I’ve been quiet this month. And by quiet I mean I haven’t blogged the entire month of December. I would say whoops, but it wasn’t a mistake. I chose to set blogging (along with lots of other things) aside to focus on my novel this month. To get into the nitty gritty of this decision, I’d like to jump into a narrative, an anecdote, if you will. Just humor me. Let me spin you a yarn.
This is a somber yet hopeful tale of a girl (of course it’s me) sitting alone in a darkened living room, her passive face illuminated by the soft glow of a television. She listens to the fireworks going off in her neighborhood. She watches through the window of her TV screen as thousands of people celebrate in Times Square. Perhaps she pets a cat or checks a “Happy New Years!” text. Maybe she sips a glass of red wine. The sip is her one celebratory gesture.
This has been the reality of the last three New Years Eves of my life. When Topher and I moved away from our hometown in 2012, I knew we’d be giving up the easy way of keeping in touch with our friends and family. I didn’t know how hard it would be to live that reality as, year after year, we spent the holiday alone.
The first year (2012) Topher was still a full-time student at UCF. I was working full time and volunteering to cover holiday shifts to support us. Our friends were throwing their usual New Years shindig in Jacksonville, and Topher asked if I would be upset if he went. I feel strongly that the best relationships allow breathing room for the individual self, and this was one of the only times Topher had asked for that. Of course I wouldn’t be upset, I said. I had to work both days, so I needed the car; he took the bus and partied like we’d never left Jacksonville in the first place while I came home after my shift at work to an eerily empty apartment and spent my first New Years Eve alone.
Here’s what happens when you’re estranged from your friends and family for the holidays: You have a lot of time to think. Here’s what happens when you’re a naturally introspective person and are given that time to think on one of the most symbolic days of the year: You really friggin’ think. I sat there on my first New Years Eve alone thinking how I’d put my dream of being a writer aside for Topher to have a shot at discovering his ideal career. I’d chosen a job based on pay and benefits, because those things were important to holding my family together. I didn’t regret the decision. I felt an immense joy and fulfillment in my relationship but at the same time an empty void where my passion for writing had been. I was still blogging at that point, but I wasn’t working on any significant creative endeavors… I felt I couldn’t due to the mental stress my day job put on me. That evening of introspective thinking left me vowing to re-spark my passion in 2013.
And I did. In 2013 I blogged more frequently, read for pleasure again, and started a few projects that I never finished. But, hey, at least I had started.
The next New Years (2014) found Topher and I at the end of our ropes. He’d decided to quit school to pursue employment in an industry he had a hunch he’d enjoy. I was busy at my same job but applying to others in Orlando because I couldn’t take the 1+ hour commute anymore. We were so frazzled. All I remember thinking that New Year was that I wanted less on my plate, not more. I think Topher felt the same way, having decided not to party that year. We stayed in with the weight of the future on our shoulders, ringing in 2014 without much enthusiasm for it.
Shortly after we both got jobs–one he loved and one that cut my commute. But a deep depression settled in on me that year due to my growing discontentment with the status quo of cubicle life and some emotional family drama. I blogged about my depression, looking for answers that seemed distant and unattainable. The end of 2014 was especially difficult for us. I quit my cubicle cold turkey to focus on my mental health. Topher became the sole income earner, but his salary was less than mine had been, so we found ourselves downsizing and moving into a more affordable yet unsafe neighborhood. I had gotten what I wanted–less on my plate–but I definitely didn’t feel fulfilled by it.
New Years Eve 2015 saw the roles mostly reversed, with Topher working the holiday to support us while I sat at home alone, choosing not to party. Yet again, I was thinking. I had some dark thoughts for sure. How was I going to beat my depression? How was I supposed to be a full-time writer when that was something I’d never been before? Is it even possible to pursue your passion when you feel at war with your own mind? What creativity can come of a broken brain? I had these thoughts and many, many more. Topher got home as the fireworks were ending, and I grabbed his hand and told him I was going to finish a novel by the end of 2015. I didn’t have a plan, but I had a wish…a wish that became a goal with a deadline.
It’s been almost a year since I set that goal, and the deadline is looming. I focused much more on my mental health than anything else this year, and finally within the last four months I have been able to think of myself as a person who occasionally struggles with depression but is no longer ruled by it. In the beginning of this year and during the summer I had only felt able to write and submit short pieces. But when I started feeling like a mentally stable person again, I returned to my New Years wish: My novel.
So with the telling of this story I hope you’re able to understand why I set my blog and my other side projects away this month. I felt, and still feel, like this novel is my current life’s work. It demands the attention the seriousness of that statement implies. When telling my friend the details of this novel-related work recently, she said, “It sounds like you’re working harder than someone who actually has a full-time job.”
Well, this blog post is here to say there’s truth to that assessment, but that hasn’t always been the case. I’ve been on a journey of self-discovery for a long time toward the career I find myself in. I didn’t become a full-time writer the day after I quit my job. I became a full-time writer after many, many months of soul searching and researching into what the hell it means to be a full-time writer. There is no manual for this. I don’t have a boss telling me what to do. Even my guides–published authors with opinions on the matter–can’t agree with each other. What I do now I do out of the purest place inside me, because I am finding what works for me.
I think I’ll stay away from a New Years wish this year. Yes, I have many wishes for 2016. But another thing I came to this blog to say is… I don’t have any use for wishes anymore. I have only my truth, which I discover every day that I am honest with myself and those around me. I will follow that truth wherever it leads me to the day I die. Right now that truth is focused on telling a young boy’s story. His name is Janus. He’s sad, and he doesn’t know who he is or what it means to choose a life for himself. I see a lot of me in him, but I am further along on this journey than he is. I am his mentor. I am taking his hand right now, and I am guiding him toward his own resolution. It is just as important as mine ever could be. I love him, and I love my life because it has brought me to this very moment, right now. Without all the moments that have come before this one, and without this very moment, right now, I wouldn’t guide his story the same way. I probably wouldn’t be able to guide it at all.
The gratefulness is a stone in my heart, rounded smooth through the tumbling years. I am so, so happy to feel it.