an unexpected hiatus

Has it really been three months since I last updated? Jinkies!

I could list all the reasons for not posting, but mostly it boils down to this: I’ve been hard at work putting a second book out on submission and finishing a draft of another project that hopefully I’ll be able to start sending out to publishers in the next few months once I get it a little more polished. I also had some personal changes in my life regarding my day job, but the upside of everything that happened is that I have MUCH more time to write and pursue projects that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to chase after. It’s kind of like I’ve unintentionally given myself a full-time writer lifestyle even though I definitely still need some money coming in. (Real talk!)

Anyway, last time I wrote here, I was talking about going off to YALLWEST for the first time. It truly ended up being an amazing weekend, and every panel I got to speak on and attend was a delightful experience. (Though my favorites were by far the fandom panel and the LGBTQIA panel.) I made some wonderful new friends, I got to practice speaking about my book on panels with Big Important Authors, and it was a weekend that reminded me of how lucky I am to be an author and pursue this career. Ultimately, I came away super inspired and ready to dive back in to a few things that I had been letting fall by the wayside because I was stuck/unmotivated. Have some pics!

GEEK GIRLS DON’T CRY has now been out for about 3 months, and I’m still getting a lot of comments from people who are either finding it for the first time (yay libraries!) or passing it on to friends. I’m really, really heartened by the response I’ve been getting and how much it’s helped or touched people and I’ve truly loved hearing people’s reactions. The best part of this gig, in my opinion.

I’m going to try to be better at updating this blog in the near future, even if I don’t have a lot of writing stuff to talk about because publishing is a long waiting project where you can be working on ten things at once but basically have no news on anything for months. To keep myself on track (I get very easily distracted by my anxiety, okay) I’ve been doing this thing where I’ve been making lists of my goals and “big dream” projects, because it helps me put things in perspective and it also helps me organize my brain. Some of the things are really, really out there and right now, it includes a lot of IP stuff — but hey, a little dreaming never hurt anyone, right? I encourage everyone to try making their own list if you can, because it really does help your motivation.

here’s to you, 2018

I’m pretty sure I’m getting this “end of the year” post in literally under the wire (it’s still 2018 in America for a few more hours, oKAY), though as I write, I’m thinking of something I read this morning in the weekly Smarter Living digest emails I get from the New York Times — a question about why we seem to set goals/re-set around this time or feel a need to, and an answer:

“It’s an arbitrary resetting date. From a practical sense, it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s kind of silly, but I think any time that gives us a convenient excuse to re-evaluate where we are in life is great.”

In some sense, I feel a little cliche at how strongly I take to the fact that January 1 has to be a “new start.” I relish in it, I feel excited by the chance to put a new foot forward — new goals, new ideals, new attitudes. But in another sense, I’m glad that I have such a strong will and desire to re-set. I always get reflective at the end of the year, and this year, I seem to be more reflective than usual.

It was a good year. In fact, 2018 was a really good year, a better year than a lot of years in recent memory. For the entire year, I was employed full-time, a first since I lost my job in 2016 and was stuck between freelancing and job searching. I was (mostly) healthy, mental health stuff aside, but nothing was as bad as it’s been in previous years. I got married and I wrote and sold my first book, which I get to see published in April! I made new friends and created a new found family that I adore and that I am so grateful for. I saw a lot of friends who I don’t usually get to see thanks to vacations and life events, and each time I hugged them, I was reminded of how lucky I am to have people who care about me so much. On the whole, I’m hesitant to be too self-congratulatory, but I like to think that I ended the year stronger, happier, and a little more confident. Dungeons and Dragons gave me amazing strength in so many ways, from friendships to my career, my friends were my rock, I worked in my dream job even if there were things about it that sometimes drove me insane (no job is perfect, and mine certainly isn’t)…heck, I finished an entire manuscript! (And copyedits. Trust me, until you’re an author, don’t underestimate how big of a deal it is to get through copyedits. Even though I loved my copyeditor.)

So 2018 was really great, but then…something happened. And it wasn’t a bad thing. It was just that in the last 2-3 weeks of the year, I faltered. My roadblock hit. Best laid plans went off the map, and while I know that’s partially my fault for being so cocksure about a future that was never set in stone, I also don’t know any other way to think. A lot of things in my life have happened because I wanted them and went after them and I’m not saying I’m lucky (though luck has certainly played a role in everything, I won’t lie) but I did work hard. I put in the effort to study, network, connect, write. I wanted a professional degree in journalism, and I got into the best graduate program in the country. I wanted to work at EW and I got the coveted internship right out of school. I wanted to work at EW NOT as an intern and it took awhile, but I eventually got to do it. I wanted to work at Marvel, and again, it took awhile, but I eventually got to do it. For most of my life, I’ve I latched onto the things I knew I wanted and knew I was passionate about and said “I’m going to make this happen.” And…I made them happen. So when I decided I knew exactly what I wanted for my next big step, it was only logical that I felt things should naturally work out. After all, I was already on a path that seemed like everything was meant to be.

I know that’s a bad way of thinking. You can’t control life — if you had asked me years ago, I would have never told you that I’d leave New York to go to Chicago, work at two of my dream jobs, or marry at 36 instead of 30 like I always planned. There are things I want for myself next year — a house, a baby — that I know I can’t pin on a job or a career or a dream, and who knows how those things (if they happen) will intersect and affect where the path of my life curves. Logically, I know that, but because I was too caught up in my own confidence, I went from knowing exactly what made me happy, knowing exactly what I wanted for myself and my future, to feeling completely lost and upended thanks to something out of my control.

And that was hard.

I spent a lot of days leading up to the end of 2018 looking at inspirational/self-help books, searching different websites, getting off social media to distance myself from too much noise, and searching for some sort of sign. I so badly wanted someone to come tell me that it would be okay — that this is what you were meant to do and this is how you’re going to get it, and don’t worry, everything will work out. I told some of my close friends what I was going through and I knew they weren’t going to magically fix anything for me, but I wanted them to, because I didn’t want to do it alone. I didn’t think I knew how to do it without help.

And that’s partly true. I’m a firm believer in that we don’t get anywhere in life without supportive, real people we can lean on, people who push us when we feel like we can’t move forward and motivate us to be better. I know I wouldn’t be where I am if I didn’t have a support system and I don’t intend on losing that. But as we move into 2019, I’m realizing that I need to also take steps for myself.

I need to make the decisions that make me happy, even if they’re hard.

I need to take care of myself the best way I can, even if that means making changes.

I need to have the conversations that move my life forward, even if I’m scared of where they might end up.

I might not know how it do it on my own, but hell, if I fail, at least I’ve failed trying, right? (Also, let 2019 be the year I push myself to fail, because failing is actually good. You’d think I would’ve learned that with over a year of job searching and rejections and close calls, but apparently, I still get hung up on being scared of it.)

A colleague posted recently about how she doesn’t do resolutions because she can’t keep them, but she does do tangible goals. She takes things she wants to accomplish for herself and gives them monthly deadlines, breaking them up into things she can accomplish in smaller doses, one by one. And even though Passion Planner has tried to instill that in me and I’ve tried to write out certain monthly goals, I’ve never been able to make myself follow through. Maybe I was never doing it correctly. Maybe I was using it the wrong way, making my goals too big and too lofty and then putting my planner away and only looking at it and reminding myself of things when I needed to. But so many of the goals I make for myself are overwhelming; there are big goals and small goals and goals I could accomplish in a day and goals I could accomplish in six months. And so, on January 1st, once I wake up and actually get myself into a headspace where I feel like I can concentrate, I’m going to write down a list of everything I want in 2019. And then I’m going to write down what I want to accomplish for this month. And the next one. And then next one.

And I’m going to do that while hoping that sometimes, when you stop looking, the answers appear right in front of you and come at the time they’re supposed to.

Here’s to 2019.

the big news: i’ve got an agent!

For the past month or so, I’ve been cryptically tweeting about progress on “I DID A THING,” which was my very, very vague way of getting out my excitement for a project I embarked on but due to a lot of reasons, couldn’t be specific about just yet. Some of that had to do with the fact that I had no idea if it would actually happen, so I didn’t want to put the cart before the horse. Some of that had to do with business.

Guys, keeping a secret of this magnitude, when all you want to do is shout to the rooftops about how excited you are about your dreams starting to come true, has been SO HARD. And the thing is, this very vague cryptic project has a number of steps involved. I still can’t talk about a few of them, but I can finally talk about one that I’ve been sitting on for awhile, now that the paperwork is officially signed.

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Signing my contract! Yes, that is a Black Widow shirt for obvious reasons. Yes, my hair is a mess, but that’s okay.

I have a literary agent. I am officially represented by Maria Vicente of P.S. Literary.

Writing that sentence out — even just seeing it in print — is still surreal to me. I wasn’t sure where this crazy journey would lead me when I decided to query P.S. Literary about a project that is extremely important to me, and I count myself eternally grateful that I happened to click right away with Maria, who is absolutely the right people to help usher this project into the world. Say what you will about the geek world, but it’s small and lovely, and part of the reason I even thought of Maria as a good fit for what I hoped to do was because I knew how much she understood this specific project. Within the span of our long conversation when representation was on the table, I realized how much Maria was invested in my ideas, and how much I would click with her as a collaborative partner. You can query a bunch of people and take the first agent that comes along, but it’s truly so important to be able to listen to your agent, understand their views, and recognize their intentions. Because they want you to be successful as much as you want to be successful, and that’s a team effort. Long story short, I instantly knew this was going to be a great fit.

I started this process at the beginning of 2017, but a lot of this has come together in the past few weeks, which has made February a month of ups and downs — ups where this project is concerned, downs where full-time job opportunities are concerned. But in the atmosphere of the current political climate, having something to focus my energy on besides job searching has been lifesaving, and I’m learning all I can about the publishing world from the other side…a place I never thought I’d be (says the girl who saved dozens of stories to her computer in middle school and high school with the file name “Novel[1], [2], [3], etc” but never managed to complete NaNo.)

I’m still learning the ins and outs — how the whole process works, what I can and can’t tell people at certain points, etc. I’ve even already made stupid tiny mistakes by being overambitious, because it’s me, and also that’s probably what Clint Barton would do. But Maria has been amazing to have as a cheerleader, and I can’t wait to work more with her.

So, yeah. I have an agent. And as soon as I can share some other good news along the same lines, I will.

so, i ran a half marathon

I don’t make that many New Years resolutions. And if I do, the resolutions I make are small, like read more books and write more during the year. Or they’re things that relate to my mental health, like spend less time online and stop drinking coffee before bedtime and cut back on alcohol. I don’t make big, grandiose statements to myself like “eat better” or “lose/gain weight.” But last year, I made myself a decently big promise: in 2016, I would run a half marathon. Specifically, I would run in Disneyland’s Superhero Half Marathon weekend.

For a few years, I’ve watched friends participate in the weekend and I always wanted to join them. But, well, I’m not a runner. And getting to California isn’t cheap. It’s so much easier to let the idea slide and say, “well, I wish I could…maybe next year.” So, in January, when I was making a list of goals in my passion planner, I kept it in the forefront of my mind and made it a number one priority. If I planned for it enough, and saved enough, I could commit myself to it.

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Here’s a secret: initially, I was going to sign up to run a 10K. To me, the 10K race was less intimidating than doing a half-marathon. I then found out that the theme of this year’s 10K run was Doctor Strange, and, well…not to be a bummer, but I was less enthused about participating in a race that honored a character I wasn’t that into. The Avengers Half Marathon promised to make the run a celebration of all the Marvel characters I loved, and so I asked a few friends who were serious runners if it was totally out of the question for me to run a half — given that, while I’m in good physical shape, I’m not a serious runner and have never run any kind of timed race before. With the reassurance that I could train and work up to it, I booked myself into the half-marathon run when sign-ups went live in April. Running 13.1 miles? Getting to see my favorite Avengers? Not such a bad thing. And so I trained — at least, as much as I could. I got myself to a comfortable 5K in about half an hour and built up my stamina over the summer.

Then depression and my mental health and personal commitments and being busy took a toll. As the race got closer, I trained less and less. I slacked a little more on getting outside as the weather got a bit chillier. I didn’t do any long runs or practice runs the way I was supposed to, which left me nervous about my race — so nervous that I kept making self-depreciating “I might die” remarks leading up to last Sunday whenever anyone asked me about running. But I still got on a plane and flew across the country. I still got up at 3:30am. I still stood at the starting line. I was doing this, and damned if I was going to back out on the one thing I had promised myself I’d do this year, in a year that has been one of the hardest years for me, mentally. One of my favorite lines in Hamilton is when Burr sings “I am the one thing in life I can control” which, for me, really resonates. I can’t control if I get a job, or what the country is doing with this goddamn election, or my mind getting down because I’m unhappy with certain things I can’t change. But I can control this. I can say I’ll do something and then DO IT. In therapy, I often talk about how one of the things that’s been really hard on me with unemployment is the loss of control, and feeling like there’s not a lot that I can count on in my life right now. But this? This was something I could control.

Guys, I ran a half-marathon.

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Was it easy? Hell no. The first few miles were fun, getting to run through all of Disney and California Adventure. I stopped for photos with Black Widow and Hawkeye (naturally), took in some of the sights that were super cool to run through, and there was MCU music blaring everywhere in the parks. (I regret not taking a photo with Captain America but he was the first person I saw and I was worried at that point about timing so I chose not to stop.) The hardest stretches by far were miles 8-10, particularly the stretch where I had to run around and then through Angels Stadium — mostly because the length between the miles was so long it seemed like it would never end.

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Hawkeye liked my leggings, clearly.

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By Mile 9, my legs hurt enough that when I would slow to a walk, I really felt it, probably because I had never really trained to run more than 50 minutes at a time and I was going on two hours of continuous running. But I kept going, little by little, and managed to pace myself so that I ran/walked the rest of the way and ran the last 800 meters to the finish line. Those 800 meters were arguably the most painful because I was ready to be DONE, but I knew I had to push myself to finish. And so I put on “My Shot” from the Hamilton Mixtape and let Busta Rhymes guide me over the finish line.
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YAS QUEEN I DID IT. I also hurt, you can’t tell.

Coming out to California, I had three goals for my first half-marathon: finish the race, don’t come in last, and run in under three and a half hours. And the girl who used to absolutely dread mile run day in middle school accomplished everything on her list. I finished the race, well before a lot of other people. I didn’t come in last — far from it, in fact. And while my clocked time was about 3 hours and 25 minutes (I started in the second to last corral, so my run didn’t actually start until 40 minutes after the race officially began), my actual run time from start to finish line was 2 hours and 38 minutes.

I ran a half-marathon.

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Running is SUPER SEXY…not.

The RunDisney crew was great. The people were great, the atmosphere was great, and all of it contributed to making my first run a success. People came out with signs, and my friends came out to cheer me on. Right now, the world is in a state of turmoil that feels so despondent and so bleak that I don’t know how to cope. This election hit me hard, left me vulnerable, and left me feeling helpless. I admit it was a bit of an escape to have this trip come at the time that it did — I admit it made me feel better to be with friends who shared my sexual orientation and provide them with love — but more than that, the whole weekend was about people of all ages and all ethnicities and all skill levels supporting and loving and being appreciative of each other. I hugged and talked with strangers I didn’t even know, and those anonymous encouraging smiles during the race or people who would talk to me before the race to share their stories were what helped me power through. It was a weekend about feeling good, and about love.

We could all use a reminder of love right now.

Crossing that finish line gave me a sense of exhilaration that I can’t describe. Everyone says you get adrenaline highs and endorphins while running, and while running has certainly helped my depression, I never got that total “high” people talked about. But when I was running, I felt a sense of accomplishment that can only be described as relief. Not just relief that I had finished a race, but relief that I had completed a goal that wasn’t easy, and that I worked for. I proved to myself that it didn’t matter if I hadn’t worked out enough or run enough. I had pushed myself to complete a big goal. And I don’t think I’ll ever forget what that feeling felt like. I didn’t beat my depression, and I don’t know how to do that yet, but in those moments I crossed the finish line? I beat my depression. Because I proved I could do something beyond what my body thought it was capable of.

And I did. And I can do it again. And I will.

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monthly round-up: january

If you use a passion planner, one of the big organizational things they try to instill is goal setting. Whether it’s for the week, the month, a year, whether it’s three years, ten years, your lifetime, whatever, the point is to try to accomplish as many things as you can even if they don’t end up being your SOLE goal. (For example, you may not have published a book, but you did write 10,000 words of a draft of a novel that you can query. Or you didn’t get married, but you did get engaged. Or you didn’t get a new job, but you did get a promotion.) At the end of each month, you reflect on your goals and your steps that you’ve taken to get there, however big or small. You sit down, you look at questions that ask you about specific feelings or moments, and you reflect on how you’ve changed over the month. You look at the things you said you wanted to do/accomplish 30 days ago and you see if you’ve made progress on them. If you have, yay! If you haven’t, that doesn’t mean that you failed anything — you look at the month and you think about why you didn’t accomplish things, and you make resolutions to do better next month.

(See, look at me trying to make it look like I don’t feel like a failure for that whole “no I didn’t make my goals this month” thing!)

The monthly exercise is a way for you to keep your motivation in check, and I figured putting those things in a blog would be a good way to do that, as well. Maybe it’s all a little redundant, since I’m doing this in my planner each month, but hey, it can’t hurt.

These were my “goals” for January, as put into my planner at the end of December:

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blah blah blah, ignore all the life commitments

So, how did I do?

  • FIND AN APARTMENT

I didn’t find an apartment. The truth of the matter was, I didn’t expect to find an apartment, not with my lease ending in two months and knowing the way the market moves in New York. But I did start looking, and I plan to kick that more into gear this month. I basically have to, considering that I’m leaving my current place no matter what. Have I mentioned that I hate apartment hunting? Because I really, really hate apartment hunting. Number one, it means making a huge change, which basically fuels a lot of my anxiety. Number two, I hate processes that are out of your control, so when I need to make a huge life decision or change I usually end up putting it off or hiding in order to avoid dealing with it. My therapist and I have been talking about ways to combat my fears, because I can’t really do that with this situation or I’ll screw myself over in more ways than one. In good news, I saw a place that I fell in love with. In bad news, I’m pretty sure for a variety of reasons it won’t work out. But if not, the search goes on.

  • START SAVINGS/BUDGET

I didn’t do this the way I envisioned I would, or by starting some program that helps you track your spending. (Apparently programs like that don’t do well for me considering I live alone and have a hard time allocating expenses and I get overwhelmed more often than not.) But I did become aware of my spending, and I kept a vigilant eye on my checking account and my credit card balances, more than I usually do. I carefully calculated what was coming out each month (usually, I just handwave a lot of the automatic payments and forget about them) and at the beginning of each week, when I wrote out my passion planner, I tried to remember to put in my starting balance so I always knew what I was working with when it came to spending. It’s a slow process, but I do feel like I’m slowly gaining more control over my financials, however small the steps are.

  • WRITE EVERY DAY

I cheated slightly with this — even before I made all my “resolutions,” I was pretty much writing every day because it’s how I spent my free time or downtime. So it wasn’t really about making myself write more, but more refining my writing — how much I do it, when and where I do it, etc. Admittedly, although I blocked off time in my passion planner every morning and night for writing, I didn’t stick to those constraints. I did find, however, that it does help me to visually and mentally put the time aside, because even if I go out on a weeknight or sleep in too late, I always remember I need to at least try and write. But I did open a google doc every day and make progress on projects. Right now, all of the things I’m working on are fic, and it will probably stay that way until NaNo starts again. But in other ways that writing every day has made a difference: I’ve blogged regularly almost every week, I’ve kept on track with my huge multi-chapter, and I started new stories I have inspiration for.

  • READ EVERY DAY

By the end of January, I had finished Wishful Drinking (love Carrie Fisher so much), The Night Circus, and Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please. I read three books this month! THREE! Last year, I read maybe two books over the course of the entire year, and one of them was Margie’s Black Widow novel which was half work. The only difference between last year and this year, aside from commuting, is I made an effort to read when I wasn’t doing anything else or when I had some free moments to relax, rather than sitting on the computer and scrolling through Tumblr, or re-reading fic on my Kindle. (Which I still do, I just default to it less often, having an actual book I know I want to get through.)

  • POST ONE NEW FIC A MONTH*

Success! I finished my Star Wars/Avengers AU, which I had started back in December when I realized just how much alike Rey and Finn were to Clint and Natasha. And I’d like to finish one of the three ideas I’ve been working on for next month — even if I can’t break my word count from last year, as long as I can keep posting one new story every 30 or so days, I think I’ll be satisfied. It’s just important for me to keep my brain creatively active, even if I go through periods of feeling like I have no motivation or inspiration whatsoever, or I feel like there’s no audience for my words.

*(for the record, this whole “one fic a month” thing does not include an ongoing multichapter that is, at this point, over 100,000 words.)

Every step is a baby one, but I think so far, I’ve done okay. It’s been a productive first month of trying to make myself happy with what I have. And looking back at what I’ve accomplished makes me feel positive I can push forward, even if things endeavor to push me back.

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blah blah blah, ignore all the life commitments

goals, part two

I was going to write an entry surrounding some of my feelings as of late, but as New Years Eve is today (and because I just finished writing out stuff in my passion planner, hooray!) I figured I would post a little bit of reflection about 2015. While my recent post was more of an overview of wide-reaching goals, I do have a varied, concrete list of things that I’m setting myself up to accomplish in 2016. Hopefully, most of them hold.

  • call my sister once a week
  • be better about budgeting/finances and budget once a week
  • pay off at least one of my credit cards in full
  • have a clear idea of my future re: marriage/kids/etc
  • write every day for at least an hour
  • complete nanowrimo
  • run either a 5 or 10k (preferably avengers marathon in disney, if i can get in)
  • limit Internet usage during the week so i can go to bed earlier/generally be more productive after work
  • more regular appointments with my therapist
  • read at least one book a month/read for at least an hour every day outside of commuting
  • get up earlier to have time to sit/rest/relax/write/etc before work (i kind of do this now but i could be better about it)
  • keep in touch with friends better on a daily basis
  • less regrets

One of the hardest things for me to accept is change. This goes for anything: routine, living situations, even something as simple as when I went to grad school and realized I wasn’t going to be able to happily sit on my computer and write fic every night (this actually didn’t happen, I ended up basically giving up nothing fandom-related while in school, but I was freaked out for a long time about it.) To that end, I’m absolutely a different person than I was in January. I’d like to say that change is for the better, and in some ways, it is: I gained some great new friends, I’ve had some amazing experiences (I highly doubt anything’s going to top sharing a drink with Sophie Turner at the EW SDCC party, but one can dream — my superficial professional life goals are still high). I cultivated a year-long relationship that’s still going strong, I started therapy again after putting it off for way too long, and I stabilized myself in a job that I fought for. In some ways, the change was for the worse: living somewhere nice/convenient but expensive meant that I could barely save despite a decent salary, I came dangerously close to losing a few good friendships based on the fact I didn’t take care of myself properly, I recognized the root of a lot of my anxiety which, while great, also sent me into a spiral of regret I’m still struggling to work through so that it doesn’t affect my daily life. (Sorry to those of you who get whining texts. You know who you are.)

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conquering the world with passion planner! i still need to figure out how to make it pretty

But I also believe that I gained as much as I lost. I’m going into 2016 with a clear head and a determined attitude, willing to take charge of the goals I’ve set for myself and the resolutions I’m striving for, no matter how big or how small those resolutions are. I have a renewed dedication to getting my life in order via a lot of different tactics, thanks to recognizing for the first time in a long time the steps that I need to take to help myself function properly. I have people in my life who I feel I can trust again, friends that inspire me and are there for me, and I have a supportive boyfriend who, despite some of my misgivings, I know I’m lucky to have because he would do anything to make sure I’m happy and loved. I’m not expecting 2016 to be easy, especially based on what I know I need to accomplish in terms of “big life goals.” But I feel optimistic, supported and energized, and really, that’s all I can ask for.