“Your 20’s are your ‘selfish’ years. It’s a decade to immerse yourself in every single thing possible. Be selfish with your time, and all the aspects of you. Tinker with shit, travel, explore, love a lot, love a little, and never touch the ground.” – Kyoko Escamilla
I grew up watching the women in my family pour every inch of themselves into others. My grandmother would always be on her feet at family gatherings. From the early morning to late in the night, she’d make her rounds from the kitchen to the living room, to the porch. She’d ensure that everyone was comfortable enough to have a good time.
Like many women, her dedication to her family didn’t start or end with family dinners. Her sacrifices spanned a lifetime. I never learned how much of her own dreams she gave up to make everyone else comfortable. Yet I’m blessed to have seen the aftermath of such large sacrifices in my own mother’s life.
When I was a child, every year that passed seemed to allow my mother to reveal another layer of her life.
My mother’s marriage to my father had her emotions brimming over the edge of silence. Her grief would seep out over the kitchen table or afternoon trips to the park. Once I became a teenager I was privy to some of her biggest fears. The root of those fears came from her decision to place my father and her children before her own needs and wants.
She spent her twenties surviving and dating a man who knew how to make his life comfortable. The men in my life seemed to be either natural or educated on how to be selfish. While the women’s teachings highlighted the art of sacrifice.
Once married, my mother moved two states over to live in the hot wasteland also known as Florida. She knew no one except my father and his family — an unwelcoming group who viewed non-blood relatives like passersby. In the span of nine years, she bore four children.
Loneliness was like the grim reaper, always waiting for a decent opportunity. When us kids could finally speak and respond in thoughtful ways she felt brave enough to be candid. She’d express sadness about my father not having an interest in developing his relationship with her or us kids. And she felt lost with the realization she still didn’t know what her calling was in life. It hurt her that my father could still choose his career goals while she was routinely expected to choose us.
The biggest questions that came out of my conversations with her was: Is it possible to decide to be selfish and also be there for people who depend on you to support them? Morally, are you in the wrong?
Her fears and inner dilemmas passed down to me.
The effects of intergenerational trauma are unique for every family. But, as women, effects are often parallel. As pieces of my mother were replaced with pieces of us I’ve felt obligated to figure out how to give back. If not to her directly then to the universe. In some ways, I feel as though I own a debt. And the only way I can pay my debt is through the currency I received it: time. Time is payment I see many women give as they move through their lives as wives and mothers.
My desire to become wholly selfless for my future family isn’t intuitive. A huge chunk of it’s fueled with guilt and conditioning. Why should I live for myself if my mother, and her mother, and her mother’s mother lived so that I could be in comfort?
It’s a neverending cycle that could stop with me making a choice to not take part in always sacrificing my wants.
What would breaking my family’s cycle look like? First, it would be choosing to have money of my own. As I get more serious with my boyfriend it’s vital for me to have my own pocket of savings stashed away. I call it my “in case this goes South” fund. I know, not at all romantic. But if I learned anything from my obsession with the romance genre, life’s not like how things are on the page. And women should always understand no one can look out for their financial future/freedom like they themselves can.
Asking myself where I want to live is another way to break away from selflessness. The women in my family shouldn’t have been indefinitely tied to the jobs their partners decided to take. Of course, there’s some give and take in relationships when opportunity knocks. But, over the course of decades, one person’s career journey shouldn’t continue to eclipse the other. One person shouldn’t have a monopoly on dreams.
Truthfully, I’m still naive about this part of life. I have yet to start my marriage journey. Still, I can’t shake the discomfort that comes with imagining a life of me always standing on the sidelines while my partner is making moves.
According to the quote above, I have six more years of selfishness.
There shouldn’t be a cap on the time you have to choose yourself. Even when you’re a partner, a parent, or a caregiver. My mother thought once she married and had children those selfish years were long gone. In reality, exploring life and figuring on what she wanted from it never had an end date.
When there are other people involved I understand one can’t always get what they want. And even if my desire to give doesn’t come natural, giving still makes me happy. I enjoy seeing my loved ones feel supported by me as they reach for their dreams. But, I don’t plan on sacrificing my own goals as some sort of martyr.
I hope the women in my family stop ignoring their dreams under the guise of the greater good. I hope they realize no matter how much they give no one is going to ask them to stop. We never asked my mom to stop. I never asked her to stop. It’s because as kids and partners, well, we tend to be selfish. And life without my mother — life without a woman — giving me everything I needed felt terrifying.
No, there’s never a right time to be a selfish woman, but we still have to find time to do it anyway. Preferably, be selfish when it does the least amount of damage to others. I plan to take back my time, my career, and my joy. Living out my dreams is how I choose to repay my debt. Being selfish doesn’t have to be a negative thing. I accept the comfort the women in my family have given me. And use the comfort to chase my dreams. One day, I intend to pass that comfort done to my own daughter. I’ll tell her to do the same.
I’m sitting on the couch with my legs up, complaining about my family drama. He stands there finishing off the last of the dishes, hands wet and eyes on me. We’re discussing how stressed I’ve been since taking on huge family responsibilities. He feels bad saying anything about people he’s met a few months ago. He’s only interacted with my family twice. The longest interaction was at a theme park with screaming children and make-believe castles – too chaotic to have meaningful conversations. So, of course, he doesn’t have much material to build a decent opinion.
“I’m hesitant to say what I’m thinking,” he says, shifting his weight from one foot to another. It’s a phrase that’s become commonplace in our relationship. He doesn’t want to sway my decisions. He doesn’t like feeling as if he’s planting seeds for something that may benefit him in the long run. If I wasn’t living with my family I’d be living with him.
“Say it. Nothing you say hasn’t already crossed my mind.” I always urge him and he always continues to hold back. But, this time is different.
“I think you should try to figure out what will make you happy and go for it. Your current situation clearly doesn’t work. You only have one life and you have to live it for you.”
I nodded, hoping he’ll continue because these are the words I’ve repeated to myself. Words I’ve said when I get up in the morning, head off to work, and lay down at night. But, these words always get tainted by the feeling that I don’t deserve my own space. I don’t deserve to live in comfort and happiness if those closest to me can’t either. What makes me worthy?
“If they heard me they’d probably think I’m trying to manipulate you. But, if you ever feel that way, leave me.”
He says the last part without hesitation. I work to keep my face neutral while inside I’m shocked. I’ve never heard anyone in a relationship tell their partner to leave them in a tone that wasn’t threatening. My father would say the same thing to my mother towards the end of an argument. “Leave me,” were words meant to challenge her to venture into a world that seemed even harsher than him. My father taught us we couldn’t survive in the world without him and that’s what I thought most men wanted their family to think. But, now, I was hearing something completely different.
My boyfriend’s urging me to leave him told me I needed to start working on how I looked out for myself. He didn’t want to be with someone who’d believe he was manipulating them. Nor, did he want to feel bogged down by the guilt of living with the small luxuries he could afford. And that was his way of looking out for himself. He decided to completely choose things that served to make his life stable and balanced.
“I help my family whenever I can, but I can’t split myself five ways. It’s not sustainable. You help people more when you’re in a healthy place,” he tells me as he dries his hands on a towel, ready to move back on the couch next to me.
Making decisions for my pleasure sounds like such a cold-hearted thing to do if I’m being honest. I was raised Christian, so the desire to dedicate my life to others feels like the most respectable way to live. I’m ashamed for wanting to make choices that result in me being at my happiest. But, being with my boyfriend seems to open a door to unabashed self-love and self-care. He’s showing me a version of self-love I never thought I’d be able to learn from someone else, but instead would have to go on a solo journey in some mountain where the trees seem to touch the sky, engulfing me in pollen and hard truths.
“How do you live for yourself without feeling bad all the time?” I ask as he lowers himself beside me.
He shrugs with a nonchalance I will always envy. “I want to look back on my life and say I enjoyed myself.”
I’m addicted to suffering. If my life was ending today I would look back and see anxiety embedded in the happiest of moments. Anxiety often feels like a life raft, keeping me afloat in the world that’s vast enough for me to sink to the bottom. But, my boyfriend looks at this life full of experiences yet to happen and comforts ready to claim.
It’s going to take me time to untangle my guilt from my longing to act on pleasure. My pursuit of happiness will look different from my boyfriend’s – which, is also something I should keep in mind as I attempt to mimic his mindset. My experiences with self-love are tangled with religion and the expectation that women are natural-born caregivers. As I work on releasing my guilt I will remind myself to be open to leaving behind the things barring my happiness. The permission to leave feels like the freedom I’ve always had, but ignored in favor of a life that looks more respectable. To leave will be my first real act of rebellion in the name of self-care. I couldn’t be more excited.
What are you planning to leave behind to pursue a happier life?
Money can’t buy happiness, but my god is it a stepping stone to it. I grew up believing my underwear wasn’t replaceable until it had a few well-worn holes. The same pair of workout shorts got me through middle school, high school, and university (last week I finally decided enough was enough and got rid of them). When I walked across the stage last year to receive my degree the house I grew up in went into foreclosure. Not having enough money felt like an everlasting curse that got worse for me and my family as time went on. And the cherry on top was the only thing I’m in love with doing is writing — which leads to a career infamously associated with struggle.
Being a writer was never a choice, but deciding to try and earn a living off of words was a whole other story.
I decided to study English Literature over Physical Therapy because I knew deep down all I wanted to do was tell stories. I didn’t want to be sensible when it came to my career because if I settled on such a vital decision I feared I’d develop a habit of settling for other big life choices. Going to university to improve my writing was the closest I’ve come to complete rebellion — don’t judge me too much, I was a shy kid. Choosing to be a writer as a career is a romantic notion I’ve since revisited over and over in my mind. For the past few months, I’ve been paralyzed with doubts if I’ll be able to live a comfortable life as a full-time writer. In all honesty, I often feel regret about not having a wider range of skills and a little sense of dread about the huge potential of failure.
Stability is what I desperately crave as each year passes.
I’m neck-deep in debt with a full-time job that pays me just enough to support myself and my family as we get back on our feet. In response to my fear of failure, I’ve been attempting to formulate contingency plans. At first, it pained me to feel like I needed a Plan B because maybe that meant I wasn’t cut out for this life of full-time writing. Because struggling is par for the course as a creative. If I don’t want to struggle does that mean I don’t deserve to call myself a writer? When I don’t pour every ounce of energy into writing will the result be never reaching my goal?
I need to put food on the table, keep the lights on, and water running, so I work a full-time job I hate. It cuts into my writing time immensely and makes me feel less like a “real creative.” You know, the kind that will risk it all for their craft even if it means couch surfing for years. It’s that blind faith I feel I lack. And, I think my lack of faith in my ability shows when I approach the page. I pour my energy into so many other worries in my life so, at the end of the day when I’m faced with a blank page, I have nothing left to give. I exchange energy for stability. I’m comfortable but never satisfied.
The realist in me compromises with my romance side so I can fall in love with creating again.
Over the years, my relationship with writing has changed tremendously. Writing was once a beautiful escape that turned into a skillset I needed to develop and eventually monetize. The love waned as the pressure to making a living and eventually, I wasn’t as enthralled with the idea of storytelling. To start writing again and release pressure to monetize my craft I’ve given myself three rules:
1. Pretend I am confident that my skills are (or, one day will be) worthy of decent compensation.
The biggest new flash after becoming an adult was the reality that people rarely know what they’re doing. And they rarely believe in their worth in terms of salary. And even if they have confidence in both their knowledge and how they negotiate their paycheck, they don’t know exactly how they’re going to get their end goal.
At work, I’ve learned that the people who speak without a falter in their voices are listened to longer and trusted more easily. Online I’ve learned writers who don’t have much technical skill but make up for it in prolificity get more opportunities. Life’s a game that I mistakenly thought had strict guidelines. Reality is you can speak with conviction on a topic you just learned yesterday. And you can share your writing even if it’s not fully developed to your liking.
Confidence won’t always get me the freelance position I want or that book deal I dream of, but it’ll open the door to the possibility of personal and career growth. At the very least, confidence will give me the push I need to write more content.
2. Write at least one paragraph a day.
I say these exact words to myself as I clock out of work: “Just write one paragraph. No more, no less.” Thinking of writing this way makes approaching my novel and unfinished articles much less intimidating. It’s a recipe for slow progress, but better than what I’ve been doing, which has been sporadic writing sessions sometimes split up by months.
After five sentences I usually get into some type of groove that makes me want to write more. It may not be the same as when I use to write 3,000 words daily as a teen, but it works for the person I am today. And that person wakes up a 4:30 AM to go to work. So, yes, there is cause for an adjustment in my writing habits.
3. Gradually learn to accept that writing may never fully support me financially and that’s okay
My family has suggested I transition to part-time work since I hate my job so much. My boyfriend encourages me to move in with him and relax for a bit while searching for a position I enjoy and has something to do with my degree. But, having a steady income that pays all my bills and allows me to save does wonder for my self-esteem. By keeping my self-esteem up I release some of the pressure to make writing my bread and butter.
I may never sell more than a few copies of my novel once I finally finish the dang thing. I may never get more than minimum wage writing content for companies who don’t care about underpaying for their outsourced content. Writing may never pay for more than a cup of tea and a few muffins. Accepting that will allow me to relinquish some of my fear. I’m going to stop thinking about potential gross income when it comes to finishing my projects. I can’t continue to let my fear about earning potential steal my time from writing. The craft gives me the emotional outlet that paychecks could never give me. So, it’s finally time to separate the two.
How do you deal with the battle of making a living and doing what you love? Are they always separate things or have you managed to meld the two?
My boss infrequently walks around the office to say ‘hello’ to everyone. He’s a white man who dresses in cotton polos and tan slacks every day of the week. Sporadically, we’re invited to play five minutes of put-put with him to win snacks from the break room. His attempts at interacting with us are nice in theory but tainted by the reality that he’s not hoping for a genuine connection. Instead, feigning familiarity serves as a cop out to actually cultivating relationships with employees.
On one of his rounds, he paused briefly by one of my co-workers who recently removed box braids from her hair. From behind her, he reached out to touch her intentional placed puff. Her 4C kinks poked out underneath and clean, white visor.
“I had to make sure it was real. I thought it was one of those hats you buy during Halloween.”
His teasing made everyone around her laugh. She joined in and I couldn’t tell if she was laughing because his sense of humor aligned with her own or because voicing a disagreeing retort would result in her “not being able to take a joke.” He continued teasing her for a few more seconds, making it seem as if they had a growing friendship because of the small number of interactions they’ve had doing his roundabouts. I bit my inner lip as he walked passed me, ruefully thankful I hadn’t worn my hair in a way that would cause an extra amount of attention.
Being big meant being seen by someone who wanted to touch and make jokes out of a part of my body I’ve been learning to love.
I wanted no part of being big that day because it felt like it’d be a tiring battle between keeping quiet and wanting to scream.
The girl that sits next to me is Colombian. She’s trying to get her hair back to the curls she once had as a child. Right now, it’s wavy and limp due to years of dedicated flat-iron usage. Quite recently, I shared the hair typing chart with her. The chart was her first introduction to the natural hair community. And now, she attempts to offer me advice on my own kinky texture. Two days in a row I wore a headscarf to work in an attempt to spend less time untwisting my hair because our shift starts at 5:45 AM. Naturally, I want to stay in bed for as long as possible.
“Why have you been covering your hair?”
She asked me the question with eyebrows pulled downward and eyes trained on my head. “People with our hair shouldn’t hide it. I know it’s hard some days, but even on the bad ones, we have to embrace our curls.”
I tugged my scarf over my ears, suddenly conscious about being seen as someone who was ashamed. My reasoning was given to her in a polite tone, “It takes too much time. I’d rather do something else.” What originally felt like a logical solution to managing my time to fit my mood, morphed into guilt.
Being covered meant I was being seen as not loving myself entirely. To argue and advocate for rest meant I wasn’t willing to put in the time necessary to wholeheartedly embrace my kinks.
I simply wanted extra sleep and break from putting my fingers in my hair daily.
A guy in my training class said he liked my hair more when they’re in Marley twists. Except he didn’t know the word for them. Instead, he told me,
“I prefer your hair when it looks like ropes. It’s nice that way.”
My twists are tight, sleek, and neat. They’re easier to put in a bun and don’t attract too much attention since they fall below my shoulders in contrast to how my afro stretches upward and outward. In no way does Marley twists make me seem more white. But, undoubtedly, the preference for this style roots itself in the idea that hair should be tamed in order for it to look attractive.
I wish I had the courage to challenge him with the question: “Why doesn’t my hair usually seem “nice.” But, it’s too aggressive. Too bold. Too argumentative for the workplace. Though I honestly would like to understand. I’m curious if his preference can be attributed to a conscious or unconscious association to Euro-centric beauty standards. Or was it simply because without an afro there was nothing else for him to comment on about my appearance.
I put my hair in Marley twists to minimize my day-to-day drama. Surprisingly, it became the source of attention that left me annoyed because once again, I was forced to think about my appearance by a stranger who saw nothing but an end result in a complicated process.
For years I’ve managed and studied exactly what my hair loves, likes, and hates. I’ve ignored it in anger because it didn’t respond to how I wanted. I’ve de-prioritized its needs in favor of things like mental health. I’ve coddled it when it’s going through a new, difficult stage of growth. I don’t always want to be big, embrace the kinks, or twist it up so it falls towards the floor.
My hair and I don’t need outside opinions. Our relationship is and will always be strictly monogamous. My decisions on how I present it to the world don’t need comments. I know wearing natural hair is powerful. My hair speaks to people, but here’s the thing: It’s giving a lecture. So, sit back and learn. Commentary is not necessary.
Making friends is a skill I still have yet to master. To be honest, I haven’t been actively trying since the third grade. When I was in grade school I transferred four times within five years before eventually being home-schooled until I graduated high school. So, that provides some explanation for my lack of refined social skills. Naturally, I gravitated to books and television as not only a source of entertainment but as a way to have company without any effort expected on my part. Stories will always be the place I feel most comfortable. And though it’s not a cure by any means, it makes the dark days a little less lonely. These are the characters have been my friends in throughout various important moments of my life.
Emma Swan – Once Upon a Time
On a surface level, there’s not about my life that allows me to identify with Emma. No matter how much I hope, I’m not a displaced fairy tale character with royal parents and happy endings constantly on the horizon. And her tragic backstory doesn’t intersect with my own family history. But, her feelings and experiences with abandonment hit home.
When I originally spoke up about my mental health problems I was brushed off by my family. I was instantly lonely after realizing that the people who were expected support me at my lowest were nowhere to be found. Throughout the series, time after time, Emma’s hits a dark point with no one around to pick her back up. Instead, she moves forward for herself. She’s a survivor. She’s sloppy about it and that’s what I love about her. She reminds me surviving doesn’t have to look perfect.
Rae – My Mad Fat Diary
This series came at the perfect time of my life and I’m forever grateful for its existence. Rae struggles with an eating disorder and the series explores how she learns to manage her intrusive thoughts while balancing her friendships. I was in my second year of university when I watched the first episode. University wasn’t the space I’d imagine after years of society telling me it would be home to some of my best memories. And I was trying to re-invent myself like Rae but failed miserably.
Rae has an amazing way with people. Watching her with her friends made me long for someone like her in my own life. She was caring and non-judgmental (once she got over her jealousy). When I wasn’t wishing she was my friend, I was tearing up at how her thoughts about herself mirrored my own self-hatred. There’s one particular scene from the series I always go back to because it has given me one of the best tools for dealing with really bad self-talk days.
Bertie – Tuca & Bertie
I recently finished season one of Tuca and Bertie, and in an instant, Bertie became a comforting favorite. Her life mirrors what I’ve been experiencing since graduating from university. I briefly moved in with my boyfriend and got a job doing something that pays the bills but isn’t the most stimulating. And, now, I’m trying to hang onto the things that make me happy, like she does when it comes to baking.
Seeing her fight for a promotion at work after originally being insecure about talking to her boss was encouraging. I’m up for a promotion and battle thoughts of insecurity about the whole situation. Bertie is a snapshot of my present. And it’s nice to be reminded I’m not the only one that is anxiously stumbling through my days, attempting to feel comfortable outside of my safe zones.
I can’t be the only one who finds solace in fictional characters. Share some of yours below! I’d love to get some show/book recommendations. Your favs could also be potential candidates to add to my carefully curated “friend group” – cause I’m always on the hunt for more characters to add. Yes, you can sit with us.
When I was a teenager I wanted desperately to go to high school. My mother began homeschooling me at the age of eleven and continued to do so until I went to college. My daydreams consisted of things like lockers, football games, and parties on beaches with concealed alcohol and forbidden kisses. The next best thing to actually going to high school was creating a character who got to go there in place of me. I wanted to write about someone who was able to do all the weird and crazy things I dreamed up while I sat in the safety of my room behind an old desktop. And so, Joycie Conwell was born.
Joycie was my alter ego. She was everything I was with the small change that she was going to experience the highs and lows of high school and have some cute boy pine over her in ways I could only dream. I would create scene after scene of what I thought being a teenager in public school looked like – which, of course, meant I had invented some off-brand versions of CW teen dramas. Realism didn’t matter because it was fun to simply imagine life in a place where I wasn’t some socially anxious, black teen who felt trapped in the suburbs.
I shelved my novel when I moved away to college. Joycie’s life suddenly felt two-dimensional, riddled with silly hopes of a clueless teen writer. The document sat untouched for two years as I gained “life experience.” Once I walked across the stage with a newly minted degree I started looking back to the character who had gotten me through those lonelier years. She was there waiting, of course, unchanged.
Inevitably, rereading the draft after years made me cringe. My chapters were laced with bad jokes and questionable interactions between Joycie and her love interest, Lincoln. Despite the disappointing writing the story still holds a special place in my heart. I decided to not let go of it just yet.
Rewriting Joycie has been a welcomed challenge. The biggest struggle I have encountered is still keeping part of that naive voice alive when writing her. I don’t pretend to know everything. But, I’ve grown enough over the years understand how silly it is to believe you completely understand yourself as a teenager. Part of the magic of writing back then was that my voice was simple. Now, life feels more complex and I want badly to communicate that within the story.
I just pray I don’t complicate things too much because Joycie isn’t some twenty-three-year-old customer service worker who has become a little jaded about life and love. She’s a kid experiencing first love. Somehow I have to get back to that mindset. Or, at least find a happy medium.
Ever tried to go back a re-write a character you created in a different stage of your life? Got any tips for me? Also, if you’re interested in watching me struggle to rewrite Joycie’s story check it out on Wattpad. It’ll be a rough ride, but fun. I plan on documenting the writing journey on this blog as much a possible.
Technically, I can’t afford my car (meaning, I’m putting way too much of my income towards it, not that I can’t make the monthly payments) and even worse, it’s actually a pretty crappy vehicle. The front seat headrests are torn and hollowed out from previously installed DVD screens, there are cracks and scratches all over the back of the seats. Anytime the AC turns on there’s a knocking sound on the passenger’s side, which probably means something important loose beneath the dashboard. The brakes make a hissing noise any time I stop after driving for short distances (something two mechanics have assured me is fine, but I’m not convinced) as if to constantly remind me, every time I turn on my car, I was insane to sign my name on the dotted line, dedicating 72 months to a vehicle that most definitely isn’t worth this much of an investment.
When I went to the dealership I was having a depressive episode. I had already signed my papers for a 2011 Honda Accord which wasn’t great (it stalled whenever I accelerated) but definitely didn’t give me as much anxiety about my 2017 Kia Sportage. The dealership called me to come back in under the guise they’d forgotten to give me some financing papers to sign. In reality, none of the banks approved my loan because of my short credit history, which simply consists of student loans and a single credit card I used for groceries in university to build some semblance of a credit score. My first time at the dealership had been with my boyfriend and his friend who had previously been a car salesman. So, I was confident there was no way any of the salespeople would try to get over on me. But, for “signing the financing papers,” I went alone and it’s the first major decision I regret making in my adult life.
The moment I stepped into the dealership I knew something was wrong. The dealer that had been trying to get a hold of me on the phone greeted me with a well-practiced smile and told me to wait “just one second” for him to get the paperwork. I sat there for nearly an hour with a dying phone and an itching instinct to come back when my head cleared from all the spiraling thoughts. It was getting dark outside and I had been up since 4am for work. At this point, everything I had researched about car shopping had fallen out of my head, into the abyss where most of my memory and sense goes to die once the depression sinks as a replacement. And my god, did I pay for the absence of sense.
Life lessons are difficult to handle when I know some of the pain could have been avoided if I was mentally healthy. And the lessons are even more of a headache when I have to pay for the mistakes by facing years, and years of debt. What I know now is this:
If you have mental health problems, DO NOT make a major decision if you’re not feeling well (or, at least, don’t make it alone).
My depression has been on a steady decline since I graduated from college. I had been receiving free therapy for my constant mental health problems, and the support from my therapist had been something that got me through a terrible year of my life. Without that mental support, things have been falling through the cracks faster than I can manage to figure out what to grab onto and when to grab onto it. My head was far from clear that night at the dealership and my thoughts were bordering on suicidal before I even pulled in the lot. As the dealer gave me the whole spiel on what a great deal I was getting I simply nodded and told myself my decision didn’t matter because I wasn’t going to be alive for long enough for anyone to collect that amount of money.
I’m not completely better now, but I can definitely examine things past the fog of my mental illness. One thing that would have saved me from myself was having a second party there to share their perspective. My thought process when I’m in a depressive episode understandably irrational. If I had spoken up and confessed this to my boyfriend then I would have had to second head I desperately needed.
Just because you can fit it in your budget, doesn’t mean you have to.
My planned monthly car payments went up $120 dollars when signing for the new car. I’m very meticulous when it comes to budgeting, partly due to my anxiety. And partly due to my fear of being homeless because of a close scare a few months ago. When I saw the extra money tacked onto my monthly payments the first thought was: I do have enough money for that.
Knowing my income would allow me to make monthly payments and still not be in the negative was a feeling of relief. I was only considering the surface level outcome of the situation. Sure, I could write a check and not worry about rent and food. But, extra money going towards my car was money I could have put towards savings or investments or something that would pay off in a better way.
You can’t always see them immediately, but there are other options.
One of the repeated thoughts that circled through my head while at the dealership was that I had to make a decision right then and there or I’d be out of a car. When in reality there were/are plenty of car dealerships that would have had a suitable car within my budget. I could have found financing on my own or took Lyft to work until I managed to figure something else out.
Depression and anxiety enjoy making me feel like choices need to be made in an instant. When my anxiety levels reach their peak I feel as though there’s a clock ticking in my head, encouraging me to point to which answer I want when I don’t even understand the question. But, honestly, the majority of life’s choices don’t happen in a heartbeat. And they don’t need to because there’s no bonus points for quick answers.
What I have now is a car that will — after I factor in the repairs — cost me more than my four-year degree. It squeaks, knocks, and eats my pocket for gas way faster than I ever thought was possible. This car is my introduction to decision-making as an adult. Hopefully, a few years down the line I will be grateful for everything this choice has taught me. Because now I understand how much my mental health can affect my finances. And now, I’ll have a painfully expensive reminder of how serious it is for me to factor in how I’m feeling when it comes to signing away thousands of dollars I have yet to make. At least, it’s a lesson I won’t soon forget. In the end, maybe that’s all that truly matters.
Something about my new job doesn’t feel right. I know in the long-term this isn’t the right position for me, but for now, it’s all I could get. My week first week of training was a difficult adjustment period for my inner time clock and the information thrown my way made me want to scream, but instead, I slept. I slept and I slept and I’ve kind of been going on auto-pilot ever since.
I’m stuck in between two decisions. I know there are more than two ways to look at things, but during this past week, I could only look at my situation through a binary lens.
Option one: work my hardest to be the best at this job, which would involve me dedicating so much extra time to an already packed 40 hr work week.
Option two: do the bare minimum to keep my sanity, but potentially not be that great thus opening up the possibility of me being terminated.
There’s a medium in there somewhere. There is enough time in the day for me to sit down and work on my personal projects before having to sit in a chilled building for nine hours listening to someone lecture about company policies and customer handling. There is enough time for me to remind myself every day that this doesn’t have to be forever. This job can be simply a paycheck. I don’t have to love it to do it. And I don’t necessarily have to be excellent at it, but good enough to simply not get fired.
A part of me always wants to put forth my best effort. It’s the perfectionist side of me. But, I have to remember that perfection is what ran me in the ground during university. I refuse to let a job I don’t wholeheartedly enjoy run me to the ground.
This upcoming week I’m attempting to do so more adjustments to my schedule. I’m prioritizing my mental health which means I refuse to lose any sleep and do something that involves writing or reading each day. Fiction is and will always my life raft.
This post is all over the place but it feels nice to brain dump and not worry about blog structure so much. I think I might do this more often.
And so it begins. In a hurry on Monday I managed to outline both of the projects that I’m working this year. My novel is a story I’ve been picking and prodding for almost nine years … Yeah, these characters haven’t left me alone for nearly a decade. I believe I finally have to the willpower to finish their story. I’m also finally trying to manifest things into existence.
If finishing one story wasn’t challenging enough I decided to tack on another. I wanted to write a novella mostly because I think if I stick to my schedule I’ll be able to finish the novel before NaNo’s over. I already have some of the draft written. And since I’ll be in the habit of writing I want to use that momentum to start another project.
So, my ultimate goal is to finish the novel, which is called Say When. And then, at least get halfway through writing the novella, which doesn’t currently have a title yet.
What are they about?
Say When‘s a young adult novel about a girl who has been homeschooled all her life and now, during her junior year, her parents decide to enroll her in the local public school. It’s about mental illness, first loves, and family dynamics.
[image could not be found … because I didn’t bother to make one yet]
The untitled novella is an adult romance following a young adult who plays a princess at a theme park (it’s inspired by Disney face character actors) and her prince is replaced with a guy who dumped her in high school.
If you’re doing NaNo this year I hope you’re off to a great start! And if you’re not it’s never too late to join. 50k doesn’t have to be the only goal. Honestly, it’s worth writing even a little because knowing there are so many others around the world writing at the same time makes the writing process more fun than usual.
I’ve attempted to participate in NaNoWriMo twice. My very first attempt was made in 2012 with a project called Kings, which was a retelling of King Thrushbread. I did zero planning and managed to only write 1k words before getting tired of the idea. I know, I possess an amazing amount of stamina.
The second attempt was in 2015 with an untitled YA manuscript. I did a little better that time. I vaguely remember it being about some girl getting into this elite school and a young documentary duo following her around to get the inside scoop as to what was happening behind closed doors. It was supposed to be a romance/thriller, but it was just a mess due to the fact that I – once again – did absolutely no planning. I made it to around 33k before abandoning the manuscript.
Since 2015 I haven’t considered trying to do any sort of writing challenge because 1) I struggle to outline 2) under pressure I tend to freeze up. In the untitled project, I remember writing whatever came to mind just so I could have something the page. It could be gibberish for all I cared. I would narrow in on the target word count and pound out nonsense. Suddenly, writing wasn’t fun anymore and I rationalized that the big experience was fine because once the month was over I’d at least reap the benefits by having a finished novel. Unfortunately, by day 25 in 2015 I had burned out so much and had such negative feelings associated with writing that I took a long break. Not only on the draft but writing in general.
I approached NaNoWriMo as a numbers game. Focusing on the numbers made me really hate sitting down to write. But, I still feel like there’s something valuable I can gain from attempting NaNoWriMo this year. Thing is, I have to change my mindset about the event.
Writing by Chapter and Not Word Count
This year my goal isn’t to write 50k words. I’m focusing on finishing the project, not making a certain word count.
Thinking about the numbers terrify me. But, thinking in terms of scenes within chapters is much less intimidating. Since focusing on the scenes is my priority it’s unavoidable to pants this situation. I suppose some people could but with my track record, my projects will turn quickly into lost causes.
Projects & Outlining
I want to work on two projects this year. Yes, it’s a huge and possibly unwise undertaking for someone who hasn’t finished a novel yet but hear me out. I’ve already written and outlined a decent chunk of my YA project. By the time November 1st rolls around I will have at least four more chapters written which gets the manuscript up to nine chapters. I’ll be working towards finishing the other seventeen during the event. Here’s the projects I plan to work on:
YA Novel | Currently at 15,359 words (this will be the only time I mention word count until the end of November). I want to tell the story within 25 chapters so that’s how I’m going to plot it.
Romance Novella | Currently at 0 words. I feel like I can tell this story in 15 chapters.
I’m using Evernote to plan both stories. My collection of folders include an overview, character profiles, and chapter-by-chapter outline
To be honest, this experiment may or may not be the greatest approach to writing I’ve ever had. But, I’m willing to put in the effort and even … give up social media for it. I know it’ll be worth it. Besides, using my free time to write is wise no matter how wild my plan is to finish these projects. Wish me luck. I’ll check in weekly to report how much of a mess I got myself into.
If you’re giving NaNoWriMo a try this year two questions: Are you pantsing or planning? And are you sticking to the original challenge of the event or are you modifying it for your needs?