Who is your role model? For me, this isn’t such an easy question. There are so many people I look up to for a variety of reasons. I have teachers who inspired me to pursue writing, friends who I model myself after to be a better person, directors I’ve worked with who taught me SO many things onstage and off, and of course my parents, who basically taught me everything I know and made me the person I am today. But during quarantine, I realized that I have another, more unique role model. His name is Kian, and he is my brother.
He is also 8 years old.
I never realized how much I could learn from someone who was 11 years younger than me. But in getting to know him better this year, I came to learn how even at his young age, he is incredibly worldly, insightful, and above all else, kind.
Here are just a few of the many lessons I have learned from my little brother:
[bf_image id="qdiyva-7xpmeo-6eprxf"] 1. To Have Empathy is to be Selfless
Like many of these lessons, this one comes with a story. Last school year, the Kona Ice truck came to visit Kian’s elementary school. Unfortunately, he didn’t have money that day, so he wasn’t able to have a delicious treat with all his friends. Upset, he went home and told my parents, who gave him some money to keep in his backpack for the next time the truck came. Sure enough, the mobile Hawaiian dessert shuttle arrived again, and Kian was so excited to get to have shaved ice this time! Then he noticed one of his classmates forgot her money and wouldn’t be able to have any. Remembering how he felt that day, Kian decided to share his Kona Ice with his classmate. The first time I heard this story, I felt like the most selfish person ever. Have I ever been so selfless as to give MY food to someone else?! I learned here that this is what pure empathy looks like. It’s when you have been in someone else’s shoes, so rather than just understand, you take action to make sure their situation is changed for the better.
2. You Can Make Any Situation into a Positive One
I’ll be the first to admit that finding out we had to spend months shut in quarantine away from college because of a global pandemic seemed like the start of a nightmare. Every day was news about another cancelled event or another opportunity I would have to miss out on. Even though Kian was very much aware of the situation at hand, he never let it get to him. At the start of quarantine, Kian learned how to ride his bike, and he begged to go on bike rides every day. He also became really invested in his crafting and video games. I don’t recall him complaining about the way things were even once, which was shocking, considering how I, the adult, complained pretty much every day. The biggest shock came when Kian’s summer camp was cancelled, which we hesitated to tell him for a long time. But when we finally did tell him per his questioning, he just smiled and said “Okay!”. When the musical I was supposed to perform in this past summer got cancelled, I cried for a solid day. How could he take things so well?! Maybe it’s because he realizes that all he can do is stay positive about the things he is still able to do? Whatever it is, I surely hope his optimism has rubbed off on me at least a little bit.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Set Extreme Goals for Yourself
If you were to ask me what my goals for the future are, I might start tell you about how I would want to live in a city, if only it weren’t so expensive, in which case I might try to build a local resume for journalism, unless I decide to go to law school, which is also really expensive. You know, just kind of giving you no real answer because I don’t wanna say something too farfetched. However, if you sprung that same question onto Kian, he would get out his journal where he’s detailed his entire life plan. He will get an engineering degree before moving to Canada, where he will dually design environmentally efficient buildings, open and operate a juice store, and replant trees in all the deforested areas of the Amazon. Is this realistic? Maybe not. But it gives him something to work for. At some point in our lives, we stop being imaginative and start being realistic. Why is that? I personally need to stop worrying so much about if things will happen for me, and instead focus on what I want to happen. If that involves wanting to be a Canadian, juice-blending environmentalist, then so be it!
4. Dance Like the Whole World is Watching
I wanted to use this phrase instead of the infamous “dance like nobody’s watching” because in Kian’s case, he makes SURE people see him dance. Is he good? Absolutely not. He kind of just jumps around, rolls on the floor, and spins until he falls over. If someone told me to start dancing in front of a room full of people, I might awkwardly start doing the disco-pointing thing and maybe the shopping cart. Kian, on the other hand, doesn’t care. In fact, the more embarrassing his dance is, the better. He worries less about what people will think of him and more about being a positive source of energy, stimulating laughter and joy from those around him. And being the light in a dark room isn’t embarrassing in the least! I need to work on this idea of letting my full personality show to those around me and not caring so much about if people will like me. If you are dancing authentically, then the ones who stick around to dance with you are the people you need to keep in your life.
After I write this article, I’ll be going home for the weekend to see my family after having been in quarantine for several weeks. Of course, I will be seeing Kian once again, and I have no doubt that he’ll have some other lesson for me disguised in 8-year-old craziness.