Lillienne Zen
Vancouver, BC

Illustration by
Pik-Tone Fung

Dear 25-Year-Old Me,

Remember that list you wrote of everything you wanted to accomplish by the time you hit a quarter of a century? It was full of promising ambitions like becoming a gourmet cook, a thriving gardener, and an excellent driver—never mind your aversion to the kitchen, two distinctly black thumbs, and a phobia of running people over.

Good thing you lost that list a couple of years ago, eh? I’ve never liked the sound of disapproval inside my head and you probably don’t, either.

Because really—who cares if you don’t live up to the expectations of your younger self? You’ll have seen and done things that we never imagined, met friends in unexpected places, and had a few curveballs thrown your way. Who am I to tell you what you should or shouldn’t be like?

I do hope you’re happy though. It sounds old ladyish, but there really isn’t anything more important than being healthy and happy. I hope you spend time each day investing in the things that make you smile and thank your lucky stars for the beautiful life that you have. Like reading a good book. Eating something delicious. Meeting a friend for coffee. Travelling somewhere new.

A week ago, I had no idea where you were going to be on your 25th birthday. I wanted to tell you not to stress (we’ve always stressed too much, you and I), and not to compare yourself against your peers. We all have our own stories and challenges and what counts is whether you’re heading in the direction that is right for you. So:

Follow your fancies.

Blow bubbles at the bus stop.

Walk along the old train tracks.

Draw on the pavement with chalk.

Go to every single bakery in Vancouver and fulfil your quest of finding the best egg tarts in the city.

Have friends over to a potluck where all the food begins with ‘C’, just because.

If you listen to your heart on the little things, the big things will be easier to hear.


This week, I found out that you’re studying in London. So I need to write you a different letter to say:

  1. Congratulations! Again, because you don’t usually praise yourself. You took a chance, put yourself out there, and made one of your dreams come true. Good on you for trying.

  2. Give work and school your best shot, but never give up on food, sleep or exercise. These help you to be the best possible you (and will help your mother reduce her own anxiety levels).

  3. Enjoy where you are! I hope you’ve visited all the major museums, found a few favourite restaurants and bought a pair of winter boots you actually like. Go on literary walking tours and make a weekend getaway somewhere. You won’t be in London forever, so make the most of it.

  4. Relocating is hard. You know from experience that there will be some really, really bad days when you miss everyone you left behind, but there will also be good days. And in time, those good days will outweigh the bad ones by far. Just keep going.

Finally—Happy Birthday! Take the day off, eat cake, eat noodles, have a ball. You deserve it.

With love,

24-Year-Old You

June 2013