Yesterday was my birthday.
Yes, world. That’s right. I have made eighteen full circles around the sun, and according to the American government, that’s enough criteria to declare me an adult. It’s time to update my writer biography. It’s time to scare my friends and family with the fact that someone who flails as much as I do can obtain a driver’s license without taking driver’s ed. And it’s time to…keep not buying tobacco.
When my brother was nine years old, I was five. I was also five when I realized that he was the Guru On Top of the Mountain and the God of All That Is Awesome. My five-year-old mind identified these traits less with the fact that he was my brother and more with the fact that he was nine. Nine became my holy number. Contemplating turning nine almost made me wet my pants. To think—in just four years, I would know everything, too.
Whenever he laughed at something and I didn’t, we’d have this conversation:
“I don’t get it.”
“You’ll understand when you’re older.”
“Will I understand when I’m nine?”
But somehow that didn’t discourage me. The day before my ninth birthday, I thought if I stayed up until midnight, I’d be able to feel the knowledge flood my brain. Unfortunately, I drowsed off. In the morning, I tried to think back to all the grown-up things my brother had found hilarious. But I couldn’t even remember one.
I had turned nine and I wasn’t all-powerful.
It was almost as bad as my eleventh birthday, when my owl from Hogwarts got lost on the way. Luckily, only several years passed before Eragon. By that point, I had already decided I was a writing prodigy, and took great pleasure in disparaging the book while devouring it in secret.
“If I can just get published before I’m fifteen,” I used to tell my surprisingly tolerant friends, “I’ll be rich and famous, even if the book’s a mess.”
I started and abandoned a couple of ludicrous fantasy novels. Fifteen came and went. High school, IB, and the college search consumed me. I kept writing, but it was with a hint of manic desperation.
When I graduated middle school, I had sent a letter to my future self, to be opened when I graduated high school (“TOP SECRET!!! DO NOT OPEN UNTIL 2012!!!!!”). Last June, on the day of my commencement, I unsealed it with trepidation. This is what I expected:
If you are not yet published, you have failed me and all my dreams. If you are published, get back to work.
I expected whiny, I expected arrogant, I expected overambitious. Instead, I found a shy young girl, uncertain of what she wanted and uncertain of how to get there. I didn’t say a word about getting published. Instead, I told myself to keep on writing. I told myself to do my best.
And best of all, I told myself never to quit.