Writing Update – I Am This Dog

So anyone who has been reading my blog is aware that earlier this year I wrote a book.  It’s a memoir about my time as a chicken farmer in Kansas.  Ok, so that’s a lie, but it is an actual novel, with words and sentences and characters and stuff, and after writing it I was like, “Huh, I think this is ok.  I will try to get it published!”

Then I went online to learn about publishing, and cried because all the articles said, “Oh, you want to get published?  Never going to happen – HAHAHA #BYEFELICIA!”  And then I was like, well, screw this, I’m gonna try to get a literary agent anyways because I HAVE DREAMS.

I started querying (if you don’t know what that is, thank your lucky stars and move on with your life) and I was this dog:

I was this dog but less adorable.
I was this dog but less adorable.  And I didn’t wear a tie.

Publishing is a crazy business, and the more I queried and the more I read about queries online, the more I needed wine and a nap.  Then, something miraculous happened – I was referred to a couple of wonderful agencies, and they read my book and wanted to represent me!  When I was given this information, I was this guy:


It turns out they were serious, and I said, “Are you aware that I’m a dog who has no idea what she’s doing?”  I actually only said that in my brain; outwardly, I pretended like I was confident and also that I am a professional human non-canine who knows things.  It was only 20% totally awkward.

Then I had to decide, and I was like, THIS IS AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES (FYI: it took me four tries typing “embarrassment” before I got it right; thanks, spellcheck.  Yep, I’m a writer.).  And then I decided, and now I have an agent, and she is wonderful!  I’ve signed with Sharon Pelletier of DGLM, and she’s fantastic and funny and gets my book, but now I’m worried she’s going to see this blog and ask, why did I sign on to represent a dog who has no idea what she’s doing and also lacks opposable thumbs?

I don’t know, Sharon, but you’re stuck with me now.  Sorry!

So that’s my writing update.  As you might be able to tell, I’m pretty psyched.  I’m also scared, because I’m a dog who has no idea what she’s doing.  But honestly, aren’t we all that dog at some point in our lives?  I think that’s the moral of this blog post, and maybe the Bible, too.  Peace!

P.S. A completely unrelated shoutout – Happy 30th Birthday to my girl T of Tears. Sweat. Sea.  WE ARE GOING OUT TONIGHT!  I know I’m a dog, but I can still drink wine, I promise.

The Ten Worst Things about Europe: Eurotrip 2015, Part Deux/Due

As promised earlier this week, I’m back with my list of the Ten Worst Things about Europe.  BE WARNED: THIS LIST CONTAINS PICTURES OF MY LEG AND ANKLE!  (This warning is mostly relevant to any of my readers who have traveled in time from the nineteenth century.  If you are reading this, sorry for lewd images, and also can I borrow your Tardis?).

10. Getting this bruise:

It has been nine days
It has been nine days

So I guess it’s kind of hard to see in that picture, but my first afternoon in Paris I was walking along the Rue Montorgueil (or as my non-French-speaking friends called it, the “Rue Mononmont…ugh, whatever”) and it was raining, like, SUPER hard, and I slipped in front of a bunch of skinny, smoking French people, and fell on my knee hard and it hurt like a motha, and the bruise is still there and going strong.  MERDE!

9.  Rain: This is a continuation of number 10, I guess, but it rained hard three days when I was in Europe and THIS WAS BULLSHIT.  Didn’t Europe know that it was me, Jackie, who was coming to visit it?  It couldn’t have held off on the rain for, like, one more week out of courtesy?  THANKS A LOT, EUROPE.  This would never have happened in California.* (On the plus side, I guess Europe does look pretty cool in the rain, see below).

Siena in the rain.  Pretty awesome, actually.
Siena in the rain. Pretty awesome, actually.

8. Air France:  Ok, this one isn’t funny and I don’t have a pic, but basically those assholes stole 216 bucks from me and I hate them and am never flying them again.  It’s a long story but if you really care you can check out my Twitter from this morning lol.

7.  Hangovers: When I was last in Europe, I was twenty years old and could literally club all night and drink endless wine without any repercussions.  Now that I am thirty this is most definitely not the case.  I paid dearly for this concoction, for instance (but, my God, was it delicious):

omg omg
omg omg

6. These shoes: 

So...chic?  Ugh.
They speak for themselves

So this is also a result of #9 – the evil RAIN.  My friend T and I were walking in the rain in Toms shoes to the Louvre, which was ill-advised on many levels, and we had no choice but to stop at a random shoe store and try to find waterproof shoes in our size.  Sadly, the only shoes available in my size were these (though T picked up a decent blue/black glittery pair which she threw out – bad decision, T!).  Apparently, the French have tiny feet.  The worst part was that I had to wear the above shoes with these pants:

The patterns really mesh well, don't you think?
The patterns really mesh well, don’t you think?

Not chic, guys.

5.  The number on this scale: 


Who am I kidding?  I’ve been too afraid to get back on this old horse.  No matter how much walking I did, no way it made up for this:

TIRAMISU – I know I put this in the last post but it was SO GOOD.

4.  Bugs: The bugs in Europe are surprising vicious.  I was attacked by one especially horrid one in the courtyard of the Florence Basilica, leaving me with these scars two whole weeks later:

They still kind of itch, too.
They still kind of itch, too.

What I’m really saying is, the bugs in Europe hate Jesus.  Yeah, that’s it.

3. Smoking: Look, we Americans may be fat with big feet and cover all of our meals with melted cheese, but at least we’re not constantly inhaling poisonous fumes and blowing them all over other people.  I swear, no one in Europe can go twenty seconds without lighting up.  I’m kind of allergic, so this is genuinely awful for me.

2. Hot guys: Too many of them.  There’s such a thing as an embarrassment of riches, Europe.  Though they’re all skinnier than I am, so that helped matters.

1.  Paper and Candle Stores: Ok, Europe, what the hell – do you want me to be INCREDIBLY BROKE?  YOU HAVE STORES THAT SELL JUST PAPER AND JUST CANDLES EVERYWHERE.  Just LOOK at this beautiful effing fan I bought:

It's not ok that it is this beautiful
It’s not ok that it is this beautiful

I spent, like, twenty euros on this fan.  When, you may ask, am I ever going to use this fan?  NEVER, THAT’S WHEN.  But it is so pretty and made of hand-painted paper!


Welp, there's another 20 Euro down the drain
Welp, there’s another 20 Euro down the drain


Don’t get me started on the soap stores.  I just didn’t go into them.  I would have had to declare bankruptcy if I had.

So, yeah, these are my top ten complaints about Europe.  As you might imagine, this was my face when I had to leave:


Love ya, Europe.  Never change! xoxo Jackie

*I am aware that it is actually a bad thing that it never rains in California.  I am not making light of the drought, which hopefully will be alleviated by El Niño.  Chill out, guys.  I care about the environment, GOD. 

San Diego: or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Traveling

Confession:  I don’t usually like traveling.  I know: everyone likes to travel, right?  If you don’t, then you are a boring lame homebody with no friends and nothing interesting to say and also a racist (I think this is the case, who knows).  This is the general face I make when I am about to travel:

Why is this happening?
Why is this happening?

Every time I travel, I’m anxious for at least two days beforehand.  A lot of this anxiety is similar to how I feel sometimes about just leaving the house, but some of it is very travel-specific, including:

  • Packing: Can we all just admit that the TSA carry-on liquid requirement is horrible and also sexist?  If society expects women to maintain a perfect standard of beauty at all times, then it cannot also expect us to fit all of our necessary toiletries into a tiny ziplock bag in stupid 3 oz bottles, especially if we wear contact lenses and have to make a difficult choice between that mini sunscreen and that bottle of lens cleaner.  I believe that it is a conspiracy between the TSA and the companies that make travel-size toiletries.  It’s the TSA/MiniToiletries Industrial Complex.
  • Being on a plane: Being on planes is THE WORST.  You are cramped, and your back hurts, and someone is ALWAYS farting, and the guy next to you is almost certainly going to spend the majority of the flight elbowing you or accidentally falling asleep on your shoulder.  It is just awful, unless you are in first class, and even then you’re still on a plane, and your skin will dry out, your nasal passages will contract or something and you will die of dehydration, probably.
  • Luggage: Luggage is also the worst.  It is heavy and rolls downhill when you are not holding onto it, and then you have to chase after it and you’re sweating, and everyone looks at you and points and laughs.  Ughhh.  Can’t we just invent transporters and replicators already?
  • Bathrooms: Never there when you need one, especially when you’re on your period (sorry boys, but get over it it’s a real issue and is also the reason we are all alive).

Despite all this, I voluntarily travel all the time, and I’m finally learning to like it.  Don’t get me wrong, all the above things still stuck, but I’m finally, at the age of thirty, figuring out that going to a new city or country is almost always well worth the anxiety and trouble of getting there, which is really the part I hate.  That may sound like the most obvious thought ever, but anxiety is not always rational and I’ve definitely chosen not to go places or do things in the past because I was too worried or upset about the process of getting to where I needed to go to see those places or do those things.

It was this weekend that clinched actually liking travel for me.  I spent a few days in San Diego with a friend and they were just perfect.  I went to Comic Con; I visited the San Diego Zoo; I saw Seaport Village and the Gaslamp Quarter; I went on a Harbor Cruise; I toured the Midway; I saw Old Town.  Now, the trip from SF to San Diego is very short and painless, but I experienced the same horrible anxiety before leaving last week that I have so many times in the past, only to be surprised to experience three perfect days (even at Comic Con, where I was ridiculously nervous about fainting/dying in the crowds).  Now, I’m planning a trip to Italy at the end of August, and my anxiety level is so much lower than it ever has been in the past regarding traveling.  I think I’ve hit a turning point – who knows, maybe I’ll do something really crazy like travel completely alone sometime soon?

This post is sort of random, but I’m just grateful that I’m finally able to enjoy something that I’ve been doing for so long without constant worry.  While I’m off to look at flights (GAH SO MUCH MONEY) to Florence, Italy, enjoy some highlights from my trip.  Hope you’re traveling someplace fun yourself, soon!

View from the escalator in the convention center
This panda is living his best life, and mine.
I want to see your peacock (I apologize for the Katy Perry reference)
I paid ten bucks to take a bunch of pictures with these birds in Seaport Village. They were cute and I was tipsy.
Cupcake wars-winning cupcake from Frost Me in Seaport Village omg so good nom nom

Happy Fourth of July!

Enjoy this cake, virtually!  (I will be eating it live tonight, MWAHAHAHAHAH!)

I am delicious and patriotic
I am delicious and patriotic

And remember, when in doubt about what to do on Independence Day…watch Independence Day!  Nothing brings tears to an American’s eyes more than Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, and President Bill Pullman kicking a bunch of alien ass.

Welcome to Earth
Welcome to Earth

Be safe this weekend!  xoxo

How to survive summer in San Francisco

It was Mark Twain who said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” To which I say, “Really, Mark Twain?  The coldest winter?  Didn’t you live in Connecticut?  That’s a tad hyperbolic, dude.”

Literary license aside (which is fine, he was only one of America’s finest authors, whatevs I’ll forgive him), he had a point: SF summers are distinctly un-summery, especially for an East Coast transplant who’s accustomed to sweltering ninety-degree beach days and sunny backyard grill-outs.  To give you a concrete example, this was what the California Academy of Sciences looked like on my athletic run ambling walk through Golden Gate Park this very morning:

What is this gray ground cloud covering everything? Is it the apocalypse?
What is this gray ground cloud covering everything? Is it the apocalypse?  

As any San Franciscan knows, we are now entering the foggy season, when temperatures occasionally dip into the forties and most days are spent navigating an ever-present haze of fog and trying desperately to un-frizz one’s hair.  It can be rough, but after living here for years, I’m going to share with you my strategies to survive summer in San Francisco:

  • Schadenfreude (#1): Revel in the bewildered disappointment of tourists, all of whom came to SF thinking, oh, it’s California – it’s going to be so sunny and warm!  I’m only going to pack shorts and tiny tank tops and look SO cute and hot!  Hahah, mofos, you got OWNED!  Shoulda gone to San Diego!  You’ll have no problem identifying tourists – they all look cold and miserable and are wearing this sweatshirt that they bought for seventy-five dollars at Pier 39 before going on their Alcatraz tour:
You way overpaid for this
You way overpaid for this 
  • Be a sweaty person (aka schadenfreude #2*): Some people are naturally overheated and sweaty (*cough* me).  These people LOVE San Francisco summers – it is the perfect temperature to walk around town for hours and even run for the bus without breaking a sweat.  Constantly chilly people are the losers, here, and are the ones wearing parkas in August.  Hahahaha, you’re cold but I’m FOOTLOOSE AND PERSPIRATION-FREE!  This schadenfreude also applies to all your friends on Facebook in the rest of the country complaining about how hot it is and how sweaty and gross they are.
  • Pretend you are in a murder mystery/London/it is Halloween:  San Francisco in the fog looks SO cool and possibly haunted, so why not roll with it?  Imagine you’re helping Sherlock Holmes catch Jack the Ripper or that a hot, sparkly, rich vampire who thrives in the fog is going to whisk you off your feet on your way to Whole Foods to stock up on organic kale.**
  • Layer up: Even the aforementioned Constantly Sweaty People get cold during SF summers, so make sure to invest in layers.  You can still wear that cute sundress – just put heavy-duty winter tights on underneath and a giant cardigan on top.  It’s resort wear meets Alaskan dog musher!
  • Eat food:  I mean, you should be doing this daily anyways, but when it is foggy inside this is an extra-good excuse to blow your paycheck on dinner at Boulevard.
  • Drink alcohol: Self-explanatory.
  • Pretend it is real summer anyways, screw it: Jealous of friends/family in warmer climes?  Fuck it, get ice cream for lunch and lie out in the park even though it’s only sixty degrees and laugh in the face of nature as your toes turn blue.
  • Get out (leave), right now***: At some point, no matter how sweaty you are or how much you enjoy foggy vistas, you are going to get fed up with San Francisco’s summer being a complete joke, so you’re going to have to leave.  Luckily, you only have to drive ~30 minutes on any highway to be warm.  Of course, this means you will have to leave San Francisco city limits (GAH!!), but it’s worth it.

You’re welcome.  Good luck out there.

*I fully recognize I am a terrible person for enjoying the misery of others. #sorrynotsorry

**I apologize for the Twilight reference.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  He’s really not hot, anyways.  Just insert whatever vampire you think is hot here.  Probably a True Blood one (Skarsgard).

***On the other hand, I 100% stand by this JoJo reference, no shame.

How I leave my apartment when I am scared

Sometimes, when you are an anxious person, you go through periods where it is difficult to leave the house because you are afraid of really weird and/or unlikely stuff.  When you’re an anxious AND depressed person, it’s doubly fun, because sometimes you can’t leave the house because you’re afraid of really weird and/or unlikely stuff, and sometimes you can’t leave the house because you’re too sad and tired to get out of bed and have maybe forgotten how to shower.  It’s good to have variety, I guess?

Today is one of those hard-to-leave-the-house-because-I’m-afraid-of-weird-and/or-unlikely-stuff days.  Here is a short list of some of the things I am anxious about that may happen if I leave my apartment:

  • I forget my keys and get locked out of my apartment.  The locksmith is unavailable and I have to spend the rest of my life living with all the other homeless people in Golden Gate Park while my landlord jacks up the rent on my place to over three grand a month and lets it to a family of four who just feel lucky to afford anything in the city.
  • I step in dog poop and have to throw away my good flats.
  • There is a sudden tsunami and I drown and die.
  • There is a huge earthquake and a building falls on me OR a fissure opens up in the earth and I fall in and I die.
  • I get hit by a car and lose a limb(s) and/or die.
  • I have to go to the bathroom but I am somewhere where there is no bathroom and I am uncomfortable because I really have to pee but can’t (this is a very real fear and happens a lot because I keep myself well-hydrated so I don’t die of dehydration in case I am ever trapped somewhere without water and also because it helps with digestion).
  • There is a man outside my apartment laughing to himself while urinating on a tree and I have to walk past him while he catcalls me (this one is gross and happens about 1x per week because San Francisco).
  • I go all the way to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription because Walgreens texted me and said it was ready.  I get there, and it is not ready, and I have to wait at the pharmacy for twenty minutes during which time I run into someone I know and have to make small talk (this is scary and very possible due to unreliability of Walgreens).
  • I run into one of my neighbors in the lobby and have to make small talk (this one is the most terrifying because it is the most likely due to living in apartment building with actual other humans).

Some of these fears, as you see, are more likely to come to pass and are more dire than others, but my mind manages to rotate through all of them at such a pace that they all seem equally plausible and horrifying.  These fears live in a part of my brain ruled by The Blob.  The Blob is grey and always vaguely anxious and looks, coincidentally, like one of the ghosts from Pac-man:


The Blob is very well-meaning: he (or it?) just wants me to be prepared for any and all contingencies.  Unfortunately, when he’s in top form, his preferred form of preparation is for me to stay in the apartment and never leave.  This is not feasible, and so, on days like today, I have to use all the tools in my arsenal to get him to chill out.  Despite his constant yammering in my head since I woke up, I have managed to leave my apartment TWICE already and am planning to go out a third time – for a social engagement, no less, with, like, three other people!  What’s more, I’m meeting them in a restaurant that I have NEVER BEEN TO BEFORE, which is sort of a huge deal because new restaurants usually have Ebola (I’m pretty sure that’s science).

So how do I do it?  I’m not a superhero, and I have ZERO judgment for people who don’t manage to do it (there are days when I can’t, myself), but here are some coping strategies I have adopted throughout the years that help:

  • Medication – this is less a coping strategy than a preventive measure.  A lexapro & lamictal a day keep The Blob at bay!
  • Breathing – I breathe really slowly and just think about my breathing and nothing else until I can get up from my bed, put on shoes and a bra (and clothes) and leave the apartment.
  • Disaster-proofing my purse – people joke that I carry around a pharmacy in my purse…and I basically do.  Other than the usual keys, wallet, phone, I have nearly all stomach and headache remedies in my bag in a plastic pouch at all times.  The extra weight is worth the peace of mind.
  • Planning – going to a new place to eat?  I Google my route, menu options, and Uber ride prices as well as weather conditions (thanks, San Francisco micro-climates!).
  • Focus on the likely good outcome – this one is the most important.  Because of The Blob, I’ve often missed out on meeting people, going places, or experiencing things that could make my life a lot better/happier/more fun because I was too busy hiding in my apartment due to anxiety.  If I think instead about what GOOD could come out of whatever I’m leaving the apartment to do, my anxiety becomes that much more manageable.  For instance, tonight when I meet some friends from my old job for dinner, I can tell myself that not only will I most likely NOT get Ebola, I will also get to catch up with people who are awesome, hear all the juicy gossip since I left, and enjoy some delicious food at a place that has FOUR STARS on Yelp!

The best part of my coping strategies is that their effects are cumulative – the more often I manage to overcome The Blob and get out of the house, the (usually) more positive examples I have of good outcomes to look back on the next time I’m dealing with general or social anxiety!  Don’t get me wrong: I’ll always be something of a homebody, but on days like today I’m proud of myself for taking the leap…and leaving my apartment.  Anyone else have good coping strategies to share?  I’m always looking for more!

Well, only two hours to go until I leave for dinner!  Time to go pack my purse, get some work done, and research the temperature at 8 pm tonight in the Mission 🙂

Old dogs and real emotions

I’m currently visiting my parents in my hometown in New Hampshire (go…granite? And…cows?) as part of my summer “funemployment” travels.  One of the best parts of visiting home, other than seeing my family and friends here on the East Coast, is hanging out with my old black labrador retriever, Jazzy (née Jasmine – yes, after the Disney princess.  SHE HAD GREAT HAIR, OK?).

Jazzy is fourteen years old this month, and still almost as energetic and as sweet and hungry for treats as ever.  She’s an extremely comforting presence to all who meet her, and she is possibly my parents’ favorite child.  She’s also approximately ninety-eight years old in dog years, and our family is aware that we don’t have much time left with her.

This awareness was intensified this weekend, when I was petting her and discovered a large lump on her right flank.  My parents took her to the vet on Monday, and found that it was cancer, specifically a mast cell tumor, common in older dogs.  Despite her age, the vet recommended surgery as she’s in good shape otherwise, and it was scheduled for the following day.  Though anxious about our beloved pet, we all felt good about this course of action and relatively upbeat.

However, about an hour after her appointment, I was petting her again, this time on her left flank, and, lo and behold, what should I feel there but another lump, this time with two nodules, that felt exactly like the cancerous tumor I had discovered on her other side.  My parents and I promptly lost it.  Jazzy, unaware of why we were all freaking out, simply went to each of us for her usual round of head scratchings, probably thinking to herself, “God, these humans sure are weird.  Can I have a treat, please?”

Everything turned out ok – we took Jazzy in the next morning for surgery, and they simply removed both tumors, and told us it’s likely that this will be the end of it.  She was hilariously high on pain medication last night (she would be a terrible companion for a pub crawl), and is pretty exhausted today, but the vet says she could live another year or more of high-quality life if no more cancer crops up.  Here she is this morning in one of her favorite spots, her crate, dozing from the pain meds – you can see her scar on her belly if you look closely, as well as the white patch on her leg from her previous bout with cancer seven years ago (yep, this literal bitch is a literal 2x cancer survivor):

I'm sooooo high, you guys.
I’m sooooo high, you guys.

This whole incident, however, got me thinking about how I judge myself based on my emotional reactions.  After I discovered the second tumor, I was numb, and then angry, and then I sobbed.  I could barely sleep Monday night, and was a wreck most of yesterday from lack of sleep and anxiety about how Jazzy was holding up in surgery.  And all the time I was experiencing this flow of “negative” emotions and sensations, I was berating myself for feeling them.  “She’s just a dog,” I thought to myself.  “Other people in the world are suffering horrible tragedies like earthquakes and starvation and Donald Trump running for president, and you’re literally losing sleep over a fourteen-year-old quadruped who’s already lived beyond the average lifespan for her breed.  You’re a ridiculous and stupid white girl.”  I apologized to my mother when she saw me crying.  My parents were great, supporting each other and me by saying “it’s ok to be sad, we love her – old dog or not.”  I still couldn’t shake the feeling of guilt, however, over being “too emotional” over something that was “not a big deal.”

Once the surgery was over and Jazzy came home in good, albeit dog-drunk, shape, my relief allowed me to make the connection (my therapist would be proud!) that trivializing my emotions, regardless of their cause, is a pattern I’ve engaged in my whole life.  I used to get so upset at work when I was stressed or when someone said or did something unprofessional or mean, and then get even MORE upset by the demon voice in my head which told me I was overreacting or being unreasonable.  Society in general teaches us to suppress or hide “bad” emotions, like grief, anger, or frustration, especially when the cause of these emotions isn’t justifiable by some arbitrary standard.  Inconsolable because your ninety-year-old grandfather died?  Well, he lived a long life, what are you crying for?!  In a rage because some sexist jerk at work made a joke about the size of your ass?  Happens to everyone – no need to make a fuss – also, you might want to consider losing a few pounds!  Depressed because you got divorced?  Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all!

Any of this sound familiar to anyone?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s necessarily healthy or feasible for people to go around constantly weeping or screaming or otherwise giving full vent to every single emotion in public.  But I do think that we harm ourselves by judging certain emotions as “bad” and then encouraging, if not mandating, that we suppress any expression of these emotions, even in public or professional settings.  I think it can be appropriate, even useful, to cry at work, for instance: one of the best moves I ever made in managing the relationship with a client was telling him that he had made me cry (he had berated me in a meeting in front of forty people).  When he truly realized how his actions had made me feel, our entire relationship changed – it became more honest, more respectful, and more effective.  By the time I left the company, he was my favorite client – all because I let him know, with my words AND body language, how angry and sad he had made me feel with his behavior.

Lol looking at this post it seems sort of weird to go from talking about an old dog with cancer to crying at work, but to me the connection is important.  It’s ok for me to cry about my sick dog.  It’s ok for you to be angry with a mean coworker and to express that anger appropriately.  It’s ok to laugh out loud when something is really fucking funny.  It’s ok to be a real, whole human being, and not a robot or a Vulcan.

If you’re reading, I’m interested to hear about your own experiences – how do you deal with strong emotions in tough situations?  How do you remain authentic to yourself in a society where authenticity is often touted but rarely embraced?

I hope you have a great week.  I’m off to pet Jazzy – she’s milking this “I had cancer! Pet me!” thing for all it’s worth!

So I quit my job ten days ago, and this is my new apartment…

My new sexy home
My new sexy home

Just kidding, my actual apartment is a Toyota Sienna, which is much classier and gets better gas mileage.*

Seriously, though, as I wrote in a post last week, I have this personal demon (WITH RIPPED ABS UGHH) who lives in my head who was being louder and meaner to me than usual because I decided to quit my job.  Part of the demon’s argument against this action was that I would immediately become super poor and end up living, quite literally, in a van down by the river.  It is a small victory over him that ten days into my unemployment adventure, I have not been evicted AND I received a bunch of amazing encouragement from friends, family, and random internet people on my last post.  I expected most people to react to: “Hey, I quit my job and I’m trying to write a book!” with this expression:

Oh my god, I hate millennials.
Oh my god, I hate millennials.

Instead, I received tons of emails, messages, and in person comments that all pretty much boiled down to “Good for you!  God, I wish I could quit my job, too.  Jobs are terrible.  Hmm, maybe I should play the lottery.  Hold on, brb, I have to run to the convenience store.  But yeah, you’re great, SCREW THE MAN!  What’s your lucky number, again?”  I wish you all good luck with those lottery tickets, by the way, and hereby stake a claim to 10% of all winnings.

Seriously, this week has been a pretty incredible high, which means, of course, that I’m likely going to come crashing down to earth sometime in the next five to ten days.  It’s how the demon in my brain works (thanks, mental illness!).  To prevent this, I’m trying to cultivate another part of myself that I drew with my therapist’s guidance (IT REALLY DOES WORK).  She looks like this:

I'm awesome.
I’m awesome.

This is another younger part of me (who apparently was a big fan of knee socks and had reddish hair?  Whatever), but unlike my personal demon, she is confident and does not. Give. A. Shit. About. Anything.  I drew her after my mother told me, for the thousandth time, that I was a super happy, not-depressed, confident child before puberty (pro tip: contrary to what society would like you to think, getting boobs in the fourth grade does NOT lead to increased self-esteem), at which time the shit really hit the fan.

Now, it’s totally natural for things to go down the toilet once you hit puberty – your body is weird, your hormones are out of control, and since this is happening to everyone in your school at approximately the same time, your social life becomes an insane CW-style soap-opera complete with sexual harassment and illicit substance use.  For me, though, puberty also marked the onset of what has been a lifelong struggle with depression and anxiety.  Almost all vestiges of confidence that I had in my abilities, my appearance, even my intelligence disappeared almost overnight.  I struggled through by focusing on getting 100% on every test, winning every award I could, getting into a top college, getting the best job, blah blah blah.  Ironically, it’s only now when I’m finally jumping off the high-achiever train that I’m starting to remember Awesome Girl.  She’s the girl who used to play rec basketball every winter and loved it, despite never making a basket in four years.  She’s the girl who spent every Thanksgiving break pretending to be the captain of the Mayflower and ordering her little brother and cousins around the basement, telling them to swab the decks, raise the sails, and keep an eye out for Plymouth Rock.  She’s the girl who wore leggings and a giant jumper with a Disney Princess on it to school and thought, “I AM a princess, and you better fucking believe it.”

Of course, this girl didn’t have any bills to pay and had no true understanding of the Middle East quagmire (to be fair, who does?).  It’s easy to be the queen of the world when the world is your home, your parents, your brother, and your little group of friends.  I’m not aiming to be the queen of the world, but I do want to recapture a bit of the essence of what made Awesome Girl so awesome – she was less prone to worry, and more likely to celebrate.  She’s the complete antithesis of the demon, and it’s my goal this week to remember and celebrate her a little bit every day.  If you’re reading this, I hope you can take a minute to remember a time when you felt on top of the world – it might not have been when you were a child, and it might be hard to remember it at all, but it’s worth the effort to try.

Now, I’m going to go write another thousand words of my book BECAUSE I AM AWESOME, BITCHES.

*In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I don’t know whether or not the Toyota Sienna is classier or gets better gas mileage than any other van on the market.  Chrysler, please don’t sue me.  Toyota: if you think your van IS better than others on the market, I’m happy to do a test drive and write a post all about it.  For a price.  My price is one million American dollars.  It’s a worthwhile investment, I promise.  

On writing

After years of vaguely dreaming that one day I’d have the time and drive to actually write something real, I’m finally doing it, and it’s been an incredibly eye-opening experience.  I used to write short stories “for fun” in the summers in high school and college, but then I started working and everything else in my life sort of disappeared because capitalism.  Throughout my twenties, I would sometimes come home from work and open a doc on my computer, intending to commit ideas to (virtual) paper that had been floating around in my head for months or even years.  After a sentence or two, or maybe a paragraph, I would stand up, pace around my bedroom/kitchen/living room while silently berating myself for wasting time that could be better spent exercising or sleeping or doing actual work, and then close my computer to go watch the Daily Show before passing out.   This all changed a few weeks ago when I came back to San Francisco after over a month of leave time at home with my family.  After completing the requisite grocery shopping, pharmacy, and laundromat trips, I realized that I had a lot of fucking time on my hands.  I had all sorts of grand plans for how to fill this time: I was going to volunteer, and do yoga seven days a week and get ripped abs, and take a psychology class, and knit, and also perhaps learn hip hop or some shit.  I was ambitious, ok?

Instead, without really planning on doing it, I started writing a novel.  I’ve written 1-3K words per day on average for nearly four weeks.  I think some of it is great, and some of it is awful.  Most of it is ok and can be made good with revisions. When it’s done I will see what I can do with it – if I can sell it, or self e-publish it, or just share it with my friends and family who will tell me IT’S TOTALLY AWESOME no matter how shitty it is.

What’s interesting is that after a decade of intending to write without doing anything about it, now that I’m actually writing it’s not at all what I expected.  Here is what I have learned from nearly a month spent writing:

  • Writing is super easy…when you’re inspired, which happens like for five minutes on average per day.  You’ll be writing one particular piece of dialogue, or a sentence or two of description, and it just flows, man, from your brain, and you’re like, whoa, I am a fucking genius, this is some Charles Dickens-level shit right here!
  • Writing is extremely fucking hard…the vast majority of the time.  And also boring.  You’ll type a sentence, and look at it, and realize you left out four words, and then fix it, and then realize that you used “surprisingly” twice.  And then you’ll fix that, and realize that you just replaced one instance of “surprisingly” with “to my surprise,” which is basically the same fucking thing.  Then you go on thesaurus.com to look up synonyms for “surprisingly,” and the first option is “exceptionally,” and you’re like, why the fuck would I want to use the word exceptionally, I want surprisingly, but I can’t say it twice, jesus why is this so hard I WENT TO COLLEGE! Then you delete the sentence and start again, and this is why writing novels takes longer than like, a week, for most people, Stephen King, you motherfucker.
  • Writing is best done in coffee shops…because if you try to do it at home, you get distracted by things like your refrigerator, which is full of food, and so you eat it, but then you have dirty dishes in the sink, and you know that because it’s San Francisco the fruit flies will be all over that shit, so you wash the dishes, and then it’s been thirty minutes and all you’ve managed to do is look up synonyms for “surprisingly” on thesaurus.com.
  • Writing in coffee shops is a terrible idea…because everyone there is also writing on their laptops, and they look really professional and/or like tortured artists in skinny jeans and flannel and hipster glasses, and you start thinking, well, shit, that bitch over there is probably the next Harper Lee or something and here I am writing some contemporary romance crap, and then you scoot your chair over to get a better look at what that girl is writing, and it turns out she’s just checking Facebook, and then you’re like, HAHA SHE’S SO LAZY WHAT IS SHE EVEN DOING IN THIS COFFEE SHOP WHICH IS FOR ARTISTS ONLY?! And then you realize that you’ve been in the coffee shop for ninety minutes and have written only 200 words, consumed two mochas, and really have to pee, but you don’t want to use the coffee shop bathroom because it’s gross, so you go home to pee, and then are distracted by your refrigerator again and it’s a vicious cycle.
  • The internet is really helpful for writing…because you can do “research” and look up synonyms on thesaurus.com instantaneously, and in the olden days people had to actually own real thesauruses (thesauri?) and dictionaries and if they went somewhere other than their house they had to lug it with them.  Poor Jane Austen.
  • The internet is the worst thing ever in the history of writing…because of literally everything else on the internet that is not thesaurus.com, including wordpress.com.

I’ve probably learned other things in my month of writing, but I can’t remember them right now because I got distracted watching a video of a German Shepherd doing laundry on YouTube. 

Guys, my book is going to be AMAZING.