almost at the finish line

My friend and seasoned author Seanan McGuire told me, when I was anxiety-hand-wringing over how and when my book would start getting out there, that things would start slowly and then everything would happen at once, probably when I was least emotionally prepared to handle it. In that sense, I’ve been anticipating March with both excitement and trepidation – watching my countdown app like a hawk to mark the “official one month” until my publishing date, searching my own book title and name for interviews that might have popped up, frantically checking Good Reads for reviews, eyeballing my publishing schedule from my editor that tells me when my author copies are supposed to ship and when I could possibly start seeing my book in stores since sometimes they ship before the release date.

As it stands, March has barely started, but this week alone has been an unexpected whirlwind of fun and good things. My friends over at Critical Role launched a Kickstarter for their animated special that far surpassed their funding goal in less than one day (every time I check the page, the uptick in dollar amount makes me want to cry), I got my first real review from a proper and professional comics website (check it out here!), I saw Captain Marvel (it was absolutely everything I wanted it to be after waiting so long), AND my publisher emailed to tell me that some printer samples of my book were in – which means I got to hold and see my very first copy of my debut book in all its hardcover and color glory. It was a little bit of an emotional roller coaster, because, well…I wrote a book, y’all! A real published book! If you think I’m emotional now, just remember that there’s still about 3 weeks until its official release. (APRIL 2nd! GO, GO, GO!)

Because I have no shame in documenting every part of my author journey, I recorded a short video to commemorate the moment. So, have at it – also, turn up the volume up because the sound in my apartment is super wonky. And please ignore a) the video optics on my 2012 Macbook that make this look less than professional (I KNOW I NEED A NEW COMPUTER BUT I AM STICKING WITH VEX’AHLIA UNTIL SHE ACTUALLY DIES and also until I have the money to spare to upgrade) and b) the fact that I sound/look less enthused than you might expect because I was literally trying to keep all my emotions in check and also I’m still dealing with a lot of “holy crap this is actually happening” – newsflash, this is definitely not a professional on-camera kind of recording. It’s one made up of nervous love and excitement. But I think that stuff is important to share, because it’s real and it’s me.

The two year journey of my debut book is almost at an end, but my publishing journey is just getting started, and I can’t wait to share many more moments like this.

 

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embracing the terrifying change

I hate change. I hate change so very much. I go to great lengths to avoid it, even if it’s detrimental to me.

To my great dismay, I will have a lot of change in my life very soon.

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Yes, that says what you think it says. I have a new apartment.

It’s real, now — not that it wasn’t real before, but closing in on a move date, getting keys, signing a lease and talking about furniture purchasing make it more tangible than just knowing you chose not to re-sign your lease. And don’t get me wrong — knowing that I have a place to live and that I won’t be homeless certainly helps with my stress and anxiety. But that doesn’t mean that there’s a lot of ancillary worry, most of which comes from the fact that, well…I hate change.

Moving in with my boyfriend, and moving out of my “single” life of going home to a studio apartment every night is crucial to everything I want so badly, everything that I wish I already had — marriage, children, a home in the suburbs. (Really, I’ll just take a house with a yard in someplace that’s not a legit borough of Manhattan.) My brain knows that, but, hey. I hate change.

I’ve been trying to figure out why I feel so damn scared, and why I feel so depressed and upset when I think about having to leave my current apartment, given that I’ve only been in the space for two years. Admittedly, there’s a part of it that comes from living in a very (very) nice luxury building: short commutes due to being in the middle of Manhattan. Laundry in my apartment which means I can wash whatever I want, whenever I want. A dishwasher when I get too lazy to handwash things (which is a lot.) A view I will miss terribly. Doormen. A coffee shop downstairs. A crosstown bus. But when I moved out of my former apartment in Queens to go to grad school, I had lived there for over five years. My landlord was like my second mom, my friends came to stay over all the time. I knew the neighborhood. I had my nail salon and coffee shop and grocery store and Chinese take-out place and I had dentists and doctors. As it happened, I got that apartment at the same time that I got a new job that would also become semi-permanent. As a result, it was the most stable life I had since coming to New York as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, excited twenty-four year old.

And I felt incredibly sad when I left. Making the decision to leave New York, however temporarily, was something that gutted me and caused me anxiety for weeks on end. Like leaving my little studio in the middle of Manhattan to move in with my boyfriend, I knew that going back to school was something that I had to do in order to achieve the kind of life I wanted. But it was hard to quantify the fact that not only was I leaving my apartment and everything I knew (not to mention all my friends and family), but I was also uprooting myself to a new state, not knowing if I could ever really return to New York and be self-sufficient at an age where most people are married and financially independent and starting families. And I was sad, and I cried, and my last night in New York also happened to be my good friend’s birthday. It was the end of December, and I helped my parents finish packing up my apartment. They got in the car to drive back to Boston with my stuff, and I spent the night drinking in a bar in Chelsea overlooking the Empire State Building, toasting to my future and my past. It was a fitting way to close a certain chapter of my life.

Most of my life has felt like a series of “one door closes, another opens.” When I moved from my first apartment in Brooklyn to my apartment in Queens, it was on the heels of starting a new job; when I moved back to New York after being away in Chicago for year; it was on the heels of starting a new career. I don’t know if I’m going to get to close this chapter of my life in some way — as far as I can tell, my job won’t change and my friends won’t change. There’s not going to be some big “milestone.” I’m lucky that I’m going to be able to have the luxury of having an easy and relaxing moving process rather than trying to cram everything into a few days time. But it’s going to be less “let’s process this” and more “well, now your keys have been returned, and you have a new apartment. Get up and go to work.” I wish I could be more excited and proud of myself for taking these steps towards a future I want, but instead, all I feel is anxiety

And maybe it’s too much to ask to have those closures. Maybe I’m being too selfish for wanting it. My therapist correctly helped me deduce there’s a lot going on that I don’t have control over, and that it’s not so much leaving a nice space as it is realizing I’m losing a lot of things that are concrete. My commute times, my “go-to” coffee shops and stores, my routines, my sleep schedule, and especially my personal time, that’s all going to change. And it’s less about not being able to sit on Tumblr when I get home from work, and more about the fact that if I want to stay in on a weekend, I now have to remember to answer to someone besides myself when it comes to why. In that sense, feeling like I’m leaving something very secure (my cozy little solitary space) and also very comfortable (location-wise) is hitting me hard.

I’ve been trying to do things that will help ease me into the process, which has the potential to be messy and stressful and unpredictable. Things that are simple, like buying a huge bottle of wine and sitting on my bed and drinking while curled up in a blanket, or ordering a pizza for dinner just because I feel like it, or watching my favorite movie, or walking around in a bathrobe for no reason, or taking a bubble bath when I get home from work without cooking. Just small moments that allow me to take advantage of MY time in this place as long as I have it, rather than always being focused on what’s ahead. Because believe me, I am excited for things. I’m excited to live with someone I love. I’m excited to live in something bigger than a one bedroom or a studio. I’m excited to decorate with all my nerd stuff, which thankfully, my boyfriend approves of. I’m excited to buy furniture. I’m excited to know I can sit on a couch with a glass of wine, or in the guest bedroom with my laptop, or at the kitchen table with dinner. Yes, there are cons that come with living in this new space (hello laundromats and having no dishwasher or closet space) but I’m excited to have the opportunity to make this new space somewhat of a real home, even if it might not feel like home for awhile.

And so on night’s like tonight, as each day gets closer and closer to change, I sit and I look at this view and I think “how lucky we are to be alive right now” and I drink my wine and try to live in the now and focus on this, rather than what will always be an uncertain future, wherever I live.

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i have been changed for good

My mom frequently tells me that when it comes to friends, it’s important who I surround myself with. On the surface, this seems pretty self-explanatory: obviously, I wouldn’t want to hang out with people who are bad influences, and who drag me in directions that will be detrimental to my life. But when she says it, I know she also means it more than just in a superficial way.

It’s important to have people in your life who will inspire you and influence you, and who will allow you to grow and be a better person. I’m not saying they all have to be shining examples of humanity and volunteer at rescue centers and be married at 30 with two kids and have strong financial jobs. But in general, you want to surround yourself with GOOD people, and people who are going to help you be your best self and live a successful, productive life. (My boyfriend, I love him, but he’s a prime example of this. He’s driven and educated but his friends…not so much, which is worrisome sometimes.)

I’m an odd bird. I had a good group of high school friends, but aside from two or three people who I practically grew up with and remained super close to, I lost most of those relationships through the years. (The fact that I didn’t end up coming back to Boston after school probably didn’t help.) My roommate in college was my best friend, which was both good and bad, because we basically hung out together all the time. We had a small group of friends who always hung out with us, and I was in a sorority, and some of the girls were nice. But I came out of college with pretty much one lasting friendship. (I was okay with that, because my college roommate, who will always be “roomie,” is GREAT.) Grad school was where I truly found the close-knit group of friends I probably should’ve had in college, but hey, I’m not complaining, because those friendships are so valuable.

Most of my closest friends — the ones I talk to daily, the ones who I cry about life with, the ones who have seen me through good and bad, the ones who I’ve taken vacations with, the ones whose family events I’ve been invited to, the ones who will be in my eventual wedding party — are from the Internet/fandom. A majority of them I’ve known for over 10 years thanks to Rent (the message boards and the Broadway show). A lot I met over LiveJournal, when LiveJournal was still a thing, before Twitter and Tumblr existed. A few I met through other Broadway shows, like the short-lived Pirate Queen in 2007. A lot were also mutual — friends I met through social media who had other mutual friends, who I bonded with for various reasons. And then through Tumblr and fandom, I got close to certain people that became huge parts of my life (and even became roommates and weekly Friday night dinnermates.) I classified these people over the years as “New York friends” just because it was easier than explaining the way I knew so many centrally located people (who didn’t know each other) when I didn’t even go to college here. But after awhile, that dropped off, because they were just FRIENDS.

I guess the point of that whole digression is to say that I’ve always surrounded myself with good people. Some of them aren’t exactly in the same places in life as I am, but they’re all loyal, kind and passionate. And sometimes people come into your life at the right time and inspire you in different ways, and that’s why I’m so thankful for Shelly.

We met through the usual Internet things: fandom, Tumblr, fic writing. We started talking over our blogs, and then eventually over text messages, and hit it off kind of immediately. We both participated in NaNoWriMo, and she became my right hand (wo)man and writing buddy — even though I didn’t finish my story, the fact that she was always there to push me to write every single night (seriously, I don’t think there was a day in November that we didn’t talk to each other, even it was just updating each other on progress), and there to listen to me whine and offer word sprints, made such a difference. And while our conversations outside of NaNo started out as mostly fandom flail, we soon progressed to talking about very Real Life things, like relationships and mental health and work. It turns out we’re similar in a lot of ways, and she understood some things in my life that other friends, for certain reasons, just couldn’t understand.

This long entry has a point, I swear.

During one of our many conversations, she basically told me, “by the way, if you ever need to get the eff out of New York, you can.” My month has been on and off terrible with stress and anxiety, and the holiday season, as much as I love it, can really be an overwhelming black hole. After muddling through one particularly terrible weekend where I was at the end of my rope, I asked if I could take her up on her offer, and she graciously said yes.

And so this weekend, I traveled to my home state not to go home, but to hang out with a friend who has been a really wonderful to me lately. We sat around and drank hot chocolate with Baileys, and we colored and talked about fic and made cookies and had take-out Chinese and watched movies. I got a lot of doggie kisses and cuddles, and we talked about Real Life things and it wasn’t a distraction from life as much as it was a well-needed break that helped me get my mind back on track and reminded me of how good it can be to have someone to talk to that you trust.

I’m in a place right now where, after years of not being sure about what I want, I know what I want. Unfortunately, I’m still not close to being there, and unfortunately, I still feel more lost than I want to admit. Some of that is my own fault; I’ve fallen into bad habits that come with handling anxiety and running from the problems I know I need to deal with: distancing myself socially, spending too much time online rather than doing other productive things (like reading, writing, getting outside or even just doing things that AREN’T related to Tumblr), spending too much time regretting the past rather than trying to embrace my life as it is now and move forward. It’s very hard to pull yourself out of these ruts without help, and even though some of closest friends understand this, sometimes they’re just too caught up in their own issues to give a clear perspective. And sometimes, they’re just not in the same place in life to understand. I can talk to Shelly about things like freaking out about organization and what pens to buy, I can ask advice about married life (and how to deal with men in general), I can commiserate about my Jewish mother. I can complain about anxiety and real life stress and she’ll get it, and she’ll offer words of encouragement and not judge me (or tell me to shut up.) She lets me text her about stupid complaints, like I want soup for lunch but I’m too lazy to go downstairs and get it, or I don’t want to leave the house because it’s too cold. She lets me send her really terrible selfies. Having someone in your life who inspires you to put your best foot forward is so important, and it sounds cheesy to say that a friend can make you a better person, but I’ve always believed that. And I’ve never understood my mom’s words of advice more than I have in the past few months by becoming her friend.

And I guess that’s the point, too. Whether it’s something like NaNo or just real life, no one does it alone.