When Your Sibling Lives Your Dream

I didn’t feel jealous—and that surprised me.

Photo credit: Lee Adlaf, CC BY 2.0.

Last week, I learned that one of my baby brothers was accepted into an ultra-prestigious acting school in New York City. At the age of 18, he’ll be living in Manhattan, performing and learning under great acting teachers.

He’ll also be living the small-town Oregon kid’s dream of moving to NYC. Which, until very recently, used to be my biggest dream.

I wasn’t jealous of him when he told me. In fact, I was crazy happy for him. He’s always wanted to be an actor. It was his first and only dream. Now, he’d be able to do it in a direct, no-B.S., amazing way.

My life is very different from my brother’s, and it has been for a while. Instead of heading off to a dream city after high school, I headed off to university. Now I’m a digital nomad. I have my own business.

Which means it was my lack of jealousy at his announcement that scared me. Was I really so okay of not having achieved the same dream? Had I settled so much as a person that it just no longer phased me?

Maybe. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

I recently watched an analysis of La La Land that claimed there were two types of dreams: ambitions and wishes. My ambition is to be a writer, and my wish is to be a New York writer of the intelligentsia. An ambition can be achieved through hard work, agility, and being true to yourself. A wish is harder to achieve, and will very likely be nothing like how you expected it to turn out.

When moving to New York was my ultimate wish, I had none of my shit together. I wanted to write, but I wasn’t writing. I was in terrible, cloying relationships with people who didn’t appreciate me. I also had no idea that what I really wanted was to run my own business. I was wasting valuable hours and days and years thinking I would find success in the conventional job world. What I really wanted was escape and a fresh start, but I was expressing those ambitions by wishing for an apartment in Brooklyn.

New York was also tied to many dreams that frankly don’t exist for me anymore. The dream of working in a conventional magazine. The dream of going out to trendy places like I was in Sex and the City (introvert and cynic, hello). The dream of joining an Algonquin Round Table-like nexus of intellectuals. I can meet brilliant people in trips to New York, but I can talk to them on Twitter in the meantime. Brilliance is not restricted to one city anymore. Exhibit A-Z: Roxane Gay lives in Indiana.

It’s not like I’ve never gone to New York City, either. I stayed there for a work trip just last year. I loved the city: the ultra-realistic attitude of many of it’s citizens, the distinct flavor of the neighborhoods, and the sheer fact that there’s always something going on. My overwhelming feeling while I was there? This is awesome, and now I know I can handle living and being here. Mystery solved.

I will never ever rule out moving to NYC. I’d love to live there. But I’m not willing to risk financial stability, something I’ve worked for tirelessly, to get there. I’ve learned too much. I want too much now. I have ambitions that I know I can achieve, and have less time for dreams.

All of Younger Bro’s dreams—and his ambitions—are in New York. So he’s applying for scholarships (over $8,000 earned so far) and working his tail off in our tiny Oregon town to make up what isn’t covered in tuition. He may be taking more of a financial risk than I (unknowingly) did in attending a four-year university.

A Letter to My 21-Year-Old Broke Self

But I think he’ll be just fine. He’s new to personal finance, but he’ll learn. (I’m mailing him Rich Dad, Poor Dad to help in that cause.) Plus, he knows he has his older sister on hand to answer his questions, which is something I never had.

I no longer think as much about renting a trendy apartment in New York City. I have friends who are struggling of paying rent in New York City, and it sounds terrible. (I sometimes complain that Portland has the 17th highest rental prices in the country, but that just means there are sixteen places that have it worse.) Life happens wherever you live. It’s just a matter of what you’re willing to put up with.

Part of me still longs for the fantasy of New York, but the truth is that I can achieve the meat of that fantasy from wherever. My ambitions are way more important than any city I roost in. In the meantime, I’ll cheer on Little Bro.

Brit McGinnis is a copywriter and author of several books. Her work has appeared on XOJane, SparkNotes and anywhere fine stories are sold. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

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