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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