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To My Brother on His First Day of Life on the Plains

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There's just nothing like that first day of the best years of your life.

We always know how to Barn.
We always know how to Barn.

To My Brother on His First Day of Life on the Plains,

At the time I'm writing this to you, I've been sitting here in my room listening to music, watching Auburn football highlights, texting friends, and listening to the sounds of you and our parents pack you up for the big day tomorrow—the day you head to Auburn for your first day as a college student. And I'll be honest, I'm sitting in here with the door closed so you won't have to see me get a little emotional. I'll try not to embarrass you terribly.

From the day you were born 18 years ago, we've shared a special connection. With a sister in between us, it's been such a blessing to grow up as two boys who played with Legos, as two guys who talked about girls, as two men who pulled for the Auburn Tigers. We've shared a bathroom, we've shared car rides, we've laughed, and we've fought. But we're brothers, and that will never change.

Now we're at this wonderful crossroads in your life where you're about to leave our family for a while and start a new chapter. Tomorrow, you begin to experience some of the best years of your life. It's going to be a lot different from here on out, but that's a good thing, because tomorrow, you're no longer just my little brother—you're my fellow Auburn man, and that's something special. Don't let anybody tell you any differently.

You've worked hard your entire life to get to this point. You studied hard in high school. You did your homework. You made the grades. Now you get to experience the reward of a college education. There's nothing quite like this feeling.

There's not much I can tell you that you haven't already heard, but as your big brother, I feel like it's my responsibility to give you my perspective on what's about to happen—when you get in the car tomorrow morning with Mom and Dad, but you don't come back with them tomorrow afternoon, and you're not waiting at the house to say "Hey" when I roll in from work. I'm only going to be living in this house for a few more days myself, but I'm still going to notice walking up the stairs and not seeing you watching TV, or coming in from a jog, or taking care of our dog.

It saddens me a bit to know that we were so close to sharing some time as students together, but you need to discover Auburn for yourself, and I'm so happy you get to do that. I've said my final goodbyes as a graduate student, and you're just meeting life on the Plains for the first time. I couldn't be more excited for what you're about to experience, so let me try to put it into words for you.

You're going to arrive tomorrow, and it's going to be hot. You and Mom and Dad are going to get sweaty, ornery, and definitely a bit "hangry" at some point, so it might be easy to get frustrated with them. Don't. Mom is doing just about everything she can to keep from tearing up in front of you, and Dad may not seem like it, but he's doing just about the same. Time is going to fly, though, and you're going to come to the point when your dorm room is all set, and it's time to say goodbye.

It's okay to hug Mom and Dad. In fact, I'm going to insist that you do this. Consider it a thank-you for helping you unpack everything, at the very least. You won't have to do that again for a while.

Then they're going to get in the car and drive home, and you're going to be on your own officially. This is the most important moment you've faced so far, so I want you to hear me when I say this: take it all in.

Take a minute and look around. Breathe in that fresh air through your nose. Soak in that brand new feeling. You're going to do what I did—you're going to look around and say to yourself, "Man, I've got four years of this. I've got forever in front of me." It's going to pass quicker than you think, buddy. Even if it's just for a couple of minutes, savor every second of that moment. Cherish it.

Luckily, if you're anything like me, you'll find something to get into right away, so go ahead and call your friends up. Find out where they are and what they're doing. Try to meet up with them and go get dinner. Do this often.

When you start your classes, it's business as usual. Do the work, and you'll get the grade. I know you know how to do this. Down the line, you might decide that your major just isn't for you, and you want to try new things. Feel free to explore this. Mom and Dad both changed their majors, and so did your sister, and so did I. It's normal. The bottom line? You've got plenty of time to figure this out.

When you start meeting people and choosing your friends, remember that you don't always have to hang out with the same folks from high school. My best friends at Auburn ended up being from a completely different county than the one you and I grew up in, but we still keep in touch to this day. I can't imagine my Auburn experience without them. Always be true to your best friends from home, but know that many of those guys from your high school will probably be gone in a year or so...sometimes people want to try other things. Let them. Find your real friends and make some memories.

Join a fraternity. Or don't. I experienced both, and I have no regrets.

While you need to work hard, you also need to play hard, but be wise. This is probably the one time in your life where you can get away with things like driving around at 2 in the morning with some of your friends, but remember to make good choices. You'll make some mistakes, but you'll learn from them. I've made a few myself, so you can use me as a reference.

The girls. Holy cow, the girls. There are a lot of them at Auburn, and just about every one of them that you meet is going to drag your heart around somehow. There are going to be nights where one of them breaks your heart, she doesn't call you back, or she's with another guy. It's okay to be upset, but don't let her dictate how you live your life. You do you. The girls that notice will come around and want to know what you're about.

There are going to be times when you get lonely. Everybody experiences this—I know I did. Maybe you're stuck studying at the library on a Thursday night when a bunch of your friends are downtown for a social event. You might even drive down College Street to see if you see any of them. These moments don't last long, and they're rare, so don't stress.

Finally, here are some Auburn-related tips that I think you might benefit from:

  • Game day traffic. It sucks. Just be ready for it (I apologize in advance for being just one more out-of-towner who takes up space on Saturdays).
  • The real Momma G's? If you don't know where it is, then I've failed you as a brother.
  • When you're walking on the concourse, do your best to stay out of the way of upperclassmen. They tend to get antsy when there are a bunch of new freshmen stumbling around campus.
  • If you live near a pool, go use it when you can. And by "use it," I mean just hang out with a buddy and pretend to study. Or find some ladies to talk to. Just realize that the concept of a pool anywhere in real, adult life outside of a hotel is kind of absurd, so enjoy that luxury while it lasts.
  • Find Waverly on a map, and look up a little place called Standard Deluxe. You can thank me later.
  • Go hike around Chewacla when it gets a little cooler outside and the leaves start changing.
  • Try to eat at a lot of different restaurants. Auburn's full of them.
  • Take a late-night walk around campus. (Sometimes girls enjoy this, too.)
  • There are a million other things. I trust you'll figure them out.
It's like I said before, things are going to be different from here on out. You're not just my kid brother anymore. You've become a fine young man—one that I'm proud to share my last name with, and one that I'm blessed to have had around for the last 18 years. And in those times when you feel a little lonely and you're not sure why, or you need advice, or you just want to hear a familiar voice when it's difficult to adjust to this new chapter in your life, pick up the phone and call me. I've been where you're going, I've experienced what you're about to feel, and I can tell you, there's not a day that goes by in my life when I don't wish to be back on that first day—to have the rest of my life in front of me.

And remember, Birmingham isn't too far down the road, and no matter how sure of yourself you might be, Mom and Dad won't mind a phone call every once in a while, either.

Try new things. Meet new people. Work hard and play hard. Always remember where you came from, who helped you along the way, and who is super proud of everything you've done and what you'll do in the future. You've earned this, now go out and make the most of it.

War Eagle, Reed. I love you, and I'm so proud of you.

Robert