Preparing to write a decade in review post, I’ve been looking over some of my past blog posts. I started this blog on June 16, 2012. 2012! So, it’s not quite ten years old, yet…but getting up there. These past few years, I haven’t put as much energy into this blog as I used to. It has become more of a place for readers to stop and get some additional info about the Reborn series and ongoing projects, rather than a blog I update regularly. Still, eight years ago, I started The Urge to Write to get back into something I loved: writing.
Thinking about the head space I was in when I started this blog eight years ago compared to the one I’m in now, I have to laugh at myself. I was only in my early 20s, worrying that I hadn’t done/accomplished anything. Worried that I’d picked the wrong thing in graduate school and having (justified or not) a quarter life crisis. I didn’t really understand then that life, careers, dreams…they’re all a marathon, not a sprint.
I started off the decade graduating from college with a chemistry degree. And, although my education and other experiences as an undergrad were certainly valuable, I knew I didn’t want to work as a chemist in a lab forever. We were also in the midst of a huge recession, so I decided to stay in school and work on a master’s degree in a field I hoped would open more doors. Soon after graduating, my college sweetheart and I also broke up, which was very hard on me (in retrospect, both of us). But, while working on my master’s, I found a research adviser I really enjoyed working with and decided to stay and do a PhD in the same department.
Then, came the first plot twist of the 2010s: my adviser accepted a faculty position at a different university. Which was absolutely the best decision for her, as her new department would be a much better fit for her research niche. So, no hard feelings there. She even offered that I come with her, but I would have had to apply to that department’s program, and, although I enjoyed the research I was doing, I didn’t want my degree in that concentration. (My master’s and PhD are in environmental health.) I was still finishing required coursework and hadn’t picked a dissertation topic yet, so it’s not like I had to start completely over or anything. But I did feel a bit adrift. Almost no one else in our department did the type of work I’d been doing (a lot of them were doing more toxicology-related work in wet labs, and I was doing epidemiology/stats), and a lot of people didn’t have funding.
Somewhere in the midst of all of this, I started this blog. Thankfully, a few faculty members did take me under their wing, and I found a great group/adviser to work with. It wasn’t always perfect, but, especially looking back, it was exactly the place I needed to be. And, knowing people who had *much* worse things happen to them in grad school, I’m able to contextualize it now.
Still, at the time I had this persistent worry that I had “picked the wrong the thing” and that somehow my entire life/career was now committed to this one “wrong thing”. Because what happened, to, you know, following your dreams? Your passion? I’ve always loved books, loved to write. “Shouldn’t I be doing that, then?” entitled twenty-something me would ponder. (Because, as I also now recognize, following your dreams is a privilege a lot of people don’t have. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it or make a change in your life when something isn’t what you want – if you have the means, you absolutely should! But just to recognize it.)
Thus, Reborn was…born. It went through a few title changes before it became Reborn. I posted the original draft to this blog. I since deleted it after I self-published it, so I can’t verify this, but I’m sure it was bad. Really bad. It was written in Mountain Dew Code Red-fueled bursts of creativity after work and on the weekends, usually late at night, because I somehow used to function on an insane and unhealthy sleep schedule. Later, I revised it, paying more attention to, you know, actual story structure, character arcs, and fleshing out the mythology/world. The first edition was published in November of 2013. This November, Reborn will be seven years old!
It is too easy for me to look back and say, why the heck couldn’t I have finished the last book *before* 2020 hit? But, self-publishing the final book (about Siobhan, at least) is my next goal. I’m not going to look back with regret. Because you know what? In these past seven years, I wrote three books and two novellas in the Reborn series. To those who don’t like writing or writers who haven’t published yet, that might seem like a lot. To writers that are more prolific, that might seem like nothing. But for me, it was a huge accomplishment.
For better or worse, I have a hard time feeling satisfied, at least as far as work or career-related things go. (Maybe this is, overall, not a good thing, although it can be a good motivator in a lot of ways…) But in these, my five book babies, I’m giving myself a huge pat on the back. I love this world, these characters, and I don’t regret the sleepless nights/procrastinating other obligations/periods of time of being basically a hermit that allowed me to share them with all of you.
But life is, of course, more than these types of accomplishments. We are more than our jobs, our careers, even our dreams. I’m not saying that these aren’t or can’t be good things – only that one thing doesn’t define who we are. And if it does, maybe it shouldn’t. I didn’t “pick the wrong thing” in grad school. Maybe some people do, but in hindsight, I don’t think I did. I think I’m a scientist who also likes to write. And when I look back at graduate school, I don’t (always) think about the slog that comes before you defend your dissertation (and, yes, it can feel like a slog). I think about the dear colleagues and friends I made a long the way – I still collaborate and am friends with many of them.
In the latter half of this decade, I moved to New England, then back to Pittsburgh for several years, then, quite recently, back to New England. Time flies, time motivates us, and time also heals. Time changes and shapes us. If we’re lucky, we can still find a way back to the people we care about, no matter how much time or how many miles separate us. Time healed all wounds from that break up at the beginning of the decade. Gradually, we became friends again; we opened our hearts again. And (plot twist?) in August of 2019, we got married. 🙂
I don’t know what the next decade will bring. I’m sure there will be ups and downs, highs and lows. I could talk about career goals, writing goals, family goals – and, yes, I have all of those. But, through it all, I want to find joy and gratitude in the small things, the everyday things. I frequently fall into the trap of “I’ll be happy when…” “Things will be different/better when…” My only new year’s resolution is to work toward these things while finding happiness in what I have now, not in far-off, unpredictable future land. I think the best any of us can do, in large or small ways, is to try to leave the world a better place than how we found it.
Okay, that last thought is from A Court of Wings and Ruin, which I just finished last night. (Some things don’t change, like my love for a good YA fantasy.) But I liked it, and it’s also true.
So, here’s to 2020! To love, laughter, dancing like no one is watching and all the cliches. Reading all the books, doing all the things. Probably somewhere in there we should stop climate change. Okay, I’m done – for now. 😉