Thursday, November 12, 2015

35 Books And Counting

This past weekend, the weather turned. After a record-breaking week of sunny days with temperatures soaring to the mid-80s, Sunday was a different story. Wet, gray, and cold, fall rushed in quickly, caught us unaware. I didn't mind; I spent most of the day lying on my couch, the heat on, a cup of tea beside me, and a book in my hands. Fates and Furies, by the incredible Lauren Groff. I read for a little over three hours, pausing only to shift my position, refill my tea cup, adjust the heat. Otherwise, I was deep into the novel. When I reached the last few pages and emerged from my trance, I truly felt as if I had been somewhere else. My own life - dogs, husband, friends - felt unfamiliar, off-kilter, and it's hard to explain what happened to me on the couch, even though it has happened before. Certain books take hold, the emotions on the page sloughing into my own life like a second set of skin. 

It isn't always the best books that capture me this way. Sometimes they are - Fates and Furies is, I think, nearly perfect - but usually it's the books I read at the exact right time, the exact right moment in my life. Fates and Furies is about marriage and perception, devotion and creativity, sacrifice and secrets. It's about two sides of one marriage, the story a couple presents to the world and to themselves, and the complicated truths that lurk beneath. I read it in the days leading up to my third wedding anniversary, our thirteenth year together. Marriage has been on my mind and to dive so deeply into Lotto and Mathilde's felt like an incredible gift.

I've said it before, but 2015 has been an overall unspectacular year. Upheaval. Transitions. Career difficulties. Disappointments. Changes in plans. Nothing too tragic, of course, just a general sense of ennui, punctuated by moments of joy. (In other words: life.)

At the same time, it's been an incredible year. Last January, I made a New Year's resolution to read 35 books, and when I reached the last page of Fates and Furies, I also reached that goal. (Now I'm shooting for 40.) This marks the most books I've read in a given year since I was a pre-teen and spent my summers plowing through The Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High series. Knowing I read so many books, being able to gaze lovingly at my spreadsheet of titles, authors, and stars, gives me an intense satisfaction. I may not have traveled the world or made a million dollars or published my own magnum opus, but look at what I've accomplished. It's a powerful feeling. I also feel like reading so many books (most of them novels, most of the contemporary) taught me so much about writing my own. I won't say I learned more about writing in 2015 than I did while in my MFA program, because my MFA provided a great foundation. But in the end that's all the MFA was - a solid place, upon which I could build a world made of books. 

It's obvious, but a good reminder nonetheless: books are not an escape, but rather a way to experience things I can't. No day is a waste if I spent part of it reading. 2015 will be remembered as an amazing year, because of the depth and breadth of books I read.

PS: The best books I read in 2014. I will do a similar post at the end of 2015, when I have my final tally. 

PPS: Photo credit.  

Thursday, November 05, 2015

How to be the Notorious RBG For Halloween

I have complicated feelings about Halloween. Or not; the truth is I just don't like it. Once you reach a certain age (and by that I mean 33 and childfree, which means you don't have small ones to dress up and you also can't drink like you used to) Halloween loses some of its charm. I don't like the pressure of having to come up with a costume or the money I inevitably spend on it. I don't like the temptation of candy around every corner (Reese's Pieces, I can't quit you.) I do like handing candy out to small children, but my neighborhood doesn't get much foot traffic, and even if it did I'm pretty sure my large, loud, over-protective dogs would ruin the moment. So, yeah. If it was up to me, I'd skip Halloween and go straight to Thanksgiving. 

This year, however, I couldn't escape Halloween. As it turns out my place of employment takes Halloween very, very seriously. As in all work halts on Halloween day, we're treated to a catered lunch, and we hold an elaborate costume contest. And these aren't costumes you can pick up at Target or Wal-Mart. Oh, no. Most of the costumes are handmade, include elaborate wigs or makeup, and are super creative. Also we get to go home early, so maybe Halloween isn't so bad after all. 

While I looked forward to the party, there was still the problem of my own costume. As usual, I waited until the last minute. As usual, I wanted to spend as close to 0 dollars as possible. So I combed my closet and there, in the very back, I found my robe from graduation. Hm, I thought. What could I do with this robe that I wore once but am inexplicably keeping despite the fact that I am never going back to school ever again? What, indeed? 

If you read the title of this post, you know the answer. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It was perfect, really - the past few years, when I've dressed up, I've gone as iconic women. Amelia Earhart. Frida Kahlo. And now the Notorious RBG. This costume was the easiest too, which makes Ruth my favorite so far. Graduation robe ($0.00). A pair of fake wire rimmed glasses I found at the costume store ($2.99). A pair of old lady earrings ($3.99, and my new favorite pair). And a yard of lace, which I folded and pinned to look like a stately ascot ($4.99). Done and done, for a grand total of $12.00. Justice is served. 

I loved my costume, but I didn't win the contest. The competition was stiff and having to explain to everyone who I was kind of took away from the experience. (My colleagues aren't up on their Supreme Court Justices, it turns out.) That's okay, though. I don't need to win Halloween. I just need to make it through the holiday so I can start planning my Thanksgiving menu. Mission accomplished. 

Do you dress up for Halloween? What's your best costume? I can already tell I'm going to have to up the ante for next year's office party, so please share! 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Lighthouse Beer and Wine Fest, Plus Pie

This past weekend was the annual Lighthouse Beer and Wine Festival. The name of this event is probably self-explanatory, but just in case: 200 or so craft breweries roll into Wilmington and set up booths in a giant field. Festival goers are then free to have their tiny glass refilled again, and again, and again, as they sample all the delicious ales, lagers, stouts, porters, ciders, and strange experimental hybrids. The festival lasts for five hours, which is a lot of time to stand outside drinking beer in the sunshine, but we persevered. It was my second time attending the event, and thanks to a change in venue, perfect weather, and the addition of my dear friend Lucy, who was visiting Wilmington for the weekend and allowed us to drag her to beer fest even though she had to attend a wedding later that night, it was the best by far. Also we got to wear pretzel necklaces, which is an essential part of any beer fest attire. All in all, a pretty great Saturday. 

In addition to beer fest, we crashed book club, searched for sea glass on the beach, ate vegan tacos at Beer Barrio, stalked Lucy's future wedding venue, and had brunch. Weekend warriors, y'all. 

When I'm not entertaining friends, wearing pretzel necklaces, and drinking all the beer in existence, I've been productive in other areas of my life. Reading, writing, working, and even running. In fact, I'm training for a fall race. After a summer of half-hearted running, I decided to buckle down and set my sights on a goal. I have to warn you, it's a pretty serious goal. You see, there's pie at stake. 

In case you can't tell, the race is a Thanksgiving Day 5K, and the top three finishers in each age group win a homemade pie. When it comes to races, I'm not terribly motivated. I like setting new PRs and reaching goals, sure, but I don't care much about beating anyone else. I'm generally racing against myself, which is convenient, as I am generally a middle-of-the-pack runner. 

That, of course, was before baked goods were at stake. I'm not afraid to admit that I desperately want to win a pie. To that end, I've been doing speed work (WHO AM I?!) and running three times a week. (All while keeping up with yoga and kettlebell, of course.) Maybe it's the pie, maybe it's the shorter distances, but suddenly I'm excited about running again. 

My training partner is doing a half marathon in a few weeks, and even though we run most of our races together I decided to skip this particular event. I hadn't been running regularly and I didn't want to pressure myself to race 13.1 miles when I knew my heart wasn't in it. I wanted to fall back in love with running, but I had to do it at my own pace. (Pun absolutely intended.) Now, thanks to an upcoming 5K and the possibility of pie, it's happening. Four weeks from now, that pie will be mine.

In the meantime, here are two things you should read. The first is a short story by my pal Ben Hoffman, who is the best writer I know in real life, and better than 99% of the writers I don't know in real life. (Seriously, he's amazing.) The story is published in Granta and is called "Substitutes," and it's a creepy story that will unsettle you in the best way. 

When you're done with that, hop over to Travel and Leisure and check out Carson Vaughan's essay, "My Dad Won't Stop Renovating My 1968 Travel Trailer." Remember when Nathan and I decided we were going to buy and renovate a trailer and live in for the rest of our lives? Well, my friends Carson and Mel are actually doing it and their trailer is so beautiful I may have cried. (The essay is pretty good, too.) 

But enough dreaming about trailers and missing children and pie; I have to drink a hundred cups of coffee and go to work. Here's to a good day, wherever you are. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

What Doesn't Bend Breaks

This past summer was a bit of a bust as far as fitness goes. I exercised maybe three times a week, mostly just to offset the number of backyard beers I was drinking. It was a good break, but now it's fall. The YMCA is open again, running actually feels nice, and after sitting at a desk for nine hours a day exercise is a necessity. Which means I'm suddenly working out a lot more, ramping up my mileage (8 miles on Sunday!), going to kettlebell twice a week (swing those bells!), and doing a ton of yoga (namaste, y'all!). I was a little worried that all this activity would injure my back yet again, but so far I feel fine. This is a huge relief, one that I attribute almost entirely to yoga.

For the last few months I've been going to two yoga classes at the YMCA every week, and doing short 20 minute flows that I find on YouTube after every run. When I skip a class or a session, I feel a painful tightness in my hips and lower back, which is excellent motivation to get my om on. Over the summer, while the YMCA was still rebuilding, I went to the bigger yoga studio in town, attending hot power flow classes where it was a struggle just to stay in the room, where we moved so quickly that sweat spilled off my skin and I slid across my mat. Still, when class ended I felt empty and wrung out, clean and pure. I didn't really enjoy it in the moment, but the way I felt once class ended, emotionally and physically, was worth it.

After a while, though, I began to crave something different. I didn't always want to move quickly through poses in a room heated to 99 degrees, counting down the minutes until it was over. Instead, I wanted to slow down and take my time, enjoy the process as much as the result, but I resisted my own desires. Opting for a gentle class seemed like a step back, and I always like to feel as if I'm making progress. If I ran five miles last Sunday, then I must run six this Sunday. If I wrote 1,000 words yesterday, then I must write 1,001 today. If I am regularly going to hot power flow yoga, then switching to a non-heated class would be moving in the wrong direction. I knew this was silly, but I didn't change my habits - not until the YMCA finally reopened.

Once it did, I stopped going to the bigger studio and returned to my humble home. At the YMCA the rooms aren't hot, so I had no choice but to "step back," and it was fine. I still got a good workout and I still felt as if I had accomplished something. Then one day, I misread the schedule and ended up in a basic class, which I like to call "Old Lady Yoga." When I realized my mistake I almost left the room, but at the last minute decided to stay. I'm so glad I did. Yes, the class was slower than I was used to, but that didn't mean it was easy. Not at all. We held poses for five or six breaths, which gave me a chance to go deeper and focus on alignment. I felt my tight hips, the source of all my lower back pain, begin to bloom. My muscles burned and my limbs shook, and it wasn't easy, just a different kind of hard. As it turns out, it was exactly what my body needed. When we finally relaxed in savasana, I remembered that yoga doesn't always have to be intense, or fast paced, or so humid it burns to breath. Sometimes committing to a pose and settling in is the hardest thing of all.

Now I split my time between the advanced class and Old Lady Yoga. This allows me to work on more difficult poses one night of the week, while strengthening, stretching, and healing my body on the other. My yoga practice, like everything else, is best when I strike a balance. Imagine that.


PS: For more of my writing on yoga, check out my Elephant Journal essay (Om is Where the Heart Is), a love letter I wrote, which is still true (Dear Yoga), and a review of a book (Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses).  

PPS: Thanks to Ani DiFranco for the title of this post.

PPPS: photo credit

Friday, October 09, 2015

An Autumn Reckoning

Here we are, over a week into October already. Is it just me, or has 2015 flown by? I have to admit: the past ten months have not been at all what I expected. Plans changed, priorities shifted, interests in various projects waxed and waned. There has been hope and also disappointment, and I've learned a lot about humility and perseverance. In fact, when I chose a word to guide this year, I went with "dig." Now that I'm in the trenches, "patience" seems far more fitting. 

The only problem with patience is that it lulls you into a false sense of waiting. And when you're waiting for things to happen, for decisions to be made, for questions to be answered, you end up biding your time instead of living your life. I felt that way for a good chunk of 2015 and tried to convince myself it was a virtue. Now that we're entering the homestretch and I'm looking back, it feels more like waste. This isn't to say that 2015 has been a total wash - there were wedding celebrated, words revised, books read, friends met, homes made. But it could have been better. I could have let it be more. 

To that end, I'm recommitting myself to 2015. To digging in and moving forward, with or without permission. I even made a list of Goals for Fall, things I want to do during this brief and beautiful season. It's not a ground breaking list and you've probably seen a thousand iterations of it already, but I like writing things down. It makes them more likely to happen. 

  • Visit a corn maze or go on a hayride. 
  • Carve a pumpkin and roast the seeds. 
  • Brew a batch of seasonal (but not pumpkin flavored) beer. 
  • Camp at Lake Waccamaw with Nathan and the dogs. 
  • Plant a fall garden. 
  • Bake bread with Kat, who is a bread baking champion. 
  • Drink everything at the Lighthouse Beer and Wine Festival (October 24th!). 
  • Do something special for our 13 dating / 3 year marriage anniversary in November.
  • Run a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning, then eat all the tofurkey. 

That should keep me busy for a few weeks, I think. In the meantime: Onward. Upward. In. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Right Here, Right Now

Because I can't seem to update this blog once a week (my current goal) and because nothing big has happened lately, I thought I'd write a post using that "currently" format that occasionally floats around the blogosphere (or whatever the kids are calling it these days). Here's what I've been up to these last few weeks. 

Currently watching: Orphan Black. The first two seasons are on Amazon (free if you have Prime!) and we've been burning through them. The show is about a woman who discovers she's actually a clone, one of who knows how many (new ones keep showing up) and of course there's some kind of evil plan the clones have to uncover in order to save their lives. I like sci-fi television in general (BSG, anyone?) but this show is extra fascinating because one actress, Tatiana Maslany, plays all the clones and DAMN that woman can act! Even though they are technically identical, each one feels completely different and wholly realized. The show is also an interesting commentary on bodily autonomy, individuality, capitalism, religion, science, etc. Super fun, super interesting, highly recommended.

Currently eating: Will I ever tire of Snapea Crisps? I hope not, especially since I bought the giant bag at Costco. I also joined the Snap Pack, and I stalk the company on all forms of social media. My love knows no bounds.

Currently reading: THE DAUGHTERS, by Adrienne Celt. She is a friend of a friend, though she doesn't know that. If you like Eastern European fairy tales, modern motherhood, opera, dreamy prose, and/or infidelity, you should read this book, too. Also this is my 30th book of 2015, which means I am pretty much going to smash my goal of reading 35 books this year. Huzzah!

Currently drinking: Growlers! We bought a growler, which holds 64 ounces of fresh and delicious craft beer, and we've been getting it refilled at our favorite breweries and bottle shops. Not only is the beer more interesting than anything we can find in the grocery store, it also cuts down on waste and packaging.

Currently buying: A bridesmaid dress for my sister's wedding. She's getting hitched in March and I'm the Matron of Honor. This will only be my second time in a wedding party and I'm pretty excited! (Also, the dress I bought is a lot nicer than the ones pictured above, just so you know.)

Currently using: My soup pot. I'm back to buying dried beans, due to always being broke, and also the fact that my sister is getting married in March. This means that I always have a pot of beans soaking on the stove. My current method is to soak overnight, then bring to a boil and simmer for about 45 minutes. I freeze most of the beans in separate containers, and put some in the refrigerator for immediate use. So far, so good, so cheap! Being thrifty is delicious.

Currently wanting: Real estate. You know that feeling when you help friends move into their amazing new house over the weekend, and then you go home and look at your own rented home, and all the quirks you loved and the tiny space you appreciated is suddenly old, dull, drab, and depressing? Yeah, that. Here's to hoping this particular wanting passes soon, as we're still years away from owning anything.

Now I have to rush off, or I'll be late for work. In the meantime, tell me: what's currently keeping you busy? 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Honest Truth

Today* I finished reading The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits. I needed something a bit lighter and and happier after A Little Life, and figured Julavits' book - a diary of sorts, covering two years of her life - would be a good choice. I was both right and wrong. The Folded Clock is smart, funny, and fascinating, but it's also startling. 

Julavits begins each entry (the dates go out order, so this is less a recounting of her days and more a recounting of her moods and experiences) with "Today I..." What follows is something that happened that day, which leads her to think about, obsess over, and muse on other things - similar experiences, mistakes made long ago, personal failings, epiphanies, etc. 

The most interesting thing to me, which probably says all you need to know, is how honest she appears on the page. Julavits isn't always a nice or rational person. She's mean to her husband for no reason. She gossips with her friends about other friends. She resents her children. She wants to be a celebrated artist, but she also wants to be pretty. She is jealous when other people are successful. So many complications I can relate to, yet Julavits admits to them readily and I never do. 

I started keeping a diary when I was twelve, and I wrote in it almost every day until I went to college. Then I kept a diary sporadically, out of habit and guilt, and then I started blogging and that became the record of my life. My diaries when I was younger (I called them "journals," because that sounded more important) were not important. Julavits, when she reread her childhood diaries (the discovery that prompted this book) found they "revealed [her] to possess the mind of a paranoid tax auditor." 

This, too, I can relate to. My own journals were detailed plans about how I would finally make eye contact with the boy I loved; painstaking lists of what I received for Christmas and my birthday; and a recounting of what made MTV's Top 20 Video Countdown that week, the list then preserved for future generations (this was before the Internet, when I imagined archaeologists would one day unearth my journals as priceless primary source materials). In other words: my journals were kind of dumb. Sure, they got more interesting as I got older, but not much. I was always so conscious as I wrote of an invisible audience, was always performing on the page. This is why I love blogging. The audience is still mostly invisible, but I can look at my page views and know that you are out there, reading along. 

Julavits also has an audience, much larger than mine, and yet she doesn't feel the need to sugarcoat herself. She puts her bad habits, her less-desirable qualities, on display. She regrets some of her actions (she would like to be nicer to her husband and children, at least) but she doesn't really apologize for them. She is who she is. 

I am who I am too, but I don't always feel good about it. Sometimes I gossip about other people without really understanding what they're going through; after, I feel guilty and mean and small. Sometimes I get in drunken arguments with people I love, or curse people who win the literary prizes I want, or hold some people to standards that are too high while forgiving other people everything because I can't bear to be angry with them. I'm conscious and compassionate when it's convenient, then feel guilty when I take the easy way out. I try hard to be a good ally, a good feminist, a good liberal, but then when I'm too tired to read all the articles and essays, when I'm worn out from the ceaseless anger, I retreat rather than fight and feel like a coward. 

If I learned anything from The Folded Clock, it's this: no one is perfect, especially me. I will always have flaws and regrets. I'll always make mistakes. Years from now, I'll read these "pages" and I will be embarrassed by and proud of the person I used to be. 

* I actually finished reading the book yesterday, but wanted to imitate her structure and style in this blog post. Forgive me, readers. Forgive me, Julavits. 

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Wedding Weekend + MFA Reunion

Labor Day weekend was spent celebrating the wedding and marriage of two of our dearest. I met them four years ago, when Katie and I were both brand new to our MFA program. Since then, she and Dory have become some of my closest friends, and the main reason I survived my post-graduation year (they stayed in Wilmington, just like us, and for that I will be forever grateful). The wedding was perfect and unique, and full of love, humor, and personal details. It was a brunch wedding, with endless mimosas and a shrimp and grits bar, laid back and fun, and full of so many wonderful friends, old and new. And that was before the crazy dance party we had later that night! Such a perfect wedding. 

As most people know, I'm a huge fan of weddings - I love public declarations of emotion, I love crying during the vows, I love dancing and getting entirely too drunk on love (and, okay, on endless mimosas). I can have a good time at almost any wedding, but it's extra special when the people joining their lives together are so well-matched. In the ceremony and around the tables, every single guest marveled at what a wonderful relationship we were there to witness, how inspiring their vows and promises to one another were. I left the wedding grateful for their love, the community they brought together, and my own marriage, and inspired to be a more patient, loving, and supportive person to everyone in my life. 

Mazel tov, Dory and Katie! Here's to a long life filled with endless love and plenty of mimosas. 

Speaking of endless love, this wedding was also an opportunity for an MFA reunion, which was much needed and so appreciated. Since we graduated nearly a year and a half ago (has it been that long?!) I've seen my friends once or twice, in different places and different combinations. While I'm grateful for any chance to spend with them, there was something extra wonderful about reuniting here in Wilmington, and with such a large group of us at once. Five people stayed with Nathan and me, and we laughed, gossiped, drank, ate our favorite meals, and went to the beach three days in a row. Not bad for four days of non-stop hanging out! 

We discussed more than once how lucky we were to have each other, and how unfair it was that we all live so far apart. That's the blessing and curse of the MFA program - you find your tribe, the people who get you on a deep, intimate level, who share your interests and passions, who support your art and can talk endlessly about books and sentences and rejection, but only for three years. Then you graduate and your utopia is torn apart, your friends scattered, your tribe dissolved. In some ways, it's lonelier now because you know how good it can be. Still, it was worth it for those three years of intense community, and it will continue to be worth it for a lifetime of friendship and support, even if we only see each other once or twice a year, can only reunite like this for weddings. (We came up with a strict wedding schedule this past weekend, so we should be good for the next three years if all goes according to plan.) 

This past weekend gave me so many joyful memories, and so much to look forward to in the months and years to come. Hooray for love! 

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

A Little Life, A Lot of Heartache

I spent most of August reading one book - A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara. My book club chose it as our latest pick and I'll admit - I wasn't completely thrilled with this turn of events. The book is 720 pages long, and that seemed like a lot of time to set aside for a book that someone else chose for me. (We vote on our monthly selections, but still.)

Before I even started the book, it quickly became apparent that this was THE novel of the moment. Right after our book club chose it, it made the short list for the Man Booker Prize. (Coincidence? We'll never know.) Many of my friends began posting to social media about how heartbroken the book had left them. I got added to a group on Facebook created purely to provide emotional support while reading. Every mention of the book on Twitter was accompanied by two emojis - broken heart and crying face. Things were getting serious. 

And so I started reading the book. It took me about 50 pages to really get into it. At first, I was confused. Who was black? Who was white? Who was gay? Who was straight? We're in New York City, but what time period does this take place? Who are all these friends that keep stopping by? Who is important? Soon, though, I settled down and settled in. For the most part, the book follows a core group of four men, recent college graduates who have just moved to New York City. As the book progresses, it becomes clear that one of these men, Jude, is the true main character, and bit by bit we learn about his history, the life he led before he came to college and met his three dearest friends. It was a life marked by all kinds of abuse, and it's a good thing we don't get the details all at once - they're hard to take, and a huge part of why this book is so ridiculously sad. 

But for a book that delves so deeply into tragedy and sadness, there are also moments of real happiness, which creates a gorgeous and complicated testament to love and friendship and our limits as human beings. Since I finished the book, I've read a ton of interviews with Yanagihara, reviews of the book, and analyses of the characters, and I've seen it called everything from a rare view of male friendship to the Great Gay Novel to a dark fairytale. It is, of course, all these things, because a book - at least a great one - is never one thing, and this book is definitely great. I've read 27 books so far this year, and none of them has affected me as deeply or lingered as long in mind and heart as this one. 

You might notice that I'm not saying much about the actual plot of the book. There are so many twists and so much happens - the book follows the characters from their early 20s to their early 50s, which is a lot of life - and each reveal is so highly anticipated, so necessary and horrifying and such a gift, that I can't give any of them away. 

Instead, I will tell you this. I finished the last 200 or so pages of the book over the course of a few nights, alone in my house because Nathan was working late. I knew that even though things for the characters had been bad, they were soon going to get worse, so I approached each reading session with fear, trepidation, and a box of tissues. In between the hours I spent reading, I wandered through the world and went to work, but I was barely there. I couldn't stop thinking about the characters, Jude especially - they took over my life in the best way. At once point, while reading, I was so engrossed that I didn't see something very big coming. When The Thing arrived, I slammed the book shut and yelled, "No. NO. NO!" into my empty house. I finally finished the book in a two hour stretch during which I could not stop weeping - I had no idea I could produce so many tears. Maybe this is a strange sort of recommendation - "Read this book! You'll never be the same! It will break your heart into a thousand pieces!" - but you should know what you're getting into. Think of it as a doomed relationship, one you know will not end well, but will challenge you, force you to confront dark truths, and make you question everything you thought you knew about love, friendship, and loss. 

And when you're done, let me know. No matter how long it takes, I'll still be thinking about this book, and I'll always need to talk about it. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

This is 33

I turned 33 on August 9th, and it must be a sign of maturity that I'm only getting around to reflecting on the occasion now. That's okay - age, after all, is relative. Ever since I turned 31, I've been doing a yearly time capsule to capture the moment and the year as they are in this moment. You can read 31 here32 here, and 33 below.

This is 33.

Thirty-three is a new career, again. It's going to an office five days a week and hoping all the studies that claim that sitting in a chair all day will kill me are wrong. Thirty-three is using my skills as a writer and a digital native to help other businesses grow. It's wondering sometimes if this particular career is enough, if any job is enough, if jobs are supposed to be enough, if enough even exists. 

Thirty-three is a literary career - the one that I care about most, the one that would most certainly be enough - teetering on the edge. It's eleven revisions and an agent and the maddeningly slow game of waiting for something to happen. Thirty-three is letting go of expectations and control and throwing myself into a new project, the first draft of another novel, because it doesn't matter what happens with the first one. The only thing that matters is that I keep writing. 

Thirty-three is Wilmington, for real this time. Not as a student, not as a visitor, but as someone who lives here and really, truly likes it. Thirty-three is less social, but the days and nights out are always worth it, always needed, always enjoyed. Thirty-three is missing more people than ever before, but realizing this is an ongoing trend - it just means I'm always finding new people to love. Thirty-three is breweries, book clubs, beaches, and backyard parties. Thirty-three is peaceful. 

Thirty-three is thirteen years and counting with Nathan, a relationship that has outlasted nearly everything else in my life and continues to evolve. It's comfort and safety and strength, and the knowledge that no matter what, we'll figure it out and be okay. It's dreaming about the future in our spare time, making plans but waiting to see what will happen next. Thirty-three is ongoing relief that the biological clock has yet to tick, that the plan to remain child-free still feels right.

Thirty-three is gentler on my body - less marathons, more yoga. Thirty-three is feeling stiff in the mornings and sleeping hard at night. Thirty-three is eggs from my chickens, honey from my bees, basil from my garden. Thirty-three is watching Seamus get older - eleven this year! - with wonder and fear about how much longer we will share our life with him. Thirty-three is gratitude for Calvin, only five, who is still fat and sweet and just beginning to go gray. Thirty-three is wine and beer on the back deck, too much and too often and not apologizing for it. 

Thirty-three is reading books like I did when I was thirteen - widely and enthusiastically, but not guilelessly. It's understanding the power of books in a new way, and making a conscious effort to read books by people who do not look or live like me. It's becoming an active member of the wider literary world, and supporting the work of other writers I admire. Thirty-three is watching as my friends and colleagues begin to find success, wondering who will be next, hoping it will be me. Thirty-three is envy and joy, twin emotions in equal measure. 

Thirty-three is hope, and happiness, and health, and heart. It's good to be thirty-three.