Lessons from My Kid Brother

The age difference between my youngest brother and I is nearly 14 years. He is the self-proclaimed, “family blessing.” And though the gap in years meant I missed much of his childhood while away at college and grad school, I have a lot of fond memories of his youth of youths.

The other day I phoned him to ask how everything was going. “Hey bro, just got a new surf board!” he told me. Just a few weeks before I came home to visit my family only to find he’d made my father’s office into a makeshift “studio.” My parents were of course out of town.

It’s said that happiness has two peaks. People are filled with the most joy during their 20s and 10 years after retirement. I’m not entirely clear on what the correlation between the two phases of our lives are, but I’m gathering it has to do with a more effortless type of optimism.

I’ve taken away some profound lessons from the “little guy,” who now towers above me. The most important being his enthusiasm and resilience. He beams when discussing the future, a new relationship, a concert, a film he saw, or all the places he hopes to someday see.

And like the rest of us, he’s prone to getting bummed out from time to time, but when he’s down he isn’t there for long. He bounces back with an enviable buoyancy that seems to say, “My time is limited, I’m not going to waste it brooding.”

I wonder how and why we lose that sensibility and whether it’s possible to keep a small piece of that. Maybe it means hanging around younger people. Perhaps it just means cultivating a younger person spirit. Whatever the answer, I think it’s important to appreciate we can learn a lot from people who haven’t lived as long, or experienced the same setbacks.

At the very least, they may remind you of how you once embraced possibility, felt unbridled enthusiasm, and remind you of the importance of courting life like a partner — there may be fireworks at first but gradually the relationship evolves over time.

But if you work at it each day love will remain as the foundation.