Here we are, at the end of another trip around the sun. It’s been a whirlwind year that doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
Last summer, I was focused on getting all my ducks in a row for my last semester of graduate school. I was getting new roommates, and preparing to start a new job at a bookstore, which was the most exciting thing ever. Fast forward to October, and two of my grandparents were in and out of the hospital. I finished my master’s degree in December, only to promptly slip on ice and take a fall down my front steps the next morning on my way out to work. An afternoon in the ER, five weeks of being house bound, and another three of physical therapy kept me down for the count through the beginning of 2020. In mid-January I lost my grandfather, and traveled down to be with my family for the funeral on the weekend before I returned to work. I had only been back at work for about six weeks when the bookstore closed and put us all on furlough for safety due to COVID-19. In May, graduation was cancelled. At the end of June, I was officially laid off from the bookstore due to COVID-19 financial strains and being one of the lowest people on the proverbial ladder. So far, I have spent more than half of 2020 in my house. It’s been weird to say the least. Here’s hoping I can at least do something productive with the second half of the year.
Looking at my list of goals for my 27th year, it doesn’t look like I got very far, but I guess that’s to be expected given how deep in focus I was during grad school and then how home bound I’ve been since. I got into better shape, but that was only after I really hurt myself. Expect a whole post soon about my post-accident fitness journey. Being stuck at home in a pandemic has enabled me to be more conscious of my nutrition, but that’s also something that I’ll need to keep working on. Writing is hard under normal circumstances, but I definitely hit a wall during quarantine. No fiction, no book reviews, nothing. Even reading was hard for a while. I did manage to complete two outlines last fall though, so hopefully I can turn those into full drafts this year. Things like buying a car, saving for travel, and paying off some of my student loans have to be pushed to a back burner while I find a new job, but thankfully the government has cancelled loan interest and payments until the end of September due to the pandemic. My roommates and I are still hunting for the right cat for us, but we’re hoping to find one soon.
So, what does all of that mean for the next year? It means I still have a lot of work to do. My “Theme of the Year” is Further Reading Required, because I want to keep inspiring myself to dig deeper, do more research, more learning, more exploring of myself and society. I need to take what I wanted to get done last year and bring that with me, while also continuing to push forward and weave in new skills and routines. Here’s what that’s going to look like.
TOTY 28 Goals: 1. Practice, Practice, Practice. There are a couple things I want to learn to do this year. ● Learn to do crossword puzzles. ● Learn to skateboard. ● Re-learn to play guitar. ● Learn more about nutrition and practice my cooking and baking skills. ● Learn more about personal finance. ● Learn more website design. 2. Continue to work on strength and fitness. 3. Finish at first draft manuscript by the end of August, and at least two (2) more first drafts in the next year. I’d also like to complete two (2) more outlines, and solid second draft of the manuscript I’ll be finishing in August. 4. Educate myself better on human rights issues, specifically starting with racism and white supremacy. The current Black Lives Matter movement and my experience working through Layla F. Saad’s Me and White Supremacy has helped me to see that I am not supporting Black authors, or my Black friends and acquaintances as much as I can be, so I’m committing to reading at least two books every month by Black authors, one fiction and one non-fiction, for at least the next year. I’ve already added the following to my list, but I welcome any recommendations! **Apologies for the present lack of accented letters. WordPress keeps deleting them, but I am working on a solution.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James She Would Be King by Wayetu Moore Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron Unraveling by Karen Lord Queen of The Conquered by Kacen Callender Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope Lost Gods by Micah Yongo The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare Red at the Bone by Jaqueline Woodson The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson Becoming by Michelle Obama The Immortal Life Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot Good Talk by Mira Jacob So You Want to Talk Race by Ijeoma Olou Why I am No Longer talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead Between the World and Me by Ta-Hehisi Coates The Autbiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X/Alex Haley The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindess by Michelle Alexander The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race by Jesmyn Ward The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates Jr.
I hope that by working toward these goals I grow into a better person than I am today. I hope I find new interests and rediscover old hobbies. I hope I continue to grow in understanding and love for myself. I hope that I become better educated about society and continue to speak up for those that cannot, and amplify the voices of those who can. I also hope I have really good news to share in the next year, because the world could always use more good news.
Thank you for reading my Theme of the Year post, as you all do every year. I know they’re sometimes hokey, but I find that they really set the tone for my year and help keep me accountable throughout the next 365 days. Talk soon.
You might think this title is cheesy, but I love it, and it’s my opinion that counts the most after all.
I turn 27 today, and I’m set to graduate with my Master’s Degree in December (I’ll walk the stage in May, 2020). This is a big year. And I have a lot of big goals I want to accomplish.
There’s a catchphrase I’ve been thinking about for well over a year, that I think sums up my ideas perfectly. It’s from Ashley Poston’s Once Upon A Con series, wherein there’s a mock-conglomerate version of Star Wars/Star Trek/Firefly/Stargate/etc… that’s called Starfield, and it’s tagline is “Look to the stars. Aim. Ignite.” I want that kind of bravery in my life, so I’m adopting it as my theme for the year. Anything is possible, you just have to work for it. So, logically, if anything is possible, why not aim for the stars?
Here are some of my long-term goal for the next year:
1 – Get a Full-Time Job in Publishing.
This summer and fall I will be relentless in the search for a full-time position somewhere in publishing. I know that I want to stay in Boston for as long as possible, and that I don’t want to be in sales or marketing, but I will take just about anything else that will pay me a living wage and give me health insurance. I don’t mean that to sound like I don’t care what job I have, it’s just that I love so many aspects of publishing that I would be pretty thrilled to work anywhere in the industry.
2 – Get in Shape.
I’m over being weak and tired all the time. After my friend’s wedding at the end of June it took me days to recover, and the leg I messed up two years ago is still a little stiff. I’m ready to be in shape again like I was when I ran track in high school. I’m determined to get into some actual strength training this year. To that end, I did my first workout in almost ten years this morning! Big shout-out to my baby sis for writing me up a workout schedule to ease me back in to the practice.
3 – Eat Well.
Now that I no longer have night classes, I’m determined to set up an actual meal schedule and cook 4-5 nights a week, eating out only on the weekends.
4 – Sleep Well.
Again, no more night classes means I can go to bed by 10pm and get up at 5:30 or 6am and actually start my day nice and slow, the way I would prefer to, with yoga, reading, and journaling.
5 – Finish a Manuscript.
I’m determined to finish at least one MS this year, ideally two. This time next year I don’t need to be in a place where I can begin submitting to agents and publishers, but I think it will be at least a great learning experience to finish writing a book.
6 – Buy a Car.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that a tree fell on my car 18 months ago, and not having one has made it increasingly harder and more expensive to visit my family and friends, not to mention get a job. I’m hoping to be able to afford a used car by this time next summer, maybe a Prius like the one I had (I fit an entire Ikea ‘Billy’ Bookshelf in there once! In a flat-pack, but still!), or something else that gets great gas mileage because my family is pretty spread out. Send me your car suggestions!
7 – Get a Cat.
While I love all of my friends’ pets, I dearly miss having a pet of my own, and I’d like to adopt a cat sometime next year once my financials stabilize. I do also love dogs, but as a new professional I don’t think I’ll be home enough to give it adequate exercise, nor would I necessarily be able to afford regular doggie daycare/dogwalker/petsitter.
8 – Pay Off $8,000.00 of My Student Loan Debt.
My goal is to be debt-free by 35, so I’m hoping to get a jump on it and pay down my principles and avoid as much interest as possible. $8,000 in a year would require me to pay $667 each month – which should be doable once I get a full-time job and probably give up most of my coffee and eating out regularly.
9 – Save for Travel.
My friends and I are planning to go to Ireland next summer, once we’ve all graduated. I’ve never been overseas, and my friends and I all have Irish heritage, so we’re desperate to visit. Flights from Boston aren’t bad either, it’s cheaper than flying to the West Coast. Aside from paying down my debt and saving for a car, this should be my only big-ticket item for the year.
. . .
Aiming for the stars, to me, means putting aside my fears and worries and attacking my goals with renewed fervor. It doesn’t mean ignoring that part of me that always says “but what if everything goes wrong? Will I be okay?” and instead acknowledging it quickly and moving on, knowing that I will be okay and charging ahead into the unknown with a sense of peace that only comes from being okay with failing and having to start over and try again and again until something sticks. It’s simultaneously my greatest strength and my greatest weakness. The worrying makes me a great Mom-friend, a wonderful people-manager, and good judge of character, but it also holds me back from a lot of adventures and opportunities because I need to sit and weigh out all the options. The goal is not to stop doing that – that would be out of character for me completely – but to do it faster and more efficiently, to be more decisive, to start setting better boundaries on my private time and become stronger in my arguments, and to be a little more relaxed and go-with-the-flow rather than always worried about where my next step needs to be. I’m excited to see what the future holds for me at 27.
If being 26 ended up being about getting back to a sense of balance and keeping my head above water, 27 will be about blowing everything out of that water. Leaving my retail job and taking a part-time gig at a local coffee shop was the best decision I could have made this winter. I’m finally almost caught up on sleep and am finding time to read and write for pleasure again. It’s life-changing. I’m no longer volunteering at the yoga studio, but I’m trying to actually attend more yoga classes or do yoga at home. I’m focused on my health and am eating better, though still not cooking as much as I would like. I’m shopping less and more intentionally, and I’m focused on saving for the important things. I’m so proud of what I’ve accomplished this year, and my hope is that this year will be just a drop in the ocean of awesome that my 27th year will bring. Here’s to my sixth year of blogging and sharing my favorite books and life-changing moments with you all. I can’t wait!
It’s about time I brought back my monthly goals and updates posts and what better way to start than by looking back over the last six months and forward to the next six!
Since my birthday in July, I’ve tried to live healthy, wealthy, and wise. And it’s been difficult. My schedule at work was always very helter-skelter. When I wasn’t attempting to catch up on sleep, I was working furiously on my homework. On paper, the scheduling should have worked out. Most full-time jobs are at least 40 hours/week, and 8 hours of class/week is not all that much. To many, five hours of sleep and plenty of coffee is just normal, or even better than normal. But for me it was hell. I am someone who probably shouldn’t be drinking coffee at all, and there is just no amount of coffee that will make me as functional as real sleep can.
Walking away was not an easy decision. I enjoyed my job most days, and I liked the majority of the people I worked with too. But then my physical health became a real question without a real answer. I was only hitting one of my three goals. There was nothing healthy or wise about my job’s effect on my life. As a graduate student, I needed (No. NEED) to be working internships and segueing full-time into my field of study: Publishing. So, I did the healthy and wise thing. I quit my job. Yes, I was terrified. It was a solid position that paid my rent. But I’m excited about some announcements I get to make soon. Don’t worry about me. These next six months are going to be amazing. Hard, yes, but amazing.
In the last six months, I’ve seen my brother marry the love of his life, I’ve taken two amazing classes for graduate school, moved in with two fantastic roommates, started playing Dungeons and Dragons again, started reading regularly again, and built a little home for myself in Boston.
Aside from a new job with better hours, I have a lot of things coming up in 2019. I’m starting my last year of graduate school, and one of my best friends is tying the knot at the end of June. Siblings and cousins are graduating college in May, and I have a few trips lined up to some pretty cool places and events. Most of all, I want to take more chances and not let fear hold me back.
Goals for 2019
I want to tighten my budget on most things so I can spend money where it matters. On experiences.
I don’t necessarily mean money. I mean creatively. I want to write more. I want to edit more. I want to make more dinners at home. I want to crochet more and complete a few other crafts I have sitting around unfinished.
Take More Chances.
I want to go after more things that scare me; apply for things even when I feel like I don’t have a shot in the dark of getting them.
Today is a few days after my 26th birthday, and I am sitting in a Starbucks tearing up as I read my old TOTY posts. These yearly summaries serve as such a huge reminder of everything I’ve accomplished, and just how much has changed over the past four years. This will be my fifth consecutive year of blogging, and probably my fifteenth year since I started messing around with the idea of having a blog and playing with Blogger, WordPress, and Wix. I’ve loved long-form writing for a long time, and it amazes me that I have the freedom to do something like this every day. Of course, it’s been a bit of a struggle keeping up here over the last year, but there are some wonderful reasons for that.
I am attending Emerson College for graduate school in publishing and writing. You all helped me get here by reading this blog and encouraging me to follow my dreams. It’s a lot of work, but I am adoring every second of it! I have met wonderful, interesting, inspiring women who I might even go so far as to call bosom friends. I have had some spectacular professors who have helped shape my image of what the publishing world is and is not, and have pushed me to trust my instincts and pursue my passions. I have learned an incredible amount, and that was only the first year! I still have three semesters left to soak up as much as I can, and I am beyond grateful to be able to be here now.
Last September I moved out of my Uncle and Aunt’s house and into a rented room. It’s not my first time in an apartment – I lived in two apartments during undergrad – but it is the first apartment I’ve had where I have my own room and the first place I’ve paid for completely on my own. To pay for it, I took an assistant supervisor position at a large retail store, where I work 40+ hours a week in addition to going to 8 hours of class and doing 6+ hours of homework. I haven’t had a lot of time to look for a corporate job or an internship, but I haven’t given up. There are a couple very cool opportunities on the horizon that I am aiming for!
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while now, you know that school + work = not enough things to keep me motivated. This has led to me sleeping a lot, which has been necessary with my crazy work schedule, but not productive or overall healthy for my life. I’m hoping to hone my daily schedule this year to make room for what matters most – family, health, and writing.
Speaking of health, mine has been a roller coaster this year. Last June I started Accutane for my acne, and after almost nine months had clear skin for the first time in almost eight years. I had forgotten how good my skin looked when it was clear, and while the acne had never really hurt my image of myself, having clear skin definitely improved my confidence. It’s almost like I didn’t realize how awesome of a woman I had grown into until the acne cleared up. Like wiping off the grime of adolescence to see clearly the woman growing underneath. My acne didn’t make me feel bad, but it did keep me trapped in that ‘not a girl, not yet a woman’ stage of life that I was craving an escape from.
On my first day of work at my retail job in October, I sprained my foot at the bottom of my apartment stairs and ended up at the hospital for myself for the first time since I was born. I was bedridden for a week, had crutches for a month after that, and wasn’t allowed to run or do strenuous activities for six months after that.
I got off my crutches just in time for my first Black Friday in retail, and all of the new germs I was around 40 hours a week finally caught up with me. Thankfully, my store had a very quiet Black Friday, because the cold I caught robbed me of my voice for a week and it would have been a nightmare. I am beyond thankful for small miracles.
My six months without exercise ended just about the same time I was finally in the clear post-Accutane. My foot still aches occasionally, and my alcohol tolerance is crap because I wasn’t allowed to drink on the Accutane. It also took longer to finish the Accutane (about nine months vs six) because I had to stop taking it while I was on painkillers for my foot. Organs are precious, and I didn’t want to put mine at risk by pumping them full of chemicals.
Cut to about a month ago, when I traveled to Boise, Idaho to visit one of my best friends in the whole world, Jordan. This girl was my radio show co-host in college and has since become part of my family (seriously, we bring her on family-only trips because she blends in as one of us despite being the only redhead). She flew up to Boston last September to help me move into my apartment, and I cried when she moved across the country in January. I flew out there to spend the week between our birthdays together, and it was simply wonderful.
We spent most of the week in various pools, waterparks, and rivers because it was topping 100 degrees and we were super pale. For once, we were on our sunscreen game and avoided getting sunburn. I have my first tan in three years. I spent quiet mornings on her balcony reading and listening to podcasts (I’ll share my favorites soon!), and we explored the city with her local friends (who are just lovely and I miss them already!) late into the evening because the sun doesn’t set until 10:30pm in the treasure valley. We rounded off the week with my first hike since moving to Boston, climbing Table Rock (follow the link for trail map!), which is 900ft above Boise’s already 2,600 ft elevation. My poor body is used to Boston’s whopping >50ft above sea level, and reaching the top of Table Rock (3,500 ft) was a struggle. It was worth it for the accomplishment and the views of the city and valley, ringed in rolling mountains, but oh boy did I feel it the next day.
The cold I caught in Idaho was nearly but not quite gone when I flew back east a few days later, and I ended up with an ear infection and just two weeks remaining on my parent’s health insurance. Cue more little miracles. I tried to take it slow, which is why this post didn’t go up on my birthday like it usually does.
Just as I was recovering from the ear infection, I went home for my soon-to-be sister-in-law’s bridal shower and wasn’t feeling too well. After yet another last-minute doctor’s appointment, I found out I also had strep, so now I’m on medication for that as well. I cannot tell you how thankful I am that all of this happened while I was on my parent’s health plan. To be fair though (in the long list of small miracles in my life) I was able to sign up for my graduate school’s student health care plan until I graduate. God is so, so good y’all.
I’m back from vacation and back at work, which right now is mostly training some new assistant supervisors, but I am trying to appreciate the methodicalness of it all as I prepare for my second year of graduate school to begin. Before classes start up again, I will be moving into a new apartment that includes a real kitchen and living room, and yet somehow costs less than what I am currently paying. How I found it beats me. (again, small miracles!)
I’ll be living with a few of my classmates, and I am beyond excited to be A – living with friends rather than strangers, and B – living with these friends who I can be completely myself with, whether that’s loud, quiet, happy, or sad. I think it is one of life’s biggest gifts to live somewhere you can relax and unwind and be your authentic self without having to monitor what you do or say or worry about offending someone just by living your life. These girls inspire me to do my best, but they also encourage me to take time to process life and be my true introverted self. I am so blessed to have them.
Starting my second year/third semester of graduate school means I finally know what’s coming and can build a schedule around it. I know my general work schedule, and my class schedule, so I can plan writing time around them, and even *gasp* make time for a bit of working out.
In June of this year, my co-worker/friend Patricia and I signed up for a month of Yoga classes, and I fell in love with it. Two weeks ago I met with one of the studio managers where we attend classes and signed up for their Seva program. I’ll be volunteering there a few hours a week to help keep the studio running smoothly! This particular program includes free access to a few classes in exchange for my volunteering, which is just beyond amazing, but I would probably do the program even without that carrot. I always have a craving to help ‘mother’ people and organizations, and I so rarely have the opportunity to feed that craving.
Yoga has been even more life-changing than I imagined. It is simultaneously harder and easier than I thought it would be, but the inner peace that I find in the practise is another one of those small miracles I’ve been experiencing all year.
This brings our total of ‘things Amanda does’ to three. Why stop there?
My theme for this year is Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise like the Benjamin Franklin quote, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” I’ve had that quote taped to my childhood bedroom wall for years, but I noticed it for the first time in forever last time I was at my parents’ house. It’s been floating through my subconscious ever since, and it finally occurred to me last month that that’s what I’ve been searching for. During my vacation, I took some time to sit with my thoughts and see what bubbled to the surface, and I came up with a few truths about myself I haven’t been acknowledging lately.
I am a morning person. My days are best when I get up before 7am and go to bed around 10pm.
I thrive on having too much to do because it forces my brain into organization mode. I was at peak working ability when I was working 4-5 positions and attending undergraduate classes my senior year, and again when I had to schedule my writing time around my cousin’s nap schedule as a nanny. I thrive on slim-to-no time, and I am very good when I am down to the wire. When I don’t have enough to do I procrastinate, and things fall to the wayside and get forgotten easily.
I need to mother. Whether it’s a person or a company, I need to get into the nitty-gritty of what’s going on and fix it, whether physically or through advice. I’ve had a ton of people tell me over the last year that I give great advice, so I guess it’s about time I embrace the title of advice giver and own up to my need to fix things. I will continue to endeavor not to smother people, but also to help them be their best selves through self-care and organization.
These revelations led me to create a list of things I want to accomplish this year, each of which falls under healthy, wealthy, or wise.
Under the Healthy category, we have the following tasks:
#1 – Do Yoga Every Day.
I’ve been following Yogi Rachel Brathen for… Well, probably longer than this blog has existed, to be completely transparent, and I’ve always been fascinated by the practice of yoga. My mother has the cold, hard proof in the form of a VHS copy of Yoga for Dummies from probably 2002 that I used to use! It’s taken me sixteen long years, but I’ve finally caught the yoga bug and I don’t plan on letting go of it any time soon.
#2 – Get Eight Hours of Sleep Each Night.
Sleep is the most important thing you can do for yourself. My current job has my sleep schedule all over the place. Most recently in June, there was a fortnight where I fell asleep between 2am and 5am on any given day. It was trippy. As a morning person, working late night hours isn’t good for my creative side or my health, but until I find something 9-5, my sleep schedule is something I need to be proactive about and focused on if I want to avoid getting sick again.
#3 – Cook Three Nights a Week.
The new apartment I am moving into in September has a full kitchen, so I’ll actually have space to spread out and make a full meal – with side dishes – to fix my diet, which has been minor meal prepping and a lot of sandwiches over the last year. If I get a more normal job, I’ll be home for dinner most nights and can actually take advantage of the new kitchen!
For Wealthy, I came up with:
#4 – Shop Small.
I want to only shop in used and vintage clothing stores this year. Not only will this help confine my spending, but used and discount clothing hunting is a skill I think everyone should perfect at some point in their lives. By hunting for clothes that come from across multiple years, I think I’ll finally start to build a personal style rather than jumping on whatever the current trend is. I’m excited to see where this resolution takes me.
I also want to only shop indie and used bookstores this year. This is a goal every year but at some point, I end up in Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million spending money like water. Canceling my B&N membership card didn’t help, I just pay full price now. To combat my horrible book-buying habit, I am going to attempt to go on a 98% book ban this year. Meaning I will do everything in my power not to buy or acquire any new books and to solely use my library card. Unless there is something I am dying to the read and none of the local libraries will stock it for me.
#5 – Save Money.
As I continue my Master’s program, I can feel my loan payments creeping up on me, just waiting for graduation to pounce. I also have a million other things I want to be able to do over the next few years – weddings to attend, overseas trips I want to take, writing staycations, book conventions, etc. To combat all of this, I am going to attempt to curb my general spending (and my eat-out budget) so that I can save at least $400 each month.
– $100 for my emergency fund
– $100 for my loan fund
– $100 for my weddings fund
– $100 for my travel fund.
If this means I have to cut even my book budget and only get books from the library, I will suck it up. It’ll pay off in the end, right? The only things that make you richer by spending money are books and travel, so I’m just trading one for the other. Library cards let me have my cake and eat it too.
#6 – Pursue Passions.
This year I want to focus on what matters most. In the job sense, that means being aggressive and going after those competitive internships and positions that I’m afraid I won’t qualify for. I need to have courage like the Gryffindor I am and charge at my fears head on if I want to overcome them. I can’t just sit around and wait for fate to do its thing when I have the power to help it along in the direction I want so desperately to go. I can do this by grabbing every freelance opportunity I see and giving it 100%, allowing it to build up my writing resume for more permanent positions. This will also up my ‘things Amanda does’ count, which will help me be more productive overall.
And finally, for the Wise category:
#7 – Write more.
It probably won’t be every day, because I’ve never been able to keep that promise, but I want to write for myself more regularly than I do now. Blog posts, book reviews, short stories off the top of my head, work towards completing one of the numerous longer-form things I have in the works – I really want to have something I can show people and be able to say “Hey look what I can do!” or “Here’s how I write, take a look!”. I spend so much of my imagination in my head that it never makes it onto the page, and people only know I write at all when they read this site or ask me about my writing and I go down a rabbit hole of explaining my characters and their motivations.
I really want to attempt writing short stories this year. I have a habit of starting and not finishing novels, and I think it will be an interesting exercise in editing myself to try a short-form story. I need to learn how to describe things succinctly, instead of letting the world building run off with my plot. I feel like it’s time to start leaving my mark on the world, and this is how I want to start doing it.
#8 – Become more business literate.
Through podcasts, workshops, webinars, and online classes, I want to educate myself about how to run an actual business, so that I can manage my freelancing and my soon-to-be crushing debt in the best ways I can. This includes learning about advertising and marketing, finance, and SEO.
#9 – Pursue Peace, Grace, and Simplicity.
Through it all, I want to focus on cultivating grace, not perfection. I want and need to organize my life in little ways to make a big impact. I’m taking Emily Ley’s advice and running with it. After reading her book Grace, Not Perfection last year, I am inspired to read her A Simplified Life, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, and Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect. All three promise to be inspiring.
This year, I want to learn to have patience and grace with myself and others. I want to focus less on what the world thinks of me and more on what I could be doing for the world while taking the best care of myself. I want to reach for the stars but in order to get there, I need to build a solid catapult, or a ladder, or a tower. Clearly, I am not an engineer, but you get it. I can’t get anywhere without a solid foundation, and that foundation has to be me.
Here’s to my fifth year of blogging. I am so looking forward to all of the cool things I will accomplish and experience this year, and I hope you will join me on this journey.
Yesterday in church, a visiting priest spoke to us about how this week is Vocation Awareness Week. It was perfect timing because I’ve been questioning everything lately.
Grad school is going well, but whether it’s because I’m only taking two classes a semester, or because a lot of the publishing material is the same as what I covered studying broadcasting, public relations, and general communications during my days as an undergraduate, I realized last week that I am profoundly bored. I know, I’m as horrified at the prospect as you are. Mostly, I can’t figure out what, aside from teacher insight, I’m getting out of the classes that I couldn’t get on my own. Graduate school isn’t worth it just for the degree and the name of the school on my resume.
When I was first earning my bachelor’s degree, I was convinced that the right school on my resume was my ticket to the Best Job Ever. After transferring to a smaller school and getting a better education there, I realized how ridiculous that idea was. It’s never been about the school name, it’s always been about what I can learn from the program. That’s why I chose Emerson College. It is supposed to be the best graduate publishing program in the country, taught by current professionals, and my ticket into the industry through networking.
I am enjoying my copyediting class, but that’s because the teacher makes it interesting, and the textbooks are a little dry for me to work through on my own. We also have to take overview classes in book, e-book, and magazine publishing. I was assigned to take magazine publishing this semester, and it is almost exactly the same as three different classes I had to take for my bachelor’s. The teacher is lovely, but the material is nothing new. We also have to do interviews with magazine professionals for this class, and for all of my googling/emailing/twittering/calling, I have yet to get a response from anyone I have reached out to. And the lack of interviews, even though I don’t have control over that, actually affects my grades, which is just terrible and makes me incredibly sad.
So, what am I getting out of graduate school? The truth is, I don’t know. My apartment lease is good through August, so I am going to keep at it for another semester and try to take more classes in book publishing specifically, but if it doesn’t get any more interesting then I don’t see the point in sinking myself into more student debt if I don’t need to.
I spoke to an associate editor back in September at the Boston Teen Author Fest, and while she has a master’s in publishing, she said that if she could go back and do it over, she wouldn’t. She would apply directly to internships instead and get involved in the industry that way. Because you can get as educated as you want, but at the end of the day, the industry is small and the only way in is to know people who will want to hire you. Every day that I’m bored with my classes I feel her advice more strongly.
If I choose not to stick with graduate school, the next question becomes, of course, whether I want to try for internships here in Boston, or in New York City? My parents live about 90-minutes from NYC, so moving back in with them would make it possible for me to work a part-time job locally and go into the city a couple days a week for an internship.
On the other hand, I love Boston. I feel at home here, and I rarely feel at home 5+ hours away from my parents. Maybe it’s because I have family nearby if I need them? My aunt, uncle, and cousin live here, and my great aunt and a slew of second cousins live just north of the city.
In 2015, I traveled to Portland, Oregon, for a public relations conference and fell in love with the city. My favorite parts were the lack of nightlife and the abundance of green space. It felt like coming home, except it was on the other side of the country. That’s what it felt like moving to Boston. There are parks everywhere here, and New England is almost as friendly as the Pacific Northwest. I have a profound desire to live within walking distance of bookstores, coffee shops, and museums, and I have that here in addition to a church I really like. This city is huge, but at the same time, it is incredibly small. There is a reason the Boston Marathon starts in another town. The entirety of Boston proper is maybe three miles by five miles, and the extended Boston Area is about ten miles by twelve miles. There is always something going on, and that drives my curiosity and my imagination constantly to new heights.
Moving back home requires me to give up all of the coffee shops, bookstores, museums, and my church, and moving near New York City would require me to give up all of my parks and outdoor space as well as my church community. I am at an impossible crossroads.
When the priest spoke about vocations yesterday, a couple things clicked in my mind. I started thinking about my life as it stands now, what I can and cannot live without, and what I can see myself doing for the rest of my life.
I’ve never really wanted to be a nun. In fact, until the spring of 2016, the only thing I definitely wanted out of my life was motherhood. I wanted to raise babies with the love of my life, teach them how to survive in this crazy world, and watch them fly. Admittedly, I went to college because I needed to do something and get a job to pay the bills until the day I got married and had babies and could be a stay-at-home mom, and also to have something to go back to after my babies were grown. But I didn’t love anything like I loved the idea of motherhood, and I think that is one of the primary reasons why I floundered so much during college. By the time I transferred schools at the end of 2012, I was completely lost and unsure if I would ever get married, let alone date, and I threw myself into studying communications at my new school in part to distract myself. I enjoyed communications. It was logical, it was scientific, but it was also at the root of what I loved as a child: creation and creativity. Studying communications brought back my love of writing, which had been missing since I started high school.
I graduated with my bachelor’s in Communication Studies, and then I started looking for a job. I quickly realized that none of the companies that could pay me any livable salary had ethics that I could live with or worked with brands that I could get excited about. It was a sad day when I realized I was back to square one. No potential jobs, no potential relationships, and a fat lot of nothing to show for the last five years of my life. I was lost again. I job searched for six months while helping to plan two weddings, and then I took a retail job. I enjoyed the job and wedding planning, but they didn’t change my life or give me direction. After the weddings, I moved to Boston and became a nanny for my baby cousin. I loved that, too, but it also opened my eyes to the trials that would come with motherhood. For one, you can’t turn it off, and I don’t think I ever really thought about that before. I wasn’t even his mother and the worry was almost crippling. The good days were amazing, but the hard days were harder and more exhausting than anything I have ever experienced. It showed me that I’m not quite ready for motherhood; and that finally allowed my heart to consider other options.
Options. There were many of them at the time. I could move home and get another retail job and exist listlessly while I saved up money for an apartment and then some unfocused future doing who knows what. I could get a job in Boston and stay here, doing the same thing with less of a support network. Or, I could consider graduate school in something.
As a child, I wanted to be in school forever. I wanted to possess all of the knowledge of the universe. I really couldn’t blame Eve for trying that apple, because knowledge is intoxicating. While getting my bachelor’s degree, I decided that I was firmly against going to graduate school. I didn’t want to be a teacher, and if I wanted to study history there were a thousand ways to do that without getting a degree of some kind.
Then I discovered publishing through a YouTube video. Ironically, this is similar to the way I discovered public relations, except that that was through Twitter. After a year of praying over it and processing the idea, I applied, thinking I would have to apply for multiple years before I got in. I was accepted on the first try, and now I’m in the thick of it, but I’m still questioning.
Discovering publishing didn’t suddenly make me want to be a writer or an editor. I’ve always loved those things, but it never occurred to me that I could make a career out of it. When I found publishing, I thought a master’s degree was my only way into the industry. Since getting accepted in March, I have learned so much about the ways into the industry, but the doors themselves are still very much closed to me. I hope to crack them open next semester when I take my book publishing classes, but it is becoming more and more clear to me that opening these doors isn’t something anyone can do for me, but something I have to do for myself, in my own way, and with my own timing.
All of this questioning started a couple weeks ago when I finally landed a new job. I’m working in retail in what I guess could be described as head cashier position at a superstore that I won’t name for security reasons. My first day was interesting enough to keep me engaged, and then the morning of my second day I sprained my foot/ankle. After nearly two weeks, I returned to work a week ago for my second day on the job, and everything has been hunky-dory since then. I’ll never know if it’s because I’m on crutches or not, but everyone has been especially kind and calm when I ask questions, and so many people have come up to me and introduced themselves that after only six days on the job I can now tell you the basic hierarchy of the store and who is in charge of which departments, as well as point out the store manager, the HR manager, and the regional manager upon request. It’s amazing to me how quickly the acclimation process is going, and just how much I am enjoying it. I get excited to go to work, even though it means being on my feet/crutches for about eight hours and dealing with a handful of frustrating customers each day. I love serving people, especially when I can serve not only the customers but also my fellow employees in some sort of leadership position.
So, in the middle of yesterday’s mass, I realized that motherhood wasn’t my only calling. I can’t live without books. The writing, editing, and creation of them as well as the consumption of them. I adore working with people, whether in a customer service or leadership capacity. I also have a dream of being a Girl Scout Leader someday. I was an assistant leader in middle and high school, and it’s life-changing to help young people discover their strengths and the confidence to pursue their dreams. I want all of these things, and where I live won’t change them. These are my vocations.
It’s July! Which makes it my birth month, the anniversary of this blog (starting its FOURTH year!!) and also time for a new theme of the year, or as I like to call it, TOTY. If you’ve never read one of my TOTY posts before, allow me to explain. Every year around my birthday, I like to select a broad theme for the next year of my life, to help guide my decision making for the next 365 days. I’ve focused on things like experience, health, and writing. You can find links to all of my previous TOTYs at the bottom of this post.
It’s been one heck of a year. Being 24 was one of those strange in-between years like 19 and 20, where you’re not really sure what the objective is except to survive. I’m turning 25 today, which to 12-year-old me seemed impossibly old, but to be honest I still feel fairly young. Turning 24 helped me to take a little control of my life. I wasn’t so much in my early 20s anymore, and people stopped expecting me to go out and party with them every night, which definitely allowed me to come into my own skin a little more. Now that I’m turning 25 and officially in my mid-twenties, I feel completely free of that party-hard culture that tried to suck me in during college, and people have stopped looking at me strangely when I talk about career opportunities like the important things they are. I’m extremely happy to be out of that age where people say ‘oh, you have plenty of time! Just concentrate on having fun!’ instead of taking my job inquiries seriously.
The last year started off by helping two of my friends plan their respective weddings, both of which were at the end of August/beginning of September, on back-to-back weekends. Cue tons of crazy drama, none of which is mine to share but I was somehow a part of anyway. Let me just say: WEDDING PLANNING IS HARD! Thank goodness I had both of them to bounce ideas off of for each other. I was able to fill in the holes in both plans based on what each was doing to make sure all of the bases were covered, down to vases on the reception tables for the bridesmaid bouquets. At the end of October, I made the huge decision to leave my part-time retail job of 10 months in Allentown, Pennsylvania to become a nanny for my then seven-month-old cousin in Boston, Massachusetts. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made, though I do still miss my amazing coworkers.
One of my goals for last year was to write every day. While that didn’t happen, I did do quite a bit of writing, and I’ve definitely adjusted mentally so that writing is at the forefront of my mind 90% of the time. I participated in National Novel Writing Month, and you can find my weekly updates from November here. Besides NaNoWriMo, I’ve worked hard to locate some of my favorite coffee shops in the city where I can work besides my room, and it’s helped immensely.
Another goal was to apply to graduate school, which I was intensely nervous about. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get in right away because of my lack of writing experience aside from this blog, and I would need to reapply a few times before I got accepted in another year or two. BUT I WAS WRONG! I have been accepted to the Publishing and Writing Master’s Degree Program at Emerson College here in Boston, Massachusetts where I will be starting in September! I think because I didn’t expect to get in right away, this all still doesn’t quite feel real. I have to pinch myself a few times a day just to remind myself it’s all happening. Just thinking about it makes me tear up from joy. *as I start to tear up*
My last goal was to apply to full-time jobs. This one has been a little complicated because I took the nannying job in October, and I’ve been pretty happy doing it. I cannot, however, continue doing it once I start graduate school for logistical reasons. So I am back to square one, but with a lot more writing under my belt than I had last year. I’m ideally looking for an Editorial Assistant or Copy Editor position, but I would take something like an administrative job if need be.
Last year around this time, I was contemplating my current nannying position and the general idea of Boston. I had only been here twice, both briefly, and yet the city enthralled me. I’ve now lived here almost nine months, and if possible love this place even more. Sometimes I take a train to a random part of the city and then walk back to my aunt and uncle’s place, just to explore. I guess what I’m saying is, not only do I have to remind myself that I got into grad school but I also have to remind myself that I live here and that I get to go on living here, not leave when a semester or internship ends. It’s an amazing feeling: a mix of freedom and adventure, the world an open book in front of me.
This feeling is fueling my theme for the next year: RESPONSIBILITY I need to continue working things like time management skills, becoming financially literate, and getting better at cooking and baking. General skills all adults should have. Looking towards a future that includes moving out on my own, it would irresponsible of me not to learn these basic skills. So, how do I plan to achieve these things?
To become more financially literate, I’m going to start reading about it. From finance and money management blogs to Finance for Dummies, I’m going to try to read something every day for the next year to help me better manage my money and understand the finance industry (ie, stocks, bonds, bank account types). I also started a spreadsheet to track my spending in January 2017, and starting January 2018 I’ll be able to make fairly strict budgets to help me get the most out of my time in grad school and still pay off my debt in a reasonable amount of time.
To become a better cook, I’m rounding up family recipes to practice. I want to combine these into a cookbook that I can refer back to anytime I need a meal idea, which should take the pressure off of making a full meal for dinner when I live on my own. I’ll probably be moving out of my aunt and uncle’s house and into my own apartment this Fall, so knowing how to make more than Mac and Cheese and Chicken Parm should be pretty helpful.
Fridays this year will consist of a mix of lifestyle posts. Finance posts will share secrets to money management I’ve picked up, and share some cool blog posts to help you with your own money skills. Food posts will share my favorite family recipes. In addition, Fashion posts will chronicle my building of an adult wardrobe appropriate for all aspects of life, Fitness posts will share snapshots and thoughts on how to get back in shape your way, Focus posts will share study and writing tips to help you get the most work done in your spare time, Family and Friends posts will teach you how to deal with your family as a new adult, and Faith posts will share ways to incorporate your faith into your everyday life. Obviously, I won’t have a chance to share on all of these topics every month, since there are seven of them and only four or five Fridays per month. My plan is to mix it up a little, and we’ll see what we get.
If this all sounds like a lot to do on top of grad school, finding a new job, writing book reviews, and continuing work on my novel(s), that’s because it is. But I’m excited to share this journey with all of you! I feel that at the age of 25, these are the things I should know how to do. I’ll be on my own next year for a lot of grown up things (like healthcare), and I think that makes it important now more than ever that I know how to take care of myself in any kind of situation.
What are some things you want to work on this year?
Maybe it’s the weather, the last dregs of winter that hang on until you want to scream or spend your meager savings and fly somewhere tropical, but this time of year always makes me want to sit down and assess things in my life. What do I want to accomplish this year? Where do I want my blog to go? Am I making my brand work for me? What can I do to make my content better?
The results of all my brainstorming usually end up getting published in my annual Theme of The Year post in July, but it all starts spinning around in my head now – in March!
This year, I’m tossing around a few big ideas for the blog including consolidating (and possibly rebranding!) as well as tons of post ideas on a variety of topics. I can’t wait to share everything with you!
I’m also processing some very big news that I recently received: I got accepted into graduate school! I will now officially be attending Emerson College in Boston this Autumn to get my MA in Publishing and Writing! Of course, this means I have to figure out how to pay for it all, and where I’m going to live, afford textbooks, etc. I suddenly have a lot on my plate, but I’m not going to let it slow me down. I’m taking it all in baby steps: planning for school, working on my book(s), making this space the best it can be… there is a lot to get done before September, and I’m excited to dive in!
I’ll write a more in depth grad school/life update after I attend accepted graduate students day next month, but until then let’s take a look at how I’m doing with my goal tracking.
TOTY 24 Goals:
Write Every Day: The writer’s block is real, but I’ve been re-reading my favorite series from my childhood and it’s really jumpstarting my imagination again. Some of these are the books that inspired me to write The Everest Chronicles! It is also almost spring, and that always gives me the urge to write contemporary, so I’ll be diving back into a contemporary mystery series I started writing last year that I’ve tentatively titled The Catchachatchamunga Diaries (try saying that 10 times fast!)
Apply to Full-Time Jobs: I have a full-time babysitting gig, but with grad school expenses I may need a full-time salaried job in order to pay tuition and maybe get an apartment closer to campus.
Apply to Grad School: Complete! As you read in this month’s intro, I just got accepted to Emerson College! WOO HOO!!! I won’t find out any scholarship/fellowship information until later this week, but I am so incredibly excited to have been accepted into this program!
2017 Goals: Stick to My Budget: This has really been more like building a budget and assessing how I spend, but so far it’s going better than I expected.
Pay Lots of Student Loans: My bank account is saddened by this, but it’s really not so bad.
Build Savings Account: I’m getting there! I know most of what I’ve saved is going to end up going towards a security deposit and/or tuition payments, but it’s comforting to see the money sitting in there right now, haha!
Spend Less Than $500 on Books This Year: I’ve managed to get all the books on my read/review list for the year and stay under $300, so I feel like I’m doing okay. I’ve also taken advantage of sales and sale sites to save money, which has been helpful. #FirstWorldProblems
Only Buy New Clothes Seasonally: I’m trying to come up with a list of what I might need to replace or add to my wardrobe for the spring/summer before I do my shopping either the end of this month or the beginning of next before everything is sold out. I hate that I have to do my summer shopping when it’s still snowing.
Get 8+ hours of sleep/Go to bed by 10 pm: It’s been more like six-seven hours with all the reading I’ve been doing, but not terrible.
Only Watch Three Movies/Five Episodes Per Week: With the season finale of BBC’sVictoria behind us (SO GOOD YOU GUYS), and having finished The Crown at the end of February, I have now moved on to Stranger Things. I can’t say it’s amazing yet, but that could be because I’m watching it alone and therefore have no one to theorize with. There’s also not a lot of explanation, and I’m doubting that anything is going to be resolved by season end (I’m only three episodes in out of eight total). Next, I’m planning to watch The Last Kingdom.
Finish Craft Projects: I am now more than halfway finished with all three of my projects. That’s as much as I can say. I’ve been reading a lot and neglecting everything else.
Post Regularly: Ha. As usual, I have big plans and then they never see the light of day. I’d be a great content planner for anyone except myself. I’m going to keep hacking away at this goal though because I think I’m starting to break through!
Keep Up With Book Reviews: If only I had Wi-Fi in my room. We’re getting a booster this month, but as it stands now I am writing to you from the kitchen island, which I’ve taken over for the day so I can write a few reviews and pay my taxes. Fun stuff. (update 3 days later: we moved the Wi-Fi box and now I have a download speed of 89 and upload speed of 13. For comparison, last week’s speed readings were 0.39 for downloads and 0.04 for uploads.) Everything is ridiculous.
Plan Monthly Post Schedules: Still not keeping to them, but at least I glance at them every now and then.
Read 50+ Books: I’m at 13 for the year so far, which is slightly ahead of schedule now. Yay! But I have two books to finish by the end of the month that I’m no longer excited about, so that stinks.
Get In Shape: I did get some running in two weeks ago when it got up to 70 F, but it’s been snowy and frigid since then. I’m trying to fit in some yoga and pilates to make for being cooped up.
Walk 40+ Miles Per Month: I walked over 50 miles last month! WOO HOO!
Finish Everest Draft: Not even close.
Write 20,000 Words Per Month: I wrote three sentences last week, and I’m hoping to write a good chunk today.
Run a 5K in under 30 Minutes: Too cold and snowy to run with a baby, so I can’t get anywhere near this goal yet.
Walk 40+ Miles: I’m close to 28 miles already and it’s the 20th. Not too bad considering I spent a whole weekend in bed sick.
Run 12 Miles: If it ever warms up outside, sure.
Learn Stretching Exercises: YouTube is a cool place.
Do Yoga 8 Times This Month: I debating whether or not to get a subscription to One0Eight.com. I love Yoga Girl and everything they’re doing at Island Yoga, but I’m not sure if it’s a financial thing I can do at the moment. It’s $14/month for yoga, meditation, and nutritional content.
Read 7+ Books: (* indicates finished)
*The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro
*Uprooted by Naomi Novik
*The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale Fallout by Gwenda Bond We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie Pretty Happy by Kate Hudson
Write 4+ Book Reviews: The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro Uprooted by Naomi Novik Fallout by Gwenda Bond We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Get more involved at church by going to an event: I attended a very nice dessert potluck at the beginning of the month, and there’s a group of us going to the Museum of Science. Yay for making friends!
Write 20,000 Words of Everest: This is meant to be the same 20,000 words discussed before, and yes, I am failing hard.
Find a Hair Salon: I have a lead on one that I need to check out, but I’m also going home to New Jersey because I need to make a visit to my Dermatologist, so I think I’m putting off the hair salon decision for anther month and just having my stylist back home do a touch up while I’m there.
DO NOT BUY BOOKS: This is a given.
So, those are my goals. What are some of your goals right now? Are you working for a promotion? Getting ready to graduate college or high school? Working towards a summer beach body? Join the discussion in the comments!
It’s been nearly two months, hasn’t it? I’ve been wishing I could hibernate until spring comes, but with the snow piling ever higher I know that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Boston is still pretty fantastic, especially now that I’ve re-located the Starbucks I wrote so well in back in November. I may have visited every Starbucks in the city over the last 10 weeks in the course of my search. Which is actually quite a feat considering. #SorryNotSorry
So, snow: Check. Starbucks: Check. I saw Hidden Figures recently and oh my goodness is it amazing. And wonderful. And just positively breathtaking. It’s radical. I loved it. I also made it to the Museum of Fine Art in January to see the Impressionist exhibit and actually cried when I saw all the Monets and Renoirs. My mother loves impressionist artwork, especially by those two, and seeing them in person was magical. I am physically tearing up thinking about it. I also bought a postcard size of Renoir’s Grand Canal and have tacked it up to my storyboard. The colors are so amazing, the water even now seems to ripple in a light wind. Beautiful.
I also made it to the Museum of Fine Art in January to see the Impressionist exhibit and actually cried when I saw all the Monets and Renoirs. My mother loves impressionist artwork, especially by those two, and seeing them in person was magical. I am physically tearing up thinking about it. I also bought a postcard size of Renoir’s Grand Canal and have tacked it up to my storyboard. The colors are so amazing, the water even now seems to ripple in a light wind. Beautiful.
This weekend I am traveling up to the University of Maine, Orono (which I’ve just found out I’ve been spelling wrong for years. I thought it was Orohno, which I found amusing.), for their home meet for Woodsmen’s Team. If you’ve never seen lumberjack sports, you are in for a treat! Despite the deep snow, it promises to be exciting. And cold, as usual. Also, my parents are visiting, so yay, family!
Hopefully, I’ll have time to write individual and more lengthy posts about those three excursions, but I can’t guarantee it right now. Okay, enough chitchat. Onto the goals check-in! I suddenly have a lot of them. Que trying to organize my life.
TOTY 24 Goals:
Write Every Day: Nope. But I did write over 2000 words on Saturday between camping out at the library and writing at Starbucks. So that’s pretty good! December was plain nuts with holidays and visiting family, and January was consumed by my Grad School application and severe writer’s block.
I finally realized that my last chapter and a half from NaNoWriMo went off a cliff because I hadn’t written enough background for the side characters to have personalities. Oops. So Saturday I wrote character backgrounds. Fun times.
Apply to Full Time Jobs: #BabysittingLife
Apply to Grad School: You guys, I did it! I got everything, including essays, references, resumes, and transcripts in before the scholarship/fellowship deadline. And now the waiting begins. *Breathes Deeply*
2017 Goals: Stick to My Budget: meh. Not terrible, but not great. If you follow Curio Street Reads you’ll notice I have a weakness for books.
Pay Lots of Student Loans: Not so much of a party in my bank account. But I’m getting there. Yay monthly payment plans!
Build Savings Account: Actual party in my bank account.
Spend Less Than $500 on Books This Year: Yes, this is a real, albeit first-world, problem. If only people would actually get me books for my birthday/Christmas… JK, I would still have this problem, I’d just also have MORE BOOKS! Rather than attempt to curtail my book buying habit, I’ve decided to try to buy from sites like Thrift Books and Book Depository, and occasionally Amazon (Okay, there’s actually a lot of Amazon. I have prime specifically for this reason.), rather than Barnes and Noble (to which I have a membership because duh.). LET’S JUST AGREE I HAVE A READING/BOOK BUYING ADDICTION, OKAY? Also, I need more bookshelves. And don’t even get me started on all the independent bookstores in Boston that I haven’t located yet. They exist. There’s one I pass on my way to church. I’ve started going to early church just so I’m out of the area before that store opens. My life is a struggle.
Only Buy New Clothes Seasonally: This is agony because I recently discovered I have Primark and Madewell in Boston, but so far I’m doing okay.
Get 8+ hours of sleep/Go to bed by 10 pm: HAHAHAHAHA self you are silly. There are books to read and Netflix shows like The Crown and Stranger Things to watch. Not to mention they’ve done a spectacular job of keeping my favorite cheesy rom-com, A Christmas Kiss (which I own btw, but that’s not relevant), in the streaming library for days like today when I’m all exhausted because hormones.
Only Watch Three Movies/Five Episodes Per Week: Because the struggle is real. I watched five episodes of The Crown this week and it’s only Wednesday. I want to start Stranger Things but this goal is helping me stop myself. I have writing to do. And reading. Yeah. Reading. And writing.
Finish Craft Projects: I have three projects (Crochet, Latch-Hook, Embroidery) that I started over a year ago (some over 10 years ago) that I never finished. They will be done by the end of the year. Period.
Post Regularly: Oops.
Keep Up With Book Reviews: At this point not posting my weekly book review makes me feel like my life is falling apart. Maybe someday this part of the blog will feel the love too. But not just yet.
Plan Monthly Post Schedules: Did that. Didn’t write the posts. Am sad.
Read 50+ Books: I think I’m a book behind to reach 52. But guys, Elantris (Review out 4/25) was long. SO worth it, but the first 300 pages were slow for me. Argh.
Get In Shape: I’ve been trying to explore the city every weekend, but it’s hard to do anything with all this snow.
Walk 40+ Miles Per Month: So far, so good! Pretty happy about this one.
Finish Everest Draft: I Think I Can, I Think I Can. Ideally, I’ll be done by July, though if I have to keep stopping to write character and country background, it might be November. I just sent the first three chapters to three friends who read some of the very rough versions I wrote originally (think grades 7-10), and am letting them edit/comment/proof those for flow, etc. We’ll see what they think. In the meantime, I want to focus on chapters 4-6 and worldbuilding now that everyone is in roughly the same place.
Write 20,000 Words Per Month: Not in January. We’ll see if I can even hit 10,000 in February. The child is teething.
Run a 5K in under 30 Minutes: If I ever see the ground again, maybe I’ll actually start running and this goal will be feasible.
January Goals: Submit Grad School Application: YES!
Order New Computer: After SIX years on the same Dell laptop, I am happy to say I am now the proud owner of a new HP Pavillion laptop (and it’s RED!). You have no idea how exited I am, or how happy my back is to be carrying only 5lbs now, instead of 10lbs. *tears of joy* Also, the storage space is positively luxurious by comparison. MY PRECIOUS.
Read 3+ Books: (* indicates finished) *Grace, Not Perfection by Emily Ley, *Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson,
and Elantris by Brandon Sanderson, which I didn’t finish until February.
Write 4+ Book Reviews: (* indicates finished) *Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling (Screenplay), *Stone Heart by Luanne Rice, *Grace, Not Perfction by Emily Ley, *The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss,
and *Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson.
Re-Outline Everest: That’s right, I re-outlined and added a whole new thread to the story because I had a huge dead spot in the second half, and now we’ll see where this takes me. It’s going to be a lot of fun to write at least!
February Goals: Read 7+ Books: (* indicates finished) *Elantris by Brandon Sanderson, *Nancy Drew and the Curse of the Arctic Star by Carolyn Keene *Sandry’s Book by Tamora Pierce, Daja’s Book by Tamora Pierce, Tris’ Book by Tamora Pierce, Briar’s Book by Tamora Pierce, A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé and translated from French into English by Alison Anderson, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab,
and *Farewell Speeches by Barack and Michelle Obama.
Write 4+ Book Reviews: (* indicates finished) *Nancy Drew and the Curse of the Arctic Star by Carolyn Keene (Review out 2/7), *The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (Review out 2/14), A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Review out 2/21), A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé (Review out 2/28), *Sandry’s Book by Tamora Pierce (Review out 4/18),
and Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Review out in 2018).
Write 20,000 Words of Everest: We’ll see! Currently: 2513. HA!
Run 12 Miles: Not in this snow, I won’t. I’ll let the people training for the Boston Marathon have the icy roads to themselves, thanks.
So, that’s me. Plodding along and clearly not hibernating. Oh well, try again next year.
Hello hello and welcome back to another update! Let’s jump right in.
Thanksgiving was wonderful, and having already given up on NaNoWriMo the day before, I was able to really relax and enjoy myself and the family that surrounded me. Black Friday in my house is Baking Friday, and my mom and I and whoever we are able to recruit, tackle our annual Christmas Cookies: Spritz, Sugar and Spice, Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chocolate Chip, Russian Tea Cakes, Razzleberries, and more.
At the beginning of the week, I was lucky enough to be able to help out at my Alma Mater, which hosts a telethon every year for Big Brothers Big Sisters. You know, those things you flip past on community TV stations where local musicians, magicians, acting and dance schools perform their hearts out and a group of people tell you how important something is and conduct interviews while in the background people answer telephones to take donations? That. I love that. When I attended the school, I got involved initially for the extra credit, but quickly fell in love with the live broadcasting. Mostly because of the people involved, but going back to help out every year is one of my favorite things. When I lived in the area the past two years, I went back in the weeks leading up to the program because I was executive producing. Not being in the area this year meant I couldn’t do that, but I was able to be a floor director for the day, which was almost as much fun, and much less stressful.
I was also able to stop by and see my lovely ex-coworkers, which was really nice since usually I don’t get the chance to go back to places I’ve worked after I’ve left. Not for bad reasons, but I usually only leave jobs when I move. This time, however, I continue to have friends who live in that area, so I have multiple excuses to drive the hour down there when I’m at my parents and I don’t have to feel bad about using all of that gas because I’m combining the visits into one.
December has been moving along pretty smoothly. I’m only waiting on one more package to arrive, and I have three pictures frames that I need to buy before I’m completely done with my holiday shopping. thank goodness I did my shopping when I did, because I just got a call from the bank that my card needed to be shut off because of some company having a data breach (not my bank having the breach, thank goodness), so now I can’t do anymore shopping until my new card arrives, which won’t be for another week or so. Luckily I have cash for gas to get from MA to NJ for the holidays. This does mean that I can’t go out exploring the city’s Christmas displays though, which I wanted to a post about, because I can’t get any more money out of my account to use for subway tickets, which makes me sad. At the same time though, it’s saving me money, so I really shouldn’t be complaining.
That’s enough of that, let’s take a look at how I’m doing on my goals so far.
TOTY 24 Goals: Write Every Day – Except for the book reviews I’ve done in the last month, I haven’t written a thing. Well, that’s not really true. I made a brief foray into the distant recesses of my book series to hammer out some more plot ideas for my NaNo project from last year, but that was it. Really!
Apply to Full-Time Jobs – COMPLETED!
Apply to Grad School – I think I’m psyching myself out when it comes to this. I can’t even bring myself to pull up the essay requirements or contact my references to ask for letters. I really need to just buckle down and get it done. If I don’t get in, at least I will have tried. If I don’t try, then I fail by default, and I will never forgive myself if I do not try. This is something I really, really want to do, but I don’t know… I almost feel… unworthy? is that the word I’m looking for? I’ve never known what I wanted to do, and I’ve never been the best of the best at anything. I used to think that my calling in life would appear as something that only I could do, but I just don’t believe that anymore. I follow at least 15 travel bloggers on various platforms. If there was one person meant to do it, why would the others even bother? Clearly, someone out there is always going to be better than you. that’s the whole point. It drives you to be your best, rather than half-assing it because you know the people will come anyway. It’s supposed to be a bit of a struggle. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be interesting. Am I giving myself a pep-talk right here and now? Maybe. This whole grad school thing, even though it’s going to cost even more money, and take even more time when I could be working in the field already, is something I need to do for myself. I ‘m not the kind of person who can jump into a business field completely blind. I need to know how the industry works before I can go in and rock the socks off of any potential bosses. Publishing is the only idea that I’ve come back to again and again as a potential job. I’m really blabbering on and on about this, so maybe I should just make a separate post about why I want to go into publishing because this is going to take a while to explain.
December Goals: Read 6 books: So far I’m at three! and working my way through at least two more that will be done by the end of the month. These are part fun reads, and also some prep for reviews coming out next month/year. So far I read Life and Death by Stephenie Meyer, which is the gender swapped retelling of Twilight in honor of that book’s 10th anniversary. I also read Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling, which I read in a day and it was phenomenal. I also saw the actual movie twice so far, and it’s something I just want to watch over and over again because I keep noticing new things! Last night I finished a romance, There’s Something in the Heir by Jenny Gardiner, which is the first book in her It’s Reigning Men series, and I am a sucker for punderful romance titles. You just know they’re going to be sweet and cheesy.
Write 5 reviews: I reviewed Life and Death as well as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay, but Life and Death is just chilling in my reserve pile because I have many other things coming your way first!
Write 6 posts: I’m having some trouble downloading my photos from the phone to my PC, as my computer is probably about 6 years old now and I’m quite literally running out of storage space. I desperately need to buy an external hard drive (or, you know, just by a new computer). So I haven’t finished any of the posts I had planned about exploring the city, and those may all have to wait for the new year when I can put some cash towards one of the two solutions. Which of course also means this is the only post I’ve written all month. I have a few more ideas for end-of-the-year stuff, but it remains to be seen how much media I can fit on my computer in order to create something I like.
Write 10,000 words of the Everest Chronicles: Yeah… I’m definitely going to need this break to extend into January. My brain just can’t handle anything when Christmas is on my plate. I’ve been reading as much as humanly possible since I bailed on NaNoWriMo. I think I’ve read six books so far, and I’m in the middle of three more, but on the way out my reading slump I temporarily DNF’d (Did Not Finish) at least two others that I can think of. I love books.
Connect Blog(s) to a Facebook page: This is something I’d really like to be able to do, to have a single, combined feed, so you don’t have to jump back and forth between the two sites to find everything, because after a while that becomes tedious to say the least. Additionally, Facebook makes sharing things significantly easier, which would really up my exposure, which would be nice. I think.
Walk 20 miles: I set this goal at 2/3 of last month because of all the snow and ice and the like that are preventing me for putting my cousin in a stroller and hitting the trails. Still, I’m at about 17 miles thus far, and it’s only halfway through the month. A lot of this is due to the sheer number of stairs in my aunt and uncle’s house (we call it the stairmaster because all we do is walk up and down stairs all day), but anything that helps with fitness during the dead of winter is fine by me.
Books to read this month: Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand Grace, Not Perfection – Emily Ley Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand – Helen Simonson Landline – Rainbow Rowell Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert
This week. Oh boy. It was a fun one! and by fun I mean miserable and yet liberating all at the same time. Yes, that’s an odd sentiment for me to have about the end of NaNoWriMo 2016. Did I win? Nope. Did I get close? No way. Did I learn anything? TONS.
NaNoWriMo for me is not just about ‘winning’, it’s about practicing the discipline of writing. I wrote a solid 25,000 words this month, not to mention the book reviews I’ve caught up on writing in this week after I threw in the imaginary NaNo towel of defeat. So I didn’t hit 50,000 words. Last year I wrote a total of 4,500. This year I wrote more than 5x that. I call that a win in my book, and since it’s my life, my scorebook is the only book that matters, right? Right.
The week started off rough. I had driven home for the weekend for Thanksgiving, and I was spending the whole week there. Little did I realize how good I have it in Boston. My parents’ house is much darker than I remember it (60-year old houses don’t really have recess lighting), and since I was working at the dining room table, I wasn’t feeding the woodstove regularly, which meant I was basically always cold. Not ideal working conditions.
Beyond that, I finally had a breakthrough with the scene I was writing, but the cold and the dark sapped my energy, to the point where it was quite a struggle to hit the 25,000 word count mark. And that’s with my scrapped scene still included, by the way. Still, I can’t blame my failure purely on lack of warmth, light, or discipline. They all contributed in some way, but I was also missing something else. I was spending so much time writing that I hadn’t left myself any time for reading. My imagination thrives on reading. I had tried to cut out as much of my reading as possible because I didn’t want to distract or influence myself from or about my story in any way, but this led to one of my least favorite things in the world: a reading slump. Which quickly became a writing slump, and then the Thanksgiving holiday (and my entire family being home) enabled me to put off writing again and again until I was back in Boston, where I looked at my computer and felt, well, nothing.
There was no spark left. The reading slump (and very probably some hormones as well) had taken all my inspiration from me, and I just wanted to curl up in a ball and cry. Instead, I admitted that I needed a vacation from writing (probably until January) because my family is super important to me, and the holidays are just too insane to get any reading done and still write.
I threw myself into finding things that inspire me all over again, but I also let myself cry. I cried watching the Gilmore Girls revival. I cried finishing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (review coming December 13th). I cried watching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (twice. I saw it twice. review coming January 2017.) I cried reading The Boston Girl in a single day (review coming December 20th). Like I said, I needed to cry. Crying is extremely cathartic. And, now that I’m caught up on my reviews (I actually finished writing my last reviews for the year yesterday!), and I’m back on a regular reading schedule, I’m feeling much more myself, but I still haven’t found my spark. Hopefully, it will come back sometime in the next month or so, but if I have to put off working on The Everest Chronicles a little longer, I’m okay with that. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs with this book in the last 12 years. What harm is there in another few months?
So, no NaNoWriMo win for me, but I am 25,000 words closer to having a complete first draft! Woohoo! I’m pumped to see where my story ends up taking my characters. I have the main plot outlined, but the in between bits keep running off in new directions, and it’s exciting! If you want to know what I was up to during the last week, check out my notes below.
(Day) Day # – Goal/Actual Word count (Daily word count) (ahead/behind)
(Tuesday) Day 22 – 36666/24044 (250) (-12622)
Having been gone for a month, I made a point of driving over an hour to meet a friend for lunch and then head over to the bridal shop to visit my old coworkers. It was a slow day, and everyone who was there was pretty psyched to see me, so it was a very nice visit. 🙂 (Wednesday) Day 23 – 38333/ 25347 (1303) (-12986)
My sisters arrived home for the holiday Tuesday night, so Wednesday was dedicated to hanging out with them. I also had to drive my dad to the dealership because his truck was acting up. But I did find time in the afternoon to sit down and pound out some words. I’m beyond excited that I hit 25000! Those last 5000 words were the hardest part of the entire month for me, but I made it. I can’t say that I knew I was going to give up here, but I had had a pretty good feeling I was going to quit at 25k for the last few days. I just wouldn’t allow myself to give up before I got there. (Thursday) Day 24 – 40000/ 25347 (0) (-14653)
Thanksgiving was amazing. On my dad’s side, the biggest family holidays are Thanksgiving and Memorial Day. Every other holiday you have no idea who;s going to show up, but on those two days just about everyone is there. This year, of the 38 of us, we were missing only six, and that includes the newlyweds, the one working in LA, and the group who went to Cali to visit the other side of their family. (Friday) Day 25 – 41666/25347 (0) (-16319)
Black Friday at my house doesn’t mean shopping until you drop. It’s all about baking. We baked 33 dozen cookies in under six hours this year. We have six or seven different kinds of cookies that we’ve perfected recipes for over the years, though we’ve only made three kinds this year so far. While it’s just me and my mom and whatever friends I can recruit doing the baking now, it used to be my great-grandmother, my grandmother, my mother, my aunt, me, and my siblings. Baking day has always been my favorite. We also went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Yay! (Saturday) Day 26 – 43333/25347 (0) (-17986)
I spent the day leisurely driving back up to Boston, but I made a point of stopping to visit my friend from highschool who lives in Connecticut. She was my first ever best friend, and while we’ve been friends for TEN YEARS now, I still hardly ever get to see her. Hopefully, with my travellig back and forth from NJ to MA now, I’ll get to see her a lot more! (Sunday) Day 27 – 45000/25347 (0) (-19653)
I think I spent the entire day watching Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Wait, yes. I did. It’s six hours long, and I needed to take breaks to breathe. I also found a church to go to in the area! Hooray! (Monday) Day 28 – 46666/25347 (0) (-21319)
After crying through Gilmore Girls, I thought I couldn’t make my face look worse by finishing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I was wrong, but it was worth it! (Tuesday) Day 29 – 48333/25347 (0) (-22986)
I may have the read The Boston Girl in one day, and it might need to be added to my list of favorite books of all time. (Wednesday) Day 30 – 50000/25347 (0) (-24653)
I decided to take a rest day. I wrote this post, and did a lot of ‘End of NaNoWriMo Processing’. I accomplished a lot this year, and I am super proud of myself. Even though I didn’t win, I think I deserve a T-shirt and a mug. Also the theme this year for NaNoWriMo was/is pretty awesome.
I’m not giving up in any way, shape, or form, but I do need to do some work to get my spark back. Don’t worry, I’ve lost the spark many times before and it always returns. In the mean time, I’m looking forward to diving into my reading list for next year to try and get ahead on my reviews. That way, when inspiration does strike, I’ll be ready for it, and I’ll have time to devote to writing without getting too far behind on my reading. Here’s to another amazing year of being surrounded by and creating works of art with words.