My brother, Kyle, always led my earliest adventures into imaginary realms. We fought trolls with wooden swords, goblins with clumps of dirt scooped from the field surrounding our club house. (Once I was the goblin and Kyle made a throw that could’ve been on SportsCenter’s Not Top 10 as it connected with my face.)
He was the best big brother an annoying little brother looking to prove himself could have. He never whooped me. Not once. I tried like hell to fight him and he would figuratively and sometimes literally hold out a brotherly stiff arm atop my head as I swung at him with my much shorter arms.
Kyle refused to be a follower growing up. I followed him.
If I had been the older brother, without having the advantage of his example, I would’ve been trouble. I would have tried to fit in. I probably would have joined a fraternity, studied business, and joined the family business. Not that there is anything wrong with these things, but that was not my path, and I have enjoyed my path.
Kyle is the writer. Always has been.
At Miami University he studied journalism for three years, and then he did something kind of crazy: he changed his major to exercise science. I have never told him this, but I thought he was a chicken for changing his major. He is a really good writer and I thought the excuse, “I probably can’t get a job with a journalism degree,” wasn’t a good one. I’m not even sure that was his excuse or if I just saw it as such.
Three years later he graduated with nearly three bachelor’s degrees. A few years after that, he earned his master’s and a few years more his PhD. I’d visit Kyle in his lab and he would show me all the equipment — the lasers, the sphyignomonometers (I can’t even spell the stuff), the flux capacitors, or whatever. It was when Kyle excitedly tried to explain things that I could barely understand that I understood how courageous his decision to change his major from something that he was good at to something he was passionate about.
People often think I was the brave or crazy or stupid one for graduating and traveling and writing. I’d like to make the case that Kyle was the brave, crazy, or stupid one for looking at his first three years of undergrad and admitting that they hadn’t taken him in the direction in which he was meant to go and then switching majors.
Now he’s back at Miami teaching students and doing research. I hope the students realize how lucky they are to be led by him. I hope they courageously pursue their academic interests, not because they are just good at something, but because they are genuinely interested in it. Curiosity trumps proficiency in the long run.
Today is Kyle’s birthday. If it weren’t for him, I would’ve taken the easy way.
So a big Happy Birthday to my stupid big brother, Kyle!