On Creativity and Insomnia

So… I don’t think I’ve had a true week of good sleep since my birthday.

(Which, in case you don’t already have it on your calendar, was in the beginning of November.)

There was some Life Stress stuff on the weekend prior to my birthday, followed by me drinking the first cup of coffee I’d consumed in god knows how many years (and eating a pile of candy for the first time since going off sugar) then not sleeping for most of the entire night.

And I kept trying to catch up, to give myself plenty of time for rest and do all of the good sleep-hygiene things that I already know all about, and things kept happening and sleep kept not happening.

Not every day, thank goodness.

But at least once a week.

At this point I’m half-asking myself whether I need to buy a new mattress or an entirely new bed, because I know enough about how CBT works to understand that I’ve started to associate my bed with not sleeping—and because my silly internet foam mattress has started to develop a hip-shaped depression in the center of it anyway, a year or so after the 100-night grace period has worn off.

And then I go sleep on the sofa, which is still as firm as the day I bought it.

(I cannot tell you how much I love my sofa; how the minute I sat down on it at the furniture store I was all this one, no other sofas need apply, and how I’m literally writing this post from the sofa right now.)

But the reason I’m telling you about this now, after roughly two months of watching my Fitbit sleep score drop from the high-80s to the mid-70s, is because not sleeping is starting to make it harder for me to make things.

I’m still getting all of my work done, of course; that’s something I’ve always been able to do. I’ve written articles from planes and buses and emergency rooms and beds and sofas. I was completing freelance work the day after I got hit by a car. I’ve also got enough buffer in my schedule that I can time-shift stuff if I really need to step away from work for a day or two.

But the fiction-writing side of things is getting more difficult.

In part because I’ve been taking the time I’ve set aside for my own work and using it to take naps. (Which I know can mess with your circadian rhythm, I own Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep and refer to it frequently, and I only nap in the early part of the afternoon.)

So my new goal is to get myself rested before this Writer’s Winter Break next week, because I spent most of the Maggie Stiefvater writing seminar I took last year absolutely exhausted (I was in the process of shutting down The Billfold, which was not “conducive to sleep”) and I don’t want to feel like I’m not fully myself while I’m there.

Wish me luck. ❤️

Goals (and Anxieties) for 2020

Soooooooo… I feel like I ought to share my goals for 2020, because that would be the correct thing to do on my first post of the new year, but some of my goals are so fresh and so tender that I don’t want to make them public quite yet.

Here’s what I can share:

You already know that I want to finish drafting MYSTERY BOOK, and not just “in 2020” but “as soon as possible.” I’m 39,570 words in, with maybe 15,000 words to go.

The trouble is that I’m at the part of the story where all the pieces are coming together, which means I need to think about each individual move as carefully as if I were playing a sokoban game—and this means I can only write about 500 words at a time before I have to stop and think about the next move for 24 to 48 hours. (This is also how I beat Cosmic Express, if you were curious, and how I’m currently tackling Sokobond.)

But writing the BIG SCARY SCENE with the CAR and the DANGER was fun, and no that isn’t a spoiler because what is a cozy murder mystery novel without a BIG SCARY SCENE where our amateur detective is trapped with THE PERSON WHO MIGHT BE THE MURDERER but PROBABLY ISN’T because THERE ARE STILL 15,000 WORDS TO GO?

In terms of freelancing and budgeting and all of that: I set up my 2020 budget under the assumption that I would have another six-figure year—which seems likely, based on my current workload and projections—but also gave myself plenty of room for adjustments if things change. Personal expenses are still capped at an average of $2,500/month; I put a lot more (theoretical, unearned) money in the business column this year, but those are all expenses that can be cut if necessary. Fewer conferences, less money on professional development, and so on.

The real question—the one that is occupying my brain when I’m not thinking about how murder mysteries get solved—is whether I’m going to try to hit Disneyland Paris or Tokyo Disney in 2020. I keep running the numbers on what it would take to do a business class overseas flight on points, and I don’t think that’s going to happen, and part of me isn’t even sure this summer is the best time to take an overseas trip, and I know that if I do visit Paris or Tokyo I really need to combine that with a visit to see friends and relatives who live on either the East or the West Coast (depending on which park I choose), and then of course I keep reading (and writing) all of these articles about the environmental cost of international flights.

But I still want to visit every Disney park in the world. Sooner rather than later, because I don’t believe in “someday.”

Even if I don’t add a new Disney park to my tally this year, I do want to take a for-serious, two-weeks-in-a-row vacation—even if one of those weeks is a staycation where all I do is watch movies and bang on my piano and read books. (I had a few days to myself this holiday break to do exactly that, and they were wonderful.)

Also that writing retreat that I’m attending in (*checks calendar*) SIXTEEN DAYS. I should not be worried about this, it is supposed to be a retreat in which I can spend serious time improving my writing, but I keep thinking about the part where I’m going to get to take classes with Meg Wolitzer, and how I won’t be able to think straight because all I’ll want to do is tell her how much The Interestings meant to me—I mean, my eyes literally filled with tears just typing that, and I am not the crying type.

Also I’m worried that everyone else is going to be cool and artsy and really good at wearing scarves, and I am going to wear the same utilitarian striped dress that I bought five of so I could take them on book tour (because it’s going to be Florida in February and those are the clothes I have for that weather), and I know I shouldn’t worry about it because it doesn’t matter and I look great (or at least good enough) in that dress.

But still.

Wow, I didn’t realize that retreat was sixteen days away until ten minutes ago.

Better get back to drafting MYSTERY BOOK. ❤️

From 2009 to 2019

I knew I wanted to write a post summing up the previous decade, and then I decided to let the past ten years of creative work sum things up for me.

So… here’s one link (and in one case, two links) to represent each year. Some are music, some are words, some you’ve probably seen before, and some you probably haven’t. Not every link leads to something I created during its respective year (the first link is actually a Billfold article from 2014, for example) but every selection tells a true story about something that happened during that year.

Here we go.

2009: I saved my first $10,000.

2010: I got out of debt and bought a guitar.

2011: I helped put together a They Might Be Giants tribute album.

2012: I moved to Los Angeles for love and music. (Neither worked out.)

2013: I moved to Seattle for love and money (one of them worked out) and began writing 5,000 words a day for all kinds of freelance clients, including The Billfold.

2014: I got to perform in Molly Lewis’s original musical Thanksgiving vs. Christmas.

2015: I began writing The Biographies of Ordinary People.

2016: I got out of debt again.

2017: I moved to Cedar Rapids for family, community, music, and money.

2018: I tried running The Billfold (it didn’t work out). I also bought a piano.

2019: I had my first six-figure year as a freelancer.

Here’s to the next decade. ❤️

This is technically “2010 vs. 2019” because that’s how far back my Apple Photos go. It still counts.

The Nature of Magic (and the Magic of Nature)

It took me about three weeks to read Maggie Stiefvater’s newest book Call Down the Hawkwhich should say something about how much free time I have these days—and I can’t stop thinking about how one of her characters described the nature of magic:

If you’ve ever looked into a fire and been unable to look away, it’s that. If you’ve ever looked at the mountains and found you’re not breathing, it’s that. If you’ve ever looked at the moon and felt tears in your eyes, it’s that. It’s the stuff between stars, the space between roots, the thing that makes electricity get up in the morning.

[…]

The opposite of magical is not ordinary. The opposite of magical is mankind.

Part of me wonders if this is a direct response to all of the readers (including me) who read The Raven Cycle and wished they lived in a world that had actual magic in it—not like Harry Potter do-a-spell magic, but mystical set-your-intention-and-see-what-responds, draw-a-Tarot-card-and-see-what-it-inspires magic.

But you can only see what responds and what inspires if you have time enough to look.

***

There’s this thing I’ve been trying to do lately, which is basically “no laptop after work,” and the nights I can pull it off are remarkable. The evening stretches into presence, whether it’s me and a group of people singing in a church or me with a book and a candle and a piece of jade in my left hand.

I let myself use my smartphone for podcasts and ebooks and streaming video (the latter because I don’t have a television) but try to stay away from email and social media and web browsers and all the rest of it—which is hard, because that means getting every little fiddly piece of modern life management done during my work breaks, whether I’m ordering groceries, depositing checks, or applying for health insurance (which I really really really need to do this week).

But, as you might have guessed from the fact that it took me three weeks to get through a 480-page book, I don’t get as many no-laptop evenings as I’d like. Sometimes I have to make the choice between “no laptop after work” or “no opportunity to draft MYSTERY BOOK today.” Sometimes it’s more like “if you do not complete your passport renewal application tonight, your passport will expire.”

Which, like, of course adult life has always been like that. I can remember my mother spending her evenings paying bills and balancing the checkbook. You either get those tasks done while you’re “on break” (which can mean feeling like you’ve gone eight hours without a break), or you fit them in after work and on the weekends.

But I don’t yet have the self-discipline to finish my passport renewal application without also deciding to check Feedly and The Washington Post and The New York Times (I have successfully broken the social media cycle, though I may have just substituted feeds and articles for social scrolling), and then the majority of my evening is gone.

And there’s been no magic in it.

Only mankind.

***

We’re coming up on the holidays followed by the fresh start of a new year, which means that I’m thinking about everything I’d like to reshape and recast and resolve and revise and make holy.

Earlier this year, I started doing shutdown rituals at the end of every workday, which really meant turning off email (though I could still use my laptop for literally everything else) and, once I got back from my after-work Les Mills class at the YMCA, lighting a candle.

Now, while there are still a few days left in the year, I’d like to start making a little more space for magic—which seems to mean making more space for nature (yes, plants and candles and baking bread all count as “indoor nature,” also, ask me about the three loaves of bread I’ve ruined in the past week) and more evenings with no laptop and no internet and nothing but the world in front of me.

And then, see what responds. ❤️

Another Novel-Writing Update, or “Why Did I Think I’d Be Able to Finish This Draft During the Holidays”

So… I am pretty sure I won’t finish MYSTERY BOOK by the end of the year.

First because I followed the Lee Child method of letting the characters tell me where they wanted to go next, which unlocked a new subplot (which is a good thing because I really wanted this book to be closer to 70K words than 50K).

Second because there have been several days in which I’ve chosen to prioritize rest over novel-writing—which actually means I’ve chosen to prioritize other stuff, like client assignments and filling in as a piano accompanist and doing community volunteer things, and then in the time left over I’ve chosen to prioritize rest.

Which, part of me is all “this is the time of year in which people are asked to do a bunch of extra stuff, and here you are doing it, and it’s good to be part of the community,” and the other part is “I have written so many Lifehacker posts about the ways in which our priorities reveal our values, so does that mean I don’t value my MYSTERY BOOK draft?”

And then I remind myself that it took nine months to draft the 90,000 words in The Biographies of Ordinary People Volume 1, and another nine months to draft the 90,000 words in The Biographies of Ordinary People Volume 2, and I’ve been working on MYSTERY BOOK since October 1 and I’ve already got 30K good words. (I had closer to 40K words at one point, and then I chucked a bunch of them out because they led the characters into a corner and then the characters stopped wanting to do things and then I had to open a new doc and paste in only the words I wanted to keep and memory wipe all of the corner-path words from my characters’ heads so they could start making choices again.)

So maybe now really is the time to prioritize holiday caroling at the community center, because MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF YEAR and etc.

But I’ve also got this January writing retreat hanging over me, and although the absolutely eminently sensible thing to do would be to WORK ON THE MYSTERY BOOK DURING THE RETREAT, since the whole point of the thing is to “dive deep into your creative work” and “focus on your manuscript,” the event ends with the opportunity to pitch a bunch of agents.

Which means I feel like I should be in a position to show them an entire finished draft, instead of saying “I’m still working on this.”

Except we’re also going to be workshopping our manuscripts during the retreat, so even if I had a complete draft I’d probably want to rework it after it went through the workshop process. I’m feeling a lot of confusion and stress about this whole “end the experience with an agent pitch” thing, and maybe I should just email the organizers and ask whether we’re supposed to pitch finished work or the stuff we’ve been workshopping for the past week.

I still feel like MYSTERY BOOK is the exact right project for me to be working on right now, because every day that I don’t get to jump into the draft is a huge bummer. (When I was writing that PORTAL FANTASY DISASTER, there was a point at which every day I managed to avoid working on the draft was a relief.)

But I’m pretty sure it won’t be done by the end of the year. ❤️

Three Quotes on the Way Your Life Changes as You Get Older

I have been 38 for a week and a day, and in the past week I read (or heard) these three quotes that—well, I agree with the first two full stop, and the third one makes me feel a little grody inside, but here they are:

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, age 34, in Vogue:

I think the first half of your life, you’re trying to find out who you are, and you’re kind of knocking yourself against things, and testing things the whole time, to help kind of sculpt yourself. Then later, when you’ve got as close to sculpted as possible, you’re like, Don’t touch anything, in case it changes me.

Maggie Stiefvater, age 37, in a Reddit AMA:

I hit the NYT list with my third book (Shiver), the second year of my career, and I had to completely rethink the way I thought of my life shape. Because it is a very different thing to KEEP success versus GAIN success. It’s an entirely more disagreeable thing, I think, because the opposite of KEEP is LOSE, unlike the opposite of GAIN, which is really just STRIVE, which you can do forever quite happily, I think, or at least I can.

John Green, age 42, in the Dear Hank and John podcast episode Crime Dentures:

One of the things I love about being 42 is that people are accusing me of being a Baby Boomer. It’s almost like all these things are made up, and what really happens is that as people get older, they seek to conserve the power that they have acquired or have had handed down to them, regardless of what the name of their generation is.

Remember how I wrote that adults don’t realize that adulthood includes specific developmental phases, just like childhood? This seems to be the phase I am currently in—for at least the first two quotes, anyway. I don’t feel quite as aligned with John Green’s quote about conserving the power I’ve acquired, though I am very conscious about the way I spend my time and my energy and my resources.

I mean, I don’t really want power—and I hope I don’t start wanting power when I turn 42, although the future is consistently unknowable. I want a balance of contentment and discovery and creative fire. I want a small, comfortable home and the opportunity to build friendships with good people. I want enough money that I’ll never have to be a telemarketer or live in a moldy apartment ever again.

I also want to visit every Disney park in the world, which is the kind of goal that can be achieved with budgeting and scheduling and patience, and I secretly want to create something extraordinary someday, though the majority of my work (including this current MYSTERY NOVEL) is about coming to terms with the idea that you can be creative and ambitious and interested in the world and still be, like, ordinary.

And now, because I’m in my late 30s and have spent the past two years becoming part of the Cedar Rapids community, I’m thinking about how to maintain the life I’ve built so far (which is very different than when I was younger and thinking about the life I’d like to have someday).

So that’s what I’m thinking about, a week and a day after turning 38—and it looks like I’m not the only one. ❤️

On Abstinence, Sense Memory, and Writing

So when I wrote that post about why I quit refined sugar (except for holidays), I ended it by noting that after having had a dessert on the day my parents were available to celebrate my birthday, I probably wouldn’t have another added-sugar-experience until Thanksgiving.

Then one of my relatives had a health emergency and my mom and I spent Saturday in the hospital, which meant that my mom didn’t go out of town that weekend like she’d planned, which meant that we re-celebrated my birthday on Monday.

This time I had a lot more refined sugar and a lot more refined flour, not to mention my first cup of coffee in a very very very long time. The restaurant we visited for lunch was serving a “sweet potato spice latte” with local sweet potatoes turned into some kind of in-house syrup plus locally-made marshmallows melted on top, and since it all sounded like a once-in-a-lifetime food experience (and I like supporting local stuff) I tried it.

Well… I had the worst sleep that night. Indigestion, up until 2 a.m., up again at 5:30 a.m. because I haven’t yet gotten used to the time change, and whether you want to blame the latte or the spinach-and-cream-cheese flatbread pizza or the candy I decided to buy because it was already going to be a “sugar day” so why not, I felt like total garbage the next day.

So bad, in fact, that I decided to take one of those “freelance sick days” where you do most of the work you’d do on an ordinary day except you do it on the couch under a blanket.

This experience only resolved me to go even harder on the no sugar thing (and the no coffee thing). Except… at this point in my life, I’m like:

  • No sugar (maybe not even for holidays)
  • No coffee (caffeine in tea is fine)
  • No alcohol
  • No meat (except in other people’s homes and occasionally at restaurants)

Plus, although I am very involved with community activities and see my family an average of every four days (according to my Exist app), I live alone and I don’t want to change that.

But the art I create, or at least the art I’m trying to create, isn’t just about happily single women who track everything they do and look for correlations between behavior and emotion.

So… like… at what point will my sense memories become outdated?

One of the main characters in the novel I’m currently drafting, for example, loves red licorice. She likes biting off the ends and putting the remaining licorice in her hot cocoa and drinking the cocoa through the licorice straw.

I’ve still got the memories of what it feels like to bite down on a piece of licorice that is almost too hard to gnaw through. The way it softens in the mouth, and the way it softens when you put it in a beverage. The way you have to let your cocoa cool down first before you drink it through the licorice straw, or it will burn your mouth. The way you can use the top end of the straw, the part that didn’t get immersed in the cocoa, to scrape the cup for any marshmallow bits leftover at the end.

BUT WHAT IF THE LICORICE PEOPLE CHANGE THE WAY LICORICE IS MADE

WHAT IF IT GETS SOFTER

WHAT IF THERE’S NO HOLE DOWN THE MIDDLE

WHAT IF NO ONE EATS THAT KIND OF LICORICE ANYMORE AND IT’S ALL PULL-APART RED VINES

I know I’m going to lose touch with youth culture as I get older, unless I actively work to keep track of which bands are still “cool” (I have no idea which bands are currently popular) and the way teens communicate online. I know that one of the biggest “tells” in YA writing is the whole “I’m seventeen but my favorite bands are from the 90s” thing—and I don’t really have to worry about that because I’m not writing YA, but I do wonder what my equivalent is.

Where I’ll lose touch, and where my writing will read like the memory of a memory.

***

When I go to the Catapult and William Morris Endeavor Writer’s Winter Break seminar in January, I want to focus my time on making my writing more sensory. My work tends to lean towards the “thoughts” end of “thoughts and feelings,” so I’m curious what might happen if I tried putting in more sensory detail.

Not that this kind of thing is totally absent from my work, of course:

Then she walked up the stairs, past the line of women waiting to use the restroom, and out the door. It was still light out, and still warm; a cluster of gnats hovered in front of the glowing church sign and the air felt like the city had just taken a shower. Easy for Larkin to forget that it was September, that everyone was back in school except for her.

But so much of my writing is observational/internal: 

Larkin had thought that the one good thing about having to move to Iowa and live with her mother was that she wouldn’t be surrounded by all of that anymore. She wouldn’t have to walk through a stage door or listen to people go on about schwa sounds. She wouldn’t have to feel too tall and too awkward next to people like Jessalyn who always got the spotlight and didn’t even have the decency to be a jerk about it. Larkin had been an assistant director in New York. She had spent the past six years studying and working in Los Angeles. She had assumed that in Iowa she would, at least, be the smartest person in the room.

Which is also the way I live my life, for better or for worse.

And I’m curious if my various abstinences will make it harder for me to add the additional sensory detail I’d like my work to include, or whether I can still draw from experience and imagination and memory like everybody else.

Or, you know, I could always just go buy a Twizzler and see if they changed it since I last ate one. ❤️

Book Review: Indistractable by Nir Eyal

This isn’t a book about smartphones.

I mean, yeah, there are some tips and tricks to help you optimize your smartphone use, one of which I wrote up in Lifehacker last week, but Nir Eyal’s Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life isn’t really about why phones are bad or why the internet is destroying our attention spans or any of that.

It’s about knowing what you want and then knowing how to go after it.

When I first wrote about Indistractable for Lifehacker, I got the title wrong. (NOT IN THE FINAL DRAFT, JUST THE FIRST ONE.) I called the book “how to choose your attention and control your life.”

Because that’s what Indistractable is really about. How to make active choices regarding what we pay attention to, based on the standard Eyal sets in the very first chapter:

Distraction stops you from achieving your goals. It is any action that moves you away from what you really want.

Traction leads you closer to your goals. It is any action that moves you toward what you really want.

The rest of the book is all about strategy and tactics, and you can go read it for its very excellent strategy and tactics, but I’m going to swerve away from a discussion of Indistractable‘s actual contents (which are great, go read them) and towards the question Vaxtyn asked at the end of last week’s book review:

Any recommendations for someone who is struggling with the “where you want to go” part of the equation?

Boy howdy.

There have been periods in my life during which I didn’t know where I wanted to go next; all I knew was that I didn’t like where I was. What got me out of that was, literally, trying a bunch of different stuff—I took a cooking class, I took a language class, I went to a bead shop and bought a bunch of jewelry-making supplies, I tried starting a Mad Men recap blog. (This should tip you off to how long ago this was.)

I was in the tail end of my twenties, working as an executive assistant. I wanted to keep my job because I was good at it and because it was bringing in enough money for me to save my first $10K, open a Roth IRA, and invest in my first Vanguard lifecycle fund. But I didn’t know if I wanted to keep it forever. I’d read that famous Paul Graham article about makers vs. managers and I knew that I was a maker.

I just didn’t know what to make yet.

So I went to hacker spaces and tried learning how to code; I went to Quantified Self meetups; I did a bunch of project management training workshops because my boss thought I might like to move into project management someday (I didn’t, but I loved using the framework and principles on my own projects). I tried to write three or four different novels. I read books like Barbara Sher’s Wishcraft, Martha Beck’s Finding Your Own North Star, and Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way in the hopes that they’d help me figure out what I was meant to be doing with my life.

Then I went to a They Might Be Giants concert and saw Jonathan Coulton play a Zendrum.

I had no idea who Jonathan Coulton was. I almost skipped his part because the last TMBG concert I’d gone to had included a really dull opening act. But there he was, singing funny, thoughtful, sad songs on what appeared to be a cross between a guitar and a Super Nintendo controller, and I wanted to do that.

So badly that I could hardly wait for the concert to be over because all I wanted to do was get back home and start doing it.

There wasn’t enough room in my budget for the Zendrum, so I bought a guitar instead.

The point of this story—well, there are three points. The first point is that it took me a long time to fall in love with a creative activity that I actually wanted to practice. Like, two years of creative dating before I found a guitar to go steady with.

The second is that I kept my creative work and my money-earning work separate. When I did eventually decide to try to make my funny-thoughtful-sad songs the primary source of my income, I ended up in $14,000 worth of credit card debt. IN A YEAR. (I also sold $20,000 worth of CDs, in case you were curious. It wasn’t a total folly; it just wasn’t monetizable in the way I’d hoped it could be.)

The third point is that once I found THE THING that I wanted to spend more time doing, finding the time itself was relatively easy—though using tricks like the ones Eyal suggests in Indistractable helped, a lot.

Also, you can see how all of this stuff helped feed into what I do now (personal finance writing and lifehack writing, both of which I love) while simultaneously teaching me that THE WORK and THE LIFE and THE MONEY are all separate things.

And—if you want to throw a fourth point in there—it’s worth noting that earlier this year I was trying very hard to write PORTAL FANTASY BOOK and it felt like a huge huge huge slog and other priorities kept coincidentally popping up, and then I woke up one morning and thought “I have a brilliant idea for a MYSTERY BOOK” and finding the time to work on the project became easy.

So. That’s my answer to Vaxtyn’s question. (It’s also my review of Indistractable. Go read it.)

What about yours? ❤️

When Your Guilt Is Actually Imposter Syndrome

So I was thinking about my first post on feeling guilty about the life you’ve built for yourself, and I hopped over to artist Lucy Bellwood’s Twitter (@lubellwoo) to see if she’d written anything about that recently—since Lucy describes herself as a “Curious Empathy Machine” and is extraordinarily emotionally intelligent—and I noticed one of her tweets was about imposter syndrome, and I was all wait, is that what I’m actually trying to describe here?

Because, as you noted in yesterday’s comments, it’s odd to feel guilty about your own success, even in my re-definition of the word “guilt” as “I made choices in support of my goals and values but I still feel bad.

But that feeling runs fairly close to Google’s definition of imposter syndrome, specifically “the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.”

(I always get imposter syndrome confused with “feeling like you’ll get kicked out of your job because you don’t think you really belong there.”)

I can definitely believe that my success has been legitimately achieved—I was there for the past seven years, putting in the work, moving from the roommate situation where I slept on the floor (because my room wasn’t large enough for a bed) to the apartment where I washed my dishes in a bus tub and dumped the dishwater into the toilet (because my studio wasn’t large enough for a kitchen). I got myself into $14K of credit card debt because I wasn’t making enough money, and then I got out of debt when I was.

But whether I deserve my current life is another question. That might be the feeling we’re all poking at here.

I don’t know about you, but I think part of the “do I deserve this” question derives from the decade-plus I spent after college living on so much less. I used to be a telemarketer. I used to be on food stamps. I used to live in an apartment where, as noted above, I literally had to dump my dishwater into the toilet. If I’d always had my current level of agency and comfort, not to mention financial stability, I might not worry about it as much. It might seem “normal.”

The other part of the “do I deserve this” question is “how can I use what I have to help other people?” I’ve tried to frame this question in the context of becoming an active part of my community; I’m currently on the board of an arts organization, I try to shop locally and tip well, I donate to local causes, etc. etc. etc. I’m going to help fund a scholarship for local musicians. That kind of thing.

I mean, when I think about it I’m all “I want to become one of those eccentric older women who lives in a modest but comfortable home and bikes everywhere and knows everyone and always shows up to the annual symphony donor gala and the opera fundraiser and helps break ground for the new school and all the rest of it.”

And really, I’m at least 10 percent of the way there now. (I already have the bike!) Yes, I’m choosing to focus on the problems I can help solve today—e.g. can I help a specific individual get a specific educational opportunity—instead of going after the bigger systemic stuff, and maybe that’ll change in the future, but maybe it’s fine to keep the majority of my giving back within my community.

But that brings me back around to is it okay to work towards the life you want?

Obviously, it seems it should be.

But enough of us feel impostery or guilty or unclear about what we should do when we get the life we want that it has to be addressed, you know?

Especially if our lives are different from what they were before, or different from what society/culture says they should be.

(Even though in my case, “quirky single woman who helps fund local organizations and scholarships” is very much the societal stereotype. There’s already a place in this world for people like me.)

Soooooooo that’s where I am with all of that. What about you? ❤️