As I am maturing and discovering more about myself and the world around me I'm finding that life changing lessons will wiggle themselves into any situation that warrants them. Sometimes those lessons will jump out and say “Hey! I’m right here!” and other times they will be dunked into a mop bucket in the storage closet of a pizza restaurant or smeared across the table at a frozen yogurt shop. Sometimes, it’s not even the lesson that will be discovered but the people that surround it and from there the moral appears from within them.

This is what I have learned from my older brother making his transition into college.

My brother and I have an extremely close sibling bond. Our parents cultivated the friendship from a young age and despite the two year age gap we have always been inseparable. I knew that saying goodbye to him would be incredibly difficult. I'm a very emotional person and I'm a strong believer that emotions are what empowers human beings to make great strides in their lives. Emotions connect living things on a spiritual level as they are deeply woven into the human condition and what make humans… human.

I had been a bit weepy on the days leading up to it. Which sounds quite ridiculous because his university is only three hours away from home and I know that other people have had to make much bigger and harder goodbyes than I had to. Nonetheless it slowly started to sink in that he would be leaving as the boxes started to pile up by the doors and his toiletries states to slowly disappear from our shared bathroom.

I think what scared me most was the impending change in our family dynamic. We have taken on a lot as a group but this would be new and strange and potentially extremely bizarre to miss a cog in our four person family machine.

We live in a modest ranch-style home. The closeness and limited space has forced us to always be in each other business but alternatively it has also forced us to develop an extremely tight familial bond. Everyone, even our 15-year-old beagle, plays a key role. It’s basically a textbook definition of a “pack."

The change could be felt throughout the household as move in day loomed ever closer. The statement, “It’s not goodbye, it’s see you soon,” was reiterated countless time as the family mini van was packed full of his belongings and the trek to his new home began.

Surprisingly upon stepping foot in his dorm I felt excitement rather than sadness. I knew the goodbye was a far enough way away, and the prospect of moving in his things and helping set up his new room was enough to distract me from the looming departure.

We finished moving him in and a whopping four hours later we all set off for a quick bite to eat and a necessary, last minute Walmart run. It was now 9:30 p.m. and fatigue gripped everyone’s bones. The three hour drive back home would be difficult for a plethora of reasons.

The final goodbye was pensive, I held back tears as I wished him luck and quickly got back into the car, determined to not let any more tears fall. Some deep breathing exercises and a couple tissues later he was walking away, ready to face his new life and college career.

My Mom, Dad and I didn’t arrive home until 1:30 a.m, all too tired to feel any emotion except for exhaustion. It didn’t really sink in that we were missing a person until the following morning when there was a missing spot at breakfast and an empty bedroom.

It was sad to see him go but this transition was bound to happen eventually. It was a part of his plan and in turn a part of all of our lives. I learned a lot about myself, even though it was him who was starting off in a new place with new people.

I learned how important it is to appreciate the people around you while they are there. I learned that silly little arguments really do not matter in the long run and they are really not worth the minuscule turmoil or even the last Oreo.

That aggravation and anger really are like holding onto a hot stone. The longer it is held, the more burned the hand will become. I’m always trying to remind myself that time is limited and that kindness will always prevail over negativity.

And to always keep in mind how powerful a simple “I love you” is.

Good luck in college Matt. We’ll miss you here on the home front.