5 Life Lessons I’ve Learned From My Little Brother

This past week, my youngest brother came to visit me. His real name is Cuyler, but everyone calls him Bob (for some reason, no one in my family goes by their real name). Bob is 18 now — a solid ten years younger than me — but we’ve always been pretty close, and it was awesome to see him after a couple months of living so far away from each other. Hanging out with my not-so-little brother for a week, I realized that even though I’m the one who’s prone to big sisterly lectures, Bob has probably taught me way more about life than I’ve taught him. Here are five of the best lessons I’ve learned from him over the years…

1. Never pass up a possible business opportunity. In high school one of my other brothers, Tona (real name: Corwin), used to have his friends over pretty often for LAN parties, which consisted of a bunch of teenage boys bringing their gigantic computers over to our house to play videogames in the basement all night. Bob was 6 or 7 at this time, but ever the entrepreneur, he knew exactly how to benefit from the influx of guests. When he got wind of an upcoming party, he would take all the snacks out of the pantry and set them up on a table next to the stairs that led to the basement. All of Tona’s hungry teenage friends would have to pass the display of munchies on their way to the party, pausing to examine the treats and say things like, “Oooh Cheez-Its!” Bob would lean back in his chair and say, “They can be yours … for a price.” He was able to sell crackers, cookies, candy, and cans of soda for at least twice their retail price, and at a 100 percent profit for himself, since he was stealing all his merchandise from my parents’ pantry.

This past week, I found out Bob’s keen business sense is still intact: after we binged at a BBQ joint and got super drowsy on the way home, Bob was like, “I think I’m going to open a chain of nap hotels next to restaurants that serve heavy food.” Brilliant.

2. People don’t actually change that much. Since Bob is so much younger than me, I got to see him grow up (I still have to resist squeezing his cheeks and saying weird grandma-ish things like “I remember when you were just a BABY” whenever I see him). Obviously he’s changed a lot as he’s transformed from precocious toddler to college student (!), but in many ways, he’s also very much the same. The sensitive, gentle demeanor he’s had since he was tiny hasn’t left him. He’s always had a dry sense of humor, a deep love of food, an infectious giggly laugh, and a tendency to get lost in his own world, and he still does. What really drove this point home this past week (besides his attempt to capitalize on post-BBQ drowsiness) was a trip we took to the Tennessee State Museum. Ever since Bob was a toddler, he has been obsessed with museum gift shops. Like, when he was 3, if we went to a museum and ran out of time before visiting the gift shop, he would scream bloody murder and then sulk about it for DAYS. Luckily he’s not quite as dramatic anymore, but this weekend after we had toured the Civil War exhibits, we rounded a corner and saw the gift shop, and let me tell you: my brother might be 18 now, nearly 6 feet tall, with a full beard, but he still squealed with pure joy at the sight of it, and gleefully purchased a souvenir spyglass.

I think this a good reminder for everyone, especially when we get stuck in the toxic pattern of wishing we were different or more like so-and-so, that many of our personality traits and preferences seem to be hardwired from a very young age, and that’s pretty cool.

3. Everyone needs a life day sometimes. When Bob was younger, his daily routine of watching cartoons and eating dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets would often get too stressful to handle, so he invented a concept called a “life day.” Basically, a life day means you clear your schedule completely, announce that you’re having a life day, and do absolutely nothing for the whole day. According to Bob, it’s also imperative that you not wear pants to get the full life day experience. I have become an avid proponent of life days, and try to have one every few months. They really are good for your mental health.

4. You can be smart, cultured, and mature, and still think nothing in the world is funnier than a poop joke. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my three smart, funny, well-informed, sensitive, thoughtful brothers, it’s that there is no shame in scatological humor. Bob, specifically, is capable of discussing the nuances of philosophical belief systems, building a super computer, and writing/illustrating a dystopian graphic novel, and he still cracks up at the mere mention of the words “poop” or “butt.” The lesson here? Let your poop joke flag fly!

5. Be open to wherever the road takes you. When Bob was visiting us in Nashville, I tried to come up with an itinerary of activities for us without going into crazy over-planning mode. Every day we’d get up and I’d give Bob a few options of things we could do, and Bob would always say, “Let’s just go wherever the road takes us.” Sometimes we’d literally just start driving and take turns choosing whether to turn left or right and see where we ended up. This is a really cool way to live your life, in a broader metaphorical way and quite literally — if you ever get the chance to spend a Saturday just seeing where the road takes you, I highly recommend it. Thanks for teaching me that, Bob.

Email the author of this post at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @winona_rose.