Man, where do I start? In so many ways you are the person I aspire to be. You are kind. You are resolute. You are consistent. You are strong (mentally, I still beat you in arm wrestles). You are smart. You are humble. And you are so much more. What makes this all so astounding is that, on this day, you are only 18.
You are my brother nine years and fifty four days my junior, yet in so many ways I look to you as a rock of inspiration in my life.
In the words of Shrek: you are an onion. While I don’t think you look like an ogre, I do think you have the layers of an ogre. You have depth, but not many people get a chance to see that. I feel blessed that I get to see that. And since I know you’re not one to sit and reflect on all that you have accomplished in your short time on this earth, I will go ahead and do that for you.
First, your resilience in life. At four years old your pancreas stopped working. Doctors didn’t know what was wrong as you started to wither away. Once checked into the hospital, your blood sugar was in the sixties – a normal blood sugar is 4-6. It’s a miracle you’re alive. From then on, I watched you take ownership of this new reality. Every time you consume something you have to prick your finger, take blood, calculate your insulin, and give yourself an injection. Not once in your life have you complained. Not once have you asked for sympathy. Most times I forget you even have diabetes because it’s just a part of the ebb and flow of your life and you do this all with the same nonchalant attitude most of us have towards breathing. It’s just your reality and you’ve embraced that. You have continued to approach life with a sense of normalcy, yet you are anything but normal.
While your birth certificate indicates you are 18, anyone who talks to you would assume they are talking to someone ten years your senior. You are quiet and reserved, yet when you talk you command respect. That is because your words carry weight. They are thoughtful, they are precise, and they are impactful. Yes, you mix in some jokes that only I laugh at (not because they’re not funny, but because only you and I have the same weird sense of humour), but you also bring depth to conversations. Your analytical brain is hyperactive in all the best ways possible. You ask questions that not many people would ask. You are insatiably curious and manage to push conversations forward by offering new ideas without marginalizing people and you always defer to others before sharing your perspective. That is a tough thing to do, but you have already mastered this.
Your work ethic far exceeds any normal person. What other seventeen, now eighteen year old works thirty hours a week, takes all of the hardest maths and sciences, and still crushes straight As? I have seen you come home from a nine hour shift working outside and immediately disappear into your room to do math problems until 10pm sharp, at which point you go to bed. No one is that disciplined, only you. As any good statistician would say, there’s no absolute certainty, but I am fairly certain that this will translate to you crushing it in whatever academic and professional path you take.
But you’re not just a wizard in the books, you’re an artist. Put a pencil in your hand and you can bring anything to life on a piece of paper. Whether that’s architecture, cartoons, or realism, you have a gift of the visual, and yet you refer to this as just a “hobby”.
And you are generous. You go out of your way to give and to serve. If someone needs something they don’t even need to ask, you have the intuition to know, and the selflessness to act. You’re giving with your time, your energy, and your resources. You are frugal with yourself, and giving to others. You are a true servant.
You are a leader. People your age look up to you. People older than you look up to you. I look up to you. At eighteen years old, you already command the respect of everyone in your life, and you’ve earned that. You’ve earned it through consistency. Everything about you is consistent. There is very little variability in your life, and when you were younger we worried that this could be a challenge, yet you’ve proven to be consistently adaptable. Nothing phases you.
And lastly, you are wise. King Solomon prayed for wisdom above all else. That is what I have prayed for in your life and it seems to have borne fruit. I am consistently amazed at the decisions you make, sometimes the hard decisions, that continue to pay dividends. You navigate complex situations with ease, you are a rock in all of your relationships, and you move through life with purpose and conviction. You are a wise man.
I am not only proud of the person you have become, I am proud that I get the honour and privilege to call myself your brother.
I love you, man.