23 Things About Being 23

Happy Birthday to me!

I often find that reflecting when my birthday comes around is just as cathartic as the new year, so of course I’d love to share it with y’all. I made a list of things that I’ve either learned, accomplished, or experienced as a 23-year old, as well as what some of my related ambitions are for the upcoming year. There are so many folks who dwell on their age, and get too concerned with what is supposed to be associated with that number and how and when those things are going to happen. But for me, every year has presented itself with new challenges and triumphs, and regardless of how old you are, there’s always room to learn more. Plus, I’m actually still a child in the grand scheme of things, so I’m looking forward to all of the years I still have to learn even more. So here we go: 23 things about being 23.

  1. You’re constantly inspired by people who are younger than you. Work as closely with them as you can. Whether that’s as a mentor, as an ally, or an involved activist, their vision of the future is certain to give you hope. Stay inspired, listen, and help however you can.
  2. You realize you need to start balancing your love/hate relationship with social media. You’ve done a great job learning to put the phone down and spend less time refreshing the same apps over and over again. Let’s keep doing that and really consider where you want to focus your energy and attention.
  3. There’s a family health scare that forces you to regroup in a lot of ways. It helps you further understand just how far you’ve come in the past few years, and that’s good. But it also gets you thinking about how nothing is permanent, which isn’t as good in the moment, but you’ll keep growing from it.
  4. You tried to start writing another book. It didn’t go well. You gave yourself a challenge to write the roughest draft possible in the month of November and it wasn’t right for you. When you’re ready, and in your own time, take a look at those pages you did manage to write and see what it inspires you to do next. Just make sure you keep writing.
  5. You turn into an actual grandma with back and hip pain. This means you can’t run, so you need to find other outlets for stress relief. It’s really, really difficult, because there are so few things that satisfy you the way running does. Still navigating this one. Stay tuned.
  6. You’re very aware when you’re the only queer person in a room. This isn’t going to go away, probably ever, but there’s definitely steps you can take to make it happen less often. Continue looking for your queer spaces.
  7. Bullet journaling has changed your life.
  8. You’re very confident in the fact that you don’t miss college like everyone said you would.
  9. You also don’t like drinking alcohol like everyone said you would. And that’s okay. It’s another part of who you are that you shouldn’t feel pressured to change.
  10. You accept that you have very strong Ravenclaw tendencies. You’re still very much a loud and proud Hufflepuff, it’s just that now you have a better understanding of what it means to have a little bit of all the house values inside you, and you’re figuring out which ones you treasure the most. But also…go badgers.
  11. You leave the East coast for the very first time. The West coast isn’t exactly your jam, but you get excited to visit again, and hope to visit even more places you’ve never been. Maybe you’ll even get to leave the country.
  12. You fall even more in love with New York, and learn that it’s going to take a lot for you to leave.
  13. Self care is more important now than it’s ever been. You’ve got a great new mantra: Resist. Recharge. Repeat. There are times when it feels impossible to get back up after getting knocked down. But you have gotten up. Every. Single. Time. Pay attention to your successes, because the fight is far from over. Don’t push yourself, but make sure you’re not standing still for too long.
  14. You meet a number of people who inspire you. For so long you’ve clung to the “don’t meet your heroes” mentality, and you’re starting to let that go in the communities you feel safest. You’ve got some great heroes. They love you. Really, they told you so. That’s pretty cool.
  15. Being an adult with an adult job suits you well. You are discovering what your strengths are, what you’re most passionate about, and you’re doing all you can to keep busy and fulfilled. If you want to keep doing all the things, that’s great. If not, that’s great, too. Either way, you’ve got plenty of time.
  16. Meditation is one of the most crucial tools you’ve collected in your life, and you get your 8th tattoo to keep yourself in check. In check with self love, self care, remaining present, working hard, and spreading kindness.
  17. You participate in your first ever protest. It’s scary and thrilling and empowering. You’re inspired to keep discovering new ways to make a dent. Don’t worry about its size – focus on its impact.
  18. You have to adjust your medication for the first time since you’ve started taking it. It’s still something you’re working on. And you’ll likely be working on it for a really long time, so try your best to be patient.
  19. You see Hedwig for the 8th and final time. It’s still your favorite show.
  20. You go to a nutritionist to figure out why you’re so damn hungry all the time. Surprise! You gotta eat more veggies. You’re never going to be the healthiest eater, but you’re becoming more mindful. And you’re still hungry. Another work in progress.
  21. You went on a first date. Not a second. And you’d really like there to be a second at some point. Sooner rather than later.
  22. You’ve started sharing more of your writing with the world and it’s definitely something you want to do more. Turns out, finding a literary agent and getting your book published isn’t the only way to do that. (But that would be really cool, too.)
  23. Resolutions are out. Intentions are in. You write them down and hang them on your wall and doodle about them in your bullet journal and remind yourself every day that you’re working with something, not for something.

Thanks to those who have joined me on my journey so far. I’m excited to see where this upcoming year takes us!

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I did it, y’all!

book

The summer before I started college, I started writing a silly little story, simply motivated by the need for more diversity in the books I loved to read. I’ve lived with this story for more than 4 years now. I wrote on trains, in the middle of the night, in class. I wrote when I was sad and I wanted to live in another world. The story changed while I did, but through it all, it was something I could rely on. Every time I read a new book, I felt empowered to work toward my goal. “I can do that,” I would always think. And now, after the most difficult journey of my life, I did. I did it. I wrote a book.

My First NaNoWriMo!

The concept of National Novel Writing Month – or NaNoWriMo – has also terrified me. Every November, writers embark on the task of writing a 50,000 novel in the span of 30 days…like I said, terrifying. But over the years, as I watched others take on this incredible project, I realized the true goal of NaNoWriMo was never to finish writing a book in a month and then immediately submit it to get published. Because that is quite impossible. However, there are a lot of great skills writers work on during NaNoWriMo, one of the main practices being discipline. That’s what I decided to focus on.

Some of you may not know this, but I have been working on a novel for a few years now. Between being a busy college student and not having any sort of deadline, it has been difficult to find the time and motivation to finish. However, after graduating and developing a more reliable schedule, I wanted to making writing a priority again; specifically, getting this novel done.

At the end of October, my friend Katieprofessional journalist, nbd – asked if I would join her in doing NaNoWriMo this year. I was hesitant at first for a lot of reasons, but mainly I was worried about failing. I didn’t know if this goal was something that I was ready for, mentally and practically. My worried thoughts included What if I miss a day and fall behind? and I’ll be so disappointed in myself if I don’t finish. So rather than completely dismissing the opportunity because of the fear of failure, I decided I’d make NaNoWriMo my own. I told myself that, if nothing else, I would use the month of November to focus on getting back into the habit of writing. This meant writing every single day, setting a timer or word count, and keeping myself on track to figuring out an ending for this story I’d been working on for so long. I knew I didn’t need to “win”, I just needed to try.

So for the month of November, I wrote a lot. I wrote stuff that was completely irrelevant to my story and I wrote horrible scenes and basically typed out any nonsense floating around in my mind, hoping that somewhere in the mess I would find some progress. Thankfully, I did.

I didn’t track my daily word count to reach 50,000, as most NaNoWriMo participants do. I simply promised myself that I would write for at least one hour every day. While some days were more and some days were less, I finished up the month much closer to finishing than I had ever been before. I fixed a lot of errors I’d been frustrated about and I cleared up some questions and I was finally able to conceptualize an ending.

So even though my NaNoWriMo experience wasn’t as traditional as most, I’m so happy I did it. Maybe one year I’ll attempt the word count and start from scratch, but this experience was exactly what I needed as a final push toward the finish line. I have had the same New Year’s resolution for almost two years now: to finish this book. And while I didn’t finish within the month of November, there’s still a few weeks left of 2016. And I gotta say, I’m feeling pretty good about it…