a new way to check in, a creative way to let me know he’s there, a sure-fire means of protecting me when I should be the one who protects him.

If you ever see this, I hope you know I’m sorry and that I love you more than you’ll ever know. Friends aside and arguments behind us, even with the ones to come in mind, you keep me going, and you keep me sane. These trying times will never leave my heart or my mind no matter my happiness or success, and I know that, but with my brother beside me, I’ve got someone to kick my ass as well as the asses of those who try to bring me down. Family makes life difficult, but family also takes the difficult and turns it to useless ash when you’ve forgotten how to start a fire.

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