TOTY – 25: Responsiblity

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A+ self-confidence here, letting you know that this photo is 100% makeup and filter free. Wheeee!

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?

Past Theme Of The Year (TOTY) posts:
TOTY – 24: Me Doing Me
TOTY – 23: Wellness and Becoming My Best Self
TOTY – 22: Why Soul Searching is NOT my Theme of The Year

More TOTYs:
TOTY – 26: Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise
TOTY – 27: Aiming for the Stars
TOTY – 28: Further Reading Required

Life Log February 25th, 2017 – Meeting Elise Kova

Today is one of those days that I hope I remember forever, and it all started by sleeping in for the first time in a month.

The original plan was to get up at 6:30 and do some early morning writing at one of my two favorites Starbucks locations in the city, but when my alarm went off I decided to sleep in instead. I got up around 11:30 and ate some lunch before heading out into the city to explore, as I have most weekends since I moved here in October. I’m always discovering new things.

My first stop was Coolidge Corner, where I wanted to scope out Brookline Booksmith before I attend the V.E. Schwab signing there on Monday (Update: It was CROWDED, but awesome, and Victoria is pretty great). It’s always good to know where you’re going, folks. After I found it and browsed for a bit, I decided to follow Beacon Street back towards  Boston Common and see what else was in the area. In as little as 10 minutes I was overwhelmed with my love for this city. Everything, even the deserted parts of the streets and the little half-hidden parks and personal gardens make me smile. I felt like standing the middle of the road, twirling, crying, and screaming about how much Boston means to me, but I didn’t because there was traffic and quite a few people around. I did smile and skip through the drizzle that started soon after though, and that was almost as fun.

When the rain started to get harder and the wind began blowing it into my eyes I ducked into the nearest Starbucks, which happened to be at Kenmore Square near Boston University, and settled in to wait out the downpour. Can I just say that the baristas there are super sweet? I was sitting at the counter, working on a map for The Everest Chronicles and sipping my hot cocoa (Starbucks Cocoa is the best), and listening to them chat. One of them was new, and while she had a handle on everything, she was one of those employees that knows exactly the right questions to ask those who’ve worked there longer, like “it’s this syrup, 4 squirts, right?” not “how do I make that again?” She was just fantastic, and her eyeliner was on point. The guy sitting next to me apparently also works there, but he wasn’t on duty and was instead actively studying for midterms. Still, their convos were hysterical to listen to, and they even included me in them occasionally, which was kind of them. Everyone there was just nice, and it made the time fly until the rain stopped.

I emerged back into the sunshine and crossed the street to a Barnes & Noble I had spotted just before I’d reached Starbucks. As I walked through the door I noticed one of those events signs they always have up. The book pictured on the poster was The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova, and it said she would be there at 3 pm on February 25th. I looked at my phone, and wouldn’t you know it, it was 3:15, on the 25th.

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If you’ve never heard of The Alchemists of Loom, fear not. I hadn’t heard of it either until last month, but three authors/BookTubers I follow on social media: Sasha Alsberg from A Book Utopia, Lindsay Cummings, and Regan from Peruse Project on YouTube, have since been raving about it. Lindsay blurbed it, and Sasha and Regan are reading it for their virtual book club this month. It’s been very high on my radar, and therefore I got very excited when I saw the poster. I walked back to the sci-fi/fantasy section and bought the book, and then asked the cashier where the event was. He cheerfully told me it was upstairs, and off I went.

I walked in to find a group of about 10 people sitting in chairs, listening to Elise explain the publishing process. She talked about editing, querying, and the writing process in general. When I asked her, she said that she started writing in 6th grade, when the teacher assigned the class a 5-page story, due at the end of the year. Everyone groaned because in 6th grade five pages sounds like a life sentence, but Elise immediately decided to write a chapter book. Her teacher tried to dissuade her, but Elise was determined. The book ended up being novella length, and while she says it was truly terrible, she did suggest that she might share a few pages with her newsletter subscribers one day.

One mom asked if Kova had any advice for young writers, especially those in high school. I found out later that her daughter and a friend were sitting across the aisle from me, 9th graders. “Write a lot, and often,” Elise said. “Read. And get on Twitter. There are a ton of authors on Twitter to engage with and ask questions of.”

After everyone’s questions were answered, Kova signed her books and chatted with all of the attendees. When it was my turn, I admitted that I hadn’t read the book yet, but I’d heard so much about it from Sasha and Lindsay (and Regan!) that I couldn’t wait to read it. I also told her that I loved what she had to share about publishing, and how I was applying to a graduate publishing program and writing my own stuff. She was extremely nice, and warm, and simply lovely to talk to. She signed my copy of The Alchemists of Loom, personalizing it with ‘To Amanda, You’re perfect! ~Elise Kova’, which made me smile and do an inner little cheer because she’s really just so nice and the fact that she thought I was nice was very cool!

As I left the BU Barnes & Noble, it was still beautifully sunny outside and the cool breeze left by the rainstorm made the city feel like paradise. I continued my exploration for another hour or so before heading home, where I’m currently writing to you from while I eat my Kraft Mac & Cheese. I’ve only now realized that I forgot to grab any of the swag from the Kova event, and also that I didn’t ask to take a picture with her, but since it was my first time at a book/author event, I guess it’s okay that I didn’t do any of that. I was too excited to remember. Maybe next time!

I’m about to dive into the first episode of Stranger Things, and then I’m going to read some more of the book I’ve been carrying around with me all day, A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab. I’m hoping to be knee deep in the final installment, A Conjuring of Light, by the time I meet her at the book tour event on Monday. As soon as I’m done with that book, however, you can bet that I’ll be devouring The Alchemists of Loom. Stay tuned to Highlights and Hot Chocolate in the coming months for a review. I just have to find somewhere in my posting schedule to fit it in!

I wish you all a good evening, a good book, and a comfy place to read. ❤

I hope you’ve enjoyed this new type of post on my blog, a sort of written version of a vlog (because I don’t have a decent camera or editing software to actually make one of those). I don’t know yet if I’ll keep doing them, so let me know what you think in the comments. While you’re down there writing things, what was your first book/author event? I’m interested to hear everyone’s experiences!

Until next time,

Amanda

The Boston Girl – Anita Diamant

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Source: Goodreads

Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl follows first-generation American Addie Baum through the ups and down of living in early 20th century Boston, Massachusetts. Not your typical historical-fiction-memoir, the story reads as though Addie is being interviewed by her granddaughter, Ava, and shows us her life from 1900-1985.

Having never heard of Anita Diamant except when people spoke in passing about The Red Tent, I don’t 100% remember why I picked up this book in the first place. I think I came across a summary and it sounded interesting, and then I had family that moved to Boston, and I bought it. Then, The Red Tent was turned into a TV miniseries (Trailer and Miniseries rated PG13) in 2014 on Lifetime that my mother and I marathoned and bawled our eyes out through. It was life-changing. And then I was moving to Boston this year and I picked up this book to add to my reading list and realized it was by the same author all over again. Still, I kept putting it off, for no real reason. I’m glad I read it in Boston. It gave me a new perspective on my new city, and I’m beyond thankful for that.

This book is nothing like any historical, fictional, memoir type book that I have ever come across. The almost but not quite interview style is done extremely well, and you hardly realize that the story is being told in first-person. If Addie was a real person she would immediately be on my list of biggest heroes. There is so much gumption in this girl. She’s just so real, and the twists and turns that her life takes are too numerous to count.

True, the number of words which I’m guessing were either Yiddish or Hebrew and I, therefore, didn’t know (not having studied those languages myself) were high, it’s true. However, each one only added to the hominess feel of the book, as though the reader is one of Addie’s close friends, maybe from the Saturday Club, or maybe a close Jewish friend (like the granddaughter who’s supposedly interviewing her) who would understand all the terms. The humor with which she speaks is contagious, and even though I read the book in the span of a day, I found myself walking around smiling even when I wasn’t reading it.

“You know, Ava, it’s good to be smart, but kindness is more important. Oh dear, another old-lady chestnut to stitch on a sampler. Or maybe one of those little throw pillows.”
~Addie Baum

There are too many ‘chestnuts’ to share them all, but The Boston Girl is pure magic if I’ve ever seen it. Even the sad and tragic things that happen to and around Addie provide important information that allows you to dig deeper into Addie’s story. This is one of those books that really was too good to put down, completely sucking me in. It’s so good that it might have even earned a spot on my all-time favorites list, something that rarely, if ever, happens.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars