Tag Archives: life

Secrets! Or: I Got Fired From My Day Job and I Liked It

awesome hotdog, bro.I’m going to tell you a secret:

I think I’m actually a fucking AMAZING writer.

Did that make you feel uncomfortable? Did you just think, “wow, someone’s full of herself”? I wouldn’t blame you if you did. We’ve all been programmed to think that if a person is proud of their ability, then they don’t see where they have room to grow–they’re arrogant, pompous, prideful. I can tell you at least in my case, I don’t think that’s true. Most of the reason I want to work with traditional publishers is because I want the experience of working with professionals, so that I can improve my writing, learn more about the craft, and become a better storyteller. And I certainly do have my days where “OH GOD I’M THE WORST WRITER EVER,” but if I’m honest with myself on all the other days? I’m pretty pleased with my ability.

But it takes a lot to admit that I think I’m already pretty damn good. Society teaches us, especially girls/women, to be modest, self-deprecating even, when it comes to how we see ourselves. You’re not “supposed to” think you are attractive just as you are, or worthy of love just as you are, or successful enough where you are, or happy with exactly who you are. We live in a world that is constantly trying to sell us a better version of ourselves, and whether it means to or not, it makes us unhappy. In fact, I’d be willing to bet the rise in depression and anxiety in this country has more to do with the advertising industry than anything else.

Here’s another secret:

I got fired from my day job yesterday, and after a day of ups and downs, shame, fear, and sweet (sweet) relief, I realized that I was happy about it.

I had the hardest time allowing myself to happy, though, because this world would tell me I was irresponsible, that I need to be certain and secure before I can be happy, that I need to have a JOB and GET PAID, no matter what the cost.

No matter what the cost.

But I have paid a very, very high price for that life, my friends. In the past 3 years that I’ve been working a soulless office job that barely paid the bills and barely fell within the boundaries of ethical (in my opinion), I have developed severe depression and anxiety. I spent most of this past summer in a walking panic attack–derealization and depersonalization, if you want to get gritty and bring up bad memories. I spent every day of the week in a literal panic, pupils dilated, heart hammering, ears tight, as if they were clenching to keep the world closed out. My average blood pressure my whole life has been something like 90/60 (very low!) and the last physical I had put me at 130/115. And when I finally admitted to a therapist that “I guess I have anxiety,” I also realized the anxiety was covering for severe depression.

I paid for that job. My marriage paid. My writing paid, to the extent that I honestly gave it up for a while, thinking maybe some dreams are okay to let die. (Not the ones that make you horribly depressed to let die, though, jfyi)

So tell me, society: is having a steady job and income really my top priority? Because another few months of that might have landed me in the hospital, in more ways than one.

I am happy I lost my job, even if the reason I was fired was nonsense, and everything is unstable and unpredictable right now. I’m happy because I’m free. Maybe not in the way I would have liked to become free, but the Universe works in mysterious ways, and I’ve never been one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Right now, I’m in a place of so much potential. I will probably qualify for unemployment (which would net me about what I would have been making working part-time), but even if I don’t, it’s not the end of the world. I have the money I was going to use to supplement our income when I went part-time. I can and will get another job, even if I’m just working at a grocery store (our local grocery happens to have an excellent reputation as an employer). But I am never going to sell myself out as badly as I did for my last job. I’m being given a chance to be true to myself, and to uphold my values, for realsies.

This morning, I woke up smiling. I threw on my teal corduroys (fuck business casual) and a hair flower (don’t have to worry about a headset messing it up!) with my hair all huge and lion-fro from sleeping with damp hair (so unprofesh), and went to work–my real work: taking care of myself, and taking advantage of the opportunity I’ve been given. And that means writing.

Tell me: is there something about you that you secretly love? Don’t keep it a secret. Loving yourself for who and what you are is always right.

<3

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Spring, Sprang, Sprung

woof

Look how happy this guy is about SPRING!

It’s officially SPRING! No, don’t look at the snow outside. Or the thermometer. Or the clouds obscuring the precious, golden, lemony sunlight… it is officially spring!

JUST GO WITH IT.

Spring, like many things in our calendar and in our world, is rife with symbolism and meanings that have been liberally applied by human beings since the dawn of time (or at least our cognition of time). Spring is a time of rebirth, regeneration, healing, cleaning, growing. It’s a time of fertility and creativity. It’s a time of resurrection. So it’s the perfect time for me to begin my new life focused on my writing career, instead of merely focusing on survival (this is my last day working full time at my soul/time-sucking day job).

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve had some major setbacks in the past year, and I’ll be the first to take responsibility for those setbacks, too. But I’m here, now. In this new place in time, I’ve made choices, taken chances, and given myself permission to move forward on a basis of courage, hope, and dreams alone. And I couldn’t be more excited, more proud, or more terrified.

Yes, there is a lot of fear surrounding this. Will I get writer’s block? Will I run out of ideas? Will I accidentally fall under an ancient Egyptian curse that makes my fingers disintegrate every time they touch a keyboard? Maybe. Maybe I’m not good enough, and not brave enough, and not really “meant to be” a writer.

But my fears change nothing. Maybe I will have another existential crisis. Maybe I will fail, and fail, and fail. Maybe I will even give up. But I already know, no matter what, that I will keep crawling back, bloody and bruised and broken, because my dreams refuse to die–no matter how much I smother, bludgeon, and burn them.

And so, maybe, just maybe, I will succeed.

But it’s really hard to publicly admit that I believe I will succeed. Isn’t that messed up? And yet, I wonder if that’s the real magic, and real courage: daring to believe that you might just be as great as you can imagine yourself to be; refusing to believe in the lie of perfectionism; refusing to buy into a world that doesn’t want you to celebrate the fact that you are fucking awesome, and you have got so much to give.

So I’m gonna own that. I’m doing this crazy, risky, wild thing by making less money and spending my life savings to allow me to stay home and write–but I’m doing it because I believe in myself. I believe in my ability to write, and my ability to break hearts, and my ability to make people cry, and my ability to tell a damn good story.

I believe I will succeed.

Call me crazy, but it’s true.

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Best Laid Plans of Summer Vacation

This has not been a very good summer for blog updates! I guess I haven’t had much to say. I’ve spent more time sunbathing and barbecuing than using this blog to blather on about the weather (hot, dry) or how cute my dog is (very). You’re welcome.

Guess which one is me.

But lo! Summer is almost at an end! I mean, not technically. We still have at least a month. But it feels close to the end. The weather has cooled drastically and, due to the drought, leaves are already changing colors and falling. It reminds me of when I was still in school–college, high school, whatever–and how this time of year meant my days of freedom were numbered. Right about now, I’d probably become a bit manic, oscillating between excitement for the possibilities of the school year ahead, and dreading the end of warm days, sleeping in, and unscheduled weekdays. And I might be a bit disappointed by everything I’d planned to do that summer, but hadn’t–hadn’t had the time, or made the time, or put in the effort. Whatever the reason, I had not done or achieved a lot of things, probably–a road trip, an art project, a book I’d meant to read, a sport or hobby I’d meant to take up.

As a (mostly functioning) adult, my year is no longer divided by school and vacation, but by workdays and weekends. Still, I’m conditioned to see summer as a season of opportunity, both by my schooling and by nature (longer hours of sunlight, milder weather, etc.), and so I still find myself taking stock this time of year. I still find myself straddling the expectational gap between dread and excitement for what the next “school year” will bring.

Whether it makes sense to or not, this is actually a good thing that I (and maybe, you) have been conditioned to do. It is good to stop and take stock sometimes, not to berate yourself for what you have not achieved, but to find out if you have strayed; not to fear the future, but to build hopes for it. Sometimes we stray from plans and paths because we gave up too easily, allowed too many distractions to gain priority. Sometimes we stray because, maybe when we first set out, we were mistaken about what our priorities actually were. It’s good to take a look at all of these possibilities, and examine our true feelings about them. What was the motivation behind my straying? Have I changed, or do I just need to try harder? Maybe sunbathing an barbecues are more important to me than I realized.

And what are my expectations, my hopes, from here on out? Not forever-future, but the next few months. Fall will be here soon, and Halloween (my FAVORITE holiday) and all the parties that go with that. Travel fares go down for a lot of destinations this time of year, and there are a lot of people I haven’t seen in far too long. But the hours of the day will be shorter, and the weather (especially in Buffalo) will become increasingly unpredictable. And I’ll want to drink tea, and make chili, and take long walks through delicious-smelling piles of fall leaves, and bake apple-bacon pies (yes it’s both genius and delicious), and of course, I’ll want to write as much and as often as possible.

Will I accomplish all of those things? Maybe. Probably not, but maybe. It’s good to make a list though, and prioritize it if I can. It’s good to check in now and then, and see what’s changed. I might have flashes of insight on how I want to lay out my garden next year and have to prep the soil before the ground freezes. I might become obsessed with the link between old-world African religious practices and new American Vodou and have to devour books on the subject. I might finally take that voice acting class I’ve been thinking about.

Who knows?

What I’ve learned, thus far, from life, is that it is always best to plan ahead. But! It is also best to be able to accept the fact that your plans will probably change, with or without your permission.

Happy introspecting!

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A New Note on Writer’s Block

Rusty, aka: Lord Rusticus

Well, it’s been a while since I posted here, but I have Explanations. The biggest one being that it’s summer, and I feel like every free moment is booked from June to October. The other big reason is that we got a dog just after my birthday! So I’ve been busy calming our resident cats, training our new pup, and trying to deal with his previously undiscovered allergies that are making him scratch all the hair off his head. Oof. He’s like a fluffy little old man, except he’s hyperactive and chews on everything (like the six pairs of  shoes we’ve had to throw out). But we love him!

The other big thing keeping me away from this blog? I’ll admit it: writer’s block. That thing I don’t really believe in. But let’s call this Advanced Writer’s Block, Code Orange. I wasn’t quite at the quitting stage (Code Red), but I was definitely in the “will I ever write again?” stage. It wasn’t that I was uninspired, or out of ideas, or believed my writing was bad. It was beyond all the normal things that once kept me from writing, long ago before I called them out as frauds. It wasn’t any kind of belief in lack that was a problem–it was a belief that there was too much. I had too many choices, too many questions–but there was lack, too, I guess, because I didn’t know myself well enough, or my story well enough, to know how to resolve my concerns.

Ultimately, it wasn’t about any of those things though. It was about fear, of making the wrong choice, of wasting time and effort. And even beyond that, it was something more: I was putting too much pressure on myself to write the “best book EVAR.” And even beyond that, the pressure was there because, essentially, I hate my day job, and it was also there because I hate false hopes, hate getting so far as to have lots of agents (I’ve lost count now) request the full manuscript only to pass a few weeks later. I’d reached my limit of stagnation and disappointment, and I was depressed. (Actually, I had “severe anxiety” for three months, but that was basically just me, doggedly determined to Solve All The Problems)

Anyway, I could go on and on psychoanalyzing myself here, but who cares? The point is actually something much easier to digest: I have got a lot of experience under my belt when it comes to creative recovery, overcoming blocks, and understanding how the artist’s mind works and surprises us. I know a lot of tricks, and I know a lot about my own creative habits, and I know a lot about how to avoid the common pitfalls of Doubt. But even with all that I know and all that I’ve experienced? Writer’s block still got me. Like a virus that’s mutated to become immune to antibiodies, my ego ramped up its bullshit to weasel through my wall of well-grounded ambition, and then proceeded to kick me in the teeth.

It’s more than that, though. It’s not just that the insidious part of my ego that likes to kick me into place has adapted–it’s that I, myself, have grown and changed, by leaps and bounds, as a person. Emotionally, mentally, creatively, I’ve grown in depth and width and height, but consciously I have not yet stretched my awareness to cover my new borders. I don’t really understand myself as well as I thought I did, because I’ve changed shape. That’s why, when looking at an old manuscript and a partially finished rewrite, I had no idea how to proceed. Of course, I love the old version. But the new version is amazing too. And both are very different. How can I choose what to keep, what to change?

The thing is, the story I loved several years ago when I wrote that novel is still a story I love, but no longer a story I can tell. My shape has changed–my stories have changed with it–and in order to tell the story I want to tell, I have to explore this new creature I’ve become, get used to my skin, my height, my voice. So,  I guess this whole period of anxiousness and sadness and crippling indecision was/is actually just growing pains.

I’m not quite there yet. I’m not entirely certain who I have, or will, become, but I’m finding my footing more and more each day. The smoke and debris are clearing from my head, and I’m beginning to make out the shapes and sounds of the new stories I’m carrying in my heart, incubating, until I’m ready to put them onto paper.

I’m also trying to learn patience, because god DAMN it I want those stories ready to be written.

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Con brio

Imagine that the world revolves around music. Some of us play, some of us listen, most of us are critics or fans in one way or another.

We exist in an auditorium with a stage that, over time, has evolved to become almost infinite. Not only infinite, but open to anyone, at any time. The auditorium is cacophonous, a clash of keys and timbres and tempos. Everywhere you look, there are people playing their songs, shouting their music to the world, calling for others to join their band, summoning fans to watch them perform.

There are orchestras, and pop groups, and solo artists. Their fans rage; their critics rage; the artists rage to be heard over each other.

You’ve realized that you are a musician, and you want to play your own instrument. You’ve played for a while, unseen, off stage, while others clamored for their place on the stage. But you don’t want to hide it from the world. You don’t want to hide behind your instrument, either.

And how in the world will you ever be able to play when you can hardly separate the sound of your strings from the others? They twist the melody from your mind, overpowering you with their own syncopation, their theory, their practiced modulations and formulaic refrains.

But you’re not afraid. This is not the way that music has to be. It’s not the way you want your music to be, not the way you want to play, and you will not let them scare you from the stage. So you take your instrument and you climb onto the glossy wooden floor boards, and you turn yourself away, at an angle from the crowds, because you do not play for them. You hope they will like your song, but ultimately that is not why you put your bow to string.

You focus on your breathing, on the music in your head, and as the din around you turns to white noise a melody escapes you, and you play. Your song goes unheard, but you are playing, you are breathing song into the world, and your fingers are dancing across the strings.  The undermining modesty of your sound draws curious attention, but that is not why you play.

And suddenly, you do not know how, or why, or when, but all you can hear is the stream of your own song, notes ringing in the rafters, soaring and ecstatic. And you play and you play, and the music gushes until, all around you, the auditorium transforms. The music bends to weave between your notes, creating an abstract symphony.

And you play until you are exhausted—exhilarated, but exhausted. And suddenly you realize that the noise is still there, the noise is maybe even louder than ever, but you see the random faces in the audience turned towards you, listening. Thinking.

They heard what you did, even if you didn’t mean to.

Even if the noise remains.

It’s better than applause, this silent appreciation. Your sound may not have dominated, may not have pierced through the bedlam, but it reached who it was meant to reach.

And still, you played it only for yourself, for the sheer joy of communion with your muse.

Perfect synchronicity. Perfect unfolding. As you always knew it should, and would be.

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