To my eldest brother, and original believer: Happy Birthday!
There are many people to thank for getting me to this point in my journey but the reality is that there is a person walking this earth who deserves more thanks than them all. Someone who may appear to be silent figure in my life for people who met me after high-school but who is literally the reason and source of everything. Today, just so happens to be his birthday :)
I think back to a 4-year-old me in denim overalls, freshly akin to the English language. I remember my oldest brother, Tita, teaching me a hook he and his high-school rap group, Elite 96, had recently recorded. He sat me on his lap and and sang for me, “Looking at the big blue sky sometimes, I wish I could just spread my wings and fly away, so far away...” I instantly took after him.
The first hook I ever sung, the one he taught me, set the blueprint for every expectation I’ve had of myself since -- to fly and to be fly, but also to sing. His foresight has always been incredible that way.
T called up his best friend Karim minutes later. He had me perform the hook over the phone. I remember him smiling and playing maestro as I laid my innocent vocals into the phone receiver that today has become a mic. I remember being shy, but understanding for the first time what it meant to feel good about yourself. Understanding the feeling of knowing yourself.
But he already knew me.
So at 4 years old I was on his team. I was going to rehearsals and being asked for my opinion about things I couldn’t possibly understand because the point was to feel. Although I’m sure there were times he came to regret it, he made sure I had a voice before I could even understand what to say. I can’t begin to imagine the irritation his friends felt at having to digest the opinion of a small thing who’d just recently mastered potty training. But if he was there, you had no choice but to listen to me -- another decision I’m certain he came to regret as I entered teenage years.
Years passed and I watched him grow out of the performance side and into the business side of the music industry. I saw him recognize his strengths and be real with himself. Analyzing brands but also building his own by mounting a team, developing its members and helping direct the sound. I remember the way the room stopped when he spoke about what he knew.
To be honest I can’t remember if it was the whole room or just me but I remember being routinely fascinated, but also proud to call myself his sister. The coolest dude in the world. So I ascribed myself the role of his perpetual sidekick for everything. What I didn’t realize was that he’d agreed to be mine too. I think about the most meaningful moments I’ve had in this short life and if he wasn’t there physically, his influence was. I survived cancer because he spent nights entertaining my mood swings brought on by chemotherapy. I have a pretty decent sense of how to express myself because we argued about everything we should argue about and everything we shouldn’t argue about. I finish things because he taught me that you can’t cheat the learning curve. And when I seriously decided to step into a booth, I thought of him first.
Anyway, I wondered what I could do to be a useful sidekick to him. Yes, I played wingman a few times. I reminded him of a few girls’ names, left cute voicemails that might melt the heart of his potential conquests, but more than anything I tried to make him proud. I studied the industry he was in to cover the bases he couldn’t. He was never big on discovering new music so me and my other brothers stepped in on that one. I remember the only female artists he didn’t like and ridiculed pretty seriously were ones who put body over brain. He was only captivated by depth, content, and authenticity and everything else was “garbage,” said with a french accent. So I knew from the jump that I wanted to become a sidekick who embodied all those traits. What I didn’t realize was that his influence would instead shape me into a 24- year-old woman who embodied all of those traits.
Thanks to T, today, I’m bored by men who don’t value my intelligence and thoughts because he always did. Today I’m bored by men who are too afraid to be themselves because he always was. Today I’m bored by everything and everyone who isn’t real because he always was. But more than anything I’m bored by anything or anyone who keeps me from flying, because he never ever did.
Happy Birthday to my first believer and one of my best teachers. Feel the sincerity in my words when I say I wouldn’t be half the person I am today if it weren’t for you. In fact I may not have even be here at all. This entry could have been Homer's Illiad, but I tried to keep it short and Candide. Your sister loves you always, and no matter what.