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No one likes standardized tests. Anyone that says otherwise is just kidding themselves. You bubble in question after question, until you get to the essay. We’re all expecting it coming into the test, but nevertheless, we hope. We hope that this year the prompt won’t completely and totally suck. Yep. Suck. I know that sounds poetic, but honestly, it’s the only word to describe it. I mean, who cares what I’d do if I was a dragon for a day? Who really wants to read my essay about what I would do if I had a pet kangaroo when I wasn’t supposed to? Who comes up with this stuff? This year’s prompt wasn’t particularly original, as usual: what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? We’ve all heard this question before. I answered it on the third grade test. And again on the sixth. And now on the ninth. I think they recycle this question when they can’t come up with anything better. (Even though the dragon one isn’t really better). Usually, I like to make up something in a very sad attempt to make the prompt remotely interesting to write about. But this year, even with this oh-so boring prompt, I found myself inspired.

I grew up hating my older brother. We fought. We bickered. We threw things, and screamed and hit each other all through my childhood. We got along when I was a baby, so I’ve been told. And now that we’re both practically all grown up and ready to start our lives outside of this small town in Colorado, I’ve realized something. Throughout all of the snarky comments and fights over who ate whose cereal, he may just have taught me the most important life lesson I’ve ever learned. Even if he doesn’t know it.

Life is like a light bulb. Many days are shining, they aren’t particularly bright and magnificent like when you first put the bulb in, but there’s light. There are some days when the light dims and you’re sitting in the shadows, and eventually, the light burns out. Black. Gone. But most certainly not the end. My infuriating and immature older brother was smarter than me about something. He figured out that all you had to do when the light burnt out, was replace the bulb. All you had to do was stand up and relight the spark. It seems obvious, I know, but you can’t tell me you’ve never just sat there in the dark. You can’t tell me you didn’t want to get back up and start all over again with a new bulb. You can’t tell me you’ve always been in pristine condition after your light flickered out, and had the strength to replace it. Well, you can tell me that, but I won’t believe you.

My brother is a migraine patient. He isn’t the average patient. He’s never been average, but this time, being abnormal isn’t such a good thing. My brother has had a migraine every day of his life, since his sophomore year of high school. People who personally don’t have migraines don’t understand, and that’s okay, it’s impossible to expect them to. For migraine patients, a day that you have a migraine is basically lost. They’re dead to the world. They’re in so much pain they can’t think, they can’t eat, they can’t sleep. My brother locked himself in the dark bathroom for three years. He sat there in excruciating pain while he threw up every day that he should have been in high school enjoying himself. We tried homeschooling. We tried everything. But a day with a migraine is a day lost. And for him, that meant everyday was lost.
My brother lost eighty pounds because of his migraines. He developed similar complications to those that suffer with anorexia because of his illness. The doctors said if he didn’t gain weight, or worse, if he lost more, we could have some very serious problems.
He didn’t graduate high school with his friends. He never saw his friends. He never went to a high school dance nor had a girlfriend. He never got to live.

At this point, had it been me, I think I would have given up. We’d been to every doctor in the country, tried every treatment, every medication, every procedure, every diet, but with no improvement. There was no hope left, except that by some miracle, maybe he’d grow out of it. But all evidence was pointing towards it being unlikely. And yet, somehow, for some unimaginable reason, my brother picked himself up, dusted his hands off on his dangerously small jeans, and replaced his light bulb.

He got his GED, and scored in the very top percentile without even making it to any of his high school classes. He started exercising and gaining weight in muscle. He’s at college. He’s living. That’s something we never thought we’d get to see.

He still has migraines, not nearly as often, but about once a month. Yet, he keeps his feet moving. He keeps that light turned on. And he never fails to amaze me.

So, no, he never gave me some revolutionary advice that has changed the course of my life. He’s never said any of this in so many words. But I’ve sat back for the past three years and watched, and have finally learned how to turn on the light.




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