2015 was a strange year for me, full of change and surprising opportunities. Looking back, one of the best things about 2015 is that I have no regrets about the choices I made.
The biggest was going back to school. What had always kept me from finishing my degree was money, and I was in no better position last year than any other year to go into debt over student loans. But I knew in my heart that the time was right and that the degree was worth it, and not once have I felt regret about the money. Had I kept wringing my hands, however, I know I would have regretted another wasted year of indecision.
In 2015, I also chose to say yes to pretty much everything, even when I had no business taking on new projects. That made for one crazy summer but a wonderful summer too. I teamed up with a fellow “camper” to take a Camp Nano writing challenge in July, helped my friend Adrien by transcribing his interviews with my favorite band in August (that was surreal and utterly cool, and his cover story turned out amazing), and spent several weeks on a book edit for another friend–I cannot wait until the book is announced because I’m so excited for the author and super proud to have been part of that project too.
Finally, in 2015 I chose to quit working as a nurse, at least temporarily. Because I only have six months of school left the decision didn’t feel quite so reckless, and I’m still employed at the nursing facility on an as-needed basis. Once I graduate this spring, I might work full-time over the summer to recoup my losses, but ultimately my goal is to find a job that fits my degree and my passions.
Here are some other highlights of the year:
Tucson Festival of Books: My first book festival didn’t pay off monetarily, but by now you probably know that matters little to me. What really matters are those moments writers dream of when they imagine becoming authors–moments that look like this:
Disneyland: My husband and I had taken the kids to Disneyland in 2013, but on that trip–which was a great time–I caught myself saying the same thing over and over: “I wish my brother were here.” The last time Michael had been to Disneyland was on his 21st birthday–I was 17. When I returned with my own children I missed his presence on every classic ride–Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, The Haunted Mansion. It didn’t feel right being there without him, so when we planned our next trip two years later, we told Michael he was coming with us. Going to Disneyland with my brother again after 22 years was my best vacation, ever.
Writing again: Boy did I struggle with my writing in 2014. The first four months of the year I was in a state of chaos, preparing for my book’s publication. I didn’t know what I was doing at all and I had no clue where to focus my energy. Once the book was published in June all my energy then went toward promoting it, and the final months of the year were spent lamenting what I could have done better. I’m not kidding–it seemed as though my entire 2014 was spent on a book that I’d already written.
Last year, I moved on.
In April I wrote six new fiction stories during Camp Nanowrimo, and in July I drafted a middle grade novel. During the summer I wrote several essays for a creative nonfiction class, and in the fall I took a writing workshop, which was an insane thing to do because I was in the middle of a full semester at ASU. But I came out of that workshop with seven new pieces, one of which was published in December. And I attended readings, which is so important because it keeps me connected with my writing community.
Not everything went well with my writing though. My goal was to have those six short stories from April revised and polished and ready to go by the end of November–I am still not done. But I’m also not too discouraged because the stories are there; I have something to work with, and I’m moving forward.
Speaking of moving forward, here are some things I’d like to do better in 2016:
Reach out: Time and again, the literary community where I live has reached out to me: I’ve participated in numerous readings, served on a focus group for improving the arts in Tempe, and even been asked to read at this year’s Canal Convergence. I’ve never turned down an invitation to contribute to my local arts scene, but I also don’t reach out enough on my own. This year I plan to be more proactive and supportive.
Focus: I read somewhere recently that the defining characteristic of those who regularly accomplish their goals is their commitment to focusing on one thing at a time. Just one thing. No multitasking. I love the idea of being truly present in every moment and completely focused on the task at hand, whether it’s making dinner, playing with my children, or writing an essay. I know that if I can discipline myself to do this it would completely change my life, because most of my time is spent either in the moments ahead of me or the moments behind. I want to be where life happens, in the moment happening now.
Happy New Year, everyone! What are some of your goals for 2016?