Hello, dear readers!
These are some of my favorite posts to write, because I only get to do it once a year. But tomorrow is my BIRTHDAY!
So, here on the blog, I love to write a reflective post (because honestly, that’s just the type of person I am), because birthdays are such a reflective time for me. They force me to think about everything I’ve achieved or failed at in life in the year before and then get me excited about all the possibilities for the future. Like the New Year, it feels like I’m given a clean slate, another chance to reinvent myself, if I wish, or further cement who I am (even though this can happen literally at any time I choose, but I bet you know what I’m talking about when it comes to holidays helping push you along).
This year, I’ve hit 26. It’s an odd year for me, as every birthday past 21 has been, because the things now associated with birthdays aren’t considered fun (though being straight edge, 21 wasn’t really that special either). That’s particularly true this year, as I’ve finally hit the age where I am no longer able to generously mooch off my parent’s health insurance any more (and oh boy, do I have a rant saved up for you all about that one). It’s also a little weird because now, I’m closer to 30 than I am to 20 and, of course, there are a lot of societal expectations I’ve failed to hit, so it’s not difficult to lose your focus thinking about those, too, in comparing where my life actually is.
But, this year, I wanted to do something a little different. Since 26 is easily and evenly divided, I wanted to create two lists: one, a list of what I’m proud of from about my life so far. Then, a list I’m either excited about for future me or aspects of myself I still want to work on, still wanting to improve. I feel the latter list, I could go on for quite some time, which is why it was so important for me split up my new age and make the former list, too.
Let’s see what I come up with, eh?
- I have written seven books. This might be one of my proudest achievements, honestly. Since starting back sophomore year of high school (I think?), I’ve written a YA fantasy trilogy that I queried and have since saved to maybe revisit one day, but so far, no plans to truly bring it back out to light. I’ve started a quintet which I’m currently querying the first book and finished the first draft of the second. I have an adult sci-fi tragedy that I might try to rewrite into something salvageable. And then my current novel I’m editing, BLOOD PRICE: the one I think might actually make me an author. The dream is alive, friends, and your girl isn’t giving up any time soon.
- I inked my arm into a sleeve. Since the sleeve, I can’t remember how many tattoos I technically have now (seven, I think?) but my sleeve is by far my favorite. With one more appointment to go to finish up the shoulder and some coloring, I love my Lord of the Rings and Dragon Age themed sleeve so much. Having a sleeve is really important to me and fits into my personality so well, even though it’s one of the things that surprises people who meet me the most, completely not expecting me to have something like that. But finally having this sleeve makes me feel whole, in a way.
- I lost 30 pounds (and then gained some back). This, I’m ridiculously proud of, even if I’ve gained some of that back since I lost it. But I started running in November of 2016 and have made great progress with my overall health. Recently, I’ve fallen off that track, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get back on it, which is the most important thing. Because I taught myself how to be healthy and create a lifestyle out of it. Not a diet, not a fad, but a lifestyle that I enjoy and challenges me. I’m ready to take that lifestyle back.
- I fell in love. Something I’ve always dreamed of, but never thought possible, not truly. I had (have?) too many self-esteem issues to ever find someone to truly love me, accept all my flaws at my work-in-process. But then, I said, “Nice jacket,” he gave me his business card and this January will mark two years of knowing one another and one year of officially dating. And I couldn’t be happier after finding my other half.
- I got my writing groove back. I went over a year without writing anything new, novel wise, failing to finish books and trunking stories and feeling like a failure. This year, I was determined to beat that and put writing first, making the very lofty goal of writing two new first drafts and editing two other novels. Right now, I just need to finish edits by December and I’ll have met that goal. That, friends, feel better than I can ever express.
- I planned vacations and had adventures. I was really lucky to grow up and go on quite a few vacations with my family. Since I’ve gone out on my own into the adulting world, I didn’t know if I could make the same thing happen for myself. Yet I planned a trip to London and took my Mom abroad for the first time, getting a second job and working a hellish schedule to save up and do it. My boyfriend took me to Disney World and then I took him to North Carolina and I love that I’ve been able to figure out traveling, despite tight budgets and difficult schedules.
- I adulted and survived. This prolly seems small or perhaps even silly, but I’m really, really stoked about it. I lived in my own apartment for two years and paid all my own bills after college, before moving in with my boyfriend (but still financially independent). I have a retirement plan and now my own healthcare. I bought my own car (and it’s actually a nice one). I’m paying off all my own student loans, so when I’m done, I’ll have paid for my own college education. They are every day things now, but living in a dorm for all four years of college made all of them seem like huge hurdles I could never jump. But I have.
- I updated my blog to be exactly what I wanted it to be. I’m actually lowkey ridiculously excited about this. At one point, I had my personal blog (this one) and my book review blog, Erlebnisse, yet balancing the two was difficult and it never truly felt like me, not fully, having them separated. Choosing to integrate them (even though it was a lot of work) was the best decision and I’m so proud of this platform and how far it’s grown and how it finally feels like me; fully and wholly me.
- I started writing short stories! But, I’m also part of another blog: Muse in Pocket, Pen in Hand, where I write with two other writers to produce new short stories every month! As someone who was shit at short stories before we started this endeavor two years ago, I’m really proud how much I’ve grown as a writer. I’ve loved experimenting and trying new things with this medium and just generally having fun with it.
- I dropped out of graduate school. This was one of the harder choices I’ve made in my life, after moving 12 hours away from home, in a brand new town where I knew no one, to study something I was passionate about. It took a lot to realize that, at that point in time, it wasn’t the best choice for me, so I left. In some ways, I regret it, and wonder what my life would be like if I’d stuck it out. But doing so led me to my current job and my boyfriend and was the right choice for me to make, then. And it helped me grow and learn to how handle “failure”.
- I went to my first ever Con. It might seem like a small thing, but going to WorldCon in 2015 was truly life changing! It helped me visualize even more fully how much I want to be an author and experience Cons from the other side of the table, as a panelist and an author. It connected me with a ton of wonderful authors and agents, some of whom I’m even still friends with to this day! And it helped my blog grow, which is so important to me. I can’t wait to go again!
- I had a wonderful internship and horrible second jobs. My internship with Naomi Davis also was life changing, in not only forming connections, but helping me realize that perhaps working in publishing might be a career path for me, one day. On the flip side, working in retail at Ross to help pay for London, helped remind me what I don’t want to do for the rest of my life and helped me appreciate those who do even more.
- I became a better supervisor. My current role, I supervise 16 students along with my boss at a university library. I’ve had roles where I was leader, but never one where I was a supervisor and, in the course of almost three years since I’ve had this position, I think I’ve learned quite a bit about how to be a good one! My key traits, I think, are my positivity, my empathy and my transparency with my staff. Though I still have plenty to work on (especially when it comes to conflicts), I’m proud of where I’ve come!
- I envision being less jealous. This might be one of my greatest failings, if I’m being honest. I didn’t actually realize how jealous of a person I am until I started dating my boyfriend and any time he mentioned an ex or a female coworker, I’d get a little fiery inside and immediately feel threatened, even though there is literally nothing to worry about (and he deserves better than that response). Through some self-reflection after having that pointed out to me, I also realize I’ve been jealous in friendships and in family relationships, all tied together through a single source of self-insecurity, not speaking towards the strength of the relationships themselves, but how much value I put in myself (which is very little). It is an issue and something I really need to work on, because those close to me deserve better than to have that kind of response from me with others in their lives. But more than that, I need to stop thinking of myself as someone who doesn’t deserve to be loved, befriended and cherished.
- I envision putting writing first again. You might be thinking, but Nicole, you said you were doing so well above! And you’re right, I have been! But lately, writing (or editing) has gone on the backburner to reading or blogging and I’d like to make it a priority again, so I have less missed days and more chances to tell all the stories I love.
- I envision branching out my cookbook. This might be one the “last” things I haven’t mastered yet in adulting, but I’d really like to. I’ve learned a lot and make some pretty decent food, but I’ve love to branch out and learn more, maybe even have my own recipe book, one day!
- I envision learning to love myself truly. This will be a journey I will always have, I think. We’re all always a work-in-progress, never fully complete and never outgrowing the opportunity to continue to grow. I’ve made strides at loving myself, but the weight gain back has really put a dent in that. I still want to get back to working out during the work week, but I also want to get to a point where I love myself regardless if I work out every day or never; regardless of what I see in the mirror. I want to love myself truly and fully and I’m so ready for that. It’s just time to conquer my own head.
- I envision being more forgiving of myself (especially with comparisons). I am a very busy person. I care about achieving what I want to and I never have a blank To-Do list. I often have troubles saying no to things and I usually over-commit, with stress being a usual thing. So I really need to work on being more forgiving when I fall short, more realistic with my time and listening to my body and my heart when it comes to what I can and can’t handle. I also need to be kinder to myself in terms of comparing my achievements, successes, failures, progress and looks to others, because I never hesitate to find a way to twist it to where I fall short. I want a healthy relationship with myself.
- I envision seeing more of the world. As you might have been able to guess, I love to travel and I want to do more of that, especially abroad. I’d love to get to the point where I take a trip every year (maybe every summer?) abroad for two weeks. I’m not sure how to do it, but there is so much I want to do and so much I want to see. I have to get there (which, this upcoming year, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to swing a trip with moving, too, but I plan to do New Zealand in 2020, so if that means not going somewhere for two years to save up for that trip, I am all for it).
- I envision living in a home, surrounded by those I love. Like I just mentioned, we’re planning to move next summer, into a house. It might be in Lawrence or it could be in London. We’re trying to keep our options open, but all I’ve ever wanted–all I’ve ever dreamed–is to have a house, with a fenced-in yard, and a family of my own. Whether that family involves four legged pets or kids one day remains to be seen (and marriage still would have to happen, of course), but the first step is getting that house with my man and then getting our pup Dovahkiin next summer. And I am beyond excited.
- I envision a healthier management of anxiety, depression and overthinking. Something I’ve always dealt with, with various degrees of handling it. My depression isn’t severe, but my anxiety has heightened in some ways as I’ve become more introverted over the years. My overthinking dominated my entire life and it isn’t the best way to live. So I’d like to learn to recognize these aspects of my life better and create a happy life despite dealing with these illnesses.
- I envision more adventures. This is adventures of all kinds. Not only traveling, but adventures with my boyfriend, whether road-trips or date nights. Adventures with my family, as we get older and continue to experience new firsts together. Adventures with my friends, as they become more and more cherished the older we get. I don’t ever want my life to become work, sleep, eat, repeat. There is too much life to live in-between.
- I envision a healthier routine. This ties into a couple points above, but I want a more positive relationship between my desire to constantly be moving and busy and productive that then translates to laziness and fatigue and burnout. I want to create better habits and routines so that I can still achieve my goals, but I don’t want to continue living between such extremes.
- I envision being more selfish. I’m a people-pleaser. I always have been and I always will be. But I’d like to do that a little less and give myself permission to be a little more selfish, with my time, my space and my desires. I love being able to help people and being there for them. But it’s important, too, to take care of myself and not let the desire to be the one who is always helping come at the cost of my own needs and wants.
- I envision branching out of my comfort zone. I’ve done that a lot, in the past few years. From moving out of state, to entering into a FWB relationship (before actually committing), to speaking at a Tolkien Conference, there were a lot of things I thought I’d never do (or be able to do/handle) yet I have. I did. So I’d love to continue embracing the challenges and impossibilities of life and see what happens next.
- I envision happiness. This has always been the main goal for me. I’ve always wanted to create a life that is happy, daily. I don’t want to only have happiness on the weekends, after surviving the work week. I don’t want to only have happiness when I’m with only people or happiness when I’m alone. I want to be able to create happiness in as many ways as I possibly can. I’m not doing too shabby of a job so far, but I’m ready to continue finding new ways to do just that.
No small goals here, friends. And I doubt you want to read any more about them, so I’ll wrap this post up quickly. Thanks to everyone who has ever been there for me, whether in RL or online (for some of you who are my online friends are more cherished than you realize). I’ve lived such a blessed life, filled with all the extremes you can imagine. But I can’t complain in the least and so ready to see where 26 takes me.
So, thanks for being with me in my little corner of the internet. I love you all!