About eight years ago, my life was quite messy, stressful and turned upside down. Through a series of lessons, slowly but surely, I was able to piece my life back together once again. One of the most powerful and impactful lessons I learned during that time came from my big brother, Tom. My really cool big brother, Tom.
At that time, Tom lived in Florida with his family. I didn’t get to see him as much as I would like, but we talked on the phone as much as we could. One day, I was walking through this beautiful park and my phone rang. I could tell from caller ID that it was my brother. Really excited to hear from him, I shouted:
But it wasn’t Tom, it was his wife. And in a very quiet voice she said: “Nancy, your brother has two months to live. You better come say your good-byes.” Wait! What??? I didn’t understand what was happening.
When I could finally catch my breath, I jumped on the first flight to Florida. When Tom opened the door, I was startled. His body was weak now and he was in a wheelchair. His beautiful thick black hair – was all gone.
Seeing the startled look on my face, he grinned, then shouted: “Hey Sis, like my new hair-do?”
And that’s when I knew it. His body may be weakening but his spirit refused to die. He was as feisty as ever!
Later that night, Tom started teasing me: “Hey Sis, remember when we were kids and I tricked you into going on your first roller coaster ride? You were scared to death!”
How could I forget??? We both doubled over with laughter, and when we finally stopped, I took a deep breath, looked at him and said…“Tom, are you scared now?”
His face turned serious and he said: “No, I’m not scared – I’m curious.”
“Curious, what are you curious about?” I asked.
He simply said: “I’m curious to see what’s next.”
Shortly after, we said our good-byes and he gave me the biggest, warmest hug ever! He whispered in my ear:
“Remember Sis, always stay curious.”
And that was the last time I saw my brother.
I returned to Chicago. I was trying to survive the loss of my brother, then when I least expected it, I lost my job. If you have ever been out of work, you know how awful it is. Those bills keep piling up and you have no idea how you’re going to pay them. I was so scared.
That’s when I remembered my brother’s choice of words: curious. I thought if he could stay positive at the end of his life by being curious, what could this word do for me? I wanted to feel that same feistiness I saw in him.
So I took that word scared and I replaced it with curious. I thought: I’m curious if I’ll find my next job – soon. I’m curious what my next career will be. And I’m telling you, being curious actually made me feel better, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
I felt like I was starting to get some control over my life, but without a job, it wasn’t long before I got that notice in the mail. The one saying I lost my home. I was embarrassed and angry and devastated all at the same time. How could this be happening? How did I get here?
I needed help, so I decided to try that word curious again. I took the word devastated and replaced it with curious. I said: I’m curious if I’ll move to a new city. I’m curious what my new home will look like.
And I found that each time I used the word curious, I felt better and better. Through the wisdom of my brother, I began to focus on the opportunity, and not the problem. Being curious changed my attitude and my life.
That’s the legacy my brother left me – the gift of curiosity. And now I share his legacy with you. Life is sometimes scary and overwhelming and unpredictable. And when that happens, you get to choose. It’s during those times that I hope you remember the words of my really cool big brother, Tom:
Remember, always stay curious.