a happy new year

Well, since we’re basically halfway into 2018 and I’ve done a rather terrible job of blogging in the last few months, I should write about those reflections/goals/resolutions I mentioned awhile ago, right?

Right.

Last year, I adopted the practice of throwing the word “resolution” out the window because I didn’t want to be held to making myself “better” by doing certain things. That’s something of a different beast, independent of whether I eat less or drink less or save more money. I wanted a list of things that I could potentially accomplish and work towards, whether it was something small (drinking more water) or big (write a book/comic.) When I wrote out what I had in mind for the year, I titled it “2017 Things To Accomplish” so it would stick in my head more like actual goals and not pressured improvements.

If I look at this page at a glance, it’s easy to see how many blank boxes there are instead of ones that are colored it. And yeah, I put a lot of lofty goals on there, not knowing if I’d actually accomplish them – but why not?

I may not have interviewed all of my “dream core four” (Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Chris Evans) or covered an awards show, but I DID interview Scarlett Johansson! In person! At a premiere of her movie, on a red carpet! I stood in front of someone I’ve admired for ages, one of my favorite actresses, and talked to her and asked her a question and she directly responded to me – and I didn’t even fall over! I may not have published or sold a book, but I queried, got an agent, and started submitting to publishers. I may not have completed the “Coast to Coast” challenge because of timing and laziness, but I did run my second half marathon at Disney. I may not have written a story at my “dream” publication, but I did write numerous celebrity cover stories for a luxury magazine, in what has become a great anchor client, who have allowed me to continue to write for them every month. I didn’t read once a day, but I did read more this last year than I have in awhile, and I’m so glad I got my head back in the game where good literature was concerned.

And just because there were things that didn’t happen, it doesn’t mean that I won’t stop doing them – or trying to do them, even in a year that will be otherwise filled with wedding planning. I still would like to try to get myself in a position where I have the opportunity to moderate or sit on a panel at a con. I’d still like to travel overseas or to somewhere fun (at least I’ve got my honeymoon destination, if nothing else). I’d still like to do things I’ve always wanted to do even though my career has shifted in a way that they’re not readily associated with them anymore, like visit a movie/tv set or write a comic.

This year, I took a page from my friend’s book and divided my goal list into different categories: personal, financial, professional and mental health. I may add more as I think of them, I may not – but as I learned last year in getting my dream job and interviewing one of my favorite A-listers – nothing is impossible. (Also, apparently I like running so much I put it on there twice by accident…whoops.)

Oh, and I promise to be better at blogging. Promise.

wait for it

This is a post about many things, but the subject title can apply to all of them.

Wait for it.

Roughly a week ago, I got engaged. No, I didn’t cry. Yes, I kind of expected it, but I was wary of believing my suspicions, so I was still really surprised when it happened. I’m just not used to things actually working out the way I envision them. It’s strange when you spend so long thinking of things associated with huge life moments and then they happen and you’re forced to confront the fact that suddenly, all your thoughts are REAL – your daydreams of your dance with your dad, how you’ll feel when you’re wedding dress shopping, the things you’ll buy for your bridal party. The next few months are going to be a whirlwind of stress and money anxiety and things happening really fast, but it’s HAPPENING, and I finally feel like my life is slotting into place in some way.

Wait for it.

2016 was one of the hardest years of my life. I was the lowest I’ve ever been in terms of my mental health. I was miserable, even after I got on medication to help my depression. Freelancing was only taking me so far, and I was the only person I seemed to know who had left my current job and couldn’t get snapped up by a new one (even after interviews where I came so close, but not close enough.) I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, or what  I was supposed to do. I was broke, in my mid-30’s, and yeah, I had a serious boyfriend and great friends but I had no job, no savings, no ring, no kids, and no hope that any of that would happen in the immediate future. There was a point where I couldn’t see any kind of way my life would improve, and I spent a lot of time angry about decisions I had made in my past, where I had let people control my life in some way. I was never entirely suicidal, but I did think about what would happen if I just never amounted to anything, and what if I just walked into traffic one day? Would it be so bad? Hey, maybe at least my student loans would get paid with insurance or something.

I was really, really down. I started looking for any kind of job, even if it wasn’t what I wanted to do, and I felt like I was out of college all over again — just trying to find someone who wanted me. I finally took a job that made more money than I had ever seen, but I was absolutely miserable and hated everything about it. Two weeks after leaving that job, I lucked out with my dream job, through a series of events that can only be described as serendipitous. Sometimes I think about how long it took to get here – the long hard waits of being patient while other people got their due, working all my connections, never giving up on pursuing what I truly wanted. I still have issues with the fact I’m here later than I was supposed to be — an obsession with my age will forever be a cog in the wheel of anxiety that slows down my mental health — but I recognize how lucky I am to be where I am. After a long time, I’m finally where I’m meant to be. I’m happy. I love most of my coworkers. I love what I do and I feel like I can work towards a brand and a career.

I’m also a girl working professionally in comics who is being taken seriously. And that’s pretty rad.

Wait for it.

When I started my journey to get published, I got some luck in a way most people don’t – I had immediate interest from a publisher and got an agent pretty quickly, despite not having any experience selling a proposal or a manuscript. After months of working and revising, I was excited to hopefully have some bites…and got rejected by all publishers that looked at my project, including the one who initially seemed interested. Going back to the drawing board and feeling like I had nothing to offer sucked, and getting back on track took longer than I wanted it to. But I hit the ground running, revised, and months later, I have revisions that my agent praised as the strongest so far. My proposal is currently on its second round of final edits, and hopefully will be sent off again soon. I don’t know what’s going to happen, and I can’t predict if I’ll be any more successful, but I do feel more confident about putting it out into the world.

Wait for it.

Last year, I went through a period where I wasn’t sure who I wanted to be. I wanted a life that I saw reflected in other people, religiously and otherwise. I still want that life — I still want things that are harder for me to have because they won’t come naturally — but I think I’m getting better at realizing I don’t want to be the person I thought I wanted to be in certain ways. I don’t need to be like other people who I think have it all together. I like my life the way it is. And yeah, I wish there were things that were different about it. But it’s my life and what I know. I can accept that. Or try to.

Wait for it.

Reflecting and looking at my life as it was a year ago, it’s amazing to realize how different things are. Nothing is perfect — there are a lot of things that aren’t perfect, and there are things that still aren’t great. But there’s also a lot of stuff that’s good. And yeah, it took awhile for things to swing up, but they did. I’m glad I kept fighting, even when it was hard. I’m glad I kept going, even though I know it’s going to continue to be hard.

I’m glad I waited for it.

 

medium blog: critical role

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This show has been one of the things that has saved me, and my biggest regret is that I didn’t find it when I was unemployed and going through my lowest points of depression, because it probably would have saved me a lot sooner. It’s my own fault, really.

But I did find it eventually, and it didn’t take long to get obsessed with it — the show, the characters, the story. I couldn’t ignore how it made me feel and what it started to mean to me, and I decided to do the only thing I could do to explain myself: write.

Because I’ve kind of graduated from the journalist lifestyle with my current job, I didn’t know where to put this. I didn’t really want to put it on my personal blog because I felt like it deserved its own separate platform, so I pitched a few places I had contacts at. They seemed interested, but nothing really happened, so I posted it on my Medium account – which was not where I had wanted to post it, but in the end, it was the only place that worked.

The response that followed was on a scale I couldn’t imagine or prepare for. Aside from the cast themselves sharing it and reading it (something that awes me and that I am grateful for and overwhelmed by), dozens and dozens and dozens of fans came out of the woodwork to tell me how much of themselves they saw in this piece. What I wrote was supposed to be a thank you to the beautiful cast of Critical Role as their Vox Machina arc came to an end after 2+ years, but people were thanking ME for putting their feelings into words.

Maybe Critters just really are the best community ever, or maybe what I wrote was better than I thought it was (we’re all our own worst critics when it comes to our talents.) But if I had to reminded that I’m not alone, Critical Role has done that in more ways than one.

And you can read the piece here: https://medium.com/@andrea.towers/heres-why-critical-role-is-my-natural-20-28714309fdea

mental health month: a year of medication*

There’s an astrik next to the title of this entry, because it’s been technically over a year. It’s something I forget, though, because when you’re first getting on medication, it feels like forever until you find your groove. Start with a low dosage of Xanax, go to the doctor, talk about your problems, get prescribed a new medication. Maybe the new medication works, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe you need to go back and give updates. Maybe you need a higher dosage, or a different dosage. And then, you see if it works. You see if it makes a difference past the two days where you totally feel 100% better, and you see if it sticks.

And then, maybe, you start to feel good about yourself again.

And then maybe, you get the courage to become more open about saying you take pills, or you need pills, and you put it out there more on social media, and you become more comfortable accepting your mental health.

And then maybe, you think people won’t see you as an anomaly.

Anxiety and depression were in my life for a long time, but medication didn’t come into the picture until last year, for a lot of reasons — I didn’t think I needed it, I refused to admit I had a problem that wasn’t easily “fixable,” and my parents certainly didn’t provide any real support. They say things have a way of working out, and given that I ended up unemployed shortly after committing to medication, I’d say it was a very, very lucky thing that I got myself slightly straightened out before my health insurance went away. Because it was a hard year. It was a long year. Even with medication, my anxiety and depression reached their absolute lowest points. I didn’t know how to pull myself out of these funks, and it affected my relationship, my work ethic, and my motivation. I talk a lot about how comics saved me, but it’s true. When I was at my lowest, there was something comforting about being able to understand creators who worked their asses off to show the world beautiful things, who did so in an industry that is unforgiving and doesn’t pay well, and they still put their best foot forward and created things that gave me hope and courage.

Self-care and love is so important, and it’s something I struggle with. Even when I tell myself I need to give myself a break, even when I write it in my planner, I still let my mind get the best of me. I have a hard time not sitting in silence and not letting go of things. So sometimes, the biggest self-care thing I can do is allow myself to be hateful. I allow myself to hate my life, my writing, parts of my relationship, my current financial situation, my creativity, my inability to finish a project. And it’s not because I’m trying to demoralize myself, despite my low self-esteem issues. It’s a way for me to clear the air and admit to myself that I do feel a certain way, even if I’m getting better at believing in myself more. It’s a strange form of self-care, but it works for me. Mostly. Because what happens then is you feel the reality of what you’re saying, and you watch your reaction in a mirror, and it causes you to put things in perspective. You’re not hiding from your feelings or your emotions, which is often how I choose to deal. Despite being in and succeeding in professions where being pushy and visible is a requirement, I’ve never been a particularly confrontational person, always more content to play it safe and shy away from addressing things that could cause conflict.

I’m proud to say that I feel better about myself, but that I also understand the things that make me not okay. Part of that is due to finally having a job I love, and part of that is due to me being easier on myself (something I work on with my therapist weekly), but compared to where I was a year ago, that’s progress.

And the fact that I can admit that means a lot to me.

adjustment and change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

i tried, 2016. i really did.

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

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

2016 was not a great year.

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

2016 was not a great year.

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

2016 was not a great year.

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

2016 was not a great year.

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

2016 was not a great year.

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

2016 was not a great year.

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

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

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

so, i ran a half marathon

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

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

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

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

Guys, I ran a half-marathon.

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

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Hawkeye liked my leggings, clearly.

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

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

I ran a half-marathon.

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Running is SUPER SEXY…not.

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

We could all use a reminder of love right now.

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

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

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overworked, underproved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

getting back in the game

Oh, hello. It’s been awhile.

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

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

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

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

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