To my 18-year-old,
As we celebrate your big birthday, there are so many things I want you to know, so many things I hope you’ll remember as you continue to grow into the adult you hope to be. This is a huge milestone and I can’t believe how fast it all went. You have matured so much during these last few years, changing in so many different ways, and I am so very proud of you. The teen years can be unbearably hard and you have managed all the stress and strain of it all so well.
And even though at 18, you are supposed to be a full-grown adult, there’s so much you still need to learn and experience.
Is an 18-year-old an adult?
Our society says that at this age, your legal status is solidified in the category of “adult”, but every single person (who was once 18) knows all 18-year-olds have a long way to go before they truly live like an adult. In many ways, you are still a kid. I don’t want you to feel all the pressure adults do. I don’t want you to be overwhelmed with all the demands that adults have. You can’t possibly know everything there is to know about being an adult just because you turned 18.
This doesn’t dismiss all your incredible accomplishments and expanding responsibilities that are required of you and it definitely doesn’t limit your potential for all you can do. What I want you to know more than anything else, is that even though there are expectations and legal definitions detailing all this age brings, don’t feel pressure to have it all figured out.
You are at the beginning of a new journey, and clearing a path and paving the way will take lots of time and lots of lessons, lots of mistakes, and lots of learning from those mistakes. It will take hard work and smart choices, for you are now at an age where the decisions you make can have serious repercussions. That’s the unfortunate thing about being 18 because you can make typical kid mistakes, but now you will have adult consequences. This is a serious reality and one that seems unfair. But it is what it is, so you must be sure to act wisely, even though you’re not yet wise.
Kids your age can be impulsive and not think through their decisions carefully, which can lead to some precarious situations that can get you in deep trouble. This is the scary dichotomy of what the world dictates you can do and what your brain is not capable of doing. You’re supposed to act like an adult, but your brain won’t be fully developed until your 25! Don’t take that personally. It’s not your fault, it’s just the natural way of things. Humans take a long time to grow into full-grown people. All you can do is try hard to control those impromptu choices that can put you in difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances.
18-year-old brains are still developing
This new road of adulthood will be built slowly, little by little, with each step you take.
There’s no such thing as a crash course, so don’t feel compelled to take on everything right away. When you are gone and living on your own, just remember I can still parent you here from home. As much as you’ll want your independence, you might still need some help. There’s still so much for you to learn and lots of things might be confusing and challenging, scary and uncertain. You never have to do it all alone. I will offer you my counsel and encouragement as you continue growing up. Because even though you’re 18, I’m not done raising you yet. I’m not done being your parent. I’ll never be done with loving you, guiding you, comforting you, assuring you, believing in you, and supporting you. You can always trust that I’ll be here for you. It’s okay to need me just a little bit. It’s okay to ask for help.
So, celebrate this incredible age, full of excitement for how far you’ve come and full of hope for all your future will bring.
Stand tall with confidence, move forward with courage, and feel every bit of joy over this momentous transition. You have grown so responsible and accountable; you are ready to move on. I have full faith that you will do great things and I believe in all the amazing gifts you have to offer this world. I know for certain; you will continue to grow into a remarkable adult, and be successful in anything you pursue.
Remember, growth and gain rarely come easy, but it’s always worth the hard work of developing your dreams and refining your character.
Sometimes the journey feels achingly slow, other times you will feel defeated and discouraged, exhausted and wanting to give up. But I promise you, everything you pour your heart and time, your effort and energy into, will reap wonderful rewards. It just might take some time. Most good things do.
Don’t stop believing in yourself, even when you fail or make big mistakes.
You will never get things right all the time. No one is perfect, everyone fails. It’s what you do with those struggles that counts. Sometimes, we learn more when we stumble than we do when we don’t. Embrace it all because each experience will allow you to learn more about YOU and more about what you are called to do.
Adulting is a lifelong process, full of big climbs and hard falls. It can be brutal, but it can also be beautiful.
Both are important and make life rich and wonderful and full of purpose and meaning. You’ll learn more and more about it all, as you grow up and gain more ground on this new terrain.
For now, please know that while you begin this new life as an adult, I don’t expect you to be one, not yet, anyway. But I believe you are well on your way and I will walk beside you on your new path as much as you need me to, while you begin to build your life on your own.