Dear Joss,

Happy birthday! I hope you’re having a wonderful time. I imagine you’re working, which is probably the most fun way you could envision spending a birthday. I might have a cupcake later on your behalf. We’ll see.

I just wanted to take a minute to outline the ways you’ve changed my life. I’ve been a fan of yours for about 28% of the time you’ve spent on this earth, and about 42% of the time I’ve spent on this earth, so I feel like you’ve had a pretty big influence on me. Here are some ways.

  1. You gave me something to sing about. Metaphorically, I mean. (Literally, too, every time I sing a song you wrote.) As a college freshman, I was deeply depressed and anxious. My primary response to this depression/anxiety was to vomit. After one particular bout of said vomiting, my then-boyfriend-now-husband gently said to me, "Come watch Buffy. It'll be fun." I did, he was right, and my life has been better ever since. I fondly wished, before that night, that I would just not wake up anymore. After that night, I wanted to live. Watching Buffy deal with all of the trauma of starting college made me feel less alone. Which brings me to the next way you've changed my life...
  2. You gave me many of my best friends. Joss, you know about the WB Bronze. You know that 1997-2001 was a beautiful time of deeply meaningful fan interaction there. You know that we all came together and raised money for the Make a Wish foundation. What you might not know is that these people are still my best friends. A little over a year ago, I got together with them and it was like coming home. These people get me in a way almost no other group has. (Librarians get me the same way.) And when I am dealing with life's miseries, they help me through it.
  3. You gave me a reason to travel. At 20 years old, I flew across the country to party with a bunch of virtual friends and RL strangers. And it was one of the best things I've ever done. Which is why I did it again at 21, 22, 28, and 31. Would I have ever been to LA if not for your work? Probably not, and that would be a shame, because it's one of the best places to be a tourist ever.
  4. You gave me a reason to get really good at working with websites, which led me to my current job. Would I be able to talk about CSS and web design and content management systems if I hadn't worked on and other fansites? Probably not.
  5. You gave me a purpose when my life was a mess. As a senior in college, I was in a rough place. My grades weren't great. My mom was really sick. I was, for the first time in my life, performing in a play where the other cast members made me feel actually disliked. But your show (Firefly) needed somebody to light a fire under its fans to get them talking about it, and I got to be that person. And it gave me something to focus on for literally years to come.
  6. You gave me great storytelling advice. Everything is about emotion and structure. Give even the most apparently insignificant character a reason to be there. Buy yourself chocolate just because you have the idea, before you've even done any writing. Via interviews and DVD commentaries, you consistently help me become a better writer and performer.
  7. You give me the feeling that everything you write is a gift just for me. Granted, I'm a narcissist, so I tend to think everything everyone does is done for me. But I'm pretty sure many of your fans feel this way. All of your work speaks so powerfully to the little details of existence, which I think makes it personal for everyone who loves it.

That’s 7 ways. I’m sure there are tons more. And I know I’m one of thousands (millions?) who feels so grateful to have been touched by your work.

So thanks, Joss.