Dear big brother,

Let's just cut to the chase and start this thing out on an honest note: you probably legitimately hated me at some point in your life. I'm sure there were a few moments when I annoyed you so much that even the "we love each other because we're family" love went away. Heck, I'm probably annoying you somehow right now. But hey, what are little siblings for? I will say this, though: I'm sorry. I'm sorry I bothered you at times while we were growing up and I'm sorry I still bother you sometimes, but I promise it was all (read: sometimes) done with a pure heart. I wasn't always the little spawn of satan that you probably thought I was. And just throwing this out there: it wasn't a walk in the park for me either. Where you saw me as clingy, I saw you as the cool kid that I'd be lucky to hang out with. Where you saw me as a copycat, I saw you as a trendsetter. Where you saw me as a brat, I saw you as an example (because let's be real, you were not very pleasant in your pubescent years). Where you saw me as the pesky little sibling that you just couldn't get away from, I saw you as a God-given role model, a protector and a friend.

I always daydreamed about you sticking up for me if someone tried to bully me, but that situation never came about. I didn't know at the time that a friendship would be in our future, but it came in due time. As for our childhood, though, yeah. You were my God-given role model. I have looked to you for advice and guidance since the day I was born and honestly, I haven't stopped since. I watched you go through every mistake and every triumph – from how to ride a bicycle to failing middle school projects and even navigating the job interview/offer process during college. Let me tell you, you aren't the only one who learned from each mistake and triumph. I saw every failure as something to avoid and prevent in my life, and every success as something to strive for in my life. Thank you for being someone that taught me so incredibly much without even trying.

You made my life better. All of those life lessons I learned from obnoxiously and obsessively clinging to you (as all of the best little siblings do) helped me avoid so many life roadblocks and overcome so many obstacles. You may not realize this, but you are my hero. I'd say I would be nothing without you, but I would be something – lost. No matter how much you may have hated me at any given moment in time, you always knew when I really needed you to be there for me. You always knew when I needed some tough love (which was quite often, if I remember correctly). You always knew when I needed some alone time with you, even though you probably didn't want to spend any spare time with me. You always knew when I needed your support or approval. You always knew when I needed a pat on the back or a big bear hug. You always knew when I needed someone to complain about mom and dad with, because you remember having the same arguments with them years earlier. You always knew how to push my buttons while also managing to calm my storms. For that – for all of that – I am more than thankful.

Seriously, I am so beyond thankful for you. I wouldn't trade any fight, any argument, any hard time or any negative experience with you for the world. Looking at our relationship now makes me appreciate all of our past even more. Our friendship means the whole world to me – you understand me more than most. You tolerate me more than most. You love me more than most. You have protected me, taught me and saved me in more ways than you know and you have helped me become the person I am today. Maybe you were right all those times you said, "I'm only mean to you because I love you."

Thank you, you big teddy bear. You're my favorite bully.