This Is Us

My Brother Eats Carrots and I Get Hit With Sticks

The eternal struggle between ‘reward people’ and ‘punishment people’

Benjamin Davis
Human Parts
Published in
7 min readMar 17, 2021


Shadows of an older person and younger person walking together.
Photo: AlexLinch/Getty Images

My brother Kevin had a baby, a beautiful little girl who cries, stress vomits, and has too much gas. I never thought I’d have so much in common with a baby. My brother was prepared for her arrival. He’d been prepared years in advance: wife, house, car, job, money, pets, crib. The last time my girlfriend’s period was late, my life flashed before my eyes like a freight train barreling down on a toothpick castle.

I am a stick person. Kevin is a carrot person. He sees a reward, prepares, does the work, gets it. I see a temptation, run at it, and get hit with a stick. We turned 30 like dominoes: him, then me. He has a house, a nice job, and a wife. I have a grab bag of scars and poorly healed bones, undiagnosed digestive issues, and a bank account that communicates in aggressive alerts.

Now, when I look in the mirror, with my diet of smoke and whatever fruit happens to be on sale, my ribs look like they might be about to hop off my body one by one to roam the neighborhood begging for scraps. There are scars: one from a window, a fight, a rudely awakened dog. There are layers of tattoos, mostly matching ones, planned in a day, with friends and girlfriends…