“My youngest brother and I are four years apart and never really got along. We didn’t have a whole lot in common. I was the quiet guy who’d spend his days locked up in his room with a book or some video games, while he was a DJ, always out with friends, getting wasted, and got arrested for possession a couple of times. He’s such a funny and sociable guy though, and he’s got this infectious personality that makes it impossible to be mad at him. So he was always somehow simultaneously the black sheep and golden child of the family.
Fast forward to our 20s. I was out of college and just got this big promotion at work. I was still living with my parents (to save money and pay off some college loans) when I got a call at two am from my brother. He was totally out of his mind, wasted. His friends left him at this party, so he needed a ride.
I went out and drove an hour or so to get him. He was quiet for the first five minutes, only asking if he could smoke in my car (sure, just open a window). Then suddenly he just spilled everything. He started talking about how he was afraid he might be a loser and said he was afraid that high school was his best years and there was nothing left for him to look forward to.
He felt like he was just existing, that there was no plan and no bright spot in his future. Said he wished he could be like our middle brother who was recently married and had bought a house at the time. Then he said he wished he was more like me.
I remember sitting at a stoplight as he was talking about how I was always ‘the smart one,’ I was the one who went to college, just got the big promotion, kept building on what I did before. I distinctly remember he said, ‘It’s like there’s never been a problem for you that you couldn’t just deal with. I don’t know how you do it.’
That’s just who we were as a people, I’d always thought that was just ‘the expectation.’ It had never really occurred to me that he quietly had a lot of respect for what I’d accomplished and that my brother and I had sort of became heroes in his eyes. But in doing so, we had cast a big shadow that he felt he’d never get out of.
I think about that car ride a lot, but I don’t know if he even remembers it.”