Kristan Hoffman - Writing Dreams Into Reality
Mon Nov 21 2011

A letter to myself on my 26th birthday

Dear Me,

So, it’s your birthday. You’re 26 today. Congratulations.

P1020844
Me, Age Adorable.

What, you wanted more? Sorry, dude. This isn’t a milestone. You can already smoke (didn’t want to anyway), can already drink (didn’t want to anyway), can already rent a car without paying a premium, and already had your insurance rates reduced (25 = lame). No new perks, plus now you’re closer to 30 than 20. Scary, huh?

Here’s the thing: I know what you wanted. You wanted to be an established author. Heck, you wanted that for your 18th birthday. And your 20th. And pretty much every birthday since you wrote that terrible synopsis and 15 pages for the Scholastic “first novel” competition in high school. You wanted to be the Taylor Swift of books.

But you’re not. Do you want to know why? Because you weren’t willing to make the necessary sacrifices.

Now before you run off to a corner to cry, listen: I don’t say that to be mean. I don’t say that to belittle or discourage you. You do work hard. You are talented. You will make it.

But Taylor Swift? She’s one in a million. She put music before everything. She gave up a normal life in order to pursue her dream. You didn’t.

yelp party 010
Me, Age Ridiculous.

And that’s okay. It’s okay that you went to high school, and worried about grades, and got a college degree, and then a job. It’s okay that you watch a few TV shows, and have a boyfriend and a dog, and take time to travel. It’s okay that sometimes you do the laundry when you’re stuck on a sentence, or that you get nervous/embarrassed when people ask what you do and you have to explain that you’re an unpublished, unagented writer. It’s okay that you like to nap.

Because here’s what this birthday DOES mean:

It means that, at 26, you’ve been writing seriously for almost a decade. In that time, you “finished” your first ever novel (which needs a lot of revision). You experimented with a web series that nearly got published and is now available as an ebook. And soon you’ll be querying your first YA manuscript, which is definitely the best thing you’ve ever written. You’ve been blogging for several years, have made many good online friends, and even went viral once. You’ve gotten work experience, life experience, love experience. You’ve done things on your own terms, and you won’t have any regrets.

(Not that T Swizzle regrets her choices. I’m sure she’s quite happy with her sparkly clothes, bajillion awards, and famous, fodder-for-lyrics boyfriends.)

Rarely do things work out so neatly as JK Rowling’s 1-story-per-school-year structure, but I do feel like each November since middle school, you’ve managed to reflect and to learn something important. If there’s anything I want you to learn from this, your 26th year, it’s to throw your plans out the window. Don’t try to predict what will happen, or put your life on a schedule. Just work hard, have fun, and be kind. If you do that, everything will follow in its own way and its own time.

Love,
You

filed Personal, Reading/Writing
27 Comments
  1. Les says:
    Mon Nov 21 2011 at 3:17 PM

    Happy birthday! I was 26 last year and the worst part of it was realizing I had to round up to 30 :p

  2. Sonje says:
    Mon Nov 21 2011 at 3:28 PM

    Happy birthday! The big two-six! It’s just one big, downward slide to death from here on! I remember thinking the same thing when I turned 26. :P

    And not to be super annoying (but I know you’d do the same thing to me–and you have!), but last year was your 26th year. When you were zero, that was your first year. When you were one, that was your second year…blah blah blah.

  3. Kristan says:
    Mon Nov 21 2011 at 3:31 PM

    Sonje-
    LOL. Fine, corrected. Punk. :P

  4. Stephanie Mooney says:
    Mon Nov 21 2011 at 4:01 PM

    Happy birthday, Kristan!!!!! I hope it’s a good one.

    Okay, I have no sympathy for the milestone thing, because you were the one to break to me that I’ve been able to rent cars for years, thwarting my attempts to make 25 a milestones. Still laughing about that. :)

    But you know what? Every year should be a milestone. We may not have any new freedoms ahead of us, but being alive another year is definitely something to celebrate. Here’s to life!

  5. Raquel says:
    Mon Nov 21 2011 at 4:24 PM

    What a sweet letter. I can so relate, as one who has been writing about that long, and about to hit my 26th in 6 months. Hope you’re having an awesome day, and that 26 is your best year yet.

  6. Sarah Wedgbrow says:
    Mon Nov 21 2011 at 4:25 PM

    okay, first, my default :)

    Late twenties are THE BEST…you’re in the golden age, baby! Okay Taylor Swift is a winner. But so are you. She’s not great because she’s young, anyway. She writes catchy music with semi-great lyrics. That’s why she’s great.

    From now on when I hear your name I will think “winning.” xx

  7. Rachele Alpine says:
    Mon Nov 21 2011 at 4:30 PM

    Happy happy birthday! I hope this is your best year yet! (p.s. I’m so excited to be on your list of writing friends…yay!)

  8. T. S. Bazelli says:
    Mon Nov 21 2011 at 6:03 PM

    Happy Birthday!!!

    You never know how things will turn out. Every year brings surprises. I hope this one is a great one for you.

  9. gingermandy says:
    Mon Nov 21 2011 at 7:28 PM

    You are amazing, and that is all.

    Oh, and happy birthday :)

  10. Emy Shin says:
    Mon Nov 21 2011 at 8:34 PM

    Love this post. Happy Birthday! I just know you will accomplish amazing things this year.

  11. Shari says:
    Mon Nov 21 2011 at 10:19 PM

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

    I hope this year is an amazing one and that next year’s letter to yourself is filled with reflections on so many dreams come true :)

  12. Anthony Lee Collins says:
    Tue Nov 22 2011 at 1:40 AM

    1. Happy birthday! Many many many happy returns.

    2. “Don’t try to predict what will happen, or put your life on a schedule.” I agree completely. And I speak with some perspective, being (::cough cough::) years older than thee.

    Just remember the immortal words of Rooster Cogburn: “There is no clock on my business!” (Just say that as necessary, including to yourself.)

    3. I’ll give you my other mantra as well, this one from my father: “There is only one rule for writers: write well.”

    4. Sonje: Remember what Fox Mulder said about math geeks. :-)

  13. Joelle Wilson says:
    Tue Nov 22 2011 at 1:27 PM

    Happy Birthday! :)

    It’s great to reflect on where you’ve been, where you are and where you want to go. I like the fact that you’re being honest with yourself and encouraging, but don’t fall into comparing yourself to others who have (what looks like) more success than you may be feeling at the moment. Success is relative to the person who feels successful. So I guess what all these words are supposed to say – If you feel successful than you are.

  14. Juliann Wetz says:
    Tue Nov 22 2011 at 4:55 PM

    Happy Birthday! I hope this year is a wonderful year for you.

  15. Jon says:
    Tue Nov 22 2011 at 7:02 PM

    Are you kidding? You’re much more interesting and smarter than Taylor Swift! I think you’re going to be huge (if you want that). Everything up to this point: college, life, jobs, only helps. It’s all good experience.

  16. Torie Michelle says:
    Tue Nov 22 2011 at 7:14 PM

    That is such a lovely letter, Kristan!

    “Don’t try to predict what will happen, or put your life on a schedule. Just work hard, have fun, and be kind.” – (1) I’m going to copy that down and keep it for myself. (2) It seems you have been working hard, and you’ve accomplished cool things others will never have the courage to attempt.

    In the world of teen stars to compare yourself to, Taylor Swift’s a great choice as opposed to…Justin Bieber. I’m convinced he has brainwashed the world :-) You, on the other hand, have talent!

    Anywho! A la Kanye West, I hope you have one of the best birthdays of ALL TIME, even if it’s no “milestone” year!

  17. Meghan Ward says:
    Wed Nov 23 2011 at 1:18 AM

    I am too brain dead to even read your post right now (I’ve been up since 5 a.m. and it’s now 10:17 p.m.), but I just wanted to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY! You are just a youngin’ and have SO much time ahead of you (assuming the world doesn’t end next year :) I’ll be back tomorrow to read your post!

  18. Pseudo says:
    Wed Nov 23 2011 at 8:27 AM

    Well, a very happy birthday to my young (yes – you still are so young), talented writer friend.! We are fellow November birthday buds!

    This was a wonderful post and letter to yourself.

  19. sparkling74 says:
    Wed Nov 23 2011 at 1:45 PM

    I love that you realize that you have a NORMAL life. We want to be the Taylors and the next sensations but when we stop to realize that we got to go to our proms and we weren’t out on tour when our friends had weddings, etc. I think you’re right to say we chose the normal route. I envy that you have written a book by 26, even if it’s rough and will get worked on. I always think blogging is going to be my big FIRST STEP toward getting my first novel written. Ha ha ha ha ha!

  20. Kristan says:
    Thu Nov 24 2011 at 12:04 AM

    Thanks for all the bday wishes, y’all!

    Torie-
    I SO thought you were gonna make a “I’ma let you finish” joke!

    sparkling74-
    Maybe it will be! Mine has certainly helped me in a lot of ways. :)

  21. Meghan Ward says:
    Thu Nov 24 2011 at 11:09 AM

    I’m back with a little more sleep. First of all – you’re still adorable! And you’ve accomplished a LOT at the early age of 26. I was a sophomore in college when I turned 26 and hadn’t even started to write yet. Keep at it! You’ll be the TS of YA someday!

  22. Sherrie Petersen says:
    Fri Nov 25 2011 at 9:40 AM

    What a great letter! I should write one to myself sometime. You’re like every other person in my house — a Scorpio. November is birthday month. Hope yours was a good one, even if it wasn’t a “milestone” :)

  23. Kristan says:
    Sun Nov 27 2011 at 3:17 PM

    Meghan-
    Thanks for the vote of confidence and the encouragement!

    Sherrie-
    Yay Scorpios! We’re all bunched in at that time too. Mom’s on the cusp of Libra/Scorpio, my dad is Scorpio, and I’m on the cusp of Scorpio/Sagittarius. (Yeah it can be scary in our house sometimes…)

  24. Monday’s Top 5 | The Happy Logophile says:
    Mon Nov 28 2011 at 4:18 AM

    [...] I’m not sure what she did out in the Real World, but here in the blogosphere she wrote a Letter to Herself. It’s a great read for everyone, culminating in these words of wisdom: Don’t try to predict [...]

  25. Jon says:
    Mon Nov 28 2011 at 12:55 PM

    Oh, and happy belated bday!

  26. Julia says:
    Fri Dec 2 2011 at 8:36 PM

    Okay, I’m a little late, but Happy Birthday. That was a perfect letter to yourself and, I think you’ll find, you will write that same perfect letter every year. Because the lovely thing about dreams is that they are always one step ahead of us. And when you accomplish one thing, you look past that to the next dream.

    I hope, where ever you wander off to will include blogging. I love reading your posts (even if I am remiss in commenting) and always click on the bookmark with happy anticipation.

    Taylor who?

  27. Kristan says:
    Sat Dec 3 2011 at 5:45 PM

    Julia-
    “Because the lovely thing about dreams is that they are always one step ahead of us.”

    So true, so true. Thanks, Julia. :)

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