Yes, I’ll miss my parents. Yes, I’ll miss my friends. Yes, I’ll even miss my older brother. This is all true, but the most soul crushing thing about moving 1,300 miles from home is the idea that I won’t get to see my little brother every day.

My little brother, Aaron, is the light of my life, and he is unique in many ways. One of the things that makes him stand out in a crowd is his Down Syndrome.

For those of you who don’t know, Down Syndrome is a third copy of the 21st chromosome which leads to distinctive physical features and developmental delays.

Aaron is 16 years old, and he has been one of my best friends almost my whole life. Although he can annoy me to the ends of the earth, he is one of the most genuinely kind-hearted people I know. He brings me water when I’m working at home, wishes me “sweet dreams” every night, plays daily board games with me, and reminds me, more than anyone, that he loves me.

That’s what really sucks about all of it. I may not always like the little grump, but I do always love him. He is the one person, the only person, who doesn’t judge me when I make a mistake, explode for no reason, or burst into random bouts of tears. He has kept me going through so much, and, now, I have to manage to say goodbye.

I’m the middle child, and I watched my older brother go off to college four years ago. Despite his being only two hours away and visiting at least once a month, Aaron was heartbroken. I watched him cry the first few times and slowly adjust to the new family dynamic, but, in my case, it’s going to be worlds different. I’ll be home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and, if I’m lucky, fall break. I have no clue how I’m going to explain to him that I won’t be home to see his school events, his basketball games, his bowling skills, and more. I may be back for the summers, but it just won’t be the same anymore. Anytime I’m home, the only thing I’ll be doing is counting down the days until I leave him again.

Over the years, Aaron has become so much a part of my identity that I’m not really sure what it’s going to be like not being “Aaron’s sister” anymore. I’ll be my own person, which will be great, but at the price of moving away from one of my closest friends and confidantes.

Aaron will be number one in my life for as long as we are both alive, and I have no complaints about this fact, but, come mid-August, we will never be the same. Phone calls and Facetime sessions will help, but nothing will be the same as his nightly bear hugs.

I now face the terror of leaving him to fight his own fights. For the past 16 years of my life, I’ve fought tooth and nail to make sure that he was safe and loved in any and every situation. I’ve defended him against bullying, discrimination, and more, but I won’t be able to do that anymore. Aaron is so amazing in so many ways, and I wish there was a way to just pack him up and drag him to college with me, but I know my roommates probably wouldn’t appreciate it. Aaron has shaped me, for the better, in so many ways, and I wouldn’t be half the person I am today if not for him. It will be a rough adjustment, but I know that, over time, I’ll manage to adjust to life without my favorite little grump.