Below is my essay that was published on This I Believe.
Besides for my stuffed purple chick with one foot and a crooked beak, my brother Eric was my first best friend. My crib became his eleven months later, and eventually we shared a small room together. Our beds were so close, we’d jump from one to the other in our footed pajamas until my mom’s exhausted voice shouted up the stairs to lie in the beds and not jump on them.
Everyone outside of our family assumed that we were twins. I’d always point out that I was taller. Aside from my longer hair, that was the only difference. We had the same chocolate eyes and the same shade of brown for hair; we’d make the same facial expressions—usually silly ones.
I would moan and complain and curl up on the couch when I had what my parents called “growing pains” in my legs. When it came to Eric, he would giggle, run to the refrigerator, and try to figure out how big the gap was between his head and the freezer door. There was never a reason for it, besides the fact that it excited us, but my father would take out his measuring tape and tell us how many more inches we had to grow until our heads reached the freezer door. I’d chase after my brother just to make sure I still had height on him.
When our baby brother came along, we’d fight for domination over him when we needed a gullible suspect to satisfy our curiosity. We could get that baby to do anything, and he’d always have a drooling smile plastered on his chubby cheeks. We’d push him into our parents’ room to look for the Christmas presents in the closet, we’d shove him in the attic without a flashlight to see if the Boogeyman existed. We’d blame our mistakes on him, even if they didn’t make sense. “Who ate the Kit Kats that were on the counter?” Though he couldn’t even reach half way up the cabinet to the counter, “Ryan did it.” “Who stuffed the toilet with toilet paper?” Even though he was still in diapers, “Ryan did it.”
Eric and I were the ultimate duo, and it stayed that way for a while. It was one of the greatest whiles in my life.
High school separated us. We didn’t have the same friends anymore. Eric hung out with the other honors kids who only hung out with each other. Me in my black wardrobe and dyed hair, I hung out with the freaks. Eric pushed himself away from me in high school, so I kept my distance.
Back at home, we’d hang out—when Eric was home, without his pod of nerds flocking around him, blabbing about AP exams. We’d still play wiffle ball in our backyard with Ryan and our neighbors. It wasn’t as fun as it used to be. The relationship between Eric and I dwindled down to nothing but an exchange of sarcastic remarks.
I stayed home for my first year of college and studied creative writing and art, and the absence of Eric, who went to Boston to major in business, took a toll on me. Even though we barely communicated, seeing his empty room across from mine took months to get used to.
I believe I learned to let go of what I was used to in order to let myself grow. I learned how to let myself adjust to something I couldn’t change. And from there, I went away to college on my own, where I taught myself so much about who I am, and met other people who I shared unique experiences with that I wouldn’t trade for anything.