December – a month of holidays. Snow blankets the ground, and – writing on Christmas Eve – my mind goes back to how difficult this year was. It’s been a year of change. I left a doctoral program (and a huge grant). Faced with my sanity or my ego, I let the ego take the hit, and as my family gets together to celebrate Christmas, there’s one person in particular who I will be thanking.

My big brother.

He has a particular gift, you see, for giving. While most people only think they can match gift to person, he bats 100%. When I struggled to imagine ever getting published (rejections bogging down my inbox and my mind), he took a copy of my book, had a cover created, and printed a huge box full of books. I shrieked. Eardrums were broken, and somehow, seeing my book in print – even if it wasn’t published officially – made the dream feel real.

When I headed to my doctoral program, I never doubted my abilities. My advisor treated me like shit. I fell into a growing mass grave of students she couldn’t give a damn about. After two years – course complete and with knives in my back, I left. Leaving was a choice. It made sense. Job opportunities and a hatred of my once goal field – loans and all that. Every day, I balanced between a brave face and feeling like a failure. In the middle of lifting weights with my brother, I broke down crying. My life seemed to be falling apart. He sat down with me. Calmed me down and reassured me I’d made the right decision. Every step that followed – each success – grew out of the conversation I had then.

If anyone asked him if he was good at comforting or giving advice, I can bet he’d say no. He rarely underestimates his abilities. From exercise to education, he knows where he stands. But when it comes to emotions? I’m not sure he could ever understand how much he’s done for me – for everyone in our family at one time or another. If I can be anything like him in the next six years, I’ll be a happy camper.

Merry Christmas

Happy Holidays

And for the New Year – good luck.