Dearest Brandin M. O. Tolbert,
I believe turning 18 is another RITE OF PASSAGE.
Your father and I spent countless hours daydreaming about what kind of person you would be. We knew right away you would handle life on your own terms based on my pregnancy. During the time I carried you I was sent to the hospital with so many bouts of early labor and in the end you decided to come late—when you felt like it.
Happy Birthday just doesn't seem to capture the amount of love inside my heart for you. It doesn't seem to explain how both odd and amazing it is to see my heart walking around on its own, voting, on the way to college and with a mustache. You have morphed into your own person. You are no longer a small version of your father and I. You are a young man.
You have been blessed with the gift of a nurturing family that loves and supports you and a host of family-friends who love you. You are fortunate to have a younger brother who has always loved you “big” and been your biggest cheerleader. It is in these words and in this space in your life that I want you to stop and give thanks. Give thanks for all your blessings. Give thanks for all the ways you've arrived at this point in your journey. I wish with all my might that you could embrace your new chapter with a manual or life map…but learn early none of us has one of those and to be quite honest if we did, we would still go the wrong way or have to take detours.
This past year has been the most emotionally challenging year you have ever had to endure and none of it is your fault. Through it all you have continued to strive to be your very best self. You have maintained your integrity, internal confidence and you haven’t succumb to the pressures of numbing yourself for the sake of “hard times” or taken a moral time out to be mired in anger or frustration. You are not perfect by any means but I've watched your imperfections morph into learned life lessons. Quite honestly, I am amazed at your resilience and it is one of the qualities I deeply admire and appreciate about you.
Often when I look into your eyes I see the two year old who wanted to touch, taste, and smell everything. The five year old who questioned everything and the nine year old who wasn't afraid to state his opinion no matter whom he was stating it to. Your father and I knew you possessed the qualities of a leader and I am sure when you were growing up you remember that being one of the staple phrases of our household…”Brandin be a leader and not a follower.” We don’t question whether or not you heard us or not.
During dinner I asked you what have been your biggest life lessons at 18. Your wisdom blows me away. I am listing them here for public record to share with others some of the wise things you've said and also as a reminder to YOU when you find yourself stressed or making small detours. :)
Brandin’s Wisdom at 18
Be true to yourself
Follow your gut
Don’t compromise who you are for anyone
Don’t dwell on drama
Don’t take adolescence too serious…you’ll have to grow up one day
People change whether you want them to stay the same or not. It hurts but it is a fact and you can’t change that they are changing
Don’t try to impress anyone
Take care of yourself before you take care of others
Value and keep the core of you. Other things might change about you but keep the core of who you are intact
High School social life is not as important as it seems sometimes. Education and true friends are
Learn to say “NO!” even if it may hurt others
You can’t keep everyone you want and it hurts you but it is a fact
Have as much fun as possible
Family is super important
Family-Friends are super important
Meditate or do something spiritual
Thank you Brandin for all the ways you have blessed your father and I. Happy 18th Birthday!!
We love you more than words can express.
Anastacia Tolbert’s work is a trellis of twilight, ultramarine ache and lowercase loam.
writer • performance artist • workshop facilitator