By Tess Adair
The end of the year is generally a good time to pause for a moment and take stock of the previous 360-odd days in the life, and that is precisely what I’ve been up to this past week.
When I look back at this sun rotation, I think...this has been a year of extreme highs and lows.
I count some of the individual moments of 2018 as some of the best moments in my life...but I also spent much of this past year in a suspended state of stress. I could not shake the perpetual feeling that I wasn’t doing enough; I came just short of most of my goals, and even though I still succeeded at so many things, everything carried with it the feeling of failure.
Well, let’s get down to it. I’m going to start with some highs.
The first high was getting my first book, Shadow Summoner, published and out the door in April. I had some issues with my launch (the physical version of the book wasn’t available until 3 days after it was supposed to be) but even so, the feeling of accomplishment when Shadow Summoner finally entered the world...that was over-the-moon high. I wouldn’t trade that one.
The second high was going back home to celebrate my mom’s 60th birthday with her. I always love spending time with my mom, and this was one of the few trips home where I didn’t have to divide my attention between four or five different configurations of friend and family groups. Mom/adult-kid bonding for the win!
It was also an unexpected pleasure to see so many of her friends, many of whom were also friends of mine that I wasn’t sure I would ever get to see again. One of the downsides of living so far from your hometown is that you tend to go home only on the holidays, when most people would prefer to see their families, rather than some bookish girl who babysat their kids a few times. Which is really too bad, from my point of view. At any rate, I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to catch up with so many wonderful people.
The third high, arguably a higher high than the first, was when I did my first big freebie promotion, and Shadow Summoner hit #1 in its subcategory on Amazon, and cracked the top 100 for the entire Kimble store. The moment that happened was the first moment that I really began to believe I could make this whole writing thing work out. It’s a moment I plan to repeat in 2019.
The fourth high is about as Instagram-worthy as my life has ever been: I got to go to Hawaii for the first time, to celebrate my 30th birthday. We stayed just outside of Lahaina on Maui, and it was absolutely fantastic. You’ve probably noticed that I’ve been peppering this post with seemingly random pictures of Hawaii. You are welcome.
I’m going to try to summarize my lows a little more succinctly. I don’t want to spend as much time dwelling on them, and while I want to share them with you, I don’t want you to feel burdened by them. So, in summary: I knew going into this year that I might be setting myself up for a lot of stress, and I was right. It is incredibly hard to maintain a full-time 40+hrs a week job, while simultaneously writing and editing a novel, taking your first forays into marketing another novel, taking online classes to level up your marketing and social media game, and trying to maintain some semblance of a presence on said social media. I also unexpectedly dealt with some personal and family drama this year, and my full-time job abruptly decided in early November to dump an entire extra person’s job on me.
It was...a lot.
(TRIGGER WARNING: I’M ABOUT TO MENTION THE WORD TRIGGER. Also the next paragraph is very vaguely about the political landscape of 2018, and you have my express permission to skip it.)
I won’t dive deep on the political side of things this year, not because I don’t like talking about politics, but because I’m just exhausted. And, frankly, I genuinely don’t want to trigger anyone reading this. Suffice it to say, I had to force myself to take a step back from consuming as much news this year, and I ended up donating as much as I could to a number of causes that might not have needed it were it not for some of the horrific decision-making by this country’s leadership this year.
And with that, I’m done with the bad. The bad can go fuck itself.
I actually want to end on my final high, which was a little unexpected for me: the last week of the year. Toward the end of the year, I discovered that I’d accrued more vacation time than I previously believed, and I decided to use the last of it between Christmas and New Year’s, thus giving myself an entire week “off.” The quotation marks are there because it was primarily a week off from my 9-to-5, not a week off from writing. My goal for the week was to finish the edit of the Shadow Summoner sequel, which I had originally planned to finish by November...before realizing that I wanted to make some drastic changes to the plot.
To that end, this past week has been fairly successful. I still have a small distance left to go, but I’m expecting to wrap it up in the next few days.
But that’s not the only reason this week was a high for me. I also used the week to allow myself to relax--to spend at least two of my days off doing something other than working. One night I took an epic bath. Another night I went to see Aquaman (ridiculous but fun.) I was kind to myself. And I meditated for at least 10 minutes every day.
In 2019, I want to spend more time feeling this way: peaceful and assured. Productive but not overwhelmed.
In 2019, I’m resolving to let go of unnecessary tension and to forgive myself small mistakes. I’m resolving to remind myself that I need to take breaks, and that taking breaks actually makes my work better. I’m resolving to set goals I can actually meet instead of torturing myself over the impossible ideal.
In short, I am resolving to enjoy.
As a final note, I want to mention how clear it is to me that I’m not the only one who had a rough and stressful year. A number of people in my personal circle dealt with tumult and trauma and loss, and I saw the same in people I didn’t know. If you felt this way, too, then my message to you is this: I hope you find ways to be gentle with yourself this year. I hope you take time to mourn and to heal. We have a cultural tendency to want to focus exclusively on positivity and to push away any dark thoughts, any low moments, until we convince ourselves that they don’t exist. But that doesn’t mean they really go away.
So I want to tell you that you are not worth any less if you are struggling. Your self-worth is not dependent on constant happiness or on constant productivity. If you need to be sad, be sad. If you need to retreat into yourself for a while, do it. There is no timetable on your emotional life. The world will still be here when you’re ready for it.
I’ll keep the fires burning. We’ve almost made it through the night.
Tess Adair is the author of the paranormal mystery series The Choronzon Chronicles, the first volume of which, Shadow Summoner, is available at Amazon.