Walking away from 24.

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I spent my 24th birthday drugged up and crying as a dentist told me he would have to wait a week to give me a root canal.  I envisioned myself, within the folds of that one week, delivering my TED talk in New York City, slurring from the Vicodin and whimpering through the searing pain as I tried to muster up some sound sentence about connection in the digital age.

That dentist was a liar. He’s going to Tooth Fairy Hell (convinced!). And thankfully we found another dentist who would give me a root canal the very next day instead of making me stumble blearingly into New York City with a mail crate, a dream, and a toothache.

Tomorrow I am planning to wake up, brush my teeth good, and have a better birthday than last year. It won’t be too hard.

I turn 25 tomorrow.

Anyone who knows me is aware that this is the age I walked out of the womb looking forward to. It’s quite possible that my first coherent sentence at the age of three was, “Mom, when will I turn 25?” I have no reason why. There’s nothing that I deem to be extremely special about 25. I already had my “quarter-life crisis” at age 19 so that cannot be it. But I’ve just always wanted to be this age, I have just always thought it might be a really special year. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Always with birthdays, I always saddle this great pressure on my shoulders to share what the year has meant to me. To pluck out the pearls of agey wisdom.  Or tell you that the days were worth it. That I think the past 365 slivers of time were really, really wonderful.

And they have been. Of all the teachers in my life, the age of 24 might go down in history as one of the very best ones. She was hard on me. She was good to me. She definitely made sure my head kept spinning, and my feet kept moving, and my heart kept re-scripting its own beat because the slow, slow thud of a normal ticker could never match or mirror the quickened pace I felt all year as dream after dream came true.

24 was the year of leaping.

It was the year of learning that you cannot sit idly and wait for life to work itself out. When you’ve uncovered an issue, when you’ve found the dampened piece of the puzzle that no longer fits in the corner like it used to, you’ve got to cut something completely new out. Reshape it all, baby. You’ve got to point yourself in a new direction. You have to have the courage to go for something you said you always wanted.

Quitting my job, just one week after my 24th birthday, was the most unsettling and yet peace-driven decision of my life. I was walking away from a stable salary and benefits in to an unstable economy but I was walking in the full confidence that my dream job would only poke her head from around the corner if only I stepped out to follow her.


24 was a year of learning how to guard things more carefully.

My stories. My heart. My spirit in a world that will suck anyone dry tomorrow with lackluster routines. 24 was a year of learning that not every guy will offer the rose and not every man who shows up at the forefront of your life is deserving of your heart. You’ve got to be careful with that one. Once you go giving out pieces of your heart, it gets harder and harder to pull them back in.

24 was a year of learning that it’s ok to be single. There’s actually a single girl swag that comes out from hiding when you learn that you’re powerful on your own. You’re capable on your own. You’re a pretty flipping awesome person on your own and when a man comes along, and he’s lucky enough to have your heart, he will be the solid addition to someone who has already learned to be pretty amazing independently. 24 was a year of learning that settling can never be an option. The section it becomes an option, the second it slips closer to knocking on the door you’ve every intention to open.


24 was a year of testing faith and finding surrender.

It was a year that would have never been steady without faith bigger than my own body that a God far bigger than this tiny world would show up and push me where I needed to be. It was a year of giving things up for Him. Of letting “self” fall into the background to embrace a new purpose and plan. His plan was greater than mine. His hope for my life was more brilliant than mine.

24 was a year of falling in love and falling into rhythm with my own calling. I learned that anything– a passion, a job, a dream, a vocation– must be courted steadily. It must be tended to. It must be watered. It must be remembered. It will demand longer hours. It will cry to you late at night. It will push you, and make you cancel plans, and scream until it gets it way. But it will help you change the world. And it will instill you with a message that is far greater than yourself.


24 was a year of finding cheerleaders who never think to make you change or sacrifice who you really are.

At the start of November, I began the search to find a literary agent who fit me like a lace glove. On a whim, I queried to an agent I’ve admired all my literary life and she came back to me in two hours ready to see if we might be a fit. In the end, it was my writing style that never spoke to her and she told me, “You go out there and you find a cheerleader who is absolutely relentless for you. And I will be waiting to see your book on the shelves.”

I found that cheerleader. And she keeps me focused daily on finding the others to surround myself with who only have good intentions and bright hopes for me. They are the ones who challenge you because you are deserving it. And they keep you grounded and humble through all the longer days. 24 was a year of learning that I don’t have room in my life for anything but those people. Those people who don’t care about my success in the way they’re relentless for my heart.


24 was a year of breaking off.

Little by little, breaking off all the parts of me that no longer fit or no longer could serve the world. It was the year of learning that life is too short to stand around and pray that maybe one day you’ll wake up and be the person you’ve always wanted to be. That has to start with you. And in you. And it has to start sooner, rather than later. 24 was chipping away at the exterior with a chisel and refocusing on the the things of the inner: faith. decency. dignity. humility. trust. passion. forgiveness.

24 was a year of learning that things break all the time. And you’ve got to be willing to take a break when your body is spent and your soul is tired and your eyes are glazed over from looking at a computer screen for too long. Breaking is necessary for the refueling of your spirit and centering once again so you can better serve the world. & be a bright light within it.

25 will be a year of celebration.

A year of dancing in the aftermath of what 24 gave to me. 25 will be a year of hustling harder than ever before but sucking in the joy deep, like a curly straw stuck in the thick of a cookies & cream milkshake. 25 will be a year of breaking the rules (or at least the rules I’ve still left intact). It will be a year of testing limits. And pushing forward. And seeing more miracles than ever before. 25 will be a year filled with the spirit of relentless and oozing with the potential of greater things yet to come.

25 will be a good, good year. Just you watch and see.

20 thoughts on “Walking away from 24.

  1. Beautiful post. I can relate to much of what you express here, especially about letting go of the pieces that are no longer working to find our true passions and reshape our lives completely. So hard to do, and so important. Happy early birthday — hope year 25 is a magnificent one!

  2. Bwahahahaha. I haven’t even finished reading yet and I had to comment about the “quarter-life crisis at 19” because I too had that crisis. I cried for 2 weeks, an asst. manager of a photography studio, with employees older than I was. They all told me to suck it up, I couldn’t! It was the last year I’d be a teenager! WAAAAAAA….now looking back I’m laughing, crying laughing that you reminded me of that silliness. Thank you for the laugh.

  3. Hoping your birthday, and your 25 th year is filled with surprises and dreams you may have not even dared to dream yet! Happy celebrating!! 🙂

  4. Happy Birthday Hannah!

    All years are good. They are all part of the adventure of living without a net. That’s the only way to go. You are awake and that’s the best gift you can get on your birthday.

    Find your own way through life, make your own path, walk your own path. It will be scary, and energized and fun and exhausting, but it will be yours.

    The twenties can be a tough decade when you’re going through them (but not in retrospect) because we’ve been thoroughly trained to go for a life that doesn’t exist, that wouldn’t make us happy even if it did. You’ll spend the next several decades breaking free of this fantasy McLife folks have trained you for, which you’ve already done by quitting your job without another one.

    You’ll find the guy you want to hang out with for the long term when you are ready. The pressure is on to find a mate and it’s god awful, not to mention the stupidest thing we do to young women. Just live your true life and he’ll come waltzing by when you are not looking for him. Go on as many adventures as you can.

    Please check out the Skirt! essay I wrote about 8 years ago, Guys, Dolls and Gardening Gloves.


    Enjoy G.

  5. Reading your words always fills me with such joy–they are so heartfelt and relatable, and you feel like a kindred soul. I’m six months into 24 and working with a life coach to confidently step into my dream, hopefully by 25, so reading your story is always an encouraging nudge, a place where I feel understood and hopefully. Thank you so much, Hannah, for doing what you do. I hope 25 is all you’ve ever dreamt of, and more–happy birthday!

  6. “It was the year of learning that you cannot sit idly and wait for life to work itself out. When you’ve uncovered an issue, when you’ve found the dampened piece of the puzzle that no longer fits in the corner like it used to, you’ve got to cut something completely new out. Reshape it all, baby. You’ve got to point yourself in a new direction. You have to have the courage to go for something you said you always wanted.”

    Boom. Exactly what I’ve been thinking about all week. Reshape it all, baby. I love that. and I’ve been digging around for courage and coming up with scraps all week so that I could do this. It’s hard. Especially when people don’t understand or you just have to leave people with their questions, knowing you can’t please them all… and it’s not always about having the answers.

    Love this post. Thank you for sharing. Cheers to 25.

  7. I have no doubt that 25 will be a good, good year for you! And to honor you yet again, I will include the song I spontaneously wrote for you on Twitter (in a 7-part tweet).

    ACTION REQUIRED: You must sing the following words, to any upbeat tune that pops into your head (clapping and dancing is also recommended):

    Happy happy birthday to Miss Hannah Hannah Brencher, she’s the cutest little letter-loving, love-lettering human being, who has a very special song, to celebrate her awesomeness, and we are all so very blessed, to get to know her heart of gold, of which she wears upon her sleeve, and I could sing this all day long, but think I should just end it here, so with a bit of birthday cheer, we love you Hannah–you’re the best, we wish you love and happiness!

    Birthday hugs and hi-fives,
    Wendy (and your little Maui MLL Crusaders)

  8. Happy Birthday Hannah! =)

    Thank you for sharing the lessons 24 taught you…many of them are useful to me as I’m seeing these same lessons come to play in my life, at 21.

  9. Happy Birthday! You’ve already given the world such a great gift with the More Love Letters movement – I can’t wait to see what you come up with NEXT!!

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