It’s easy to be a wannabe. It doesn’t take much effort. It’s like active day dreaming, like reading a book or watching a movie and cheering those heroic moments which convince you that you can be a romantic and the brave heart walking through the valley. But it ends there, because a wannabe does nothing more. The thought is grand enough because doing the real thing takes guts and throws that heroic notion out of the window. The brave heart in the valley has no time to think about how grand his act is because he’s fighting off wolves and snakes to stay alive. A wannabe only waits for the next such moment to reappear so he can cheer the loudest and go away with stars in his eyes. A wannabe is so temporary and I sometimes see the wannabe in me. I have always cheered for those who have made the best use of time. I easily share stories about them on dinner tables and coffee shops, but I have often seen such opportunities slip by me. I’ve watched them pass by and I pretend not to notice. I’m too busy pretending.
I recently had the opportunity to spend almost a month with my teenaged brother. It was rare because it was outside home for the first time for a long stretch. We had grown up without realizing, especially because I had been away from home during my school and college years. The collateral for being away is always family first and you have to work doubly hard at keeping relationships alive, or again only praise those who have done it and flagellate yourself for failing. The distance can easily come from behind and make strangers of friends.
Younger people can teach you a lot more than you expect, or even want. So often, the ego comes up as defense and you find it much easier to talk from a higher position than eye to eye. With teenage years marked as the ‘troubled’ years, it’s simpler to give teenagers the-been-there-done-that dress down. Few twenty-something people I’d advised reminded me that the advice I had given them was, with due respect, worthless. And so I tried to work on the relationship instead. I kept reminding myself of my teenage years and tried to be plain honest. I kept fighting the urge to slip into lecturing mode because it’s also an inherent family trait. I took advantage of the foreign land and imagined it as an adventure with my young brother. In a first, I actually showed interest in his life and became interested in it. Along the way I learned that if the relationship is genuine, then working on the harder parts become easier. That if the relationship has a foundation based on trust and mutual respect, there’ll probably be no need to ask too many questions.
My claim is not that I found a formula or that I succeeded. It’s still a work in progress but in understanding my brother I learned more about the value of relationships and in the process, I changed for the better. Most of all, I had the time of my life and felt the freedom of honesty. Pretense is unnecessary burden.
I suppose I could say that I seized the day on this occasion, and it made me see the importance of doing the same for other opportunities that come. One thing I’m confident about is that while working on relationships, a neutral land could be better. Getting away from familiar territory to somewhere new adds a breath of fresh air.
I wish there could be less wannabes and more doers. Maybe then we’ll have a little more courage to step outside.