Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Turned 18 (Happy Birthday Little Brother)

This is for you, little brother, on your 18th birthday, and for all the other little brothers and sisters who are being asked by life to please leave childhood behind, thank you very much.

Little brother, you and I both are very lucky—we have a mother full of wisdom. When I was 18, I wish someone had told me this: that mother is always right. So I am telling you now: all the things she says and does are with your best interests at heart, and everything she tells you will come to pass. When I was 18, I wish someone had told me this (someone who wasn’t mamma), and I wish someone had told me that even though she’ll always turn out to be right in the end, it’s still OK to challenge her in the meantime.

When I was 18, I wish someone had told me how young I was. Imbibed with all the new powers—drinking (drinking age in Australia is 18), driving, voting—it’s easy to feel somehow older, but you’re not, you’re still a teenager. Don’t get too far ahead of yourself, hold on to your fearless childhood ways for as long as you can and use your new freedoms recklessly. Experiment with these new things you have (but be safe, little brother) and be you in a million different ways, because you don’t have to settle into yourself just yet.

When I was 18, I wish someone had told me it’s OK to screw up; that it’s OK to mess up whatever, whenever, in every which way possible. That failing a subject at uni isn’t the end of the world. That backing your car into another when you’re trying to reverse park isn’t so bad. That your failed relationships, both sexual and platonic, are not an indication of the person you are. Little brother, it’s all right if you break something—because I’m going to be here to love you regardless.

When I was 18, I wish someone had told me that nothing is precise. What you will learn from books over the next few years of your tertiary education is subjective. You will want to spout platitudes from texts like sermons over dinner and when you’re drunk with your uni buddies. But, little brother, enlightenment is not necessarily in knowledge so much as it is in application. Don’t learn dogmatically from words, but learn to mix them all together to find the shades of grey between them.

When I was 18, I wish someone had told me that no one wants to grow up. We all want to ride the merry-go-round, to eat fairy bread at parties and to play duck-duck-goose. It’s OK that you want these things too. You don’t have to become quieter, or more ‘mature’—this means nothing. Little brother, it’s all right to keep some of your childish impulses, to spray your ice cream with so much chocolate sauce it appears more like a mudslide than a sundae. You only live once, hold onto the kid inside.

When I was 18, I wish someone had told me that it’s all right to be scared; that everyone is scared. No one knows what they’re doing or why, but they’re doing it just the same, and so should you. There’s no shame in fearing the things you fear, little brother, because we can face them together. When I was 18, I wish someone told me that all there is happiness, and to love the ones around you. So dissolve your fears, little brother, and don’t let them rule you, because we are so very brief, and I want you to always smile inside your heart. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you become, where you work, who you marry (or if you marry at all) or how much money you have—the only, and most important thing to be in life is happy.

When I was 18, I wish someone had told me that the older you get, the less you realize you know, and that that’s all that growing up really means. Good luck little brother, because even though I’m eight years your senior, I’m still completely clueless. All I know for sure is that I love you more than I will ever be able to express completely. TC mark

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  • Kait

    New thoughtcatalog favorite.

  • Andres

    one of the most beautiful pieces ever to come on Thought Catalog.

  • http://www.twitter.com/mexifrida Frida

    I have until January for my 18th.

    Feels so weird when adults keep bringing up how old you’re getting.  
    And although I’ll legally be an “adult,” it’s nice to know I have more time to be a kid in some ways.

  • Anna

    Perfect :)

  • NIKO

    Poignant. Well done.

  • Kodi

    Charming. 

  • Tom

    Good lord, that was great. Wow. Well done.

  • http://dirtyyoungmen.wordpress.com Maxwell Chance

    If someone was to write this for me when I was 18, I would have shit in their hat.

    • Katgeorge

      Please. My little brother is going to read this. You can’t have some decorum for just one tiny moment, when someone is trying to do something nice for their family? You can troll everything else as much as you like but give it a rest.

      • http://dirtyyoungmen.wordpress.com Maxwell Chance

        My bee. Just being real. Fixed?

      • Katgeorge

        Thank you. I look forward to your rude remarks on my non family related future articles :)

  • Tanya

    Loved it, and really sweet. Sending this to my lil bro when he turns 18.

  • wjs

    Nice job, Kat.

  • Nrcc93

    I just turned 18 last week. I’ve been freaking out and being disconnected from myself because it feels like I have to be a whole other person. I now realize I don’t. Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/fapfapmofo The Bitchrake

    Very nice, and wonderful for those who think “grown-ups” were taught how to be adults.

  • Caaalebbb

    “nothing is precise.” precisely.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=704016484 Joe Ott

      nothing is true, not even that…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1552230509 Blake Austin

    This, I think, is also good for those of us soon turning 20. For me the complete loss of teenager status is terrifying. I never want to lose the joy and wonder of being young.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1552230509 Blake Austin

    This, I think, is also good for those of us soon turning 20. For me the complete loss of teenager status is terrifying. I never want to lose the joy and wonder of being young.

  • Nope

    That your failed relationships, both sexual and platonic, are not an indication of the person you are. 
    THIS EXPLAINS A LOT

  • BC

    Wow well done! I’m not one to usually comment but I felt compelled.  I have a little brother (who I call little brother too although he’s 6’4″). It’s a special and unique relationship, this article makes me miss and love him!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Caroline-Evertz/25521401 Caroline Evertz

    Big sisters who love their little brothers say “HAYYYYY!”

    Two not-so-little-anymore (17 and 20 years old) brothers and I wouldn’t have it any differently.

  • http://puzzlingcreativity.blogspot.com/ puzzlingcreativity

    Yep, I think we make ourselves seem farther apart by this silly notion of time and age, when really you’re right next to each other. 

  • Sophia

    Loved loved loved this. Kat, I like your writing a lot better now that you’re not writing about your poop. You’ve gone from my least-favorite to one of my very favorite TC writers. This was absolutely lovely. Thanks.

  • ryano'who?

    This is why I love your writing. This is why you’re my favorite writer on the site. 

  • georgie

    It’s my little brother’s birthday today too! And I am also far away from him and miss him and love him so much. I’m going to send this to him!

    Also, as an Australian girl who is turning 18 in two months, this is really lovely. I am so worried about everything changing once I turn eighteen but this just reminded me that I will still be young and a kid and be able to do what I like and stilll see the world with a eager innocence.

    Thanks Kat for your beautiful writing. You’re my idol!

  • Anonymous

    ta.gg/5bc

  • Rachel

    I wished thoughtcatalog existed when I was 18. 4 years later, I want someone to write a “Things I wish someone had told me when I turned 23” because I’m about to graduate and have no idea what to do with my life. Do I need to know how to buy houses? Hire lawyers? Find a gynaecologist (or should I have found one earlier?) Am I going to be poor because inflation is going up? What about life insurance? Guh…

  • Cathy

    very wise Kat, thank you. I too, turn 18 in Australia in exactly one month and really needed this.

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