goals and dreams

I’ve been thinking a lot about confidence — specifically, the confidence that makes you successful, in whatever way you define “successful.” (Because let’s face it, it’s different for everyone. At least, I feel like the way I define success is 100% different than the way my husband would, or the way my best friend would.)

Since the start of the new year, I’ve been doing some hard thinking (and a lot of serious hand-wringing) about stuff in my life — I’ve written about it a bit on here. Part of that hard thinking has to do with what I want to put my passions towards, what new things I want to accomplish for myself, and how I can use my foray into the author world (what has become a platform and networking of sorts) as a means to further my interests and goals. I have my dreams tucked away in my pocket, written on a folded square of paper, and a renewed sense of feeling like I can do these things — hell, I want to jump up and start now, slam the gas pedal and speed towards all these projects!

Hilariously, this all came about from watching the new Carmen Sandiego series (which, oh my god, I’m so glad I finally got to sit down and watch it. Some of my favorite people get to play with their voices in it.) While delighting in Gina Rodriguez’s character, I was hit with a memory of my intern days at EW. It was Upfronts week — the week that networks trot out their talent/promotions for the new television season in flashy New York presentations for ad buyers and the like — and it was the year the CW decided to greenlight some new superhero shows (hello, Flash) as well as a show called Jane The Virgin. A few cast members from the network, including Gina, came to the EW office for a quick meet-and-greet with staff and I remember her talking specifically about how she didn’t think she’d get the role, and being charmed by her honesty.

I wasn’t familiar with her work — I didn’t even expect I would watch the show. (Spoiler alert, it’s my favorite show currently airing and never ceases to make my happy AND it’s become meaningful to me because Jane’s author journey has basically mirrored my own.) But deservedly, the show blew up in the months its debut, winning awards and putting Gina on a pedestal that included her taking on new projects and gigs.

(Bear with me here, I’m going to detour and I swear this whole entry has a point.)

Recently, I realized that one of the things I’d love to try to do is write a graphic novel. I’ve got ideas for a second book that I’m currently working on that’s similar in genre to my first one, and I’d love to attempt to get an actual fiction book out there at some point — but I’ve also got a story that I think just works for a graphic novel. It’s queer, it’s fun, it’s something that WORKS, and even though I don’t have an artist (and am not an artist) I know it’s at least worth putting down on paper.

Here’s where it gets funny, though: for all my work in comics and working so closely WITH comics (and also because I work primarily in marketing and not in editorial; I only sell the sausage, I don’t participate in getting it made), I didn’t realize until I started researching that I’m not familiar with what it takes to actually script a story. It’s not exactly hard, and it’s pretty easy to get the hang of (or so I’ve read.) But it’s something that I have to definitely adjust my mindset to because the process is different from the way I’m used to writing when I churn out a book manuscript. And once I realized what the undertaking would be and how it would essentially be learning a new skill, I found myself feeling totally freaked out. I messaged a friend who is an artist, and she kindly talked me down and tried to put things in perspective.

So how does “omg I want to write a graphic novel and pursue new projects but I’ve never done it before and I don’t know if I can do it/I’m too scared/overwhelmed HELP” and “aw, I love that Gina Rodriguez voices an animated character for the first time” go together? It’s the idea that somewhere, at some point, people started to take notice of someone’s talent. They offered opportunities like directing projects and movies and voice acting. Someone said, “hey, we think you’re perfect for this project. You’re getting a lot of acclaim. Why don’t you do it?”

But I guess in a broader sense, what I’m trying to get it is that when you really think about it, there’s not a whole lot of difference between someone influential reading my work and coming to me (or my agent) and saying “you’ve got talent. You can sell. I want you to do this thing” and me saying “I want to do this thing.” And if there is a difference, it’s that you know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel — if someone says “I want you to do this” and gives you an incentive (ie. a deadline and a paycheck) well, you’re probably going to be a little more motivated than if you tell yourself “I’m gonna do this!” at the vague promise of maybe selling something. Granted, I understand that’s a pretty big difference. I work well under pressure, and I’m more motivated if I have deadlines and know that there’s something to work towards. But I also know I can be just as motivated about something if I’m passionate about it, if I feel good about my work and the work I’m doing. And that’s a mindset I have to get myself into.

Because I want to get myself OUT of the mindset that just because I’ve never done something before, I’m not sure if I CAN do it. I mean, that’s ultimately silly. I’d never written a book before, but I still wrote a book! (And a proposal.) I’d never done serious journalism before I went to grad school, but I learned how to transition into journalism from working in non-profit — and then transitioned into PR after that! I’ve done many other scary things in my life that I had NO IDEA how to do, but I decided I could do it or learn it. (This also applies to DMing, but that’s a whole other discussion for a later time.) But I’ve always been someone who forges ahead even if there’s no particular path…I’ve always been someone who pushed forward because she believed that there was opportunity for her when other people would probably hold back. So in 2019, as I try to take hold of my dreams, I’m going to be better about pushing forward even if things scare me. I’ve got a lot of things I wanna do, and dammit, nothing is keeping me from doing them except for me.

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. 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 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.

 

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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silencing the demon voice

I recently plowed through Amy Poehler’s autobiography, Yes, Please, something that I’m almost embarrassed to admit considering the book has been sitting on my bedside table for about a year and I only JUST got around to reading it now. Chalk it up to the fact that my year of reading in 2015 was pitifully pathetic and just…not productive in any way, shape or form. Anyway, it’s not that I wasn’t interested — I mean, I ADORE Amy Poehler. She’s one of my favorite people, and Parks & Recreation is one of my favorite shows ever. Plus, hell yes to being neighbors by default! (She grew up in the next town over, which made reading her book super fun, because she not only worked at restaurants I frequented as a kid but there were also a lot of in jokes I was able to appreciate. Ah, Lexington.)

Among the cheeky references and amusing anecdotes, there was a chapter early on where she talked about dealing with her “demon voice” — you know, the degrading, nagging thing that comes along somewhere in your teens and then stays with you for most of your life. It goes away after a bit, after you’ve gotten through the high school adolescence period of, “I’m not popular enough” and “I’m not pretty enough,” and it sits in the closet or gets put on a shelf and gathers dust. You kind of forget it’s there when things start to straighten out and when you get more confidence. But it never really goes away. It always comes back, reminding you that you’re not successful enough, that you’re not good enough, that you’re not worthy enough, that you’re not smart enough. The list goes on.

I’m dealing with a lot of different things right now that my “demon voice” is currently having a blast with. (No, really. I’m pretty sure it’s having a full-on party, complete with the kegs and the raves.) My demon voice is telling me I made the wrong choice with my job. (“Go back to your safe, nice field! Even though that’s not really what you wanted to do and you had no promotion opportunities!”) My demon voice is telling me I made the wrong choice with choosing my boyfriend. (“Maybe when you went with first instincts, you should have worried more about his job and his motivation!”) My demon voice is telling me if I hadn’t fucked up my priorities 6-7 years ago, I wouldn’t be having these problems to begin with. (“Look at all that money you wasted! Look at all those decisions you made because you let other people influence you! You’re responsible for all your depression now when you wish you had things you don’t anymore!”)

According to Amy Poehler, you’re supposed to tell your demon voice things like HEY. DON’T SAY THAT TO ME. WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? You’re supposed to push back at it and let it not control you. I wish I could do that because the problem that I have, and the problem that I’ve always had, is that once I get pulled into the spiral of self-doubt and depression, I find it very easy to let the demon voice stomp all over me. I can’t feel optimistic and I can’t push back, because all I can do is focus on the shitty things that I’m being told, and then I start to look at everything in my life through that lens. It leads to anxiety and even more depression. It’s kind of like yelling EXPECTO PATRONUM! at a Dementor, when you WANT to yell but all you do instead of freeze up and let it suck the life out of you.

It’s really, really annoying.

My therapist and I have spent a good amount of time talking out my regrets and worries, and each conversation is a small step towards making me more accepting of the good things I have in my life. One of the biggest things we’ve talked about has been trying to pinpoint what the cause of my demon voice is. Get to the heart of the matter, that’s how you kill it, right? (Hey, it works for vampires.) And it makes me think, because I really don’t know where my demon voice came from in particular. I’d always been an introverted, shy child, but where did this absolute “you are worthless” sense and lack of confidence come from? When did I get to the point where I can’t even enjoy the things that make me happy because there’s a constant comparison of how I’m just not worth anything? I didn’t have a terrible childhood, by any means. I grew up in a supportive privileged household with strong family values. I attended a high school that was competitive and focused on academic success, and although I wasn’t the smartest person in the room, I did more than okay. With a few exceptions, I was never really bullied. My mom pushed me hard, and sometimes too much, but never with any negative connotations. I was always told I had talent — in writing, in ice skating, in theater — although I didn’t always get everything I wanted or win every award, I was never told that I was terrible at anything.

And maybe that’s it. I’m a perfectionist by nature, and I always have been, no matter what the situation is. Maybe I was just always close to being “perfect” but the fact that I could never quite get there built up over time, and gave that demon voice a bigger presence. It’s something that’s inherent in all of us, unless you’re just really good at pushing your feelings aside — you have a good job, but someone your age has something better. You have a good relationship, but someone out there is in a relationship that has something a little more perfect than you, that you can’t quite achieve. You have a good life, but there are things about it that aren’t quite perfect. You have a good piece of writing, but there’s someone out there that gets better reception.

I’m not writing this blog post to say that I found a way to cure myself of this demon voice. Or that by just realizing what it is and what it maybe comes from has solved everything. Or that it goes away and never comes back if you just wait long enough. Or that I used to be more affected by it, but now I’m totally fine. (As evidenced by last night’s breakdown. Yes, demon voices can make you cry, too.) But I’m working on it. And whether it’s by talking to friends, or taking meds, or writing it out, or talking to my therapist, I like to think there’s hope it’ll get better. As my favorite FBI agent likes to say, I want to believe.

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.