Lessons from Purchasing a Car When I was Depressed

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.

First Work Week in a Call Center

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.

NaNoWriMo 2018: My Novel + Novel(la)

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?

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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.

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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.

Current tracker

Say When

 

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.

An Unconventional Approach to NaNoWriMo

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.

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I can’t find either files of these manuscripts on my computer. They’re forever lost, but their memory is immortalized on the NaNoWriMo website

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

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Photo source: pixabay

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

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This is a random novel I’ve been plotting. Not going to pursue it for a bit though.

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?

The Realities of Poverty and Dreaming

I want to be a romance writer. It’s a dream I’ve had since I was twelve, reading Judy Blume and trying to sneak some of the more mature YA off the shelf and into my library checkout stack without my mom noticing. Because whenever she did manage to notice she questioned me with disapproval in her voice.

It’s always felt like a silly dream. I went through college telling people I wanted to write for big, important magazines about big, important topics. I applied for copywriter positions at marketing firms and got a replies asking for samples. None of which I had, of course, because I’m pretty sure chapters from my young adult novel wouldn’t do. So, I wouldn’t reply because anytime I tried to go open a doc and type up some piece that would resemble copy I’d freeze up, convinced that my brain didn’t/couldn’t produce that kind of content. But, I think having that sort of privilege has now passed. My no’s are soon going to have to turn into yes’s and eventually, they might even turn into please’s.

Things kind of crumbled at home after I graduated college. Well, they had been crumbling for a while, but I could ignore that because I was a three-hour drive away at college, separate from the collapse. As my parents began the divorce process nothing was stable anymore. I’m a firm believer in not telling someone else’s story without letting them at least say their piece so I can only tell you what happened from my end. From my end, nothing makes sense anymore. Our home is in foreclosure and we’re all struggling to somehow build something out of the quickly shattering pieces. It’s like trying to build a sandcastle in high tide: useless. And I feel so abandoned most of the time. I still have most of my family, but we’re fighting an uphill battle and I feel so helpless.

Last week we got some news that revealed we might have less time at our house than we originally thought we would. There had been a small hope before that we would keep the place, but that looks like an impossibility now. I can’t put into words what it feels like to hear that homelessness is a possibility. I can only say that my bones felt hollowed and my tongue felt heavy after learning the news. The draft that I was outlining didn’t matter and my thoughts of holding out for a job that I would enjoy felt like the stupidest decision I’d ever made.

I don’t have the luxury of waiting for a job that will allow me to do something that I love. I don’t have the luxury to finish my novel and dedicate my time to making it the best that it can be. I’m not writing this to say, oh, woe is me. Because I know that there have been plenty of authors that were close to or under the poverty line. What’s in my bank account will never interfere with my love for writing. But, it will interfere with how much I can do it and what I say with it.

Currently, I’m in a desperate hunt for a job in a larger city. I’m fortunate enough to have a boyfriend that doesn’t mind if I stay with him while I job hunt for the next month – I’ll forever be thankful for him. I’m applying to any and every full-time job. And a lot of them are positions where I know my mental health will suffer. It scares me, but it won’t be forever.

I know homelessness is hard to recover from and I don’t want my family to get stuck trying to recover. I’m currently the only one who is qualified to get a full-time position so it’s on me. And that’s the scariest thing. I’m afraid of what will happen to my depression. I’m afraid I’ll be so exhausted I’ll stop writing because there just isn’t enough time or energy. I’m afraid dreaming will only be dreaming.

This isn’t how I wanted this blog to go. I wanted this is a place where I ranted and raved about romance and pop culture. But, I feel this is something I can’t ignore on here. This is my life right now and I want to document where it’s going. I’ll keep updating about my job hunting for the next few weeks. And, of course, write about some romance because it’s my perfect escape, even if it can’t last longer than an hour or so.

Writing Romance Novels Online: Three Things I’ve Learned So Far

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Like many others romance readers out there I can’t help but write my own stories, taking inspiration from the likes of Jane Austen, Janette Oke, Talia Hibbert, and Jenny Han (I have a very specific palette that has been perfected over the years). I even hope to be able to share my stories one day with a wide audience that’ll love my characters as much as I do. (Fingers crossed)

In the meanwhile, I’ve always been very big on sharing my work online. I’ve written on this blog before about how I started sharing my work online on a blog and then on the now extinct writing communities, Inkpop and Figment. I could never really get a hang of Wattpad, but have recently started trying to post in hopes of finding a writing community similar to the one I had before… Spoiler, it hasn’t been working too well, but honestly, that’s on me. I haven’t been trying as hard as I should. But, I digress.

There’s a ton of things that go into making a romance novel work. And there’s a lot that can go wrong when you’re sharing your process with readers in real time. This isn’t a how to write a romance novel post. This is how I’ve learned how to share a romance novel online, without compromising my story.

1. Don’t put three-act structures in every, single chapter

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Releasing chapters weekly mimics the style of an episodic show. I refer to is as the monster of the week syndrome. The writer will have a chapter that sets up a problem, action rises, and it’s resolved by the end. Wash, rinse, repeat.

This style worked for me considering I was focused on making my chapter as exciting as possible for my audience, once a week. And it’s almost always necessary for any writer who specializes in this version of serial fiction in the 21st century – where attention spans are decreasing because of the endless content begging to be consumed – to keep the conflict rising and falling. But, since I want to one day edit my online works into novels it’ll be difficult time revising 50k+ words of so many highs and lows. It’s smarter to keep the bigger picture in mind and not just how I’m going to make this chapter as attention-grabbing as possible.

2. Flesh out my leads before I post anything

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I have this habit where I really pay close attention to my lead male while leaving my lovely, leading lady on the back burner. Maybe I’m just living out my fantasies – there’s nothing wrong with that. But, when it comes to really getting serious about having a well-round plot I need both characters to be fully formed individuals.

If my characters aren’t fully formed before I share them with people online I’ve noticed they begin morphing into stereotypes. People would comment on one of my character’s personality and I would take whatever they observed and ran with it – especially when it came to side characters. And this was a lazy co-op because I figured since the readers already had a sense of who someone was I didn’t have to work hard enough to create a more human character.

3. I’m not writing the Gospel, so changing it later on is perfectly acceptable.

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Fix it in post is a film-making phrase I’ve adapting in many aspects of my life. It embodies the mood of keep moving forward. And it works perfectly for novel writing online. A first draft is going to be crappy. No matter if I’m sharing it online or not. Sure, I clean up the grammar and spelling before I hit that publish button on Wattpad. But, whatever I write I have to understand that it’s not going to be perfect. It doesn’t need to be perfect to share. And most importantly, it’s not going to be forever.

I’m not married to anything on that page. And if I decide to change a major plot point in chapter fifteen when my readers on now on chapter twenty, so be it. Either they’ll be fine with going back or fine with finding someone they thought was dead is now back and fighting for the lead’s hand in marriage… You get the idea.

I have to keep in mind that putting down words is all that matters at first. Got to get out of the bad before I start chipping away in search for the good.

 

It’s definitely a push and pull when it comes to sharing in-progress work online. But, a part of me will always be interested in hearing others’ opinions about my newly developed drafts. Maybe one I’ll learn to keep things to myself until they’re fully formed. But, for now, I’m happy with sharing my stories when they’re in their genesis.

Understanding My Depression and Staying Still

I am what I refer to as ‘leveled’ right now in terms of my depression. Whenever I’m leveled I usually try to take advantage of my energy by eating three meals a day, working out, writing, and creating to-do lists I have a realistic chance of completing. I’ve never really timed these leveled moments, but I know roughly, they’ll last a few weeks before I or something in my life triggers me to retreat into a heavy sadness. Thereafter I’m stuck for a few days with thoughts that feel more like reality than my actual life – which always waits impatiently for me to come back. It never pauses or slows, though I can’t blame it.

I’d like to say it has gotten easier for me throughout the years. I’ve been depressed since I was in my early teens and first considered suicide when I was seventeen. When I’m in the thick of it now, it still feels like my emotions weigh a million ton. My brain is as harsh as it has ever been and every time I recover I’m surprised I made it out again.

What’s helped me over the years is a mix of things. I went to therapy for two years. Changed my diet by dabbling in veganism before settling on a type pescetarian diet. Started trying out different exercises before figuring out I really enjoy biking and Pilates. I’m sure my efforts made and still make a difference, but the efforts, of course, never seem to completely do away with my recurring episodes of sadness.

I attended college with the depression. Occasionally skipped classes and dropped courses because of the strain. I met my boyfriend while struggling to get a hold off crying spells between dates and late night text conversations. I loss friends because a part of me insisted on juggling friendships and mental health was a feat I wasn’t strong enough to take on. And, besides, who really wanted to hang out with a person who seemed to never completely get out of the darkness? At least, that’s what I reminded myself each time I held back in my social life.

Having a suicide plan is something I’ve never admitted to anyone. I’ve shared my thoughts of suicide with a therapist, but always denied I had a plan because I was too afraid of what might happen. I’d read frightening stories of people who were hospitalized for their own safety and I couldn’t take the idea of numerous people finding out that my mind was in such a dark place I was going against basic human survival instinct.

How I got through the suicidal thoughts was being still. It’s something I coax myself to do on those terribly dark days. Being still with depression feels like second nature. But being still with suicidal thoughts often became a challenge for me. When something’s wrong I like to act. Even if that acting a simple Google search. Staying still and waiting for the next day is what kept me alive. It’s what continues to keep me alive.

I’ve been on this journey for ten years now. Most times it doesn’t feel like I’ve learned anything because my thoughts get so dark. But, I’m still here so something must be working. So, my advice to anyone who is struggling would be to be still when it comes to thoughts of ending your life. And definitely move when it comes to talking, or running, or eating, or praying, or writing. Whatever works.

There are ways to get through this. I know it doesn’t feel like it the majority of the time, but I promise.

If you need help or just want to educate yourself more about suicide prevention visit here. Thanks for taking the time to read this. And if you’re hurting please reach out. If not to me then to someone. Anyone you trust. I’m rooting for you.

 

 

Falling Again for a Talia Hibbert Novel: Untouchable

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What happens when a bad boy becomes a man? 

I was introduced to Talia Hibbert earlier this year when she was interviewed on Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. And I can honestly say at that moment, I was a fan. Not with just of her writing – which is incredible – but her story. Our lives seemed to intersect in strange ways that made me feel like maybe if she could do this writing thing, I had a shot at it too. I look up to her in so many ways, but I digress – as much as I could gush over her, I’ll focus on the book review.

When I read A Girl Like You – the first book in the Ravenswood Series – I saw myself in Ruth in ways I’ve never myself in a book character… ever. Once Untouchable was announced and I learned the heroine, Ruth’s sister, Hannah suffered from depression, anticipation set in. I have suffered from depression since I was in my early teens. Reading about a character of color that not only was open with her depression but was able to find a partner who didn’t look for ways to fix her made me feel more hopeful about own mental health journey.

The Premise:

Untouchable‘s hero, Nate, a reformed bad boy, and widower moves back to the small town of Ravenswood with his two young children. He cares for his sick mother and is a creative consultant/photographer. He keeps all the fun parts of teen/early twenties rebellion: tattoos and piercings. But is mature enough to understand his emotions and not become too broody that he makes the reader want to scream in dissatisfaction. When Hannah bumps into Nate – who also so happens to have been her childhood crush – she learns he’s searching for a live-in nanny and she decides to offer her services… No matter the obvious attraction the two still have for one another after all those years.

The Romance:

Hannah and Nate are partners in every sense of the word. There’s plenty of steamy and swoon-worthy moments throughout the novel – a garden scene that will simply blow your mind – but my absolute favorite scenes between the two happen when Hannah is being as open as possible about her mental illness. And Nate listens with an open heart and even offers insight to his own experiences with feeling depressed in the past.

One of my favorite exchanges between the two comes towards the end of the novel (spoilers, perhaps?) where Hannah is pulling away from Nate in fear of their relationship is centered around sex. Nate is quick to let Hannah he’s willing to do anything because “Sex isn’t as important as being close to you” (Chapter 20). And afterward he checks in to make sure she’s in an okay mental space and it’s just… *sigh* So incredibly genuine and kind and a perfect representation of how someone can respectfully support their partner when mental illness is in the picture. Hibbert knows how to balance heart and lust. Like all of her novels I’ve read before, Untouchable had amazing representation and a couple that reminds me why I love romance.

10/10 would recommend if you love smart, complex heroines, supportive men, mental health representation, and steamy romance.

Aesthetics: 

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Some of my favorite lines:

There’s a difference between refusing to feel shame and setting yourself up for a fall. (Chapter 5)

Jesus. She hadn’t been this into a shadow since she’d watch Peter Pan as a kid. (Chapter 8)

Because people, she knew, could care about you – could love you, even – and still fuck you over if they thought is was necessary. (Chapter 22)

“Well, you pin all your self-worth on external validation, you have to be the best at everything to consider yourself even slightly accomplished, and you apparently don’t think someone can like you enough to put up with a week of weird behavior and an awkward moment in a garden.” (Chapter 23)

The Extinct Internet Community, Sarahland and How I Started Writing Online

I decided I was going to be a writer when I was nine years old. I’d carry a spiral notebook and manila folder around, convinced when inspiration struck I could not waste one second. My manila folder was home to all the loose-leaf pages filled with world-building attempts. And since this was before the days of Pinterest, I used to clip out photos of models that I decided my characters would look like in clothing advertisements from JCPenny’s or Macy’s and glued them into a homemade flip book. None of my stories had endings because I could barely keep my attention on one before another plot idea sparked up and begged me to write it. This act of story hopping went on for about four years.

At the age of thirteen I got my first computer, a chunky desktop with a glass screen and tower I sort of “put together” (I took a computer building class because at the end they let me have the computer I was working on for free). The most exciting thing about having this computer was that it allowed me to use Word. Finally, I didn’t have to figure out how to keep track of my loose leaf pages anymore. Every story I wrote would be carefully stored on the computer’s drive.

My writing and reading habit eventually lead me to an online community created by Sarah Dessen for her fans: Sarahland (a now extinct online community). Community members, mostly girls between the ages of 12-18, discussed everything from their love of YA romance to their days in the outside world. Our community was small and welcoming. It’s something I owe a lot to because during that time I didn’t have any real-life friends I could talk to. Sarahland was the first – and probably only – time I really felt safe in a community online.

Each user got their own blog, but it was rare to actually see someone using the blog for life updates or observations. Instead, quite a few of us used it for sharing our creative writing. Inspired by Sarah Dessen, we penned stories of young heroines falling in love and growing up. I jumped at the opportunity to have an audience, immediately coming up with a story that was inspired by my favorite recent read at the moment: Twilight… I know. Oh, boy, do I know. Thankfully, my bad boy vampire turned into just a bad boy (because my work was very groundbreaking) and I posted once a week with chapters that couldn’t be longer than 600 words.

The work was entitled Nick Hather. It followed Tori and Nick, two lovebirds dealing with family drama and addiction. I found the first three chapters thanks to a few emails I sent to someone who offered to edit my work. And I can promise you those three chapters are the most cringe-worthy things I’ve ever written (besides the original draft where Nick was a vampire). I was homeschooler who knew nothing about drug addiction or high school, in general, was writing an edgy star-crossed lovers tales based on what I’d gather from YA literature from the 2000s. Try to imagine that. Can’t? Here, I’ll help:

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And…

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Despite the huge, “No!” feeling, Nick Hather will always have a special place in my heart not only because it was the first story I finished but because it was the first story I ever shared.

I start thinking about Sarahland because I’m revisiting another story I began when I was a teenager. This one has much more potential to be revived so I’ve dedicated myself to rewriting in hopes of finishing something I started around nine years ago. In all honesty, I’ve been struggling to keep pushing forward in writing the story and it makes me wonder how the younger version of me kept writing. Now, I’m so focused on if the plot is progressing in a timely manner or if my character development makes sense. Back then none of that even mattered. I just wrote.

But, of course, I don’t want to be that teenager who didn’t know much about writing outside of what she’d seen other writers do. I need the freedom that I once had when telling a story, but I also need the structure I’ve gained from growing up and learning. Revisiting this story is the perfect opportunity for me to work on finding a healthy balance in my storytelling.

I’m curious: Are there any extinct internet communities that you feel you’re the only person who remembers? I’m not talking about sites like MySpace or Friendster. But what about those ones that weren’t ever big but still meaningful and helped you express yourself?

P.S.

If you do happen to remember Sarahland and was a member, hi! Even if we never spoke on the site I feel like we’re long lost, friends. Hope you’re doing well.

What Happened When I Consciously Looked for a Meet Cute

From the outside, the dating world terrified me. At twenty-two years old I’d never had so much as a first kiss let alone a boyfriend. And that fact made me self-conscious and hesitant when it came to talking to a romantic interest. Being shy and socially anxious didn’t help matters. Back then, I looked at my life as though it was a story, purposefully unfolding with grace. Since my love life had yet to commence then, it meant it wasn’t time. I continued believing this up until my senior year of college.

At the beginning of my senior year, I was finally on the road to recovery in terms of my depression and anxiety. The messy battle that included a dark breakdown made me realize my life isn’t some book plot. It’s much more complicated than anything on paper and here’s no writer carefully plotting my HEA (happily ever after). Hell, there wasn’t even one plotting a little bit of flirtation. And if there was one they were doing a terrible job at getting things started. I got tired of trying to figure out if my author was suffering from writer’s blocks or planned to leave me single until further notice. It was time to shake off the notion that something would unfold without me triggering the rising of action. My plan? Like many other people of my generation, I joined a dating app. Creative, huh?

Even though I had a new attitude towards putting a conscious effort in my dating life I still tried to keep a little skepticism in my every interaction online. We’ve all heard of horror story after horror story of people coming across a mixed assortment of the sleaziest individuals dating online. I decided if anything this would be an experiment on how life would look like if I cautiously put myself out there. I told myself to not have any hopes of finding “the one.” Just pure curiosity on what it felt like to date. And after two months of text conversations with guys ranging from Marines to gas station owners, I found him.

He scares me in a ‘wow, maybe there was some writer busy penning this character’ way. Perhaps the reason they took so long is that it is complicated to write a decent hero. Ask any romance writer.

We meet on Bumble and spoke on there for one night. I cut the conversation short so I could get back to finishing an assignment, but not before offering him my actual number. Two months later we met at a movie theater to see a horror movie he was beyond excited to watch. I hugged him when I walked up to greet him and when I pulled away I translated his expression to one of surprise. And after talking to him before the lights dimmed and the movie started I concluded he wasn’t interested in me in a romantic way anymore. He had kept his eyes forward most of the time when answering any of my questions. I would laugh but his smiles were harder to come by. His answers to my questions were amazing though and right off the bat, I knew he was someone I wanted to know. The feeling didn’t seem to be mutual from my perspective.

Later that night, when I got back to my dorm to change into something more comfortable and give myself an ‘it was just for the experience’ pep talk, my phone buzzed. It was a long text from him and the main part that stood out to me was one line, “You have my attention.”

I’m not writing this to say make an account on Bumble because there you will meet an individual blooming with meet cute/relationship potential. I’ll give it to you straight, in two months of talking to people online I had only gone out once. I got very lucky that the once was enough for me to find someone who I am now in an amazing relationship with. What I am saying is that the perfect meet-cute isn’t always the markers of a budding romance. His and mine was quite uneventful – and to the outside eye, boring. But, it did what it needed to do which was get two people together with the hopes they’d enjoy one another’s company.

Meet-cutes in books, television, and movies are very precise. Though a good writer makes it look effortless, nothing can change the fact that the meeting is heavily edited. Life can’t be like that, no matter how hopeful you are. From now on I’m saving my hope for happy accidents when it comes to consuming romance stories. Life’s more fun when you’re being conscious of your involvement in creating your own story.