My brother called to tell me about his first week at his first job out of college in a new town. Here's what I told him.
First he told me that he's been crying every day.
It tore me up. It made me want to hug you and take back all those times I smacked you or rolled my eyes at your younger brother antics. You're going through something important, something hard. Getting out of college and starting a life is hard. It's not just a matter of "growing up," it's about getting used to a new way of living.
I told him to find out who he is.
Every person is given direction on how to live their life before they reach a certain age. Some people grow up faster than others, but this is the first moment in your life where you've been entirely independent. Who are you? How do you want your life to be? What's important?
I told him to live in the moment.
It's so easy to get stuck on what isn't happening, what's ended, what may happen, or who you're going to be tomorrow. Beyond finding out who you are, find out how to be that person right now. There is a tendency to get stuck on things, to get hung up on people, to feel that your yesterday is your today is your tomorrow. But the truth is, the only thing that is is now.
I told him that he's breaking up with his childhood.
And that it will never cease to exist, and you would never be any less good at being a kid, but you may not get as many chances or feel as free to do so. And the sad truth is, most people think this is the end of their childhood. I want you and everyone in your place to realize that the challenge is figuring out how to live as a person who was once a kid, a person who can get joy and feel safe and be absolutely inspired by the smallest, silliest things. I want you to know that you can live life to the fullest, feel young, and still be an adult.
I told him that home is wherever he is.
Growing up means leaving home, both physically and emotionally. You're in a scary new place and you don't know how to cope. Sometimes you go to Mom's house and it feels "right." That's because Mom is there, because her stuff is there, because it reminds you of the safety and the love and the happiness that you can get when you feel at home. You are remembering how to be a person in the way you want to be, comfortably and stress-free. You can do this anywhere. The true measure of maturity is how comfortable you can feel doing the thing you like the least. And I know you can manage to be yourself in any situation.
I told him to be honest with himself.
Ending a period of people telling you what to do usually means feeling obligated to be a certain way and do certain things. Young people so frequently do what they're already on the path to do because it's what they're already doing. Don't ignore that little voice inside that says "no wait, maybe I'd rather be a fireman." Be honest with yourself and find out what it is you want to do. Give everything a good try, but don't do the first thing you try just because it's what you told your mom you'd do.
I told him to feel every emotion.
Feeling bad is a signal from parts of yourself to other parts reminding you that something is changing. We never feel comfortable when change occurs, and feeling the discomfort is critical in finding out what makes you feel good as it fades. Feeling emotions is hard. Feeling emotions is brutal at times, and it reminds us of memories that make us feel worse. But feeling emotions is our lifeline to ourselves. It's a reminder that we're alive and that things will change and get better.
I told him that he isn't being selfish.
When I was going through this I felt like this was my burden to bear, that I was the only one ever to go through it and no one else wanted to hear my bullshit. So I kept it in, thinking I was being selfish and I suffered unduly as a result. Don't suffer in silence. Ask questions, cry, ask for advice, talk about the weather, just don't feel obligated to go through it alone. Because the truth is, you're never alone. There are always people willing to listen. You have me, you have your family, you have a lot of friends.
I told him that he's not the first.
Trust me, you're not the only one to go through this. Leaving the safety of home or college or wherever is depressing, fatiguing, and brutal. You aren't the only one to notice that. And while that may feel like you're not unique, it means there are many, many people who have found out how to navigate these waters before you. Lean on them. Learn from them. Trust that you can get through it.
I told him I love him.
Because I do. You're my little brother, and you confided in me, and I'll always be there for you. You can rely on that, little brudder.