Today, my brother Songbae turns forty years old and for all the complaining I’ve done about him over the years, I’d like to take a minute and gather all my warm fuzzies about him and gather it into one admiring kudos post for his birthday.
If you ever met my brother, even for five minutes, you’d know that he has a monstrous surfeit of energy and intelligence. But like how a big man might adopt a particularly gentle manner to counteract his intimidating hulk, Songbae has developed an incredibly open character tempered with a large dose of frank curiosity. So even though Songbae’s brain runs circles around most of the people he meets, rarely are people intimidated by him, so busy are they answering questions about themselves and absorbing what they have already have learned about him. I think Songbae can boast of having more friends around the world than anybody else I’ve ever met.
And that surfeit of energy? He loves to direct it towards humanitarian causes – and he often serves on the board of non-profit organizations or donates his time helping them set up business plans and the like. I think though, that almost two years in Ukraine for the Peace Corps convinced him that he would be better suited to serve the world (yes, I really believe he thinks in noble terms like this) if he had a big money background – so then he went and got an MBA at the top-rated business school in the country: University of Chicago. Now after several years of investment banking, he’s back on the loose, looking for the right job abroad; ideally an executive position with an international NGO or something similar.
He also uses that energy to get good at what ever he does. He throws himself into projects 100%; I can remember even back in college he was getting monthly awards and bonuses, for selling the most encyclopedias of any employee. When he went to work in D.C., it came as no surprise to me that within a year his boss put Songbae’s office next to his own, so indispensable was he. And at his last job for Banc of America in San Francisco, he came in as an associate, but left (was laid off) as a vice president.
Since he’s been laid off, he’s directed that energy towards self-awareness and self-improvement. Like I said, he always goes whole hog; now he’s meditating and exercising daily and doing a fruit and veggie fast once a week. Not surprisingly, this regime has really made Songbae even more charming and fun to be around, because his once-erratic spurts of energy seem more focused and measured now.
He loves adventure, travel, and physical pursuits. He loves a challenge. He loves people. He is generous to a fault. He loves to read – if you pick up a book he’s read, you’ll see all the notes he’s taken in the margins (even in a book as light-hearted as What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love and Marriage).
And he loves kids! Songbae is a great uncle, and I think he’ll be just as great of a dad some day as well. One of things he said to me that most touched me this vacation, was that as much as he loved hanging out with Bella, Christian, and Noi naa (his neices and nephew), he doesn’t want them to become a substitute for having his own children. In this little video clip below, he is playing with Christian: Christian has just learned to say one of his first words, “down,” and he’s using it to communicate with Songbae. Watch how willing Songbae is to engage with Christian – he enters Christian’s playworld so easily.
I have an amazing brother and I appreciate him more and more as we grow older.
I wish him much love, fun, and deeply satisfying relationships in his 40th year. He sure deserves it.