It would be an immense understatement if I said the relationship between my brother and I has been a tad bit rocky the past 5 years.
Growing up, we were polar opposites beside just our looks. I would be more prone to frolicking in the woods, building forts, pretending, using my imagination, and that sort. My brother on the other hand was always working. He began working at the age of 13 at a nearby produce stand, and his hobbies included winning trophies in BMX racing or becoming a championship winning lacrosse player.
Throughout our childhood, we fought like all brothers do, and he tormented me like all big brothers are supposed to. But the one thing that bugged me the most was that all of my lofty aspirations; whether by childlike ambition, or by growing up wanting to be a filmmaker, all seemed like nonsense to my father.
“Get your damn head out of the clouds!” was a phrase I heard often.
Even though it was never stated, it always seemed as though my father wanted me to be more like my brother. My brother was a spitting image of our Pops, with the same hardworking mindset. He didn’t believe there was any other job worth doing besides a labor job. After a period of not speaking with each other before his death, I succumbed to his pressuring and was inducted into the grind of being a window repair man like him.
And at that time I was content with staying there.
After my father passed away, all I wanted to do was leave. I wanted to run away from it all. It was almost like my grown-up way of pretending it didn’t happen like I did as a little boy to forget about my father abusing my mother. So I packed up and moved out west. Ever since I left, my brother and I have barely had a conversation besides the one or two times a year that we would meet for dinner with my aunt and uncle.
And we never spoke about the day our father died. Ever.
I never really tried to speak to him about it. Hell, I couldn’t bear to visit our father’s grave, and typically lied about doing so. As I chronicled in a recent memoir I wrote, I never wanted to talk to anyone about it that day. I just wanted to forget. In doing so, by bottling it up inside for 5 years, it nearly led to my demise and also forced a bigger rift between the two of us.
Something I wouldn’t realize until recent.
Right before the dinner Friday night I posted an article recapping bits and pieces of the night my brother disowned me for moving to New Zealand. Because I wanted to move abroad for a year he told me I wasn’t his brother, and I was so furious I decided I wasn’t going to try to talk to him anymore. I was going to prove him wrong. Like our father would have, he stepped on my dream with the heel of his boot and attempted to grind it into the ground.
Or so I thought he wanted to crush my dream.
That was one of the biggest and most invisible issues. I was always trying to prove my brother and father wrong. Trying to prove to the world I could be great. I perpetually felt unworthy.
In the past few months while sharing parts of my dark past with you all, and getting some tremendous feedback, I’ve gained a completely new perspective and awareness of myself. I’ve finally faced much of what haunted me nearly leading me to suicide, and however this dinner was going to end up, I had a whole lot to divulge to him.
Would he disown me again like last time? It didn’t matter as much this time.
Obviously I hoped he wouldn’t, but I had no control over his decision. I just had to tell him the truth, and how confident I was this was right for me this time.
So how did I reveal it to him this time?
Well, a whole helluva lot different from New Zealand.
Up until this night, most of our conversations revolved around money. I felt like him and his wife always pestered me about my finances, how irresponsible with money I was, how I should live my life, and how I should get a secure job. I couldn’t stand dinners with them most of the time because I always felt as if they ganged up on me just to make me feel like crap.
So I didn’t mention a damn thing about money this time. It wasn’t something I felt important to talk about.
Instead, I told him everything.
“We’ve never talked about when dad died, ever. And I’ve never told you or anyone this. Or even realized it myself until recently. But it fucked me up really bad”
I began at the death of our father when everything came crashing down.
“The money we received from the house? You know I moved out west, but I never told you that I blew it all on partying.”
“I know you did, trust me.” He said.
“Well, over the past 5 years I’ve always told you I was fine, and that everything was amazing. All I wanted to do is prove you wrong, and to not end up like Dad in a job that killed him.”
“Yeah, you were always trying to prove something to me and I was always wondering why the hell you felt like you had to.”
I began by brutally dissecting the past 5 years.
I told him how I viewed his decision to sell the house, how I felt at that time, and how I see it all now after re-thinking his motives. I told him about every instance in which I screwed up over the past 5 years, how I blamed someone else, or how I made excuses for my missteps and downfalls. I told him about the times I despised him for selling our house, and how I resented him for being able to just deal with our fathers death.
“I was able to run with it, to just take it all and continue living and doing my best.”
“You ran with it, and I ran away.”
It really gets easy to live a life that is a lie when all you are doing is living for someone else’s expectations and opinions. I never knew my brother didn’t care about things like that, but I felt the urge to make him think I was doing amazing.
“You always made everything about money when you talked to us. I didn’t give a damn about how much you were making and what job you were in, but you always started each conversation with how well off you were so we could only talk to you about your finances.” he said.
In hindsight, I never realized that I did always fire off my current standings of false wealth and false happiness to prove him wrong, leaving that to be the only thing we could talk about.
“When you told me you were heading to New Zealand, it was the last straw. Uncle Ken and I knew for the past few years you were going through some shit, and I knew you hadn’t dealt with it and were running away again. So I got fed up and just had to cut you loose. There was nobody that could save you except you.” he said.
During this conversation and in the past few months, I realized how hiding my past and pretending to be somebody I’m not was extremely detrimental to fostering relationships of any kind. I was so caught up in proving everybody wrong that I would let relationships with friends, family, and others fall to the wayside.
“I was definitely in a dark place. Very dark. I hit rock bottom and kept falling until I reached an abyss with no light. And it feels good to be aware of that now. I came here tonight to tell you I am tired of trying to prove you wrong, because I have to live for myself and it is the root of my well-being to do so.”
“I’m proud of you bro.” he said. Words I never thought I’d hear from him.
Words I didn’t care to hear now because I wasn’t trying to make him proud. Funny how that happens right? But I could see his eyes cloudy (though he would never admit to produces wimpy water from his eyes) and I could hear in his voice he was genuine.
Just like writing about my darkest days here on the blog, telling him how I felt all of those years while analyzing my own thoughts has lifted a mountain off of me. Sometimes when you are in a bottomless pit filled with quicksand and pit vipers, you have to pull a MacGyver to get out.
Or sometimes the key is to be honest with yourself and others.
When I told him and his wife about my upcoming trip to Southeast Asia to teach English, their eyes lit up and they smiled.
“That sounds like an incredible trip Ryan, I think it’ll be amazing for you and your growth.”
Okay, where the hell did my brother go and who replaced him with this Care Bear?
Actually, it finally felt like we were brothers, instead of competitors, for the first time in a long time. And even though some ways my brother dealt with things or treated me aren’t the best ways, I now realize we were both a part of the equation that held back our relationship instead of just blaming him.
I had laid all of my deepest thoughts and feelings on the table that night for the first time ever. I am no longer running away from my past, blaming others for my downfalls, making excuses for pretend greatness, and living for others expectations.
It seems like this is the start to repairing family ties, and opening up the possibilities for me to foster other relationships. I am truly excited to hit the road now and meet new people.
I know I have the potential to be great. I know my own worth. I know my dream. I am living now for me.