Taking Names

A roomful of students, faculty, and smart people took turns as my brother fielded questions after a brilliant seminar, and I was admittedly a bit star struck.  It wasn’t the same star struck as the day I frantically chased Kanye through LaGuardia and convinced him to take my demo back in 2004; this was my twin brother after all.  I’d been adjacent to his climb throughout grade school and college and had a front row seat to his sacrifices.  He’d been chasing his dream since he was a child, and nothing ever seemed to knock him off his path to success.  And his success spoke for itself as he stood there that day, a well-respected doctor in his field.  I listened intently as I gained a new appreciation for his work and his willingness to embrace a few moments of vulnerability.  Although we have traveled vastly different paths, I was the one that felt him that day.  They listened, but I heard him (awesome Wesley Snipes/Woody Harrelson movie reference; look it up).

Ken and I had experienced our father’s battle with cancer together, a battle Dad lost nearly twenty years ago.  My brother channeled that experience and gave meaning to his vision.  He never stops swinging the bat as he honors his patients and their loved ones with a remarkably tender approach.  I always knew he was good, but I gained an understanding for his passion that day.

I admit after twenty five or thirty heartfelt responses to their questions, I was tempted to raise my hand and inquire how it feels to wake up in the morning with such a handsome face peering back in the mirror.  He later told me he wished I had gone for it.  After his talk I quietly approached him in the back of the room to dap him up (we still dap up) and I tipped over a chair en route, causing a significant disruption.  As an esteemed professor gave an eloquent response to Ken’s seminar, he and I stood in the back failing to muffle our laughter.

As I reflected on the moment I realized just how proud I am to be Ken’s brother.  A few years ago, someone asked me if it was tough standing in his shadow.  Actually, he said, “Wow, is it hard that Ken’s kicking your butt in life?”  At the time I had no response to his audacious question.  Mostly because that dude was a 300 pound bodybuilder.  Today, though, I’m very clear in my answer.  I wouldn’t be in my dream job if not for Ken.  His determination was an inspiration for mine.  Granted, my journey has been a bit more unpredictable with trials and errors along the way, but the grand scheme absolutely equipped me for my current role as a mental health clinician and school social worker.  By the way, I'll be gushing about my sister, soon so get ready.

Had I not had a shining example of resiliency I may have caved to pressures instead of refusing to take no for an answer along the way.  I learned to simply embrace what I’m good at.  No, I could never be an oncologist.  But I’m really good at talking to teenagers.  Like really good at it.  And no, I’m not in Ken’s shadow; I’m at the front kicking butt (taking names) with him.

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