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.

there and back again: my journey to becoming a published author

I’m writing a blog post that I never thought I’d write — although I suppose that’s not exactly fair to say, considering that I never thought I’d write about having representation from a literary agent. I’ve gotten used to saying “I have an agent” though, so it doesn’t feel like such an awe-inspiring thing anymore. (Even though I still pinch myself every day as a reminder of how lucky I am.) But now I need to get used to saying “I’m going to be published author.”

I MEAN, HOLY CRAP. I’M GOING TO BE A PUBLISHED AUTHOR!

That blurb is my official Publishers Marketplace announcement telling the world that I have a contract, an agreement, and a deal to make my book a reality, thanks to my agent and publisher. It’s something that I have wanted to share with the world for months. So, in that vein, I’m going to take a moment to talk about my publishing journey. Not just because it’s a dream come true – obviously it is – but because everyone’s story is different, and I finally get to share mine. Also, this is something you really only get to talk about once. Sure, I’m set on publishing more books. But saying “this is how my second book got published!” doesn’t have the same “lifetime achievement” feeling that comes with getting a traditional publishing deal for your first ever book.

Everyone has a different story about breaking into publishing, but the gist of all those stories is this: publishing is rocky, volatile, and stressful. It’s also very, very lonely. You have your agent and you have a small handful of friends and/or a significant other who you can talk to. But even during your biggest moments, you’re alone. You can’t tell the world the moment you accept an offer from an agent. You can’t tell the world when your agent calls to say an offer’s been made. You can’t even tell anyone that your project is being looked at by [insert big name publisher that I would dream of working with here.] You can’t say anything until the paperwork is signed and trust me, that’s not a process that happens overnight. For some context, I officially accepted my book deal and offer around the end of March 2018 – that’s how long I have known about this. Even though contracts were being negotiated and I was actively working on my manuscript because I had an agreed-upon deadline to hit an already set publishing date, I STILL couldn’t tell the world until I squared everything away on both the publisher side and my agent’s side – 9 months later, in November. Granted, I realize that my contract negotiation process was a lot lengthier than usual, but like I said – everyone’s story is different.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. For all intents and purposes, my story starts here: a girl who vividly remembers her teacher running a program in 2nd grade where students would submit stories to be turned into “real” books, aka bound portfolios with shiny, sparkly covers. I remember being so excited to get those books and show my stories off.

I wrote a lot. I was always writing. I loved writing. I discovered fanfiction in high school (thanks, X-Files!) and once I started writing about Mulder and Scully, my world changed. A lot of people like to discredit fanfiction for ~reasons, but I credit it a lot. Because I wasn’t always writing – I couldn’t always find a creative idea to chase, and you can’t write what’s not there. But the television shows and movies and comics that I liked? Those already had characters and ideas. I knew them better than I realized. I could write about them because they already existed in a space that provided me with creativity. It’s thanks to fanfiction that I was able to keep writing when I might’ve otherwise stopped.

(It’s also thanks to fanfiction that I realized I could finish something manuscript-length worthy, which I had never been able to do with an original work before. My fanfic magnum opus was a 256k word story; that story fits into a series which is over 500k words in total and still ongoing. Basically, no one ever tell me I can’t write 20-30k words, because this monster exists and I am damn proud of it.)

I always thought I’d write something fiction, as that’s what I loved to write when I was younger. Those were my stories: dragons and gnomes and elves, tales that included the intricate world building of Lord of the Rings or Redwall. I certainly didn’t go around saying, “one day, I’m going to write a self-help book about female characters in pop culture!” That’s the funny thing about life, I guess. You find yourself on roads that lead to moments that become bigger moments, or you meet people who change your worldview. You evolve both as a person and as a creative and sometimes, those changes kick off ideas and connections…and things like a book.

I started working on Geek Girls Don’t Cry (originally titled I Am My Own Woman and OH BOY did we go through ten million title changes/brainstorms) back in the winter of 2016, during a point in which I was in a really, really bad place. My mental health was in a downward spiral that I couldn’t seem to control. I had been let go from my dream job earlier in the year and couldn’t seem to land anything permanent despite connections and networking. I was broke, as freelancing was only going so far. My personal life seemed to be stalling; I wasn’t engaged and I wasn’t getting ready to have kids and because I had just moved in with my boyfriend at the time, I couldn’t exactly pick up and move to another state or house for a fresh start. In the interest of trying to keep my mind away from unhealthy thoughts, I started to spend less time job searching and more time writing – and yes, this is where fanfic comes back in. Writing stories about fictional characters I loved, some of whom I’ve always seen myself reflected in thanks to their thoughts and decisions and lifestyles, distracted me from feeling useless and depressed.

The more I wrote, the more the idea for my book – a book about female characters and the real mental health issues they deal with and how we can relate to them and learn from them – started to form. One day, energized by a rare spark of motivation, I decided to just take the leap. I had been doing some research on traditional publishing, and I submitted a query letter along with a few sample chapters to a publisher who I knew produced content similar to what I was hoping to sell. Screw it, I thought as I sent the email. What do I have to lose? The worst that happens is that I get rejected or they ignore me. I expected to get no response but to my surprise, I got one a few days later – with a request for a proposal.

After freaking out about the fact that someone was seriously interested in this project, I realized I had a problem: I had no idea how to write a book proposal. There were a lot of google searches (thank heavens for the Internet and writers/authors who put blogs upon blogs of information out there), a few panicked emails/DMs to author friends who are much more seasoned than I am, and a lot of hours in a Park Slope Barnes and Noble. Eventually, I put together what I hoped was a passable book proposal and sent it back, hoping for the best. Being honest with myself, I knew that at this point, I’d already gotten further than I ever thought I’d get in the process. So now, I felt like I really didn’t have anything to lose.

Then I started to think, well…if I’m doing all of this and hoping to get a book deal, I should probably try to get an agent. Easier said than done, considering I was doing this whole process backwards. I did, however, have an idea of who I wanted to work with thanks to knowing published writers in the pop culture sphere. I also realized I had the added bonus of being able to say that a legitimate publisher had already shown interest in my work. I researched P.S. Literary Agency and then sent a query email to Maria Vicente who would, after some back and forth conversations, a few more sample submissions, and a brief phone call, officially offer me representation.

As 2017 began, I accepted Maria’s offer. And then the real work started: revisions, an updated proposal that looked much more professional than what I had cobbled together on my own, and multiple conversations with the publisher who was initially interested but ultimately ended up passing. Around the beginning of spring, I began going out on submission for the first time. My life became an endless loop of checking my email every five seconds in addition to googling every version imaginable of “how long does it take to hear from publishers?” Sometime in August, I found out that all of the editors who were looking at my project had passed – and I won’t lie, I was more than a little disappointed. I knew that this was normal and that I wasn’t even at the point where I should feel beaten down considering I had JUST started submitting. I also knew this was only the tip of the iceberg – there were many more editors to try and many more revisions to make. Still, nothing stings like first professional rejections, amirite?

Maria and I went back to the drawing board and spent a few months re-working my proposal. In November, I went out on submission round #2, feeling stronger and more confident about this version of my book. December brought about some positive feedback from a bunch of new editors, but still no offers. At the beginning of 2018, I set out on submission round #3, hoping that maybe third time was the charm.

A few weeks into January, Maria sent me an email with a question from an editor at Sterling Books. A few weeks after that, I received a heads up that the same editor was taking my book to their acquisitions meeting (basically one of the last steps before a publisher decides whether or not they want to buy your project.) My anxiety and impatience returned in full force and I tried as hard as I could to put everything out of my mind, which is basically the equivalent of telling me “you’re going to definitely meet Robert Downey Jr. but we can’t promise when it will happen. Just know it has a really good chance of happening.” Weeks went by, and I tried not to obsess over how much time was passing. Was this good? Was this bad? Surely if it was good news I would’ve heard something. But if it was bad news, I would’ve heard something too, right?

On March 22nd, near the end of a long work day, Maria emailed me asking if I had time for a phone call. At this point, I knew what to expect if your agent called you. Still, I refused to let myself get excited. There was no reason this couldn’t be a random call updating me on where we were with submissions…or a call to tell me that the editors who were looking at my book had passed on it.

Turns out, the news was good: Sterling had made me an offer. In retrospect, I probably should have had a more emotional response to being told I was getting a book deal* but I was at work and in a bit of shock, so I just sat at a table and tried to process what this meant: that my dream was coming true. That someone besides me (and my agent, and my close friends, and my then-fiancé, and my family) believed in me and my vision and my writing. That I was going to publish something that would be read by people all over the world, maybe even by my mentors and heroes – the ones who had inspired this book in the first place.

Shortly after getting my offer, I had a super productive phone call with my potential editor. Within minutes of starting our conversation, I knew she was the right person to work with.  She genuinely shared my passion and vision, and she understood how involved I wanted to be while I understood certain things I would have to consider in order for the book to (hopefully) be successful. She had even already started envisioning cover art and named one of my favorite creators as a hypothetical artist! If that’s not serendipitous, I don’t know what is.

Most of the time, I end up downplaying whatever success I have. Maybe it’s a self-esteem thing, maybe it’s an anxiety thing, maybe it’s a women thing…it’s probably a mix. Accepting my accomplishments and feeling like I deserve them is something I’m trying to be better at, because I know I’ve worked hard to get where I am professionally and personally. I know that I’m proud of myself, even if my brain tells me I don’t have a reason to be.

But…screw those thoughts, because I’m getting a freaking book published! GEEK GIRLS DON’T CRY: REAL LIFE LESSONS FROM FICTIONAL FEMALE CHARACTERS will be yours to hold and read on April 2, 2019. (And, hint hint, it’s already available for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes and Noble!) Even though there were so many times I thought there was no way I’d be able to wait THAT much longer for something to happen, or keep THAT kind of secret, I did it. And the exhilaration and feeling of being able to announce this to the world was everything I’d ever dreamed of.

 

*I DID actually freak out/cry/drink all the wine when I got home from work that day – this selfie was taken on March 22, the day that I got the call about my offer. (I also posted a cryptic Instagram photo.) It’s not the best photo of me ever taken but it’s authentic, which is what matters. (And clearly, given the fact that my book is all about strong and awesome females in pop culture, I had to open my Galadriel Lord of the Rings wine for the occasion.)

this is about life humps

In less than a week, it will be my birthday.

I hate admitting my age to people. I hate it because I always seem to be surrounded by people who are younger and doing better, and I hate that I can’t be content and happy with where I am because I constantly feel like I’m too old to be here, or do this, or have that. I hate that this feeling has only gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. I hate that I obsess over my age because I still cling to goals I haven’t achieved so I feel like I just failed at life. (You were supposed to be married by now! For like, two years! And have three kids! Come on!)

My therapist is a big fan of getting me to recognize what are “negative thoughts” and what is “anxiety talking” as opposed to real, true variables. So, I know it’s all psychological. I often get yelled at by my mom and my sister for being so morose when it comes to turning another year older, and why can’t I be happy? What’s wrong with me? I’ve got good things going on, and I’ve done a lot in my life. I’m certainly not sitting at home wasting away with no social life and no dreams and no goals and no money, watching the clock tick forward as the years fall away while I do nothing to take advantage of them. In other words, from a logical standpoint, I’ve got absolutely no reason to sit here once a year and freak out about how old I’m getting when I realize my birthday is suddenly on the horizon. (It always seems like I forget how close it us until I look at a calendar and realize, oh right, THIS is the end of July.)

Over the years, I’ve tried to become better about accepting my age, but the flip side of that is that accepting my age has just gotten harder as I’ve grown older. There are certain milestones that are for sure fun and celebratory, but once you pass them, reality sets in and you just feel – well – old. It’s a maddening cycle: you turn 21 and feel awesome and immediately realize the next big birthday is 25, and, oh god, QUARTER LIFE CRISIS. HALFWAY TO THIRTY. You turn 25 and feel good and immediately realize the next big birthday is 30 and, oh god, THIRTY. OUT OF YOUR 20’s. NO MORE ADULT MISTAKES. You turn 30 and are pretty happy and immediately realize the next big birthday is 35, and, oh god. THIRTY-FIVE. HALFWAY TO FORTY. Etc, etc. I call these milestone things “life humps” – speed bumps that come at you out of nowhere, and leave you feeling shaken and freaked out. But once you DO get over them, you leave them behind as you drive away. I’ll freak out about turning a certain age and become fixated on what’s ahead and how scary it is to think of the next big milestone, even if it’s five years away. But then after my birthday, I more or less forget about how old I am and what age means because I’m, well, I’m not really thinking about it. I’m living my life.

Last year, when I turned a certain age, I made a list of things I had done up until this point in my life that I was proud of. 35 things I’d done in my life, to celebrate turning 35. This year, as I mark passing another life hump, I decided to see if I could look back and reflect on how much I’ve changed – and hopefully be proud of what I saw at the end of the tunnel. I started to do this on my own in my journal, and then realized that maybe it was worth putting out to the world. Even though I often think I’m alone, maybe I’m not alone. Maybe someone else needs to read this. Maybe it’ll help them in some small way.

As much as I still want to hide behind my age since, let’s face it, I look like a 20 year old anyway (except for that place I need botox between my eyes, ugh), maybe it’s time for me to, in the words of my favorite druid, grow up and be a regular adult.

I am 15.

I am 15 and Titanic is the most important thing in the world to me and goddamn, Leonardo DiCaprio is HOT. I ice skate competitively. I go to high school and act in musicals and have fun with friends and hang out at the mall in places like Sam Goody. I am a burgeoning little nerd who is pretty content with life.

In between 15 and 20, the following things happen: my mom hires a limo as a surprise for my Sweet 16. Everyone gets me Titanic gifts, OBVIOUSLY. I try out for volleyball because I really want to play volleyball and am the only one cut from the team. But I become more involved in drama and perform in two musicals, so it all works out. I drive to New Hampshire and pierce my bellybutton in secret when I turn 18 – my one rebellious move. take the SATs and apply to 18 colleges. I get into 6 pretty good ones. I write my college essay on my experience dissecting a cadaver during science camp at a prestigious Boston college, because I am just like my role model and idol Dana Katherine Scully and I AM GOING TO BE A MEDICAL DOCTOR, DAMMIT. I’m on the waitlist for the George Washington University and my mom insists we make an on-campus interview when we go down to visit American, where I’ve been accepted. I essentially BS my way through the interview thanks to my improv skills and get a call after the weekend is over that I’ve been accepted.

In between 15 and 20, the following things happen: I graduate high school, I go to GW, and 9/11 happens less than one month into my college career. I am living in downtown DC, three blocks from the White House and near the State House, and I have no idea what’s going on but it’s terrifying. (I have to fly home to Boston of all places three weeks after this, and I have a full-on panic attack flying into a tiny airport in New Hampshire because Logan is obviously closed still.)

At GW, I go to exactly one informational session about pre-med before I hightail it out of the room due to all the math and science requirements that The X-Files failed to mention. I decide I’d rather major in something totally useful, like English. I meet the person who will be my roommate for four years, my eventual bridesmaid, and my forever best friend. I join a sorority, I learn new things. I get lost, get confused, make mistakes, and have fun. The X-Files ends (for the first time, apparently) after 9 years. I see Rent for the first time on Broadway thanks to my roommate, and immediately decide I need to keep going back to New York to see more Broadway shows. I fall in love with Manhattan and Times Square (I know, I know), make friends through the Rent message boards, and discover my independence by taking a Greyhound to the city on as many weekends as I can, without telling my parents what I’m doing or where I’m going. I go through a year of feeling like I don’t belong in DC and want to transfer to NYU. I don’t get accepted as a transfer and THANK GOD FOR THAT, because the rest of my college life is fucking great. I will not understand how very much it hurts to hear the Avenue Q song “I Wish I Could Go Back To College” until years later when I realize, shit, I really do want to go back to college.

I am 20.

I am 20 and all I want to do is be independent and live and work in New York City.

I turn 21 earlier than my friends because of how my birthday falls and I don’t get a huge 21st celebration, so instead I make my parents take me to New York to see Rent. I achieve my dream of living and working in Manhattan when I get an internship at a talent agency the summer between my junior and senior year of college. The internship is pretty terrible: I get stuck in a back room where everyone forgets about me because they don’t have enough desks, I don’t get any work, and all I do is make Starbucks runs. But I see all my friends, and I go to Broadway shows all the time, and I see Kristin Chenoweth and Norbert Leo Butz’s last show of Wicked, and my best friend has a job down the block from me, so life is pretty good otherwise. These are basically at the best 3 months of my life.

In between 20 and 25, the following things happen: I graduate college, I job search for over a year, and I finally move to New York for good at 23. My job is at a media company coincidentally located on Astor Place – the same area where I spent all my time when I visited the city, because all my friends went to NYU. Clearly, I feel like this is fate. I know this Starbucks! I know this subway line! I know the dumpling place on St. Marks, and the bars, and the yoga studio, and the Barnes and Noble on the corner! I live in Greenpoint with a friend who I’ve now grown apart from, and I know nothing about the neighborhood (otherwise I clearly would not have chosen to live there.) I also live off the G train, which is fucking TERRIBLE – but then again, have you really lived in New York if you’ve never had an experience with the G train? My job isn’t sustainable – a sales assistant role that pays somewhere in the 20’s. I think that’s a hell of a lot of money and my parents smartly remind me that it’s really not. But they’re supportive because this is my dream and they believe in giving your child dreams and opportunities. I spend a lot of time seeing Broadway shows like I’ve always dreamed of, and I go to birthday parties at my favorite bars, and I karaoke at night, and I hang out with friends, because these are my young 20’s and I want to have fun.

I am 25.

I am 25 and on top of the world, as they say. I am fucking INVINCIBLE.

I leave my first job after a little more than a year and get a job at a financial company that plans investment conferences, because I think conference planning is what I want to do. Maybe it is, but the job itself and the environment and the people are so absolutely horrible that my mental health takes a nosedive. I let the shininess of the job (weekend trip to the Hamptons! Five star hotels! International travel to places I’d never afford to get to!) control me until we’ve both had enough. They let me go after 8 months and it’s probably the best feeling in the world, especially since I’ve been on my way out anyway. But hey, I get to visit Monaco and Monte Carlo before I leave, and that’s pretty damn cool.

I turn my life around in a big way. I get a new job as a Development Associate at a religious nonprofit, I get the hell out of my crappy Greenpoint apartment, I decide I’m done living with people, and I fall into a really amazing sublet in Queens. I feel like I’ve started my life all over again; I love this apartment and this neighborhood and my landlord and the building. For the first time, I have a decent salary, a good job where I will stay for four years, a good apartment where I will live for almost five years, good mentors, my own office, and stability. I also feel like I’m realizing why Judaism is important again thanks to my work.

In between 25 and 30, the following things happen: Rent closes after 12 years on Broadway and I’m there at the final performance with all the friends and cast members I’ve met through the years. LOST ends after 6 years and I hold a finale party for my favorite show and I cry all night. I have never cared about American Idol before and on a whim, I randomly decide to watch the 7th season from the beginning, auditions and all. I somehow become utterly obsessed with all the performers. David Cook wins the show and my best friend and I spend the summer following the American Idol tour around to different states, sometimes getting lucky enough to go backstage because we’ve figured out who to talk to at security. Sometime after those summer shows are over, David Cook announces his new album, a release show, and then a tour with his band. I spend A LOT of money and one year traveling the United States, flying to different cities on weekends, yelling at Ticketmaster, learning how to stomach PBR at dive bars in places like Nashville and West Virginia and Tulsa, driving overnight, sleeping in crappy motels, eating Sonic, taking photos, touring ridiculous landmarks like gaudy casinos and corn palaces…and I have the time of my life while doing it. (No pun intended.)

In between 25 and 30, the following things happen: I start dating. I find a great guy and end up breaking up with him because despite wanting a boyfriend, I’m still in the “single” mindset and am also influenced by controlling friends who cloud my judgement by telling me how bad he is and how unhappy I am. (I will regret this choice forever.) I date another guy. I date LOTS of guys. I find a guy who seems really great in every single way and we become serious. I think he’s going to be the one – I even go to his med school graduation in Iowa. He turns out to be crazy and controlling for real, and he emotionally abuses me for months before he dumps me via Facebook. Thankfully, I have amazing friends who have my back. I try to date again. I have one more serious relationship that I think is going to work out, but this one drops me when he realizes I’m going to leave New York for at least a year to get my Master’s degree.

In between 25 and 30, the following things happen: I dye my hair blonde for a long period of time. I give myself bangs and try to change myself (it doesn’t stick.) I attempt to figure out where I’m going to go next in my life, and my mom bugs me about going back to school. I try looking up graduate programs for business administration, which is what I think I want to do, but I never get anywhere. I finally take the GREs because I’ve waited too long to apply and my SAT scores are no longer viable; I do okay on the verbal part but absolutely pathetically horrible on the math portion, which doesn’t surprise me at all.

Because of the fallout of the terrible aforementioned relationship, I turn to entertainment to make me happy, and start writing about television. I start my own entertainment website and go on set visits and make other blogger/journalist friends and do interviews with celebrities and go to San Diego Comic Con as press for the first time. I realize that THIS is what I want to do, albeit on a bigger, more important scale. My dream is to work at Entertainment Weekly, the magazine I grew up reading and loving, so I make a decision that I want to go back to school for journalism. I apply to three schools, including one I think I will never, ever get into. I get into the top program for my career – Medill at Northwestern in Chicago.

This is February. They want me to start the January of the following year, which means I’ve got exactly one year to figure out how to leave New York. My second-to-last remaining grandparent dies. I have my 30th birthday at a LOST bar in Manhattan surrounded by some of my closest friends, and my parents take our family on a cruise to Bermuda. I give my notice at work after almost five years, right before I go to Disney for 2 weeks and drink my way around the world. When I’m not looking, New York changes, and the bars and restaurants that my friends and I used to frequent shut down and move, and I realize just how freaking long I’ve been living here. And also, damn, I’m getting old.

I am 30.

I am 30 and in 5 months, I am going to leave New York behind to start a new life. I have no idea what comes after but I am finally realizing how important it is to get away from a certain way of life and take chances and have opportunities, even if it seems scary. I will not realize how important this change is for awhile, but that’s okay. I WILL eventually realize it.

I start my year-long graduate program at Medill. It’s hard and its tough and the workload is insane, but at least I’m not doing it alone. I make amazing friends and I have the best time – a better time than I had in college, even. My last grandparent passes away and I can’t come home for the funeral because I’m in Chicago. I apply for an internship at Entertainment Weekly, which I know from talking to enough people is basically the only gateway into a job there. Somehow, I manage to make my dreams come true. I join the ranks of EW’s “Medill Mafia.” I work at my dream company and do things like interview people from my favorite shows, write about Marvel movies, go to press days of Broadway shows, attend opening nights, and interview Stan Lee in person. I don’t get hired full-time after my internship ends and it’s disappointing, and I spend some time in limbo until I find a way back into the company. I write about comics, and I find my niche and build up my career.

In between 30 and 35, the following things happen: I finally come out to the world as bisexual. I start medication for anxiety. I decide to start dating again and am sick of not finding anyone on the “traditional” websites, so I try different ones. I find my nerd-loving fiancé, try not to get turned off by his last name, and we become serious and move in together after 2 years. We get engaged after 3 years – I am 3 months past 35 when I finally get engaged. We set a wedding date and talk about our future – I will be 3 months past 36 when I finally get married. I am back in Brooklyn but this time, the place is nicer and the neighborhood is nicer, and at least there’s talk of a house somewhere down the line so I know this is not where I’ll end up for good.

In between 30 and 35, the following things happen: EW restructures and I lose my job again. I call on my connections and friends for freelance work and go on a lot of interviews because the New York journalism world is small, but it takes me almost a year to find another steady job. I get fed up with being depressed, write a lot of fanfic, and start seriously working on a book. I get a literary agent and make my dreams happen. I start sending the book I’m working on to publishers through my agent. I take a job writing at a financial start-up that offers me a lot of money, even though I have no interest in what they do, because I need money and I need employment. I last three months there before I realize that this isn’t working and I am just as miserable as I was sitting at home every day not getting any job leads. The same day I make that decision, I have an impromptu interview for my dream job. I finally see my connections and networking and career building pay off as I start work at Marvel. I run two half-marathons two years in a row at Disneyland. (I spend a lot of time at Disney World and Disneyland.) I get obsessed with a group of voice actors who play D&D for 4+ hours at a time every week and my life changes, even if I won’t realize it for a bit. I play D&D. I strengthen friendships and I lose friendships.

In less than a week, it will be my birthday. I’ve changed a hell of a lot over each of the years that I’ve been alive and I like to think that even though there’s some stuff I regret and some things I could have done differently, I’ve done a lot of good things and learned a lot. These are, more or less, my life humps, and I like to think that I know how I can make the next life humps even better. I’ve got big plans and goals, I’ve got new dreams in terms of where I want to be for a job and a career, I have a family that I’m slowly building out of New York, and I’m trying to be patient about how my future will play out.

In less than a week, I will be 36. I will celebrate with a smile (and a big drink in a dragon mug at the Renaissance Faire) – because the future is bright, and honestly, it looks pretty fucking awesome – even if I’m getting old.

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.

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.

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.

faith and religion and all that comes with it

Here’s something no one teaches you — growing up is hard. Becoming an adult is even harder. And making big life decisions that start to build a foundation for the life you want? Acutely terrifying, thanks for asking.

As I’ve talked about in various posts, I’ve been in the process of moving in to a new apartment with my boyfriend, marking both of our first serious steps in a relationship (he’s never lived with anyone before; I’ve had serious boyfriends before but I’ve never moved in with them or talked openly about marriage with them). With this comes a lot of questions and worries and “oh my god this is something I have to deal with” moments, and not all of them are things like trying to figure out what furniture to buy or how I’m going to get out of hanging out with his friends that I don’t particularly enjoy spending time with.

My boyfriend is technically Jewish, as in, his mom is Jewish while his dad is Catholic. But he had a Jewish upbringing. He went to Hebrew school, he had a Bar Mitzvah. On the flip side, because his dad wanted to keep his own traditions, he also celebrated Christmas every year with that side of the family, and he goes to Easter dinner and Christmas dinner with a family that does things like eat ham and go to church. And because his mom is kind of apathetic when it comes to religion, it’s ended up that Christian holidays and a lax upbringing of religion (they don’t take off work to celebrate Yom Kippur, they keep ham in the house) has taken precedence over the years. (It also doesn’t help his mom’s side of the family is small and estranged, while his dad’s side is warm and welcoming, and…well, you can guess where kids enjoyed going more for family gatherings when it came to Passover or Christmas.)

I was brought up as a Conservative Jew with all the proper foundations — a kosher home, Hebrew School, a Bat Mitzvah, synagogue every Saturday, celebrations of most Jewish holidays with keeping Passover and the like, Shabbat every Friday, fasting on Yom Kippur, years at a Jewish sleep away camp. My mom always made sure we knew religion was important, but my family wasn’t so overly religious that we were the epitome of following every rule. I clearly remember my dad sneaking Big Macs when he would pick my sister and I up from Hebrew School on Sundays, something I didn’t even understand wasn’t “allowed” until I spilled the beans to my mom by accident thinking it was no big deal. My dad would order Chinese food with small bits of pork in some of the meals. When I was old enough (aka after my Bat Mitzvah), I quit Hebrew School because I didn’t want to go anymore, though that was also largely because my town and temple were so small, there were only about 10 kids in my class — which in those years, made for a terrible experience if you weren’t part of some clique. (My sister went all the way through because by the time she was old enough, we had smartly partnered up with a larger group of temples around the Boston area, thus she attended a much more inclusive environment that I absolutely would’ve taken advantage of, if I had the opportunity.) Eventually, over the years, as my sister and I have gotten older, my family has gotten more lax about certain things — there’s shrimp around and my dad freely orders cheese on his meat and the like, and my mom doesn’t really yell anymore.

I always appreciated my heritage and knew where I came from, but over the years, I lost a little bit of enthusiasm for my religion. Once I got to college, I got distracted by more important things like new friends, and didn’t bother to actively involve myself in Hillel or services even though I was constantly told to, because those weren’t the friends I made. (The irony of all this was that George Washington, where I did my undergraduate study, had a hugely Jewish presence.) Being away from home meant suddenly I had freedom from my parents and I didn’t have to keep Passover when all my friends didn’t, and I didn’t have to go sit in temple for five hours when I couldn’t come home, thanks to not getting days off during the week for Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. I ate cheeseburgers and lots of things that had milk and meat together (I still do) and bacon. Man, I LOVE bacon. At a certain point, when I was trying to start to date, I argued with my parents a lot about the fact that I could totally date someone who wasn’t Jewish. I mean, love is love, right? Who cares about religion? If you love someone, you make it work!

Despite this thinking, I never dated anyone who WASN’T Jewish, even when I moved off JDate (where I pursued most of my options) and onto other, more open dating websites. I dated two people who were reform and one person who was a stronger side of Conservative (who was also a too-pure human robot with a strange family, proving that sometimes it’s not always better to be TOO religious), but all of those people came from families whose parents were brought up with the same religion. When I met my boyfriend, and when I was searching for people to send messages to, I didn’t look at anyone who wasn’t Jewish. He identified as Jewish in his profile, and it was only after I got to know him and started to like him I realized what his family history was.

Still, you know — not a big deal, right? I mean, he’s technically Jewish. He even went to temple! He cares about religion!

Here’s where it gets complicated. Moving in together means that suddenly, everything happens together. I need to figure out how I want to run a home. Although we technically share the same religion, I’m now faced with butting heads with someone who might as well be a different religion, because of our different upbringings. He’d bring ham into the house, I wouldn’t. He wouldn’t care about keeping a kosher kitchen, I would. He wouldn’t bother to keep Passover for a week or only eat certain foods inside the house, I would. He wouldn’t necessarily take off for the High Holidays, I can’t even think about not observing one of the holiest times of the year.

It’s also complicated because due to a lot of anxiety and experiences in the past few years, I’ve started to come back around and openly embrace/appreciate my religion, coming to care about it in a fiercely important way. When I couldn’t cling to anything concrete, I clung to what I knew — my upbringing. I became less “whatever” about eating things I shouldn’t and saying that things don’t matter, and more committed to lighting candles each Friday night and keeping kosher. The good news is, my boyfriend is one of the most understanding, sweetest, open people I’ve ever met. He knows what’s important to me, and I’m not necessarily worried about the fact he’ll fight me on a lot of the things I want for our life, although I am prepared for a certain amount of push back — and maybe that’s something I need to accept, something that we need to compromise on while building what kind of home and life we want: who gets to eat what things and who gets to celebrate what things and to what extent do we do those things. But it still makes me stress, and even worse, it causes me to look at everyone else in my life who married people of the same faith and wonder if I really did make the right choice. Why didn’t I just stick to finding someone on JDate who was fully Jewish? Why did I give up past relationships? And, does it really matter? My Jewish cousin married a Catholic guy — a really great, wonderful guy — although she’s planning on raising her kid Jewish. Their wedding was predominantly Jewish. And I’m assuming at some point, they’ll have to explain why they celebrate Jewish holidays but also go to Christmas dinner with his family, and why they had their daughter wear his sister’s family Christening dress as part of her baby naming ceremony. I suppose the difference is that it’s easier when you’re fully one religion rather than “well, we’re Jewish but we also celebrate parts of this holiday, too.”

By nature (and most of my anxiety comes from this), I’m someone who immediately looks to the future and stresses about the when rather than the now. Maybe it comes from the fact that my mom was always adamant about me needing to look five or ten years ahead in planning my life so that I didn’t get stuck in my tracks, which is something that’s always stressed me out — but also, I’ve realized in the past few years that I probably should’ve listened to her more, even if I didn’t want to at the time. (You’re right, mom. I’ll be telling you that forever. You have no idea how much I regret not listening to you when I was in my early 20’s.) Anyway, what this means is that instead of thinking, “okay, so we’re moving in together and we’re going to have our first home together,  I get to call the shots on how I want to run it, he’s not living with his family anymore, this is our life, and we can have a Jewish home and do Jewish things, and it’ll be a process, but we’re just starting our life,” I’m thinking, “what will this mean for my kids? Will I have to fight him on keeping Passover food in the house because he’s not used to that at all? I’m bringing my kids up 100% Jewish but I can’t ignore his family and their traditions, so how do I eventually explain, one day in the future, that we’re Jewish but we also go celebrate Christmas even though we technically DON’T?” Sue me for thinking ahead when it comes to the family I’ll want someday, but at 33, I think I’m more than entitled to start wondering about these things and worrying about them. (My therapist would disagree.)

It’s a process that I know isn’t going to happen in one day. I’m currently in the middle of writing a long, long, LONG and involved fictional story that’s taken on a life of its own (literally, it’s longer than Lord of the Rings, but that’s another story altogether). In that story, there’s a lot of “me,” as I’ve realized I’ve infused a lot of my own anxiety and fears and thoughts into the relationships that I’m writing and showing having evolved over a period of 10-15 years, down to making compromises and making choices that maybe people in your life don’t agree with. But in the end, you realize you’re happy because you’re with the person you love, and that even if you think things might end up being hard, you have a life that you love and you’re proud of.

Religion is important. Religion is important to me. But it doesn’t have to be thing that sets my relationship apart, if I can remember to take it step-by-step, compromise, and believe in what I know — that I have someone by my side who would do anything to make me happy and make it work.

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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that would be enough

Along with a number of other resolutions (some of which I didn’t include in my recent posts), one thing I made a promise to do in 2016 is to blog more — at least once a week, if not twice. I didn’t have specific things in mind that I wanted to write about other than a few entries pegged to certain events or end-of-the-month reflections, but the point was, I wanted to make an effort to write something somewhat regularly.

All that to say I didn’t really have a precise topic to blog about today, and then I went to work and found out that the annual Forbes 30 Under 30 list came out (obviously important because I had to write up all the Hollywood people on it. YAY DAISY RIDLEY AND JOHN BOYEGA.)

I hate that damn list. I really hate that damn list.

Look, it’s great that there are so many cool people who have done so many cool things at a young age. But when you’re constantly filled with anxiety like I am — and when your main instigator for said anxiety is centered on “I will never be good enough / there will always be someone more popular or better” in all aspects of your life (work, relationships, writing, whatever) — it’s literally the worst list you can look at. Because you’re basically looking something that’s saying, “hey! Here’s a great reminder of the fact you’re definitely not where you want to be, because you’re definitely over 30 and still struggling. But here are people who have made better choices in life or who have been luckier and are doing GREAT things, and everyone is probably so proud of them!”

(I know that is absolutely not what this list means, but that’s what my brain tells me.)

And that’s not really logical at all. These are a teeny, tiny handful of randomly chosen people in each field that have been spotlighted. There are people who are more successful. There are people who are less successful. There are people who are just in the middle and who are happy no matter what they do with their lives, or what they’ve accomplished. Not everyone’s boyfriend is a wealthy financial banker. Not everyone’s best friend is the CEO of their own company.

I’ve been struggling a lot with how to be happy by just being, which has never been easy for me. One of my goals in 2016 is to regret less and focus on my happiness rather than what the world thinks I need in order to be happy. Unfortunately, then you realize things like the simple fact that you NEED money to be well off and have any semblance of a good life, even if that doesn’t involve jetting overseas every year. (Hell, you need money just to have a child. Or a dog.) And having that knowledge makes it hard for me to convince myself that I can be satisfied with not being the best, the most successful, the most accomplished.

Going back to graduate school represented something huge for me. I knew journalism was the right thing for me to do, because I waffled for at least three years on filling out applications/pursuing options when I was looking at business or non profit administration programs. Journalism was what made me push myself to write essays, look at schools, take the GREs. I’m lucky enough to be able to say that by going back for my Master’s, I’ve accomplished a dream I’ve had for years because my job is working for a huge publication that I grew up idolizing. And I know I’m not where I need to be in the company, and that’s something I’m dealing with on my own — figuring out what my next steps are. Believing everything happens for a reason.

I’m happy with where I ended up, but I still find myself wondering what’s enough. I’m working at my dream job, but I’m not exactly where I want to be in the industry. I have a wonderful boyfriend who would give me the world, but he doesn’t have a graduate degree, or a job that will make a lot of money. I live in the greatest city in the world, the place I’ve wanted to live since college, but I’m still not financially stable enough to really live here without help. I have amazing and wonderfully supportive parents, but they’re not as understanding as I’d like them to be about some important things in my life. I’ve realized that so much of my life is, “I have this, but I don’t have THIS.” Whether that’s not having a published novel, enough hits on a piece of writing, a lawyer boyfriend, a house and a kid…it doesn’t matter. The thought is still something I deal with.

But I guess this is something everyone deals with, even the people who seem to have set lives and love what they do and seem happy. Am I enough? My goal for 2016 is to spend a lot of time asking myself this question — to myself, in therapy, with friends — and figuring out how to say yes.

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.