Photo by Marco Bianchetti on Unsplash

On Big Brothers and Being "Dad".

I've been a big brother since 1985 (which coincidentally is when my little sister Steffi was born). For as long as I can remember, I've been the more supportive type of big brother. I have memories of waiting for my sister before boarding the bus in elementary school, and driving her to see the boyfriend she wasn't supposed to have at the time. It was the start of a long (and admittedly proud) history of being an unofficial big brother or a mentor to many.

I have this addiction to seeing those close to me succeed, which is tied up with my own sense of ambition. During my years in web design, and when instant messaging was still a thing, I would keep myself available to my peers that needed a quick opinion, a critique, or advice. I enjoyed the conversation and the chance to connect with others in a way that transcended small talk.

It's something I've valued in the people I've grown close to, where it's only ever necessary to break-the-ice once. But… I digress.

Fast-forward to around 2017, as with everything in my career change from professional designer to professional "content creator", the light refracted in a different manner than I was used to. When I was given the chance to be a mentor to an entire community of individuals coming from a myriad of different backgrounds—for better or worse—I took it. If I'm honest with myself, it wasn't like I gave myself much of a choice. When you're a content creator, you are the center of the world you create, again, for better or worse.

As my focus shifted from playing and speedrunning single-player games to more online multiplayer ones, I slowly started to inherit a moniker from the community. Some of my community members started calling me "dad." This wasn't a new practice mind you. It was commonplace to stumble upon a community on Twitch (or anywhere else for that matter) and see people ironically calling a person of importance "dad" or "mom."

At first it was weirdly uncomfortable, but I never outright hated it. There were much worse things one could be called, or rather, that one can currently be called on the platform. Some used it ironically, others didn't, and used it as a term of endearment. Part of this, yes, was from being in a leadership position for both the community and the guilds we created. But it also stemmed from how I carried myself. Coming from having been an employee at Twitch, I had a lot to say about the platform and I took many opportunities to put my controller down and take advantage of teachable moments.

It would've been against my nature to just sit there and say nothing.

I never had what anyone would call a good childhood. The only exceptions growing up were my little brother and my dad. They were my centers and held me together. After I became a grown woman, my dad unfortunately passed away, leaving a hole in my chest. Skip forward a handful of years and I stumble upon dad's [Bryan's] stream. After spending time in the community he reminded me so much of my dad... he fills the hole my dad left, and expands on it because he and his community are so welcoming and kind. So it just feels right to call him dad.

The above is from one of my staff members, Erika. She had been a community member for around 2 years before she told me the story of why she called me dad, and it was one that I held on to. There are a lot of reasons for this, but accepting the fact that people looked up to me, rather than just seeing people use me as a rung on their ladder to success, was hugely important for my growth post-therapy. I wasn't a means to an end. I was never a means to an end. I was there supporting complete strangers who would later become friends.

My sister and I

I was there being to them what I was to my sister all those years ago.

Thank you doing what you do, for you and for others, and just being that person you are. And thank you for finding this community of wonderful people and cultivating it into the beautiful garden of wild blossoms, whether or not you personally developed each and every one in it.

One could look at this entire post and see it as me patting myself on the back for being important to people. Or, that could be my insecurities talking. Either way, one of the many things I've learned over the past six years being a content creator is that we have a choice to be the person we choose to be in front of our community. I've learned to embrace the moniker. I've tried many other ways of running my channel, but the one I always landed back on was the one I had the most experience with: being a big brother, being a mentor, being a supportive Asian "dad".

Bryan Veloso
Avalonstar is the 22-year-old personal website of Bryan Veloso: content creator, retired professional user interface designer, and compass of purpose.
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