adjustment and change

I’ve written before that I’m not a fan of change. It has nothing to do with whatever the change is, and it can be as simple as my favorite bagel and coffee place closing down or my usual salon shuttering, but I just don’t like change. Adjustment is hard for me, and I’m someone whose anxiety gets worse when I feel out of control, or when things happen that I can’t control.

In the past week and a half, I interviewed, accepted, and started a new full-time job. While I’m obviously ecstatic to be employed after almost a year of freelance and part-time work (hooray, health insurance!) the timing was the worst thing that could have happened to me, mentally. I accepted my job on Friday, two hours after interviewing, and was asked to start Monday morning. I had a schedule during my freelance time (at least, I tried to have a schedule) for this exact purpose — so when I did have to get back in the game, no matter when it was, I wasn’t always sleeping until 12pm or lazying around. But no matter how you slice it, transitioning from a laid-back lifestyle to 50 hour work weeks, constant social interaction, and commuting, is hard. Not to mention that this job, while wonderful, requires a lot of mental concentration. It’s a field I’m not entirely familiar with, and a job that’s out of my realm professionally. It relies both on me being my own boss and on me being the driver of a lot of different routes. It’s an open office environment — something not new to me, but in previous environments, I felt like I could at least have things around my desk that made it a comfortable place to work and not just a boring table. There’s no one that really treats their desk as a personal space here, despite the fact that lots of people work late hours, and so it feels strange to me to mark my territory by bringing in pictures and books and small cute toys. And because the company only has a handful of people, it’s also the type of place that focuses on a lot of extroversion (daily group lunches and dinners, frequent meetings and check-ins). All of which, combined with my quick hiring, took a toll. Adjustment and change are a bitch.

I spent the first week of work being frustrated, tired, and anxious. I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. I wasn’t used to getting up at 6am and not returning home until 8pm, sometimes not until 9pm if I was prepared to go home but got pulled into a group dinner. Every time I complained about things, I felt even more guilty, because who was I to complain about getting a great opportunity and well-paying job with a lot of growth (even if it wasn’t in the field I wanted to be in) when all I talked about for almost a year was being depressed because I couldn’t move my life forward since I was broke? Couple all of this with the fact that my book writing is finally taking off, and I freaked out over having to suddenly figure out how to manage my time in a way I didn’t think I had to worry about for awhile.

Yes, I know I’m not a special snowflake when it comes to having these worries. Oh boy, do I know. Lots of people have full-time jobs, kids, health issues, and they manage to get things done. But I know what makes me spiral out of control, and I accept it, I guess.

I’m slowly getting better, and taking full-on control of my passion planner to help me organize and get my head straight again. I’m trying to take solace in small things that I can control, like settling into a morning commute routine — having time for coffee and Tumblr and maybe some writing, watching the news, knowing that I have to get up by 6:10 if I want to shower, but that as long as I make it to the subway to get the train that rolls in exactly at 7:30, I can get to work on time. I made an effort to find a favorite small independent coffee shop — something that’s hard to do if you work in an area like midtown where everything is so commercial, but there are loopholes. I brought in my Hamilton coffee mug and my small Star Wars box, despite the fact that there are universal kitchen mugs and I have no need for anything decorative. It’s minimal, but it helps, for now.

I’m also attempting to stabilize myself in bigger ways. As soon as my health insurance kicks in, I’m going to go back to my doctor and re-evaluate and change my meds, which is something I’ve been needing to do for awhile. I’m going to start going to therapy regularly again, now that I can afford it. (And boy, do I need it.) And once I start getting a paycheck and have a comfortable cushion where I can breathe easier about my finances, I’m going to set up a small rewards system for getting through the week, putting it in my planner to hold myself to it — a massage, or maybe ordering delivery and splurging on the good places, or buying that book that I really wanted, or getting a new phone case, or having a happy hour fancy drink or expensive beer at a bar. Even just writing some of this out gives me a sense of calm, knowing that I’m consciously taking control of my stress and anxiety.

Things will improve. Change will, eventually, be good and lead to other good things. But for now, I’m just trying to get through the day.

this is democracy, and i am a nasty woman (aka trump is not my president)

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Saturday was the Women’s March in DC. I attended the one in NYC, one of the many, MANY sister marches being held around the world at the same time.

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the first sign we saw while walking to the march route was ON POINTE

When the march was first announced, I didn’t think I needed to go at all. Sure, I was interested, but it seemed like a lot of work. Sure, I wanted to fight, but I could do that by making phone calls, right? (I’m inspired, but I’m also lazy). The more people talked about going and fighting, though, the more I began to seriously toy with the idea of going to DC. I had my college roommate who I could stay with, and buses from NYC to DC were decently cheap, so it was financially doable. But, I’m in a bit of a hole right now, so the responsible side of me won out and I told myself I didn’t need that extra pressure of maxing out my credit cards.

Fortunately, the Women’s March in NYC came up soon after, and I was able to find a good friend that wanted to come along. I knew a bunch of people that were going, but everyone was so scattered, marching for different groups and at different times, many of them with their own groups of friends or family members. I didn’t want to show up unless I had someone with me. I mean, even without knowing HOW huge this thing was going be, I knew it was going to be MASSIVE and crowded and the last thing I wanted to do was show up on my own.

Was it perfect? Not quite. I also didn’t have a sign, which I regret, because I was lazy and didn’t think I could make one. I wish I had brought one. But I’m writing this entry to talk about what I felt during this march, because I wanted to remember every amazing moment. And now I realize that whatever I write, I’ll feel like my words won’t do my feelings justice. For the first time since the election — the day I felt like everything about my life and future rested on a hopeless government — I felt HOPE. I felt positivity, optimism, love, and power. We were all there for the same reason, but no one wanted to make anyone’s life miserable. We just all wanted to make sure our voices were heard. We cared about our lives, and the lives and futures of ourselves, our siblings, our parents, our spouses, our friends, our grandparents, our children. Sure, it was disorganized (props to the organization for trying, at least; they couldn’t have predicted this massive turnout.) But it was peaceful. There was no yelling or pushing. Yes, people got cranky and loud and confused and angry, especially when we were all kind of stuck at a standstill for hours because no one knew where to move to. But no one got angry at each other.

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HELL YES WE ARE

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my march uniform for the day: Planned Parenthood t-shirt designed by Scarlett Johansson + Bitches Get Stuff Done pin

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Because we knew we weren’t the enemy. We were all in this together. We didn’t vote for this man. We didn’t vote to be worried about our lives and futures and health and religion. We were banding together and we knew that it wasn’t going to result in any change at this very moment. But we knew we could create a MOVEMENT. It was a small way for me to feel like I was making a difference, but boy, did I feel like I was.

Rebellions are built on hope. We are stronger together. When the history books talk about the people that protested and marched and broke records, I’ll be able to tell my children I was there and be an example for them. I’m proud to be a woman, and even prouder to be a New Yorker. It’s moments like these that make me feel like we can get through the next four years, because we ARE nasty women. We are forces to be reckoned with, and we sure as hell won’t let anyone tell us what to do or who to bow down to.

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at the 5th avenue route right by trump tower. CHECK OUT HOW FAR BACK THAT LINE GOES 🙂

If this is the first step at banding together to do some good, I’m more than willing to have faith in our country.

here’s to 2017

Well, it’s 18 days into January and I still haven’t posted about the new year or any of my goals, so…I’d say my resolution to have more of a schedule is going well.

Maybe I haven’t made a declaration on my blog. But in my life, since waking up on January 1, 2017, I’ve made a concentrated effort to be more. Be more present, be more positive, be more optimistic, be more happy. It’s hard, but I’m determined. (I’m also determined to get better meds, but that’s another story for another day. Insurance, you suck.) Be more, and be less — less self-medication in unhealthy ways, more self-care on days I really need it.

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I’m trying to be more lenient. I’m trying to put less pressure on myself as a human being, as a person. My perfectionist traits run deep, from over-editing a piece of writing to making sure I look okay before I see someone I don’t know. In this same way, I beat myself up when depression and anxiety get the best of me. I allow myself to sink into anger. I’m angry that I feel this way, that I’m upset, that I’m unhappy with my state of mind and that I spent an entire day lazily dicking around online, finding ways to make myself feel WORSE rather than trying to change it. In 2017, I’m striving to take that pressure, recognize it, and breathe it away. I don’t have to be perfect all the time. I can (and just did) have a bad day, or ten bad days. I can accept that, and deal with it, as opposed to taking an entire bottle of wine and drinking alone.

This year, I decided to carefully title my page of resolutions “Things To Accomplish” rather than write out the word “resolution” in any way. The things I want to accomplish in 2017 are a mixture of real “resolutions” (drink more water, read more) and dreams/hopes I want to conquer (running another half marathon, moderating a comic con panel, writing a comic). Writing them all out in a big list is overwhelming, sure, but it’s also kind of inspiring. I’m not making the list so I can cross off as many as possible. I’m making the list to remind myself that I can do anything, be anything, accomplish anything. Is it a lofty set of dreams and goals? Sure. Is it a little ambitious? Probably too much. But you miss every shot you don’t take, right?

In the back of my planner, along with this list of “resolutions,” I’ve made a number of other 2017-oriented lists: Books Read, Things To Write, as well as a general wishlist of items I want but just can’t afford right now. I’m also keeping a list that’s simply titled “Nice Things And Smiles.” It says 2017 on it, because I kind of got carried away in decorating, but it’s really just a comprehensive list of all the things — from hot baths to comics to FaceTime dates with friends — that are worth smiling about or waking up to. My goal is to add to this list as often as I can, and as often as I feel like I want to. (Oh yeah, and sometimes I put things down twice by accident. Whoops.)

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There are things happening in 2017 that scare me, and that I don’t know how to handle. But I can handle myself, and that’s what I’m working on.

a (brief) look back at 2016…the good stuff

In my last post, I talked about how 2016 wasn’t a great year. And it wasn’t. But I didn’t want to end the year with an entry that, even though a little hopeful, dwells on the bad. So.

At the beginning of 2016, I made some resolutions. I started a “monthly check-in” (that I promptly failed at keeping up) where I tried to see how I was doing with the small-ish goals I had made for myself, and I’m proud to say that if I look back at where I ended up, I did pretty damn good.

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Okay, so technically, I completed very few of these things. I started to be better about my water intake thanks to daily messages/check-ins with my girls, but a lot of these things didn’t happen: I lost my job so I could barely pay anything let alone pay down my debt, and I didn’t finish NaNo due to November being an absolute pain in the ass. I didn’t write one fic per month like I planned but I DID break my word count goal, which makes me feel really good about myself. I also finished a huge, huge writing project — my longest story ever at 250,000 words. And in case you missed it, I ran the Disney Avengers half-marathon. I guess that counts as “running at least one big marathon somewhere”, right? (I think when I started this I definitely had intentions of doing another run before/after Disney in the NY area, and I tried, but the timing never worked out.)

One of the biggest goals I set for myself was to read more in 2016. I had fallen off the train due to laziness and (sad to say) an increase in screen time that took my time away from reading. I didn’t read AS much as I wanted to — I really would have liked to read more. But between re-reads and new books, I think I did pretty well, and I read more books than I have in the past two years. As for 2017? I have a whole new list of books I want to read, and thanks to the holidays, I have a crop of books already queued up and ready to go. Bring it.

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I haven’t fully finished my goals/resolutions for 2017 yet, because I haven’t really sat down to look at things in my new planner. (I haven’t even gotten a chance to finish things in my old one, and I might not…we’ll see. I’m debating just starting fresh at this point since we’re so close to the New Year and it won’t do me any good to “catch up” on the week.) But as much as 2016 sucked, I did a lot of things I was proud of. I had a lot of personal accomplishments (some of which I’m not writing about just yet, but they belong in this year), and although some of the bad outweighed the good, I prevailed. I accomplished the things I didn’t think I could do. I didn’t let the bad guys win when I could have, even though I came very close.

I’m still here. I’m a little more tired and broken-down and cynical, and I still have things to work on, but I’m here.

i tried, 2016. i really did.

When I sat down a few weeks ago to decorate/fill in the December monthly grid of my passion planner, the first thing I did was take a pen and circle December 31. I then wrote in big letters, the year is finally fucking over.

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2016 was supposed to be a great year. Okay, maybe the word great is a little too optimistic. I always try to be optimistic, but I just don’t have it in me to be a true “glass half-full” person. Still, 2016 had the potential to be pretty good. After months of stress, I was going to move in with my boyfriend, thus finally starting to move my life forward. I was well-respected and successful at my dream job, and I had plans in place to start searching for a new job with more money once I got settled in my new home. I had goals I wanted to achieve, and the hope that I could make my life more organized and more comfortable. I wanted to pay off my debt. I thought I could finally be engaged by my birthday, if not the end of the year. 2016 was going to be a great year.

2016 was not a great year.

Three months in, I unexpectedly (and unfairly, though that’s a story for another time) lost my job. I lost my job exactly four days before I was supposed to move, and I still haven’t been able to find full-time work, despite numerous interviews and connections. It all spiraled from there — because of not being employed, life moments like getting settled and getting engaged were pushed back. My self-confidence waned, and I became unable to have conversations about life because I was feeling guilty that I was holding us back. And each day came and went, because the world doesn’t wait for you to start figuring your shit out. It just leaves you in the dust, and suddenly, you’re looking at where you are at 34, approaching 35, and thinking about how left behind you are and how everyone else is in a better place than you.

2016 was not a great year.

My mental health imploded in a way that was extremely detrimental. Whereas I used to be able to comfortably handle my anxiety and depression with healthy amounts of self-care, being out a job made me unhappy with my life, which caused my anxiety and depression to hit an all-time low — one that forced me onto medication. My self-care deteriorated considerably while my drinking escalated, and I had more than a few embarrassing “rock bottom” moments that included a bottle of wine and the toilet bowl. I hated myself for becoming that person, and wondered if I had a problem that needed to be addressed. I toyed with suicide ideation for a few months, though never so seriously as to worry myself, aside from worrying myself that I was thinking a LOT in terms of “what’s the point?”

2016 was not a great year.

My depression manifested itself in not only making me feel worthless because I couldn’t find full-time work, but in tainting my relationship. Never before had I cared so much about what other people thought — I was comfortable in my relationship, I had a guy who loved me and would give me the world, who was genuinely a good person and who shared my interests. I suddenly became extremely fragile when I realized other people didn’t think of him the same way or didn’t even care for him as much, which made me feel like I was making a mistake. And because my self-esteem was so low and I couldn’t trust myself, I started comparing myself to every other couple, focusing on the negative qualities every person has that I couldn’t look beyond, convincing myself I had made wrong choices.

2016 was not a great year.

I spent most of it in the worst financial shape ever, overrun with debt, feeling guilty that I couldn’t provide my share of finances. I relied heavily on my parents to support me, something that exacerbated my guilt tenfold, given that I’m at an age where I should be self-sufficient, or at least married and taking care of my own life. Accounts were overdrawn, and I have a list miles long of money I owe friends from commitments I made this year that I still followed through with because I could KIND OF afford it at the time.

2016 was not a great year.

When I lost my job, lots of people reached out instantly and offered support or help. I was grateful to them. A lot of people who worked at places I longed to work in also supported me and offered words of encouragement. I went on interviews that seemed wonderfully positive, and lots of times, I was left in the dust without even so much of a “yes” or “no” response to all the work I’d put in to trying to get whatever job I applied for. I suppose it’s not anyone’s fault — things just weren’t in my favor, and I have to keep searching to find the one thing that’s “meant to be.” It doesn’t mean that each rejection didn’t hurt, though, and it doesn’t mean that I didn’t spend time feeling badly about myself, as everyone else who was let go from the same kind of positions before and after me managed to find work fairly quickly. The journalism world is small, and it’s hard to hide from everyone else’s success. It’s hard after awhile not to wonder if maybe you’re not so great at what you love, after all.

2016 was not a great year.

Donald Trump was somehow elected president. In the days and weeks after the election, my queer, Jewish, female self has never felt so helpless or so scared. My mental health suffered; I found it hard to find the creative drive I always embraced when I needed to get my mind off of things that were bringing me down. I felt removed from friendships due to everyone pulling away from the world and having their own issues, which was no one’s fault, but because of my current mental state, it made me feel that much more alone and useless. I couldn’t complete NaNo for this year, because November wore me down in every single way. It’s December, and I’m still am looking for that “holiday cheer.” I’m not sure I’m going to find it.

I write all this out not to air to everyone what hardships I went through or ask for sympathy, but to try to put into words everything that felt hard this year and remind myself that this year wasn’t me. Sure, 2016 sucked because of a lot of reasons, more so than previous years. But because those bad things happened, because those setbacks happened, it doesn’t equal the fact that my life is terrible. This year didn’t define me. It just beat me up in a lot of ways. And I’m very grateful that I had amazing friends in my life who were my rocks and lifelines, even when they were dealing with their own shit. And when that failed, I relied on those who reminded me that I could get back up and beat the bad guys. I could take care of myself. I could rise up.

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2016 was not a great year, but if anything, it made me realize I can try to be better. I can try to make things happen and make 2017 a good year for myself. A year doesn’t define me — my thoughts and actions do. And I’m willing to be optimistic, even cautiously so, if it means I can get rid of some of the bad.

overworked, underproved

NaNoWriMo started today. I should be more excited about that, because I love attempting this project every year, even though I never finish. (Ironic, for someone who is capable of writing 250K+ words when it comes to fictional stories about superheroes.) But the truth is, finding the motivation to be excited about anything right now is hard.

It’s been that way with most things, lately: Halloween, Thanksgiving, a few press events, the fact that I have things like an LA trip and a half-marathon and Hamilton to look forward to in the coming month. It’s not that I’m not aware I have some good things to look forward to in my life, when it could be a lot worse. But I’m tired. And I’ve become someone who needs to work really hard to find the good just to get through one day. I’ve now been officially unemployed for over six months, and officially unemployed for longer than I was the last time this happened. I’ve started doing some freelance work, but my mental health has taken a significant nosedive, despite the medication and constant attempts at pulling myself out of depression. It gets worse when I job search, because the positions available are far and few between. “Overworked, underproved,” says Paul Hollywood on The Great British Bake-Off when he’s dissatisfied with a bake. What he would probably say if he were judging my resume for any job I apply for is, “overqualified, underpaid,” because that’s exactly what I’m dealing with. And let me tell you, it’s frustrating.

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I’m aware I have talent. I have a lot of people in my corner who have gone to bat for me for various positions I’ve applied for, who have put themselves on the line to help me. I have a lot of friends who have let me cry on their shoulders while dealing with their own problems, and I’m grateful to them for letting me scream into the void somewhere. But I’ve fallen into a hole that’s made it hard for me to feel any type of confidence. I try to do the things that I know can help me and the routines that keep me grounded: running, journaling, passion planner decorating. But my self-care routines aside from what I try to keep up have been horrendous. And it’s affecting me in a way that makes it hard to keep pushing forward, because there’s only so much rejection and so many endless roads of nothing that you can take before you start to wonder what your life is really going to mean. And, well. There are things I want and things I can’t move forward with until I get this part of my life figured out, and I hate that I’m in this position at my age and at this moment.

From as far back as I can remember, I was passionate about entertainment. When I interviewed for my internship at Entertainment Weekly a few years ago, I was able to craft my cover letter with mentions of all the writers and pop culture knowledge I had grown up with (and then said writers who were still there when I was employed for real became my friends/mentors/drinking buddies, and I feel forever grateful.) I can still remember the chills I would get watching one of the many films that made up my childhood, how it felt to sit in my hometown movie theater with a friend and hear that opening music from MGM or Paramount. To me, that was real.

Last week, I experienced a series of events that ended with me finding out an opportunity that I was incredibly optimistic about wasn’t going to happen. After a good cry while walking down the streets of Brooklyn in the rain with freshly cut hair (seriously, this was my “out of a movie” scene) I texted a close friend from grad school who has been going through the same kind of rough patch, and we had an impromptu diner therapy session the next morning.

Both of us have had a hard time finding a job after being let go from our current ones. Both of us are dealing with a few factors outside our control when it comes to mental health. After some complaining and letting off some steam, she told me the only thing stopping her from picking up and running away to the middle of nowhere with another grad school friend is that if she leaves now, she knows she’s giving up. She’s letting this city beat her after working so hard to succeed. And she won’t give it that satisfaction after fighting for so long.

I’m not ready to give up, either. I’ve lived here for ten years (minus a year where I displaced myself to Chicago, but it’s still ten years, dammit) and maybe I have a lot of regrets and I wish I had done things differently and I wish I was at a different place in my life right now altogether, but I’m not ready to run away or throw in the towel. I may be broken down, but I won’t let this city win. I won’t let my depression win, either. I’ll keep fighting, because that’s what I’ve been taught by friends, and comic book character, and even those that just believe in a little bit of my talent from working with me.

getting back in the game

Oh, hello. It’s been awhile.

I could talk about how I’ve fallen off the blogging train (despite weekly reminders in my planner) because I’ve been spending all my free time writing a super long story; because I’ve been trying to balance my Internet time and “real world” time; because I’ve been making more time to read; because my self-care has been quite terrible and embarrassing lately. All of these things are true, but what has kept me from being most productive lately is depression. Funny how that works, right?

I tell people I’m doing okay — my parents, my sister, my friends, my boyfriend, my boyfriend’s parents — when asked about my well-being. I’ve been essentially unemployed since the beginning of April, which is not long comparatively to some people I know (and not long compared to how many months I spent jobless back in 2014), but no matter how positive you are and how much you try to ignore it, the situation takes its toll. You relish the ability to wake up leisurely, the ability to spend time catching up on television or writing or building furniture or sitting outside or drinking dozens of cups of coffee without interruption. You freelance and try to believe that all your hard work will pay off one day. You make money on your own schedule while still setting aside time to do what you want creatively. But then there always comes a point where you fall down. Where you become angry and bitter and sick of just being leisurely. When the rejections pile up, when you have to deal with getting your hopes up way too high in interviews and callbacks that seem like the biggest strokes of luck, only to be ignored or cast out again, back to square one, all of your effort and optimism of the past few weeks seemingly for naught.

The truth is, I’m not doing okay. Beneath the happiness I’ve tried to create for myself on the Internet and elsewhere, I’ve been struggling with figuring out how to power through all of the things in my head that are constantly weighing on me. I’ve had more anxiety attacks and bouts of insomnia than I know is normal. I’ve shied away from my friends, I’ve had shorter fuses for my frustration. And the worst thing about not doing okay? I’ve made it very, very easy to find ways to hate myself. Self-care and love is so important, and it’s something I struggle with, and something I’ve been quite terrible at lately. Because depression is, well, depression, and as good as you feel about yourself some days, it’s very easy to fall into a spiral of thinking everything around you is falling apart. Taking an antidepressant regularly and being more open about my depression in general has helped me to feel a little more confident about being in the place I’m in right now, and it’s something I’m trying to continue to do. Because sitting in silence the way I’m prone to do during the times that things get bad…that’s not good, either. And if I’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that I have a superb support system that will absolutely always be ready to prop me up if I admit that I’ve fallen.

But I still have a long way to go. I still need to be better about recognizing when to take a break, when to give MYSELF a break, when to trust myself. I still need to learn how to be happy with myself, about myself. Things are changing, slowly: a few positive scenarios have sprung up to give me light and hope because when it rains, sometimes it pours (and sometimes good karma leads to a windfall of optimism.) Summer is on its way out, fall is on its way in, and I always feel better when everything gets colder and more colorful and real. I’ve tried to embrace more friend time. I’ve tried to go easier on myself when it comes to what I’ve achieved in life and what my goals are. I’ve been writing a lot more and trying to create based on what makes me happy rather than just for validation, I’ve actively sought out things like meditation and yoga and have been trying to get myself out of the house on a daily basis. Running, aka the training I’m doing for my half marathon in November, is helping in some ways, too — as much as I still subscribe to the Sex Criminals adage of “running is bullshit.”

In short, I’m trying — which is more than I can say I was doing for a lot of this summer. And I’m AWARE that I’m trying. Sometimes, you have to accept the small steps in order to make bigger ones.

one more candle

It’s my birthday tomorrow.

Ever since I turned 30 a few years ago, I’ve had a hard time with birthdays. Maybe it’s just the very real fact that after you hit a certain age, you start to realize how much of your life you’ve already lived, and you get that “back 9” syndrome Robert Downey Jr. talks about. But for me, birthdays past 30 are continual reminders of the fact I’m not where I want to be or where I thought I’d be at this point in my life, professionally and personally. It’s hard to shake that mindset, to look forward to another year when you’re so focused on what your age means.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my 20’s, about mistakes I made because I was young, and stupid, and listened to the wrong people, and had different priorities. I think about if I would feel different because had I not made certain decisions, I would be where I always wanted to be. On the other hand, I’m astute enough to realize if I had taken that path, there’s a chance I wouldn’t have the friends I currently have. I wouldn’t have gotten a chance to work at the company of my dreams, doing a job I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do. I probably wouldn’t be in my current career. I might not have gone to grad school. I probably wouldn’t have gotten into comics as much as I did, and comics not only saved my life, but they also brought amazing, inspirational people into my world.

The thing is, it’s hard to focus on the road less traveled when all you can see in front of you is the one that is now defining your life. Maybe it’s because I know people who are younger, who have already gotten their lives together, and it makes me feel like moving at a slower pace is demeaning. Maybe it’s because I know people who ARE my age who have the things I desperately want, and I wonder if and where I went wrong.

This was an up and down year. There were extreme highs and extreme lows; I had a lot of positive opportunities and moments but I also had a lot of setbacks. I’ve been reflecting recently, about the steps I’ve taken to improve my life and mental health, the things I can be proud of and the things I could have done differently. In my Passion Planner, I purposefully designated today as “self care” with an attempt to relax and enjoy the day without being upset or depressed that tomorrow will see me another year older, and another year closer to an age that’s pretty significant.

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A few years ago, Kelly Sue answered a question about life and balance on her blog. I bookmarked it at the time, and still look at it today when I need to be reminded of the fact that you don’t have to be successful at 20 to have a good life. Or even successful at 30. Age doesn’t matter. Drive and motivation does. Being happy with yourself does.

It’s my birthday tomorrow, and I’m closer to having the things I want, but not close enough that I can feel optimistic that turning another year older will bring enough good things that will make me feel like I’m on the right track. But this year, I’ve had experiences, and I’ve learned. I’m older. I’m wiser. I have amazing people in my life who I am proud and thankful to call friends, who I love dearly, who help me every single day just by having my back in the smallest of ways. I have a family that is big on tough love, but they catch me when I fall, and lately, I really, really have fallen.

In the words of Kelly Sue, I’m doing the best I can, figuring it out as I go. And that has to count for something.

the struggles of adjusting

Since the beginning of April, my entire life has been in a constant tumultuous state of adjustment.

I’ve had to adjust to a new lifestyle, being unemployed but constantly playing a waiting game of wondering whether opportunities I’ve gone out for are coming to fruition (and then forcing myself to be productive and not get down on myself when they don’t). I’ve had to adjust to a new neighborhood, a new apartment and a new home and a new commute. I’ve had to adjust to a new routine and a shift in mental state. I’ve had to adjust to living with someone who I love while also learning to appreciate and understand their particular habits and my own needs for space. It’s the most adjustment I’ve had since moving to Chicago for graduate school three years ago but at least that change was rooted in a bit of stability: I had built-in friendships and work, I knew I was there for a set amount of time, and I knew what I was there to accomplish.

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Sad last day in my apartment selfie. I miss this view already.

Moving day part one...my old apartment looks so sad and empty

Moving day part one…my old apartment looks so sad and empty

There’s a sense of stability here, too, in our new place. We’re slowly (very slowly) setting up what will become our home, and every day it gets a little more lived-in. But there’s still a long way to go before I feel comfortable, worn creaking farmhouse style, and I think that’s part of what I’ve had trouble with. I feel at home making coffee and getting up each morning and sitting out on my balcony. But aside from the fact that we still need a bunch of furniture, there are still boxes everywhere, and there’s clutter, and nothing is on the walls, and one bedroom is completely filled with boxes and stray items. In some ways, not working steadily has been helpful because it’s allowed me to settle in and take time for myself. But things take time, and there are still moments when I feel like I’m far from satisfied or content. It’s a hard thing to accept, feeling like you’re wobbling on two feet and can’t quite catch your balance.

I was in Manhattan the other day and ended up walking along a stretch of 42nd Street to take the subway home, and suddenly got an intense longing for my old apartment. (That’s what happens when you literally lived in the center of everything…it’s a lot easier to miss Queens when you never go an hour outside the city). I missed being able to be in the center of everything, I missed my cozy space, however expensive it was, and living by myself and feeling like I was in control of everything. I missed my doormen and my small apartment in the sky and feeling content, and then I felt guilty, as if I was second-guessing my intent to move, as if I had made a mistake. I hated feeling like that and it took an entire subway ride home and then some additional reflection to make myself realize that the uncertainty of feeling unsettled is something that is a very real hinderance, since I’m a person who always likes to find at least one thing I can control.

And so, little by little, I’m trying to take advantage of things I can control and make those smaller moments count. Putting the few personal things I can away, organizing the kitchen, cleaning up and taking out the trash. Sitting on my balcony and enjoying being able to write or read outside with an iced coffee. Trying to find what makes me feel comfortable, inside my home and out. Settling into a routine. I know it’ll come together eventually, but for now, I’m trying to breathe and let my adjustment level out so I can focus on being productive and get my mind back to being present.

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Sometimes all you need is relaxation and coffee and a beautiful day. And a balcony.

One of my favorite book is Lord of the Rings, and one of the quotes I would always come back to when I had to do something scary and something is the speech Frodo gets when he leaves his cozy hobbit hole to take a journey that he has no idea will change his life: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” 

It’s scary to look ahead and know there’s adventure but not see what’s coming. It’s scary to take the leap and trust that you’ll be okay. But the best thing you can come to realize is that no matter how out of sorts you feel, you’re never alone.

nothing lasts forever

There is no easy way for anyone to break the news that you’re being let go from your job, especially when it’s your dream job. And especially when you had things planned that you were excited to work on. And people you worked with who you genuinely liked. And a job that, aside from a dream job, was pretty damn prominent in the industry.

But, that was what I dealt with last week when my boss messaged me privately and asked to see me. Given that another coworker in a position similar to mine was let go a few days before, I had already been fighting the feelings of anxiety and worry, but I was trying to be hopeful things would work out. As my coworker said, however, real life isn’t television. And so instead of getting angry and trying to prove your point and burning a building down, when you’re handed an unexpected twist that guts you, all you can do is accept it: smile, nod, be professional and mature. Afterwards, it’s totally acceptable to go outside and stand in a hallway, or go to the bathroom and cry hysterically out of shock, fear and anxiety. (Which I absolutely did. And then I took my Xanax. And then I had two wonderful, amazing friends who dropped everything to take me out for drinks and food when I told them what happened. I am so grateful.)

Life is funny. Life is strange. I’ve had a pretty interesting trajectory when it come to jobs. I fought long and hard after college to find a job in a city I desperately wanted to live in. My second job was a legitimate disaster, but when I got fired, I miraculously was handed my third job, and what would become a stable, wonderful environment for five years. Even when I gave it up to go to grad school, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t choose my career with the intent to work at the company I’m currently at. It was a huge gamble, and a huge risk, and it was a huge stroke of luck, but that happened, too. When I was stressing out over whether or not the current round of firings would hit me, my best friend logically told me that I couldn’t sit around in fear, and then that even if something does happen, things will be okay. Because I always come out on the other side.

Which I guess is is the truth. It absolutely, positively sucks. Since last week, I’ve had a few conversations with coworkers, people who I admire and who have been mentors to me in this company and business, and they’ve all said the same thing: you’ll be fine. It sucks. The way it happened sucks. But this might be the best thing that’s ever happened to you. You can do something better. You can work someplace that appreciates your skills. You can start fresh. You can cut your ties and do something great.

Even during the worst of my stint in unemployment, in between leaving my internship and getting my current job — when I sunk to the lowest point I’ve ever been, mentally — things did turn around. It jut took awhile. I’ve had a lot of people ask how I’m dealing with this news, considering how abruptly I was kicked out, and considering what I’m dealing with personally right now in terms of moving and preparing to start a new chapter of things. (My poor therapist…I felt terrible when I walked into her office, on a Friday afternoon no less, and announced that I was let go. She was shocked.) And I guess I’d say I’m handling this better than I thought I would, all things considered. Make no mistake, I’m freaking out about things like how I’m going to pay rent or buy food or even pay for therapy now that I have no salary. There’s an immense amount of guilt I feel with all of this happening literally days before my boyfriend and I move in together for the first time, knowing that all of a sudden, he’s shouldering the burden of our financials. But when I think back to how I was over a year ago, and how much of a mess I was, and how I barely got out of bed for days on end, there’s a difference this time around. Maybe it’s because I’m not alone. Maybe it’s because I have people behind me, amazing friends and support from the industry. Maybe it’s the fact that because I’m moving in with my boyfriend and moving to a new place, I feel like at least something is stable. I wrote an entry about moving awhile ago, where I talked about how part of the reason I felt anxious about moving was because unlike other times I’ve moved or uprooted myself, there’s been something that’s made me feel like I’m closing a chapter on a certain part of my life. With this move, I was going to (at the time) have the same job, the same commute, the same friends. It felt like I was making a scary move I wasn’t prepared for, and I like comfort and familiarity and avoidance, all thing that I have right now in my little tiny apartment in the sky. (As my mom likes to call it.)

And now, days before I move, my job is ending. I’ll leave work on my last day, the moving truck will come the next day, and the next day I’ll wake up in a new apartment and start a new chapter of my life. Maybe this is the way it was supposed to be all along, and things just had to happen at the right time. I’m trying to think of things positively: I was initially worried about having the time to unpack, adjust, even write. I may not have a set job, but now, at least for a little while, I’ll have the time to do that. Maybe it’ll make the whole process easier on my psyche.

Most people know that among the few superheroes I consider my favorites, Hawkeye ranks near the top. There’s a reason why I identify with someone who is constantly beat down by both life and work, who is ordinary and sometimes thinks he’s not meant to be where he is in life. But he’s there because he loves what he does and he knows he has to be good at it. And so you keep going, because it’s what you signed up for. You keep going, even when things beyond your control are trying to pin you down — like aliens.

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You can’t control life, and nothing lasts forever. All you can do is step forward, take a breath, and trust someone will catch you when you fall.