That is the first word that comes to mind when someone asks me about my brother.
Proud; the second word.
Both of these feelings grow deeper as the years go on. And today as I celebrate his 22nd year, I can’t help but reflect on how much he’s grown and how much he’s accomplished.
Jake will always be my baby brother. I will always feel like in some way I need to protect him. Growing up with Jake meant being a dummy for him to practice his wrestling moves on. It meant going to social events and immediately being asked “Where’s your brother?” It meant laughing until my stomach hurt. It meant being his number one fan.
Jake is one of those people who you just want to be around. When he’s around everything is perfect. His energy is contagious and his kindness shines through. I miss being able to be around him all the time, living in another state isn’t easy.
The years keep passing and I keep wondering where the hell they’ve gone and how he’s grown up so fast. Every time I’ve seen Jake lately, I’ve noticed him maturing. I’ve noticed how he’s been able to reflect on his past relationships and grow from them. I’ve noticed him becoming more open to other people’s views. All the while, growing even more confident in his own opinions and beliefs. I’ve seen him gain an even deeper appreciation for his family. And I’ve noticed him putting other people before himself.
I’m in awe of his accomplishments. As I was looking through some of our photos together, I couldn’t help but notice a few photos where I’m showing off his most recent addition to his collection of awards.
But that’s not what matters really, there’s two things that lead to his accomplishments that I admire about him: his dedication to his craft and his humbleness along the way.
If you know Jake you know that wrestling is incredibly important to him. I’ve watched Jake excel in athletics since he was little. Honestly he’s kind of a freak of nature.
I’ve heard him and my dad sit for hours talking about his upcoming opponents and different strategies. I’ve slept in a few extra hours when he woke up at the crack of dawn to go get his workout in. I’ve sat at dinner watching him skip a meal to make weight. I’ve watched in awe as he puts down a burger and wings in the same sitting upon the season’s closure.
I’ve worn red and blue to cheer him on at Simley High School. And I’ve sported maroon and gold (even though I’m a badger first) to support him at U of M. I’ve cheered as he joyously pinned a kid or scored a touch down. And I’ve felt my heart drop when he hasn’t come out on top.
The compromises he had to make and continues to make are immeasurable. But to him it’s just part of the journey. He has his eye on his next goal, and he’ll do what it takes to get there.
All growth, accomplishments and dedication aside, I am most proud of Jake because of his humility. You’d think that a caveat for someone so decorated would be an overwhelming sense of pride. But he is so humble. He doesn’t talk about himself. He asks people about themselves and genuinely cares about others. He’s slow to talk about victories unless you ask him directly about them.
To my favorite brother, happy birthday. I’m so lucky I get to be your older sister. I can’t wait to see what you accomplish during your 22nd year. I have a feeling the best is yet to come.
I love you with my whole heart. You are a light in my life.