My 2014 year in review

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2014 has been good to me. I’ve been nonemployed and able to pursue my creative ambitions full force. I met many new friends over the past year and had the opportunity to travel to beautiful places. I’ve got a lot to celebrate. Here’s a rundown of the highlights in no particular order:

  • Traveling to Seattle with my mom and my sister.
  • Spending the holidays with my family in Cincinnati.
  • Accompanying David to math conferences in Baltimore, Banff, Tucson, and the Bay Area (twice).
  • Declaring myself the First Lady of Math Overflow on Twitter (#firstlady #mathoverflow), and writing some fun blog posts about having dinner with mathematicians, Taylor series jokes, and Algebraic Independence Day.
  • Growing closer with my writing group, attending some kick butt writing conferences, and generally figuring out how to be a writer.
  • Placing third in the Georgia Romance Writers Unpublished Maggie Awards for Contemporary Single Title Romance.
  • Completing a 50,000-word draft of a second novel during NaNoWriMo.
  • Graduating from Dad’s Garage improv classes in January and joining four improv troupes over the course of the year (Shark Party, Collective 51, The Outliers, and the now defunct Bangprov). I also auditioned for a couple of things that I didn’t get. I’m thankful for these experiences too because they made me realize how much I wanted to do improv and motivated me to work harder.
  • Taking long form improv classes at The Brink Improv and becoming part of the awesome community there.
  • Made $10 performing in a staged reading! It was my only income for the year.
  • I wasn’t able to attend as many literary and storytelling events as I would have liked this past year, but I did have a couple of opportunities to share stories at Carapace and Naked City. I was a featured storyteller at Stories on the Edge of Night, and I’ll be performing in that show again on January 22nd.
  • I maintained this blog! Since August, I’ve been blogging at least weekly thanks to the introduction of Fantasy Friday. I have plans to introduce some new themed posts in 2015 so stay tuned for that.

Thanks to everyone who reads this blog. It means a lot to me to be able to connect with friends, family, and the greater global community through this space.

Happy New Year!

Fantasy Friday: big houses and normal life

I live in a neighborhood that’s transforming: small houses are being torn down and replaced by bigger ones, second stories are added onto single level homes, and in at least one case, a giant new house was built out from a home reduced to a porch and a front room. Even though these new structures are designed to fit in with the neighborhood, slowly but surely, they’re changing the character of the neighborhood. What’s considered an “average” or “normal” home is now larger and more expensive.

I’ve had an anxious week–one where my fears keep popping to the surface. They debilitate me. I worry I’ll never get anything done because how could I when everything has the potential to go so horribly wrong.

Weeks like this make me wonder if I should do more to try to address my issues. The questions I ask myself are ones I’ve often heard used to gauge mental health: “Is the anxiety disrupting my normal routine? Am I having problems performing normal activities?”

And thinking about these questions makes me even more upset. Because, yes, this week the fears have disrupted my normal activities, but what I consider normal has been shaped by years of anxiety.

Normal for me is carrying hand sanitizer everywhere I go. Normal for me is being afraid to put myself out there for fear of rejection. Normal for me is wanting so much to be safe that the possibility of risk distresses me.

Transformation happens slowly. One giant house at a time. One new fear that burrows into my brain and promises to terrorize me at inconvenient moments.

Normal is a moving target. And sometimes I wish I could get back to a better normal, but I’m not sure how far back I would have to go. So maybe it’s better think of rebuilding. Gentrifying my mind. Because even though it has its problems, its quirky character holds promise.

Fantasy Friday: revisiting an old life plan

Recently, I came across a list of life goals I composed during my sophomore year of college while I was on a spring break mission week in Washington D.C. learning about homelessness.

Life plan

1. study abroad

2. travel in Europe

3. social services internship

4. graduate – Econ & Women’s Studies

5. mission year in Latin America, Catholic Worker Movement

6. work in social services in D.C. for a few years, live in Adams Morgan

7. go to grad school to study women in development

Wear short corduroy pants

From this list, I accomplished 1, 2, 4, and kind of 7 (I studied mortality in grad school rather than women in development). All the social services stuff I was planning to do didn’t happen because I went straight from undergrad to grad school.

It’s interesting to think about where my life would be if I’d taken some time off before grad school because my life goals tend to be driven by circumstance rather than an intrinsic sense of being. When I was in Washington D.C. learning about homelessness, I wanted to live in D.C. and work in social services. My current life goals mainly relate to writing and improv. I don’t think I would have pursued either of these had I not moved to Atlanta, a city with rich literary and comedy scenes.

Given who I am and where I am now, I don’t think 3, 5, or 6 will ever happen. But I’m keeping “wear short corduroy pants” on my list.

How about you? Any life goals you had to cross off your list? How about some you’re still hoping to accomplish? 

Fantasy Friday: being thankful for what I have

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m forgoing the usual premise of Fantasy Friday, writing about what I want, and instead, offering gratitude for what I have. I gave a lot of thought to this during the holiday yesterday, and one of the things I’m most grateful for is how many wonderful communities I’ve gotten to be a part of over the course of my life. Presently, this includes the writing, storytelling, and improv communities I’m part of in Atlanta as well as the math community that I’m lucky enough to have entry to via David. From an early age (I’m looking at you, Brunette Sisters), during my time in academia, and up to the present, I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by passionate and talented people who continue to inspire me.

And, of course, there’s my family. Yesterday after Thanksgiving dinner, we played bingo, a new holiday tradition for us, but one which my sister was well suited to lead. She’s been calling bingo for around a decade.

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There was a lot of booing, cheering, and well-intentioned jabs at other players. A lot of fun had by all that made me simultaneously sad I live far away from my family and thankful I’m part of this particular family unit.

There are a lot of people to love in this world, and I’m grateful to have met so many individuals I care about. My only wish (okay, here’s the fantasy) is that I had more time to spend with each and every one of them.

Creating light in the darkness

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I’ve been having trouble sleeping recently–both falling asleep and going back to sleep if I wake up during the night. There’s a lot I’m excited about creatively that’s keeping me up as well as the fear and self-doubt that go along with these projects. There’s anxiety, of course, my faithful companion, and a more general worrying about the world–all the anger and sadness that need someplace to go.

What the hell is happening with the world? How am I supposed to be okay in it? Am I doing anything that matters?

It’s easy for me to feel selfish. I spend my days pursuing my creative passions without having to worry about paying the bills. It’s a charmed life, and one I often resent myself for. I had high hopes in my younger days about changing things for the better. Maybe I still can.

Other artists inspire me. I attended Java Monkey Speaks, a poetry open mic, this past weekend to support my awesome friend Valerie, who was the feature performer. Another poet, whose name was Alan Sugar I believe, said something that comforted me when he took the stage. I can’t remember the exact quote, which was beautifully worded, but here’s the gist: when an artist wakes up in darkness, she can combat fear by creating light.

What an amazing gift–the ability to create light in darkness.

This, in turn, reminded me of a poem I read in Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer called “Five Men” by Zbigniew Herbert. In it, the poet questions why he’s been writing “unimportant poems on flowers” in light of witnessing men executed by a firing squad. It’s worth a full read so I won’t spoil the ending. Check it out. 

Fantasy Friday: inhabiting Stars Hollow

This week’s Fantasy Friday post was inspired by the following question:

If you could live life in the world of a television show, which show would you choose? 

My mind first went to options where I’d get to be someone with a lot of money, like Gossip Girl or Mad Men. However, people on those shows tend to have high stakes problems, which makes for compelling television, but would be stressful to actually live through.

I also considered New Girl because I love the humor of that show and can relate to the late 20s/early 30s feelings of arrested development. Plus, I want to play the drinking game True American.

Ultimately, though, I have to go with the Gilmore Girls. I’ve been rewatching the series recently and reconnecting with the craziness that is life in Stars Hollow. It seems like a place where you can be as weird and quirky as you want to be, and for someone like me, that’s reassuring.