Siblings are built-in best friends. We do not choose them, but for some reason, we decide to have their backs and they decide to have ours. I am extremely grateful for mine, and I do not think that I would be who I am without him. Obviously, having a baby brother arrive out of what seems like nowhere is a bit of an adjustment, but after 19.5 years, I would not want anything else.

My brother, Neil, is about three years younger than I am. He just completed his freshman year of college at the University of Minnesota, and I am so glad that I am able to spend time with him before heading to Boston. We have always been pretty close despite how different we are from each other, but I think that our somewhat opposite personalities is partly why we are close. For example, he is studying chemical engineering and one could, most definitely, not catch me taking a physics or chemistry class. He is quiet and more introverted, and I am talkative and extroverted.

As the older/oldest sibling, I feel as though I have a responsibility to protect Neil at all costs. I just want his life to be filled with joy. I do not want anyone to be mean to him and I want him to be as successful as possible in whichever ways success looks for him. He is one of the most intelligent people whom I know and I am so excited to see where his life takes him even if I am not right by his side through every moment.

At the same time, he grows annoyed with my protectiveness because he is an adult. While we are older, we still have our disagreements from time to time, and most of them stem from this. He does not appreciate when I play the “older sibling card” to have my way or to validate myself in making the final decisions (though I claim that I do not do so). He is not a baby or little kid anymore. I have a tendency to control how he approaches situations or the choices he makes because he deserves the very best and I worry that he cannot advocate for himself. I recognize that I need to let him live, and he will come to me when he needs something. I want him to know that I am always here and I want to be a role model for him. I experience everything first, which is not always fun, but these experiences ensure that I am prepared to help him through the same ones.

With Neil now being in college and attending the same university that I did, I do my best to ensure that he has as much fun and as many opportunities as I had. This is hard to do when he is in a completely different program and his future will be largely different from mine. I feel helpless at times because I do not always have all of the answers for him.

I often tell my brother that he does not need to worry about me and it is my job to worry about him. This upsets him because we should be on an equal playing field, and he can handle my hardships just as well. He is the “baby” of the family, so I think that my parents and I tend to shield him more than we should. We all grow older eventually. I will say that I have been able to have deeper and more serious conversations with him because of this. I find a lot of comfort in hearing his thoughts about social issues or sports or family matters. He explains ideas to me with little to no judgment.

I have always loved having someone else, non-parental, around the house with whom I can chat. We have a Bro & Sis playlist. We occasionally watch movies or drive around together. He shows me TikToks of puppies and we send each other YouTube videos. He quizzes me, a bit too much, on sports. We have the same values, and we are often in agreement regarding the things that our parents tell us. I can be as weird or silly as possible and he will embrace it. We are the only two people in the world who will ever understand one another to the extent that we do.

I know that many folks do not have the type of relationship with their siblings as I do with my brother. I know many folks do not even talk to their siblings. I wish that they all had someone like Neil because life is a little brighter with him in it.

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