Getting Older

As younger siblings get older and older, reflecting back on the past we share is inevitable


Ever studious, Alex focuses in on his class work. Seeing the effort he puts into his classes only feeds my pride.

My brother, born April 15, 2008, just five months before my third birthday, has remained one of the few constants in my life. From his constant annoyance to his constant support, he is always present, whether he chooses to be or otherwise. Whether I want him to be or not.

This forced proximity mixed with the fact that it’s been just him and I in the seemingly unending back-and-forth between our mom and dad has pushed and pulled us further and closer throughout the span of our lives together. He is the only one that will ever really understand what I’ve been through, and sometimes that frustrates me. Sometimes that scares me. Mostly, though, it makes me appreciate what we’ve each been given in the other.

As we’ve grown up together, as I’ve watched him start his journey into true independent personhood, I find myself awed…and slightly terrified. This nuisance, this comfort, this little brother of mine isn’t just my little brother, anymore. He’s a student. A good one, at that. A student who likes his teachers and whose teachers like him. A student who tries. A student who is now in his second semester of high school, of all things, something that, admittedly, I never really considered as a reality. Alex? In high school? I could barely comprehend his start in middle school, and I only really started to grasp onto that by the time he was in his last year.

Just about a month ago, he finally got a haircut after almost a year of growing it out. Before the great hair massacre of 2023, his hair rested just below his shoulders. It was his aspiration to grow it out, at times to the slight chagrin of our mother, and it was a distinct show of his developing independence. Then, he came home with hair about as short as mine and a grin on his face. Another choice. Another change. But this was different. This slap in the face wasn’t just the realization he was maturing in his independence, but he looked older, too. He looked like himself, instead of someone he was trying to be.

It may seem ridiculous, but this felt like such an important moment, despite its subtlety. Not only had Alex made the decision for himself, knowing it would be better for him, knowing how it would suit him, but he also refused to have his mind changed. He wasn’t influenced by our parents to style it one way or the other, to cut it shorter or longer. He chose himself. Found the reference photos himself. And it was this setting of boundaries, of hard limits, what he was and wasn’t willing to do with his hair-his body-that stuck with me the most.

Alex was learning to use his voice in a way that wasn’t just frustrated or upset, but rather collected, comfortable, and sturdy, something that we have both struggled with, in the past.

To watch this growth represented physically, not just in the slightly unsettling way that he’s almost taller than me, but also to see how he chooses to treat himself and take care of his body.

Every part of the beginning of his life as a self-reliant being, a person willing to say what’s on his mind and demand to be heard, has been entirely his own.

Recently he and I have been discussing what it will be like after I move to Columbia for college. He’s scared, and so am I, though it may not be for the same reasons. He and I have been the biggest consistent factor in the other’s life; even when our schedules were changing left and right, even when our parents were, intentionally or otherwise, uprooting some part of our lives. We always had each other.

He’s scared to lose that. So am I. But I think I’m more afraid that I’m going to miss out on watching him become the person he’s meant to be. Or being with him while I continue my own growth. We won’t always have the other to look at across the room and silently make fun of the people around us. We won’t always have the other to show off our accomplishments to. We won’t always have the other to comfort us when the week’s been long and people are frustrating.

But I think that the absence may also be the beauty of all of this. Alex is going to learn who he is through his own methods, and while it may be in the absence of his crutch (though I admit, I have a habit of treating him the same), I hope to make it as clear as possible that I will be there for him, laughing when he stumbles before helping him stand straight, again.

Watching him grow into himself has been a surprising and exciting experience, and though I may be worried about leaving him, I am confident that he will find his way on his own.