The anniversary’s not today. It was actually three days ago – August 20, 2012.
Isn’t that strange? Three years ago this week, I left a pretty awesome job in New York to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a writer. A “really really real writer,” one who published books and spoke at schools and had a website and an agent and an editor and Something To Say.
In 2010, I kept track of my blog’s anniversaries, because I needed to remind myself how far I had come in a relatively short time. Last year, I don’t think I even mentioned it – although, to be fair, turning 25 felt like a landmark year and thus kind of took the cake.
This year, the anniversary just wasn’t on my radar. The dates that have been dominating my head recently have been July 24 (the day Of Giants and Ice came out) and more recently, August 16 (the day copyedits for Of Witches and Wind needed to be put in the mail). But it is strange. Now that I’m doing the things I always wanted to do, I don’t take the time to list out all my writing-related accomplishments.
I kind of don’t even want to do it now. Now, instead of pumping myself up for the long road ahead, that feels like bragging. Also, my focus has shifted. When I first left New York, all my thoughts tended toward all the tasks I needed to accomplish to achieve my goal. And now…
My dream is my life now, and I hope everyone reading this – everyone in the world – can say that one day.
That happened over the last few years for a couple reasons. a) I’ve been very lucky – I’ve had fantastic people in my life who have helped me on my journey. b) I’ve worked really hard – often for really long hours, often more than six days a week.
I have carpal tunnel – do y’all know what that is? It’s where you do so much of the same motion – ie. writing or typing – that your arm swells and puts pressure on your median nerve. Without changing some habits, you can cause permanent nerve damages. When I first started showing the symptoms, I thought, No way – I’m too young. It’s most common in 30-40 year olds, and I’m not there yet – my twenty-sixth birthday is on Tuesday. Then I started thinking about how many hours I’ve spent working in the past three years, and I realized that it’s a wonder that this hasn’t happened sooner.
Some internal compulsion has convinced me to work almost constantly. Then, when overwork makes me rundown, I tend to get sick. Then I stop, take some time, recover – and then immediately jump back into my tasks. I’ve been living a uncomfortable cycle of exhaustion and recovery all over again. It has served me well, and yet…
This has been going around Tumblr recently, and I love it to a ridiculous degree. But the funny thing is I feel like the writing life has forced me to grow up in one crucial way:
No one is going to take care of me. In this writing life, I am my own boss and my own taskmaster, and I have to take responsibility for my life and the way I’ve been living it. No one is going to intervene and force me to live better. That choice has to come from me.
There’s no question about it: I seriously love my job. In fact, I have been so grateful for the opportunity that I’ve prioritized any and every deadline (including self-imposed ones) over my own health. And because I was so afraid of failing, I forced myself to work at a grueling pace, a pace that I can’t sustain without (literally) causing injury to myself.
My dream is my life now, and I want it to stay that way. I want to continue writing for years and years to come, and to do that, I have to start creating some habits that will serve me not just during the hectic, beginning, striving years but for the decades to come. The habits of – dare I say it? – a grown-up.
So, now the accomplishments that I’m currently most proud of – besides the obvious (hello, book! You beautiful book!) – have very little to do with writing. These things have a lot more to do with living a healthier, more well-rounded life:
- finding a new hometown, one that I chose rather than one I ended up in
- signing a lease and committing myself to staying in one place for a whole year (I haven’t done that since April 2009)
- adopting a healthier diet (ie. no more junk food at the writing desk, although I miss Oreo’s like whoa.) and a healthier habits (ie. taking breaks from whatever deadline I have for a long walk)
- picking out a gym to join when it starts raining again (it is so close)
- taking email off my phone and not checking it every waking moment (this is harder than it sounds)
- setting up an office completely separate from my living quarters (it is in the basement; it is not cute at all – otherwise, there would be pictures)
- taking one day off a week no matter how long my To Do list is
I will still work hard. It’s in my nature. The trick is to work hard without sacrificing my future health in the process. I need to work hard in a way where I can continue to work hard later in life. The secret is balance, and the only way to get there is trial and error. And in the near future, I’m going to strive for less error.
Wow, this blog post got long and kind of serious. Here’s the other thing I meant to say:
Happy Anniversary, Blog!
Here’s to many more to come! (Healthier ones!)