andy.jpgMy brother and his new wife just spent 10 days visiting sunny Florida. They stayed at my parents’ house and I got to visit them a few times. I would’ve liked to have seen them more but I was sick for that few days and didn’t want to get them sick too so we stayed huddled up at home.

I love my brother. I light up at the mention of his name, I can’t help but smile when I see him, laugh when he talks, and listen to his advice. I admire him so much for who he is. He is absolutely without question the most down-to-earth and true to himself person I know. He’s friendly to everyone he meets. He stands up for what he believes in.

My brother is such an individual. Nothing about him is anything but Andy. He refuses to conform to what others expect him to dress like, look like, act like. And all the while, people just love him. I have learned so much from him over the 29 years I’ve been alive. We are only 16 months apart in age and were often mistaken for twins growing up. That was probably helped by the fact that he was held back a grade in 5th grade so we were in the same grade for years.

I am going to share some things I have learned from my brother, some of the more important lessons he’s taught me through example.

1. All people are equal – he used to get in fights in middle and high school because he’d get made fun of by ignorant kids because his best friends were black. I know that he’s learned by now that beating people up isn’t the way to get them to listen to you. But he has always shown a passion for standing up for what is right and fighting for what he believes in. Now he just does it a little more civilly.

2. Don’t be a follower – live your own life, live it well and be happy with who you are. I will never forget the 3 months in high school that my brother didn’t talk to me. Not one word. After he found out that I had gone out to a concert with friends and gotten drunk and been smoking cigarettes. To him, I was doing what everyone expected in an effort to be cool (and he was right) and he had no tolerance for me being an idiot in order to be liked. That 3 months was hell. I was embarrassed that I had behaved so stupidly to try to make insignificant people like me and in the process made my best friend dislike me.

3. Show your love – when I see my brother with his wife, I think he’s amazing. He’s the perfect combination of loving but goofy, he takes care of her without being overbearing. He always thinks of her first for everything. That is how marriage should be. Putting the other person first and making sure they are shown everyday how much you love and appreciate them.

4. Laugh at yourself – NEVER take yourself too seriously. This is above all else the single biggest thing I got from growing up with him. He’s not obnoxious but he likes to make fun of people and he’s sarcastic and goofy. If you trip, he’ll laugh. That kind of thing. He makes the mundane hilarious and shows me how to smile and laugh through life even when things are bad.

Those are the big things. He’s special, my brother. I’m lucky to have him in my life showing that everything doesn’t have to be conventional and happiness can come when you are true to yourself and put a smile on your face. It becomes contagious.