Young Adulthood: A Sob Story

Lately I’ve been referring to what’s happening with my life as a mid-youth crisis. Quarter-life crisis doesn’t feel appropriate–not because I’m not yet 25 (which I’m not) but because I’m not convinced I’ll make it to 96, or 100. I also may or may not have stolen the term “mid-youth crisis” from my favorite Hozier song. Anyway, people tend to ask what I mean by it: “Does that mean you have the desire to do fun and exciting things while you’re still young?”

I’m not an optimist. The word “crisis” is in there for a reason.

But what do I mean?

Well, this is what my mid-youth crisis has involved so far:

1. Moving for the third time in just under a year and a half. The first place was a house in Bellevue, WA that was already home to six other people. I moved out five months later when I became convinced that my middle-aged Japanese roommate was a hoarder (as evidenced by the stacks upon stacks of boxes I could see when she opened the door to her garage-converted-room) and a rat took up residence in our (my) upstairs bathroom.

Next, I moved into a studio apartment in downtown Seattle, which, aside from questionable residents I shared many an uncomfortable elevator ride with and the shouting matches I could hear taking place outside my window on any given night, I very much liked. It was nestled in between Pioneer Square and the International District: great for people watching, cafes, and Asian cuisine.

Then, while I was away on a 9-day road trip, the friend I’d enlisted to watch my cat broke up with her live-in boyfriend. My cat became a child of divorce, and my friend became a viable roommate. Due to the 20 days’ notice rule, I gave up my apartment before we found a place together. I wasn’t quite risking homelessness, but a sense of desperation sank in when we kept meeting disappointment in the form of scams and near misses. But we did eventually find a place in Fremont, my favorite Seattle ‘hood. I called and set up a same day viewing for a time I couldn’t make but my roommate-to-be could.

“So, how was it?” I asked her afterwards.
“It’s small and dirty and we’re taking it!”

What do you call a place that requires no application fee, no pet deposit, and no pet rent? Well, if it isn’t a scam, you call it home.

2. My grandma’s unexpected death in October. I flew home for her funeral, which fell on what would’ve been her 83rd birthday. I packed up her collection of tea cups to keep at my parents’ house, and brought home with me framed pictures, a scrapbook, and puzzles we used to put together.

3. Grieving. My grief so far has mostly consisted of crying while watching Big Fish via Netflix on the couch and going to sleep wearing make-up (what hasn’t been cried off) and work clothes I haven’t bothered to change out of.

4. Looking at my cat and thinking, “I’m going to have you for the rest of your life.” I knew when I adopted him I’d be his forever home (assuming his Stockholm Syndrome is developed enough he doesn’t try and succeed in escaping), but it’s daunting to consider he may very well be a constant in my life for a decade or longer–’til death do us part.

5. Drinking wine and eating hot pockets in my clawfoot bathtub.

6. A. Deciding to do NaNoWriMo last minute even though I should know by now that I’m a plotter (someone who plots out her stories), not a panster (someone who writes by the seat of her pants).

6. B. Quitting NaNoWriMo after approximately 10 days and 15,600 words.

7. Getting a tattoo. I like to buy myself things, and birthdays are an excellent excuse reason to do just that! I’ve had ideas for tattoos over the years: quotations marks on my shoulder blades, a line of poetry underneath my boobs. Small, simple. But when it came to actually getting inked, I decided, Go big or go home! Let’s do a thigh piece of watercolor poppies instead. Use my flesh as canvas! Make me art! My tattoo artist drew out two possibilities–one “littler guy” as he called it, and a bigger guy. “Let’s go big!” I told him. Then I scream-moaned/cursed throughout the entire three-and-a-half hour procedure. My roommate who frequents the shop said she’s never seen anyone handle getting inked so poorly, but I didn’t cry, vomit, pass out, or quit, so I’m calling it a win!

8. Quitting Facebook. While Facebook can be a good tool for staying in touch with people–particularly via the messenger function–I feel like it mostly just gives the illusion of connection. Like, “Hey, I haven’t seen this person in three years, but I know she just bought eight new house plants, got a new haircut, and participated in a drag show!” And I’d think, God, she’s cool. I’m so glad we’re friends. But are we really?

Facebook is full of People Who Aren’t Me Doing Cool Shit. Instead of comparing my day-to-day life to their highlight reel–because I’ve been told doing so hinders happiness–I’d set about stalking myself on Facebook. Then I’d get jealous because Facebook me is so much cooler than day-to-day me! I know I’m not the only one!

A friend of mine texted me last week, “Anika, did you know that I used to be hot?”
And I asked, “Were you stalking yourself on Facebook?” He was! Of course he was.

On the other hand, Facebook made me dislike people I actually like in real life. (I had fewer than 200 friends on Facebook, making my friends list a fairly selective one.) My newsfeed filled with not only babies and engagements (which I don’t like but can tolerate, mostly, with one exception on the baby front) and non-sarcastic posts in support of Donald Trump, as well as racist Charlie Brown memes, including a comments section full of middle-aged white people complaining about reverse racism (which would inevitably pull me into one of those heinous online arguments no one ever wins).

9. Joining OkCupid. I used to joke about joining an online dating site just to see how many hits I could get. Call me vain! Whatever. But I actually decided to join in order to meet interesting people who live near me since meeting people organically hasn’t worked out all that well. I joined Meetup.com when I first moved out here, but I don’t do great in group settings with strangers. So far it’s been a lot overwhelming (turns out a lot of singles live in Seattle; who knew?) and only a little creepy. It’s proven to be a good screening system–the sort of system I can’t utilize in real life. Real life doesn’t come with match percentages, and I can’t tell by looking at someone across a crowded room whether they’re the type of person who posts shirtless pictures, pridefully doesn’t read, misspells 1st-grade level words, and starts conversations with, “Don’t message me back :)” in a pitiful attempt at reverse psychology, an unoriginal “Hey,” or my personal favorite, “Are you still full from Thanksgiving?” And then something unrepeatable about stuffing.

OkCupid actually emailed me the other day to let me know that I’m “now among the most attractive people” on the site based on “clicks to [my] profile and reactions to [me] in Quickmatch.”

I’m less than thrilled that this is the corner of the Internet where I thrive.

If only my blogs were so popular . . .

10. Rewriting my first novel manuscript. Again. On a forum I cannot now for the life of me relocate, someone stated that Stephen King has detailed seven stages of rejection (although the seventh stage listed was acceptance). The sixth stage is an invitation to revise and resubmit. I haven’t gotten that far yet. I’m stuck at a solid stage five rejection: a positive, personal rejection. The kind of rejection in which a literary agent says, “You’re clearly a talented writer” and also, “There’s much to like about your approach” and describes the story as “unique and arresting” and “important” and “admirable” but for whatever reason ultimately says no. 

After a handful of these, I decided to sit myself down and have a serious self-talk. And what I decided is that the manuscript is good, but it isn’t great. It isn’t the best book that it can be, and it isn’t the best book that I can make it.

This means it’s time to take a break from querying agents.

Lucky for me, rewriting is my favorite part.

11. Adding books to my reading list like, “The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter–And How to Make the Most of Them.”

12. Impulse buying things on the Internet. This mostly consists of buying books and things for my apartment, like art and wall tapestries. I’m very good at persuading myself. “You’ll be supporting other artists,” I say! That’s basically all it takes. And then there are clothes. I never used to buy clothes online, because I have enough trouble finding clothes that fit at physical stores where I can try them on. But then I discovered reviews! Does the reviewer complain about the size small dress being too snug? Does the reviewer insist that fellow buyers order a size or two up? Yes? Gimme! (This hasn’t failed me yet, because I’m built like a child.)

13. Impulse buying things in real life. It’s the holiday season, and I love nothing more than walking into a store only to have an item grab my attention by hollering out one of my beloved friend’s names. Last year a set of cat butt magnets called out to me, “Christine!” The other week a pair of corgi-patterned socks yelled, “Lauren!” No matter that Lauren and I haven’t seen each other in person since 2011; I bought ‘em for her anyway. The problem comes in when the inanimate objects shout my own name, and the equally loud voice inside my head screams, “TREAT YO’SELF!”

There’s a Tumblr post that lists the pros and cons of being an adult.
Pros: You can buy whatever you want and no one can stop you
Cons: You can buy whatever you want and no one can stop you

And there you have it, in semi-convenient list form: my young life, and my crises.

Hell is a Blinking Cursor

Or a blank page. A blank page offers infinite possibilities!

I think that’s supposed to be exciting. But, for me, it’s paralyzing.

It’s a lot of pressure.

It’s the pressure to craft a killer opening line within an engaging first paragraph and to then write seamlessly to the story’s conclusion.

When I think like that, it’s over before it begins.

Because writing is messy. It’s spilled tea and split-open garbage bags and “What did I just step in?” and “Is that blood?”

I’m messy.

Let me invite you into my anxiety-addled brain, which prevented me from filling a journal cover-to-cover until this past year, at age 23.

It wasn’t the first journal I ever owned—not by a long shot.

That isn’t to say the journal was my first.

I’ve had many journals over the years. We’re talking a dozen at the very least. Hardcover journals. Spiral-bound journals. Journals with unlined pages. Journals with recycled paper pages. Journals with inspirational quotations on each page. At one point I had a password-protected, voice-activated journal case, for a journal I wrote in exclusively in vibrantly colored gel pens before doing what I always did: tearing out each page I marred with my handwriting, crumpling it up, and throwing it in the trash where it belonged. (Not the recycling bin, but the trash. No second chances! Just be happy I didn’t burn the pages.)

I once read that handwriting is basically the tangible equivalent of a person’s voice, and that would make sense, because I also hated hearing my voice recorded.

A few years ago, my best friend bought me Wreck This Journal, which should’ve been perfect for me. The description reads, “For anyone who’s ever wished to, but had trouble starting, keeping, or finishing a journal or sketchbook comes Wreck This Journal, an illustrated book that features a subversive collection of prompts, asking readers to muster up their best mistake- and mess-making abilities to fill the pages of the book (and destroy them).”

Looking through it now, there’s evidence (lipstick) that I halfheartedly chewed on a page that instructed me to “chew on this” and that I did indeed “color this entire page” using pink, orange, and blue highlighters, and that I even used a page to “collect fruit stickers.” But mostly I left the page instructions unfulfilled and put it back on the shelf, barely and poorly mutilated.

It’s that pressure again.

By asking me, the reader, to “muster up [my] best mistake- and mess-making abilities” I’m inferring that it’s not enough to make mistakes and messes, and that they have to be the biggest mistakes and the messiest messes!

As if anyone would know the difference!
As if anyone has a clue what kind of mess I’m capable of.

This year, I realized that the only person standing in my way is myself. And sure, I’m afraid of fucking everything up and doing it all wrong, but I’ll be damned if I let that keep me from doing anything at all.

This year, I filled out a journal cover-to-cover.

Perhaps before this year ends, I’ll destroy one.

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Quitters Gonna Quit

If you already know what the hell NaNoWriMo is–skim this next part.
Better yet–skip it.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s a writing thing.

The NaNo forum Rules, Regulations, & Other Minutiae gives by-the-book answers on how to do NaNoWriMo.

There are rules for how to become a traditional winner:
1. Write 50,000 words between November 1st and November 30th.
More specifically:
a. 50,000 words of fiction
b. 50,000 words that aren’t the same word repeated 50,000 times.
2. Only words written during November count towards your word count.
a. Prior to November, you can feel free to write up outlines, character sketches, etc. but those words won’t count towards the 50,000.
3. Be the sole author of your novel.

Fifty-thousand words. Thirty days. The math comes out to approximately 1,667 words per day; there are  word count charts that can be found all over the Internet to help you stay on track!

Exhibit A:

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You can validate your word count on the official NaNo website. Then once you’ve accumulated 50,000 words, you’ve won!

Yep. That’s the gist of it.

Okay, you can stop skimming.

STOP SKIMMING!

Okay?

You should be stopped by now.

***

And now we’re on to why this quitter quit!

Things that cause in me a failure to thrive:
1. Being told what to do, and how and when to do it. Basically any pressure at all makes me resistant (the exception being of self-pressure). It’s why I abhor unsolicited advice. It’s also why if at dinner someone asks, “Do you want to try a bite of mine?” or says, “You have to try this” my reactions is, NO THANKS. I don’t have to do anything! Even if I steal a fry off your plate, the second you say, “Go ahead” or “have some more” or “have them all!” I’m all, Oh, no, that’s okay, I’m good.

So at first what I hear NaNo saying is, “Hey, you’re going to write! You’re going to write 1,667 or more words per day! All November long!”

And at first the enthusiasm implied in those exclamation marks gets me, and I’m like, “Yeah, I am!” Because it was my idea to sign up for NaNoWriMo. Because I can write 1,667 words per day. Because I am in no way opposed to the idea of writing a 50,000-word novel in a month.

Except! Inevitably, I will question myself a few days in:

Do I want to write 1,667 words per day on average over the course of the next thirty days? Well, sure, but I don’t want to have to.

2. Feeling obligated. This is where it starts to fall apart: NaNoWriMo dictates that I have to, and I don’t like feeling like I have to do things; I like feeling like I get to do things. Doing the thing that’s caused this have-to feeling in the first place starts to feel wrong.

3. Self-doubt. This is where I give into thinking I’m doing it all wrong. This is where I begin to read every blog I can possibly find about NaNo, where I then uncover even more rules. Rules like, “Kill your inner editor.”

What do you mean kill my inner editor? I like her. She is me.

4. Anxiety. And nothing says anxiety to me like thirty blank squares on a calendar page staring at me like thirty blank Word document pages with thirty blinking cursors, except maybe thirty mostly blank squares with each day’s word count goal typed out in bold.

At this point, it doesn’t matter how many pep talks try to reassure me it’s okay to suck and that all first drafts are shit anyway.

5. Shame. The shame of quitting lasts all of five seconds.

Quitting NaNoWriMo is in no way quitting writing.
Quitting NaNoWriMo is something I can actually do.

Last year, I quit at 34,667 words.
This year I quit at 15,600.

It’s a OSFA-approach, and it doesn’t fit me, and I’m not the only one. There’s an entire forum dedicated to writers who don’t follow the rules: NaNo Rebels.

Maybe next year I’ll join the rebellion.

 

 

I’ve Never Eulogized Anyone Before

As read aloud on October 15th, 2015 at the Trinity Reformed Church in Allison, IA.

In the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know my grandmother as an adult. She’s always been good at keeping in touch. We’d talk on the phone, and she’d fill me in about family and ask me about Seattle, my cat Sawyer, and my writing. She never, not once, asked me, “Do you have a boyfriend yet?”

I appreciated that.

We liked to keep in contact via the mail, too. She liked having something more tangible than a phone conversation. Me, too. Her cards came with letters tucked inside, written in cursive. I’d send her postcards, and I picked hers out special, making sure the card wasn’t a duplicate, and I tried to find the picture that closest resembled a lighthouse, because she loved lighthouses.

The last postcard I send her had an honest-to-God lighthouse on it, but, as the U.S. Postal Service would have it, only a shredded corner of the postcard made it to the post office, with only the zip code intact. I’d told Grandma to expect mail, and after a month of nothing, she inquired. The postmaster had saved it just in case.

When I returned to Victoria, B.C., where I’d gotten the postcard, I bought a magnet with the same lighthouse on it. This time I hand-delivered it during my visit home over Labor Day weekend. And, of course, Grandma had something for me, too: a newspaper clipping. She usually had something about Seattle to share with me when we talked, and it wasn’t unusual for me not to have already known about it. This particular news article was about Seattle’s mystery soda machine.

It’s an old, outdoor Coke machine that somehow always stays stocked with a variety of soda. It costs 75 cents, and each of the six buttons is labeled mystery, so you never know what kind you’re going to get.

In the article, I recognized the cross streets in Capitol Hill; I’d been to the neighborhood before.

So the other night, I enlisted a friend to drive me there. We each dispensed 75 cents into the machine. I got a Sprite; my friend got a Mountain Dew. But of course I didn’t stop there. Next, we drove out to West Seattle, where one of the only lighthouses in the city resides. The lighthouse wasn’t as accessible as I’d thought. I’d imagined that we could simply drive over and sip our sodas in view of the lighthouse. Instead, we parked the car, and I trekked across a rocky beach in the dark, soda in hand, using my phone as a flashlight until I was satisfied with the view. Then I popped the soda tab, took a sip, and drained the rest into the Puget Sound.

It was the best thing I could think of to do.

Happy birthday, Grandma. I love you.

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From the Middle of Nowhere

Okay, so Iowa is actually right outside the middle of nowhere.

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And it took less than a year for me to start romanticizing it. (It was one thing to romanticize Seattle, a place I’d never visited, a city shown on screens; but I’d lived in Iowa for twenty-two years of my life.) Hemingway (allegedly) advised, “Never write about a place until you’re away from it, because that gives you perspective.” I have to wonder if there’s a rule about how far away. Distance isn’t just geography; it’s time. And I’m not the same person who left. Not to say that I’ve become someone else; if anything, I’m more myself.

On my first ever road trip, my best friend Christine and I stumbled upon a restaurant/music venue where the owners of the establishment encouraged writing on the bathroom walls. Eighteen-year-old Anika wrote in blue Sharpie, in cursive, “Life isn’t about finding yourself; life is about creating yourself.”

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After our trip, I moved to Ames, IA for the next three and half years, and Christine moved to Boston, MA for the next four.

She told me once, sad and sick for home, how much she missed trees.
When I moved to Seattle, I thought that I’d never seen trees before in my life.

It took me just over 15 months to return to Iowa, and fewer than four days for reality to kill most of my romanticism about things I thought I missed most:

humidity at nighttime (isn’t exactly an invisible warm sheet straight out of the dryer)
lightning bugs (are dying off in early September)
driving (at nighttime in a rainstorm and through construction squinted into oncoming headlights all along the interstate only to be greeted by flashing lights and pulled over for going 71 in a 55 once I’ve merged back onto the highway)
seeing for so many miles in every direction (lulls me into highway hypnosis and I end miss whole songs on the album I’m listening to)
thunderstorms (okay, thunderstorms are still pretty fucking romantic)

Many of the places I loved have been replaced by literal piles of dirt (yes, dirt, the derogatory name for soil, as any agronomist will tell you): most notably the original Aroma’s coffeehouse, where I used to exclusively order hot chocolate until the owner talked me into trying a mocha, where friends lounged often and for hours, our own version of Friends’ Central Perk; and the high school tennis courts, where Katey and I ended up the first time I ever got drunk, where I spent hours hitting tennis balls against the splintered, green backboard, knowing no matter how good I got, I’d never be better.

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Fifteen months was long enough for the friends who knew to forget to warn me.

My last night there, Iowa was so quiet that I could hear: my dad’s breathing from the bedroom, while I sat on the couch at the farthest end of the living room, which I at first mistook for Jack, my cat, asleep near my feet; crickets, of course; and the sound the keys on my touchscreen phone make even though my phone’s set to silent.

The four of us — my parents, my brother, and I — stopped at Perkins to eat on the way to the airport. I slumped down in the booth across from my dad and cried with relief to be on my way. I cried more when he told me not to feel obligated to come home for Christmas. “No offense,” he said, “but I prefer it when we come to see you. Don’t get me wrong, we love having you here, too, but there’s so much more to see and do, and you’re happier there.”

At the airport bar, I ordered a tall glass of Shock Top (Midwest, wheat beer, is anyone surprised?) on a mostly empty stomach. It sounded better when the man beside me ordered it in his Scottish accent, and we went on to lament about the cost of living out west, because San Francisco is even worse off than Seattle.

I’m a transplant.

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The thing is that sometimes plants need repotted: it hasn’t grown in years; the soil is drying out; roots are growing out of drainage holes; the pot’s breaking from root growth; and now it’s all roots and no soil.

And “it’s almost a given that if you repot, the plant will grow.”

I outgrew Iowa.

When I returned to my studio in downtown Seattle, I noticed on the fridge below the Scrabble magnets I’d arranged into the Halsey lyrics, “Don’t belong to no city,” my friend Lisa, who’d been apartment/cat-sitting for me, had spelled out, “Welcome home.”

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Hindsight Isn’t 20/20 If Nostalgia Has Anything to Say About It

I’m not much for introductions, so here’s a disclaimer: I once read an article that contained ten rules for writing a novel, and the tenth item on the list was: Don’t Complain. I’ve also read, time and again, that when it comes to writing, once you know the rules, you’re allowed to break them. I believe in breaking the rules. Especially that one.

Writing is hard, and nostalgia is a dirty liar.

Those aren’t my words exactly, but they say great artists steal, right?

See, there’s this post I keep running into on Tumblr, probably because I spend a lot of time there. I wouldn’t say it’s a place I go to get inspiration, but it is a place I go for something. Peace of mind, perhaps. Or maybe it’s the reassurance that there are other crazy kids out there trying to create something out of nothing, or at least something out of something else.

My own personal nostalgia keeps reminding me of the five months I spent living in my parents’ basement post-college graduation. She’s painted this rose-tinted glasses picture.

And I know it’s the glasses. I literally wore rose-tinted aviator sunglasses the summer I studied abroad in Greece, and I remember one night that I made grand exclamations about how the sun setting over the water looked. It was the sort of beautiful that made me feel I had wasted all the right words on such un-miraculous things. In comparison, all my new friends seemed underwhelmed.

I lowered my sunglasses on the bridge of my nose and raised my eyebrows, as if to say, “Are you seriously not moved by the majesty that is this sunset?”

And when I did this, all the color drained out of the sky.

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I made everyone try on my sunglasses then to see what all my fuss was about, but it didn’t change the fact that the sky didn’t actually look the way I’d thought it looked.

So it is with nostalgia and those five months. As soon as I returned to my high school bedroom, I nested. I rearranged my furniture and re-shelved all my books. I bought a frame for the word poster my friend Holly had gotten me for Christmas. It says, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.”

My dad kept hugging me and telling me how good it was to have me home. “You know, Peanut,” he said, “this’ll be the last time we’re all living here under one roof like this.”

I tried to keep that in mind.

I tried to look on the bright side. Sure, I didn’t have a job right out of college, and sure, I had only six months before my student loan payments would kick in. But I had parents who loved me; home-cooked meals; my own room, which now looked like a mash-up of all my high school years and every dorm and apartment I’d lived in; no rent or utilities; laundry services; my beloved cat Jack; and what seemed like all the time in the world.

Dead Lord, that paragraph is dripping with sentiment. Don’t worry: nobody’s died. Everybody’s living. But my dad was right – we’ll never be under that same roof again. They officially moved last week. I don’t even have a room in this new house: just nine totes full of crap and a bookshelf I insisted they keep for me.

It’s funny because now I’d kill to have all that uncertain, indefinite time back. The time I spent with my butt in my desk chair and my fingers poised at my keyboard; in my bed with Jack sleeping at my feet and a book in my hands; reading aloud cover letter drafts to my dad, asking if I was selling myself well enough; curled up on the couch watching TV shows and On-Demand movies with my parents, my brother, and the cats.

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And for how much I miss my family – and trust me, it’s a lot – I really miss the writing.

In January, I started rewriting the novel manuscript I’d written.

A little backstory: in November, an agent who had requested my full 55,000-word manuscript rejected it. I had a good cry and started binge-watching LOST. By mid-December, I’d had a real talk with myself and admitted that I’d managed to avoid the most interesting conflict in the story and resolved to rewrite the whole damn thing.

By mid-January, I had 20,000 words rewritten, but I knew it still wasn’t right. So I trashed it (only I don’t actually trash anything; it still exists in a folder somewhere in the recesses of my computer with many other abandoned drafts).

I opened up a blank Word document, and I kept pounding at the keys until something inside of me – genius, a muse, my main character – woke up.

I wrote every single night. I’d set the alarm on my phone for an hour. Usually I’d sit at my desk with the overhead light off, my lamp on, and a cup of tea steaming at my side. And more often than not, my tea would go cold before I’d drunk even half of it.

But it didn’t matter because every single night, I hit flow.

Flow, for me, is where everything else falls away: time, self-consciousness, thirst, hunger, everything. Nothing but writing has ever gotten me to that magical state.

The thing is that when I wasn’t writing during this time, I was generally a mess.

I’d started working for the school district for money and something to do. Here I was, an English major with no interest in an educational-field emphasis, working in a school, when I hated nothing more than being asked, “Oh, so you’re going to be a teacher?” I even applied for and got a position in an E-3 room after working one-on-one with a beautiful undiagnosed-but-probably-autistic child, because we’d really hit it off when I’d subbed in for his usual aide. And here’s the thing: I liked it, but it was hard, really hard, and it wasn’t anything like what I’d planned for my life.

And it wasn’t hard for me in the way that math is hard for me. It was hard because being in that room wrecked me. What the hell did I have to complain about? I felt like an ableist asshole in the worst way when every morning I’d get ready in front of my mirror, get the crying out of the way so that I could paint my face, and give myself pep talks: this is indefinite; this is your life for now, but it isn’t your life forever; it’s going to be okay.

Fuck you, Anika. Fuck me.

My workday would be over by 3 o’ clock. I’d nap and read until dinner, eat and chat with my family, and then I’d get back to writing. My word count goal then was 1,667 words per day, thanks to NaNoWriMo, but generally I aim for 1,000 any given day. Those nights I wrote anywhere from 4,000 words, because when the timer would sound off after an hour – permission to stop – I’d silence it and keep going.

By the time I’d finished, the novel’s word count amounted to 72,000 (and since, with additional rewrites and revisions, it’s grown to 78,500).

Now that I live in Seattle on my own, which was my dream city on all counts – weather, ocean water, mountains, skyline, most bookstores per capita – and have a full-time editing job, Responsibilities, a lot more distance, and a lot less time, I pine for those days.

I don’t hit flow much lately.

I’ve read that it’s different for each book you write, and writing my current work-in-progress has been more like pulling teeth. The timer sounds off, and I breathe a sigh of relief, check my word count for the day, and say “good enough!” into the belly of my apartment.

And I know some day, maybe even one day soon, I’ll pine for these days, too.

I just can’t see it yet.