To My Baby Sister on Becoming an Adult™

by Sarah Ross

Out of the kindness of my heart, I have decided to make my heartfelt 18th birthday letter to my younger sister available to the public. It’s chock full of advice and I know that this is the season where prospective students are awaiting decision letters. I figured they and everyone else could benefit from an honest expert’s opinion and insider’s perspective. Here it is. Enjoy.

Dear Becca,

Happy 18th Birthday! Congrats! You’re an adult now!

As your older sister, I have long been entrusted with the responsibility of bringing you up to speed on adulthood. It’s a grueling process but as a wise, almost 20-year-old college student, I have no doubts that you will find this letter invaluable in the coming years. Blood, sweat, and tears have brought me to this point, but right now I feel only joy being able to pass on these secrets to you.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. What is an adult? What do I do? How does an adult act? Well, dear, dear sister, I will tell you: I have no clue.

No one has any idea what they’re doing, and if they think they do, they’re wrong. Oh sure, many people will proudly tell you where they are going to college, what they’re going to major in, and what their kitchen backsplash will look like in 15 years. They are all wrong (unless they are rich and white, in which case they are like 70% right, but they will ultimately end up with a starter house without crown molding, so no one wins).

You could always take the advice of the many Instagram influencers and sell your soul and online persona to various different corporations for a pithy 30% payout for next month’s rent. Or, follow some of our family’s advice to just keep working hard, and things will work out. Your boss will definitely notice the ridiculous amount of extra work you’re putting in and reward it, right? (Not always. Sometimes you just gotta ask for a raise or get a different job. Don’t sell yourself short, my dude.)

And college? College is weird. 5/10 only recommend if you like the high of learning combined with temporarily intangible amounts of debt and being surrounded by people who somehow always have the money to take another Uber. I’m glad you’ve decided to take a gap year because even though I have been self-professed academic trash since the tender age of 5, taking time to make big decisions is always wise and I wish I had been more honest with myself about the college application process. I love where I ended up and have figured out so much about myself and what I want to do, but still, I’m honestly not sure why we glorify 17-year-olds signing the majority of their future income away to an institution that will probably force them to drown in more loans after getting emotionally and academically invested.

Adulthood in general is a scam, but honestly, I feel like you and I have always had a pretty good handle on that supposed secret. We’ve been pretty lucky to have caring and transparent parents (see what I did there) who have not had the most traditional career paths or range of experiences. You’ll be surprised at how many small aspects of who you are influence your interactions with others. The skills we had to pick up as pastor‘s daughters (dressing up, smiling, not squirming when elderly people pinch your cheeks, pretending to listen to long prayers) will serve you well in boring meetings, unnecessary events, and The Dreaded Networking To Come.

I know that as an artist you are facing a million different choices. You could stop pursuing art and get a “sensible” degree. You could go to art school and pursue your passions, accompanied by burnout and constantly raising tuition. You could forego the whole thing and just freelance. You could also just move to the middle of nowhere, become a hermit, and hope that your art gets discovered when you die. All of these are good options, but I think no matter what, you’re going to do well. No matter what path you take, art can’t leave you. It’s a part of who you are, whether you do it for a living or at home. I have confidence in you that you will make the right decision for the moment you are in.

In all honesty, I am so proud of you. Not just for staying alive and existing, but for being all that you are and always being unapologetic about it. From age two, you would insist on wearing mismatched clothes (I’m talking leopard pants and purple shirts with that bright green sweater).

Now you’re eighteen and are fielding countless questions from well-meaning relatives and strangers alike. Unfortunately, these questions will never end. Fortunately, you don’t have to have an answer. Don’t force it. I’m worried about a lot of things like politics, the state of our planet, and finishing my assignments, but I’m not worried about you. You’re gonna get back up after you fall down and call me when things go wrong, and I’m always going to pick up.

I’ve only been an adult for a little bit, and though I would wager that I’m only an adult by technicality, I’ve learned this: when you are surrounded by people who love you, life is a little bit more manageable. Whether accompanied by college friends or family members or cuddles with the dog (who is most definitely a person fight me on this), challenges get a little bit softer round the edges when you’re not alone. And as a nosy older sister, I can guarantee you that you’ll never be alone.

I love you. Обичам те.