How To Be Young

Think you’re old and never realize how young you actually are. Fixate on the fact that you love The Container Store and Bed, Bath & Beyond and drinking tea and eating organic. This means something to you. It means you’re figuring out how to be an adult and you won’t be left behind. Show your receipt from Crate and Barrel to a 30-year-old and say, “See? I’m getting there. Let me through!”

Don’t think too much about why all of this matters to you. Don’t think about why cooking your own dinners and buying a new rug for your apartment is more important than going back home in a cab drunk at five in the morning. Never admit to yourself that the drunk cab rides make you happier than the damn kale you bought at the bodega. That would make you feel guilty, that would make you actually feel young (something you’re never supposed to feel.) Life is all about being young and pretending to be old, and being old and wishing you were young. Are you getting it, yet?

Spend so many years not liking yourself while trying to get others to like you. God, we’re so hard on ourselves. If only you could feel like you deserve that wasted night with your friends and spending Sunday hungover with someone in bed—someone you’ll try to forget and later on try to remember. Being young is all about wanting to connect with someone but feeling too disconnected to actually do so. I think you’re getting it now.

Look back on being young when you’re old and remember this: perfect skin, flat stomach, a house full of young people laughing and dancing, smoking weed, listening to music on your little laptop while reading a magazine on a Sunday evening, your parents coming in and out, remembering a dinner with your dad in your hometown when you wanted to cry, the bars, so many bars, people who you got drunk with all the time but never actually knew (what did they do in the daytime?), getting a cat and hating the cat but needing the cat because it made you feel okay about being hungover and missing your Victorian Lit final. “I can fail Victorian Lit because I have a cat that I’ve kept alive. So there.”

Have sex with the seventh person who doesn’t mean anything to you and freak out for a bit. Remember losing your virginity on a creaky bed and feeling so many things, too many things, and now you’re having sex with someone who looks like Danny Devito and it means nothing. How could this happen? How could you go from shaking like a leaf whenever someone touched your neck to feeling so numb whenever someone went inside of you? You want to know when this change occurred because you think it’s the reason why everything went sour. It’s the reason why you feel old. Every time you sleep with a nobody, it ages you five years. At this rate, you figure you’ll be a 100 at 28 years old.

Hold on to things. You’re not old enough to know what should matter and what should be left behind yet so you just hold on to every single thing. You’re like a memory hoarder. You need help.

Have moments when you’re truly having the time of your young adult life. Sometimes you know it when it’s happening and sometimes you don’t. When you know, that’s when it’s truly special. You let go of everything and embrace your youth. “I DON’T CARE I FEEL SO YOUNG AND FREE IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL RIGHT NOW EVERYTHING FEELS SO GOOD.” PS. You might be on Ecstasy for these moments of realization.

I know what you’re doing because I’m doing it too. Just stop freaking out. Stop pretending to be happy over a new Swiffer and just kiss people and go out and stay up late and wake up early and screw up and learn from your mistakes and then screw up again. It’s okay. This is your permission slip to act young. Sign it. TC mark

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.


More From Thought Catalog

  • hunter ray

    I hope that permission slip acts retroactively.

  • Jay

    I’ve gotten to the point that I always feel numb whenever someone is inside of me. How old does that make me? Hopefully one day I’ll be with someone who can make me “shake like a leaf” again.

  • Aaron

    I didnt like this one Ryan…sorry.

  • Jocelyn 'Cherry Bomb' Duncan

    This was poorly written and all over the place. I can’t decide if the author wants us to hang on to our youth or cry about it fading away?

    • Bouddica

      Jesus Christ, everything i’ve read in Thoughtcatalog over the past week has been “poorly written”, whether it’s princess bemoaning her living with parents existentialist dilemma, or chick going to a new town (wow, little girl big city, i’m going to cry), now it’s fratbro weeping for the loss of innocence.  And backward ballcaps.  I love how this bookends with the author’s ridiculously-bad snark in his “fashion don’ts” post recently.  It was the worst CARLES impresion I ever read.

      • Ryan O'Connell

        omg  hunny

      • Ryan O'Connell

        omg  hunny

      • Jade Mitchell

        Maybe the existentialist dilemma “should I hang onto my youth or let it fade away” is what Ryan was trying to invoke? Thought Catalog is comprised of “thoughts,” if you haven’t noticed. The foundation of Thought Catalog is free thinking. (or so I assume)
        Maybe you should try

      • Jade Mitchell

        Maybe the existentialist dilemma “should I hang onto my youth or let it fade away” is what Ryan was trying to invoke? Thought Catalog is comprised of “thoughts,” if you haven’t noticed. The foundation of Thought Catalog is free thinking. (or so I assume)
        Maybe you should try

      • a.

        Really, you’re throwing in a Carles reference? What is this, 2k9?

      • Chelsea

        why don’t you write something then asshole and let everyone tear it apart because they are way too bored everyday scheming the internet for some cheap pleasure in putting someone else down, behind an alias name and a computer screen. COWARD. get the fuck out of here.

  • Amanda Marie

    It might be the hangover I’m battling, but this made me tear up. Well written. 

  • Tau Zaman

    I don’t understand how skinny fabulous people can go out and get drunk regularly. There are so many calories in drinks. And they’re kind of expensive, in bulk. x_X

    • a.

       Vodka + club soda. Or straight shots.

    • Sara K

      As a skinny and fabulous person, I can say that a) I have a ridiculously low tolerance, b) I stick to spicy martinis and don’t do chasers…ever…unless it’s like flavoured Perrier or something…besides 2 shots usually does me for the night, and that’s under 200 calories

  • Chris D.

    I’d like to offer a view point that considers this but says why not be somewhere in the middle when you’re older.  Be together enough to buy some shit at the container store and be excited it’s to hold all of your flasks, weed, rolling papers, lighters and other goodies.  Life isn’t all one way or the other, it’s about recognizing a balance everywhere. I love the fact that I can go drop a $1,000 on a mid century Danish rocking chair, because I’ve worked my ass off to be in a place where I can do that. Similarly I also love the fact that I can start drinking Bourbon at 11am on a weekday, smoke weed all day long and still have more crazy fun than I ever did when I was in my teens or early 20’s.  The only thing that has changed in my life is responsibility, but with that comes great rewards and times that are more fun because of it.

    • Rick Hoss

      wait, how can you afford $1,000 rocking chairs to sit and smoke weed in all day if you’re just sittin in rocking chairs smoking weed all day?

  • a girl

    i just teared up. i’ve eaten a bagel, downed a large iced coffee, and had a slice of pizza already. my wrist is wrapped in a bandage because i tried to cook pasta for myself and burned myself this week. my gchat status is my friend saying she feels like dying because she took a limo home from the box last night. i’ve kleptoed my boss’s harper’s because i know she won’t read it and i want to read it on the train home and feel “knowledgable”. oh ps. i’m at work. 

    • Jade Mitchell

      I think you’ve found youth. :)

      • Samie Rose

        I think they’re mocking you.

      • a girl

        i was being sincere. but like i was emotional and hungover when i wrote that, so i can see how it could be read as mocking now.

  • Jade Mitchell

    I don’t understand how anyone could not be in absolute love with this piece. I wish I had constructive criticism – and to everything that wrote anything bad, I can find no merit in your words.

    I absolutely loved this, Ryan.

  • Samie Rose

    So the meaning of youth is being drunk and irresponsible? Talk more about emotions and less about bottles of alcohol and maybe this wouldn’t be quite so trite.

    • SippyCup

       *privileged youth

    • SippyCup

       *privileged youth

  • Mage Baltes

    I thought this was a pretty nice article about contradictory expectations and desires.
    I do wonder, assuming this was about you, why do you have meaningless sex with people if you feel numb in the act and like shit afterwards? Sex addiction is a real thing, you know.

    • a.

      It’s not sex addiction. He feels numb in the sense that the random hook-ups don’t really feel like a connection; the people are interchangeable, because the truth is, he’ll never see them again. It’s not as if he hasn’t enjoyed the lead-up/eye-fucking/sex. It’s just a different feeling after you’ve been naked enough times with enough people- you don’t really care anymoew.

  • madgie

    this is beautiful, my new favourite thoughtcatalog article.

    it really cheered me up… my peter pan syndrome shall continue, huzzah!

  • Egle Makaraite

    This is great but also lacking something… Not sure what that something is.

  • Guest

    Perfect skin?  I fucking wish.  

    • birdie

      And a flat stomach? Fuck, where does it say in the contract that I get that while I’m young?

  • NoSexCity

    Words of comfort most appreciated after an evening of bad decisions. ILU, Ryan O’Connell.

  • André Philippe Leblond

    If each random that I’d slept with had aged me by five years I’d be well over a six hundred years old now! 

  • Keli Anaya

    Ryan O. gettin’ real today.

  • Lindsaypnorman


  • Briana

    “How could you go from shaking like a leaf whenever someone touched your
    neck to feeling so numb whenever someone went inside of you?”


  • Sara

    That got to feelings I had never even acknowledged I was experiencing, but now that I’ve read this I realize what a burden they’ve been. I feel forced to grow up even when I’m not prepared and it sounds like the last thing I’m ready for. Thanks for the permission, because sometimes I feel like I actually need it. 

  • Vicky Nguyen

    Signed, of course. I can’t stop smiling at the relevance.

  • Pg.E

    hi Ryan, we’ve never met before but you keep on writing about my life. Thanks, you def make me feel relevant….. and glad to be young. you’re my fav!

  • ADV


    I didn’t think it was possible to express the euphoria one experiences while on E in words but if anyone can do it, it’s you! Perfectly put as usual, Ryan.

  • Anonymous

    You have an old soul, Ryan. 

  • Kkirkpa3

    Thank you so much. I needed that.

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