Growing up as the older sibling isn’t always a blast. You’re the guinea pig in the family who has to experience and learn everything first, so your younger sibling(s) have smoother sailing. You’re the first to be grounded, the first to go through school, the first to make your parents’ proud, and the first to realize that life is actually really tough most of the time. You had to learn the first lessons and hope that those lessons could help your younger sibling(s).
In my own case, I grew up with a four-year gap between myself and my younger sibling, my brother. It was enough distance in age to keep us close become like friends as we got older, but also enough of an age gap to make sure we lived our own lives in completely different ways. Having a younger brother while I’m a girl wasn’t always fun and easy; it was a lot of work, and like any older sibling, there was a lot of fighting and me being mean to my younger brother.
But, as we have each gotten older, we’ve become closer, and I’ve realized that just because I’m the older sibling, it doesn’t mean I’ve truly learned and stuck to the things I should have when I was growing up. In fact, I’ve had to re-learn several things in life from my younger brother that I didn’t realize I needed to before. Having a sibling means helping and caring for each other, no matter what, even if that means needing to re-learn some important things from a sibling four years younger than me.
1. Never stop feeding your creativity. My younger brother is one of the most talented and creative souls I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. He’s constantly feeding his creativity with new art forms, new instruments, and new songs to learn and songs to create. He always seeks to understand and learn more about the world around him. He keeps a level-head and is determined when it comes to his passions, and he’s helped remind me both through his actions and his words that giving up on creativity is something a person should never do. No matter how old you may be, never let your creative spirit die.
2. Art is more than just a picture; art is truly an expression of the world. My younger brother is insanely talented and creative. He’s constantly switching between forms of art and music to feed and build upon his artistic abilities. The reasons for why he makes art and the various ways he makes art have taught me that art is more than just trying to mimic someone else or do something simple and mundane. He’s reminded me that art is a representation of a person’s soul, of the inner workings of their mind, and that art comes in so many different forms that it’s so much more than just a picture. He’s reminded me that art is, in a sense, a form of survival, for both the artist and the world around them. Art makes statements, comforts, and disturbs, just like the world around us does.
3. It’s okay to be upset, but you must take a step back and breathe first. My brother has always been more rational and able to control his emotions better than I was growing up (and better than I still am). I was the older sibling who always got in trouble, always threw a temper-tantrum, and was always over-emotional. My younger brother grew up understanding how to deal with my ranging emotions, and he has helped me learn that it’s okay to be upset, but you still need to give yourself a moment to breathe, take a step back, and think before reacting further.
4. It’s okay to be silent and listen; words aren’t always necessary. My younger brother has always been a quieter, more introverted type, and if you ever speak to him, you’re lucky to get more than three words out of him at a time. Because of this, he’s definitely learned the whole “actions speak louder than words” thing. But, I’ve realized from my brother that that simple cliché is actually true. There’s no need to always have to explain every little detail of something, and I don’t have explain myself for everything. I don’t have to speak to fill the silence. Sometimes, it’s necessary to spend some of your time in silence and reflect in it.
5. The world doesn’t revolve around you, and there’s more important things to be worried about. Compared to my younger brother, I’m the one who tends to forget that I’m not the sun and thus the world doesn’t revolve around me. He’s always focused on the bigger picture and plans more for his future and long-term happiness and his own personal goals than I admit I ever have. He keeps himself grounded and consistently reminds me to slow down. Not everything has to go your way, not everything has to be accomplished in one day, and most of the time, things are beyond our control, and that’s okay.
6. Moving on and accepting the past is necessary to move forward, as long as you don’t continue to look back. My younger brother, like all of us, has been through hard times, but I admire the fact that he is able to focus on learning from the hard times, unlike myself, who tends to hold on to every little thing from my life. It’s always been difficult for me to let things go and move on, but my younger brother has been an inspiration for me to try harder at letting go. He reminds me either through advice or the way he deals with his own problems that letting go and moving on is so important and necessary to keep living life in a better, happier way.
7. Find and hold onto someone who will love you in your worst times. My younger brother has been there watching men come in and out of my life and bring me both immense joy and pain. My younger brother grew up learning the way a man should and should not treat a girl. He was there when I cried my eyes out over a boy, patiently reminding me of the reasons why that boy wasn’t good enough for me, and he was there to tell me when a boy was either treating me like shit or giving me the world. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to take my younger brother’s opinion into account when I have a new guy around, and he’s opened my eyes on how to acknowledge negative and positive signs about men around me. And seeing the way he treats and interacts with his own girlfriend has further reminded me of the importance of finding someone who will love and care for you know matter what.