Avery Nunn and her brother, Alex.

Avery Nunn and her brother, Alex.

by Avery Schuyler Nunn

It’s my first semester at college, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the people who have made an impact on my life. Not seeing the “famsquad” at our dinner table each night has made me reflect on significant things I have learned from them.

Every day I would come home to my parents, our two yellow labs, and my younger brother. When he was young, my brother was diagnosed with dyspraxia, PDD-NOS (Pervasive Development Disorder), and dysgraphia. Basically, this means that my brother has characteristics of Asperger’s syndrome but does not fall under one specific category. This is otherwise known as being on the autism spectrum.

The autism spectrum is a serious neurodevelopment disorder that impairs a person’s ability to communicate and restricts motor skills and behavior. Who knew that even celebrities such as Daniel Radcliffe and Tim Burton fall under the spectrum? Perhaps that is what lead to their brilliance. Here are some lessons I learned from my brilliant brother, who as it turns out knows a lot more than I thought.

12. Expect the unexpected

Believe in the unbelievable. Achieve the unachievable. Life is going to throw many curve balls your way, both good and bad. Coming home after practice each day, I didn’t know what state of mind I would find my brother in. His mood can rapidly change within seconds without warning, for reasons I may or may not understand. But having the ability to accept how someone is feeling, no matter how big or small a problem may be, will make you a better friend. Having the ability to accept how you are feeling without bottling up your emotions will make you a stronger person.

11. Don’t judge a book by its cover

My brother might not look any different than your average 15-year-old fella, but inside of him there is a daily series of emotional and physical struggles that we will never know the answer to. I have to remind myself every day that he is feeling things I do not understand and that I am feeling things he cannot understand. Keep an open mind and be there for someone when they need you.

10. Hang loose and be balanced

Sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing. I spent most of my high school career scrambling around all day trying to do anything and everything in the most perfect way possible, and of course with a smile. If I was feeling down, I’d lock myself up and try to be productive. I’d be in my room studying and hear the laughter of my brother playing with our dogs. I’d feel the thumping of his music from another room. I’d hear him cheering while playing video games before his homework was complete. I used to think it was irresponsibility, but I learned that it was just happiness. It’s good to take a break and sit on the couch to watch YouTube with your brother. It’s good to work hard and still make time for yourself. You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.

9. Be grateful

There are some things that I can do that my brother will never be able to do. There are some things that he can do that others will never be able to do. There are so many things that we take for granted, but shouldn’t.

8. Have fun

All day every day.

7. Just keep swimming

My brother has been ridiculed, bullied, judged and faced with many challenges. I believe these challenges are incredibly more significant than my own, and somehow he always ends the day with a smile. Every day in life you will be faced with challenges, too; some days more than others. Never lose hope and never stop believing. Put your hand over your heart. Do you feel that? It’s called purpose. You are here for a reason. Push yourself through every battle you are faced with and just keep swimming.

6. Create your own adventures

When my brother and I would complain of being bored, my dad would tell us that only boring people get bored. But my brother has the creative capability to imagine anything, and while growing up each day was filled with many adventures. To some, going downstairs to the kitchen to grab a handful of grapes may just mean walking down the stairs to the kitchen and grabbing a handful of grapes. To my brother, this might as well be a life-saving mission. Filled with mass amount of energy, my brother will race down the stairs, leap over a dog, swing open the fridge door, and holler through the halls in celebration on the way back. Transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.

5. The little things are the big things

One act of kindness can kindle another. One adventure can turn into the memory of a lifetime. A good song can lift your spirits. A shooting star can give you hope. The perfect sunrise can show you that the future is bright. Giving your grandma a quick call or complimenting a stranger can make their day. My brother finds the greatest enjoyment in something as simple as a Chuck Norris joke or singing in the shower. But don’t we all?

4. Don’t be afraid to be sorry

When our Mama would tell my brother and me to apologize to each other, I was often too stubborn to be the first. I didn’t understand his actions and was occasionally embarrassed. There are, however, certain behaviors my brother has no control over, and, although at times this can result in his meltdowns and slamming doors, the subordinate dispute is solved with an apologetic hug. Acknowledge when you’ve done something wrong. If something bugs you, close your eyes, take a breath, accept an apology, and let it go.

3. You are strong

It took my brother a long time to learn to do simple tasks like write legibly and tie his shoes. It is hard for him to control his body with the ease that many others can. But every day he works hard at every task at hand and never gives up. When doing his math homework, he will go over a problem for hours on end until he gets it right. He gets frustrated, he gets sad, he gets challenged, but he always pulls through.

2. Live and let live

My brother doesn’t care if he’s considered nerdy, if his shirt and pants don’t match, if his singing is off-key, or even if he isn’t wearing deodorant – he just does what makes him happy. My brother didn’t choose to be on the spectrum, but he does choose to be himself. Do not undermine someone just because they may be different from you. Different is not “less.” Do not categorize what is or isn’t “cool.” Just be yourself and let that freak flag fly.

1. Love

My brother and I don’t always get along. (Actually, we drive each other nuts a lot of the time). But we will always, always, always have each other’s back. Sometimes being there for someone can mean being their superhero. Love is old, love is new, love is all, love is you. I love you little bro – thanks for all the lessons.

Avery Schuyler Nunn is a Chestnut Hill resident, SCH alumna and a freshman at Lafayette College.

* This essay was originally published by theodesseyonline.com, a property of the Olympia Media Group.