dear jeff, mason and troy

If I could only tell you one thing.  One piece of advice…I probably couldn’t do it.  You know me.  I’d just keep spouting them off one-by-one until it all became muddled together and sounded like gibberish.  But all of you have figured out your own way to understand my speed talking so I’d like to think that you would take something away from it all.

The good news is – I’m not talking. 

The bad news – You have to read to gain any nuggets of knowledge (like the nuggets of nutrition – a la brussel sprouts – they just don’t taste as bad, however, I won’t eat this for you).

We are all so, so different.  Sometimes it’s hard to believe we’re actually related…but the great thing is our differences have been accepted and fostered by all of us.  I think it is incredible that Jeff is so amazing at creating all types of art and can crack a joke without anyone realizing it until a few seconds later, how Mason can pick up a random piece of sheet music and then play it perfectly on the piano or figure out a complex equation without even really…thinking about it – something I will never be able to do without a calculator and algebra cliff notes and Troy…you are so awesome at drums and if anyone is going to tell someone like it is – it’s you.

You have all been there for me in good times and bad, regardless of reason or circumstance.  You have all supported me – from getting dragged to every one of my basketball games, albeit with a smile on your face and made up my cheering section, to showing up at a moments notice to help out.  You have all been a brother to me in the truest and purest sense.  For that I am always grateful.

I don’t know what I can give you that will show my gratitude.  Or how I can show you that yes, that simple little act of kindness did not go unnoticed and it was appreciated.  Honestly, there is only one thing that I happen to have a leg-up on and it is only due to circumstance.

I’m older.

But being the oldest has given me an obligation and a sense of responsibility to all of you.  I have extra years of experience and knowledge and wherever you are right now – I’ve been there.  Trust me.  I suffered through it just like you are now as individuals.  I’ve gone through the throes of middle school and high school where popularity and acceptance are top priority and I’ve dealt with the what-the-hell-am-I-going-to-do-now-that-I’m-out-of-college question.

It isn’t always fun and it will NEVER be easy.  I had my fair share of knock-it-down-drag-it-out fights with mom.  Just remember – she cools off by the third time she comes storming into your room.  The third attempt is the time to actually *have* a discussion.  At any point before then she will not remember and is still seeing red.  Just shut-up.  Believe me, it’s the best way.

I also have my issues with dad.  We’ve all got them and we all have our own way of coping.  Those, unfortunately, are not going away, either.  The family dynamic we have will never change.  Dad will never change.  We all may as well throw the nuclear family idea out of the window because it is just not happening.  It sucks to have to say it.  It is very hard to say it but if nothing else, I will always be honest with you.  I will always tell you the truth.

And the truth is – if you want that family with a mom and a dad and children who are all together and get along – you will have to build your own family in the future.  You will have to do the opposite of what your example has been.  If anything, look at Tim and his family or use one of your friend’s families.  Use that as your example.  No family is perfect.  No person is perfect.  But families like Tim’s figured out a way to make it work and to be honest with each other and to work through hard times and difficult issues without hurting the ones they love the most.

If you’re going to rebel in anything, rebel – in a good way – against the example laid before you with mom and dad.  I love them both dearly.  I would do anything for them and for you.  But I have seen and I am learning how to make a family work.  And it isn’t how mom and dad did it.

Another little bit to never, ever forget is that in the end, most of what you think is important…really doesn’t matter.  The friends you have now probably will not be your friends in five or ten years.  If they are still your friends, then they are true and loyal and never let them go – because friends like that are hard to come by.  There were many people who I thought were my friends growing up…and as many times as we pledged “FRIENDS FOREVER!” … I only have a handful left I know I can count on, no matter the distance or time since I’ve last spoken with them.

The choices you make now, good or bad, will be with you forever.  They will shape you.  They will mold you.  You can be whatever you want but you will become what you practice.  I can say all day long that,  “I am going to become the world’s greatest surgeon and will save a million lives and become world renowned.”

Small problem, right?  I can’t exactly deal with the whole “blood” part of that job description.

If you want to be somebody… If you want to leave your mark on this world…you have to start taking those steps to get there now.  You have to live whatever life you want for yourself.  It will not happen overnight.  And that has been one of the hardest lessons for me – I cannot have it RIGHT NOW.  Even though that’s what I want.  It just…isn’t going to happen.

Even if you don’t know what you want to do or who you want to be…because I think I might have JUST figured it out for myself…that is ok.  Explore.  Discover.  Experience life.  Because that’s how you’ll learn what you truly love and also the things you thought you might love, but don’t.  I thought I wanted to get my MBA and be a businesswoman.

Yeah, right.  One look at what I’d have to do on a daily basis and that snuffed that idea right out.  Not for me.

Even as you are navigating your way, stay true to yourself.  Don’t make stupid mistakes that may come back to haunt you later.  Peer pressure sucks, especially when you’re still trying to fit in.  But as backwards as it seems, if you start doing your own thing – like wearing a purple polka-dotted shirt every Wednesday – other people will start to notice you and when you smile at them and say, “I wear my polka-dotted shirt because I like it” – I guarantee you others will start wearing polka-dotted shirts because they think they’re missing out on something if they DON’T wear the shirt.  It’s really stupid…but that’s how it works.  People gravitate towards those who aren’t afraid to be different.

Just be yourself.  Don’t try to be someone else – because I promise you, it isn’t happening.  I will never preform open-heart surgery and none of you will become Brad Pitt or Joe Jonas and cheetos – especially the hot ones – will never fulfill all of your nutritional needs – it’s just not happening.  Don’t be afraid to say the truth.  I always had a hard time admitting something if it was different from others expectations.  Like, if I got my car cleaned and Tim and I thought they would vacuum it and wash it.  Then, I go to pick up the car and it is only washed and not vacuumed.  Before, I would be afraid to tell Tim that they didn’t vacuum my car.  Why?  Because it wasn’t his expectation.  I would try to avoid the question or make up something to avoid a direct confrontation of “why didn’t they vacuum your car?”

Don’t do that.  Just come out with it.  You didn’t DO anything wrong.  It’s just different.  SO WHAT?

I wish I could just…use a brain sucker and take out all of the things I’ve learned and give them to each of you to show you that I’m not just making this up.  But, I didn’t believe mom when she tried to tell me things sometimes….she ended up being right, most of the time…but it was because she lived it.  She experienced it.

And that is what you are all doing now…experiencing and learning and making mistakes…and it’s hard.  And it will take a lot of time for everything to make sense.  But one day, it will.  I promise.

Until then, keep to your roots.  Be nice to people.  Always tell the truth – even if it hurts.  And love fully and completely.

And… (of course one more thing….)

 Troy – NEVER lose that spark.  You make the whole room light up with your personality and with the feelings you invoke with the drums.  Play on!

Mason – Don’t turn off your brain.  You could be the next Nobel Peace Prize winner.  You are like, scary smart – and that is NOT un-cool.  It’s a rare ability.  Don’t waste it.

Jeff – Listen to what YOU want for yourself…not what anyone thinks you should do.  It will all come in time…don’t ever lose sight of your dream even if it takes longer than you or anyone else thinks it should.

 And lastly –  life never stops being a roller coaster.  If it does, you aren’t living.

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