Joseph,

I know this is coming a little early, but I didn't want to run out of time to say everything I need to say. There's not really much I can over you in the way of advice because, in my expert opinion, you already know as much as I do. Instead, I will thank you for everything you are to me, and I will remind you of the parts of yourself you should hold onto forever.

I'm not sure when you emerged as the protector. After all, there are so many pictures of me holding you. There are so many pictures of the days when I used to tower over you. I imagine much of your strength comes from your stoic nature.

Gone are the days when I held you and those days where I stood over you. Now you're the one I run to when I need assurance that good people, truly good men, exist. I'm not entirely sure what you gain from me, but I could go on forever about the ways you contribute to my life.

You keep me grounded when I run away with my thoughts, especially the negative ones. You enlighten me with deep philosophical and religious discussions. You deepen my appreciation for music with your own observations. You always embody righteousness and rationale, logic and spirituality, and for that, I deeply admire you.

In every way, you are the friend I have always desired: somebody who does the right thing effortlessly, somebody who encourages my interests, somebody who keeps up with my rapid thought, and even better, you are somebody who challenges me to think harder, to feel more deeply, to communicate more powerfully.

I hope I don't exhaust you by leaning fully into your strength. I hope you don't feel the burden of being your big sister's best friend and role model.

Thank you for just being you,

-- Ashley

P.S. If I'm the books and cleverness, you're the friendship and bravery.