Dear Younger Brothers,
I’m moving “home” for six months to be with you. Home is a place that I’m not sure really exists anymore. The house we grew up in is ash. Harvey, too. Mom is gone. Dad is different. And so are we…
But nevertheless, I’m moving closer to you. To be with you more. And to show you how much I love you, instead of just texting you those words.
You are the two greatest blessings of my life.
I couldn’t be prouder of the men you are becoming. Despite whatever value disagreements we have, despite whatever conflict unfolds, I want you to know that. That I’m proud of you. And I love you.
And I am sorry. For failing to show up and be the sister I could and should have been. There is no excuse for this — not even grief.
Life has been hard on you both so far. At varying degrees and in due time, adversity, pain, and loss plague us all. It came earlier for you than most, but that doesn’t change a thing. You’ve faired well. Some of us bend, some of us break in the face of this kind of pain. No matter what anyone says, you are both are bending. That is something we all can be grateful for.
The beauty of all this is that now you know — at a very deep level— that you can make it through anything.
You can and you will.
And if nature unfolds as it should, I will leave this world before both of you. I will, hopefully anyways, be the last grief you experience. Just a few short years before your own deaths.
It only seems fit given that I made it here 4.5 and 9 years before you both, but we will see how things go. I don’t know when I’ll go, but I’ll be damned if you aren’t absolutely drowning in my love, adoration, and support by then.
Maybe you are already drowning in the “mushiness” of this letter, but get ready for me to turn it up a notch…
It’s unexplainable and unjustifiable that you both have had to “grow up” quicker than you were meant to. It’s unfair that life has forced you to go through things and that you’ve been “stripped” of a normal childhood.
The reality is: experiencing adversity is normal. Dad went through it as a kid, too. So did, Mom. So did a bunch of other people you know. Some people are bullied. Others abused. Others faced loss. Others struggled in poverty.
The problem is not the pain we feel, but rather the way we learn to respond to it. As great as our parents were, I’m not sure there’s anything better they could have done to prepare us for how life has unfolded. I’m not sure there’s anything they could have done to help us respond any better.
You’ve survived well on your own so far, but now it’s time to start thriving again. To integrate your pain and loss, to make your life, somehow, oh somehow, better than it was before.
Our tendency as humans, when lightning strikes, is to close. To shut down our emotions. To block up our tear ducts. To hold all of it inside our bodies. And to just be, almost inexplicably hurt, mad, and fatigued. I know this because I have been this way for a long time. And because you are men, fortunately and unfortunately, making it through this part (from surviving to thriving) will be harder for you than it was for me.
Because you are responsible, not only for processing your emotions, but for pushing against all sorts of false conditioning that has been thrust upon you. You are tasked with breaking through the belief that you have — deep inside — that makes you think it isn’t okay to feel hurt. In addition to actually feeling hurt.
But it is okay to feel hurt, my brothers. It’s okay to let go. To drop the walls on the fortresses you’ve built with your vices.
These fortresses are not necessary any longer. You can break through this pain. You can get to the other side. If only you have the courage — the courage to be deeply vulnerable.
This is my first open letter to you. One of many that I plan to write. As I think of things I want you to know now, and want you to remember when I’m gone, I’ll write to you.
Because, my loves, you are my compass. When I think of why I want to be “successful” or become a really good writer or entrepreneur, I think of you. Not of Mom, and everything she did for me, but of you. You are all the inspiration I need in this world. You inspire everything.
My hope today is that you know through this writing that I love you. That you feel it deeply. And that my love, expressed here, gives you a good enough reason to start peeling back some of those deep layers.
The life ahead of you both is beautiful. And I am blessed, beyond what I could ever explain, to have the opportunity to be a small part of it.
And with that, here is my unsolicited, public advice for you both, as we enter this new wave together. Take it with a grain of salt. In many ways you are both wiser than I will probably ever be…
Do your best to open, not close. Use your painful experiences, not to close off from the beauty life has to offer but to use them as a pathway to finding a deeper beauty. Because that’s what it is.
You are not a victim if you don’t victimize yourself. Don’t let anyone use your story or your experiences against you. Ever. They make you who you are and that is beautiful.
Shame is the killer of joy. Feeling shame about what has happened or what choices you’ve made is useless. Forgive yourself first and foremost for whatever guilt and shame you are harboring. If you can wake up in the morning and go to bed at night feeling proud of the decisions you’ve made and the things you’ve done, then you’ve won. If you can’t, then try again tomorrow.
As men in this world, you are expected to dispel emotional vulnerability. This is a trap; don’t fall into it. You will walk around in this world hurt and angry for a long, long time if you do not learn how to feel the pain that is rightfully yours to feel. So feel it. It’s okay to cry and scream. You don’t need to hold it in anymore. You don’t need to be so hard all the time. You can be a man and feel stuff you know. It’s okay, even necessary, to stop and just be sad sometimes. You don’t need to be strong for the sake of it anymore. I give you full permission to just let go.
Any man who calls you “gay” or “whipped” for taking care of a woman is wrong and toxic. Don’t let them get to you. Loving and caring for someone is the best thing you can do as a man and as a human. You two loved your mother more than words; that was the gift of her life. Any woman lucky enough to experience that same kind of love is exactly that — lucky. Don’t lose sight of that as time goes on and friends make fun of you. They are just uncomfortable in their own manhood.
Connection is the antidote to depression. To be connected with meaning, with people, and with life — is to beat depression, and ultimately to beat grief. When you’re young, it’s hard to find that kind of deep connection that we seek as humans. But don’t lose hope. It’s out there. The deep kind that allows you to let your guard down and just be you.
Prioritize purpose over profit, but realize you must profit, too. You need to take responsibility and pay your f*cking bills, but you also need to find something to sink your teeth into. Don’t follow the path you think you “should” or the one that looks shiny. Follow the path that you want to more than anything else. I will always support you in doing that.
Despite what it’s revealed so far, life is going to be good for you both. Yes, people die. Yes, houses burn down. Yes, families break apart. Yes, hearts get broken. Yes, life deals some tough cards. But none of this matters really. There is still so much beauty left to be experienced on this path, beauty both of you are entitled to experience.
Despite the adversities and pains you face, you are among the most privileged people to ever walk this earth. There is so much opportunity and you are smart, talented, and driven enough to tap into it. It is your duty to do that. It is your duty to use your privilege to make this world a better place. Beat the stereotypes of “straight white males” and be good human beings that provide platforms for others to thrive.
I will dance with you at your wedding. It won’t be a “mother/son dance.” I won’t be Mom. I won’t even be close. But I’ll be there with you, dancing, laughing, and crying (if the moment lends itself). In every way I can, I vow to show up for you in the moments I wish she had been blessed to.
I always have your back. Always. Forever. From near or far.