November 11, 1996
Ten Minute Ride
It was a rather long ten minutes sitting in the passenger seat of my brothers jeep, watching headlights of the passing cars get thicker and closer and then brighter, but what went on in those ten very simple minutes is something that I will remember forever. It was a conversation with my oldest brother who for the last four years has been working as a waiter, never gaining the strength or motivation to go back and finish college. It happened about 2 years ago when I was still in high school and doing fairly well and I was a very impressionable person, especially to my brother whom, I knew had experienced many more things than I did. He has made a lot of mistakes, failing out of college his freshman year, and in the subsequent years, not working hard enough. Yet he does have very intriguing and important advice. I guess you could say he learned from his own mistakes but could never follow his own advice. And that is what made me so unwary as to what he told me. At that time, I wasn't sure what to believe, but now I think I agree with everything he had to say.
My brother was the type of person who you knew was intelligent and could make it in the real world, but never could apply himself and do the work; He was lazy. Yet it's not really a physical laziness, but more of a mental one. He, as much as anyone else, enjoyed going out with his friends to parties, or as he got older, to bars, and have a good time and relax. But he did this often, and probably too often. His first year at college was spent in England, where he subsequently failed to make any of his classes and thus flunked out. His second semester was spent roaming around Europe. I am not sure if he returned to school that semester or not; it was a rather touchy subject and we never talked about it. The later years he spent in Georgia, in Mercer University, and waiting tables at a restaurant called Applebee's. During this period I never talked to him or spent time with him. He spent a year down there and then came up to Northern Virginia where I lived and continued to work there, never re-enrolling in school. So I spent the last two years of high school with him, and we finally formed a close relationship. The sort of relationship where you can talk about anything and everything. A brother is unique in that respect. Something's you can't tell your parents and other things are too personal to tell friends, and so the sibling fits in.
Anyway, I was sitting in the front seat, pitch dark except for the rectangle of lighted road ten feet in front of me, while my brother started to explain to me how important it was for me to do something with my life. To get through college and get a steady job and steady relationships and nice clothes, furniture, and a nice apartment. He was there next to me about 8 years older than I was telling me what he did wrong and why all the time he spent accomplishing little for his future was a waste. Yet I still look up to him, and I still admire him, even though I know he made a lot of mistakes. Maybe, I thought, it was because it can happen to me. Or maybe because I was scared and wanted someone to understand if I ever failed. He could have already graduated from college and had a nice apartment, and a steady job, but he didn't. And that was frustrating for him. Frustration that he doesn't have what he could have had. It's that feeling you get when for some reason you can't have something. My father once said that you should get a job that you enjoy, no matter what the pay or fiscal benefit, but for my brother he never really found that job which suited him well. And so he was stuck. I sat in that car and pondered the importance of what my future held for me and how college could help me achieve my dreams. I was mostly unsure of where I wanted to go and a lot of thought and energy went in to choosing and applying to this school. Furthermore, I always knew what I wanted to do as a career, computer science, and my brother knew it as well. And perhaps he was jealous because of it. He knows now what he wants to do, to open a restaurant and manage, but that goal came too late and he is finding it very difficult to get back in to school to finally achieve that goal. And so he explained to me that I would be going to college under unique circumstances, knowing my goal early on, and being able to work towards it. He never had that opportunity and he was telling me how important knowing your goals early on. He said it would make things so much easier, and he was right.
That small ten minute talk made me realize and understand my brother a little bit more. Sure he made some mistakes and perhaps he needs to go back to college, but he can now achieve his dreams only a couple years later. Mistakes are tragic only if you don't learn from them, and he told me then that I didn't have to make those same mistakes because he had already made them for me.
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