Thursday, January 24, 2013

Practice Makes Progress

There’s an old adage that says “practice makes perfect” and I’m sure we’ve all heard it, but I’m not going to use it, because frankly, I think it’s a load of BS. Practice can make you better, but it will never make you perfect. There is no such thing as perfect. No, I mean it. Can we just shatter this illusion of perfection right now, please? I’m tired of it. I’m mostly tired of it because I’ve spent most of my life trying to achieve it, and when I fall short (which of course I always do), I feel like a miserable failure. I’ve never learned to internalize the concept of “good” or “better” and if you dare say “good enough” then I would have scoffed at you. I didn’t want to be GOOD ENOUGH, I wanted to be THE BEST. There are worse things to aspire to, I suppose, but even being The Best doesn’t mean you are Perfect. Because you can’t be, the end, amen.

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the concept of practice. When I was five or so, I was in dance class like probably every other small child in the area. I have no idea if I was good or not. I do remember being incredibly unmotivated and I hated practicing… so I didn’t. And finally my mom was like, “okay, kiddo, if you’re not going to practice, then you should probably consider that this isn’t a thing you are interested in, and you should quit and find something else to do.” And with barely a second thought, I did. I quit. Which was probably the easiest thing I’ve ever quit because nowadays if the idea of quitting something occurs to me, I get racked with guilt and I never actually let go. It took me six months to quit my job at Target after I started my current “grownup” job. At first, sure, I had practical reasons – I needed to keep my health insurance until the new one kicked in. But after that… well. It’s not like I was making any extra money, and I was wearing myself ragged working seven days a week. I eventually turned in my notice, but I felt horrible doing so. Why? I don’t know. Nobody was benefitting from my sporadic weekend help. I just have problems letting go.

I was much more focused when it came to other activities, proving my mother right. My interests were elsewhere. Softball, if you’ve been around this blog at all in the summer, has been one of the great loves of my life. I didn’t mind practicing that. When I was old enough, I chose to play flute, and while, okay, I was much more gung-ho about it in the first few years when it was new and exciting, I stuck with it through the bitter end and put in just enough practice time not to suck. I didn’t enjoy practicing, I found it to be boring. Scales? Barf. Though you know what? If I were to blow the dust off my flute case today, almost ten years after my final band concert, I bet you a small amount of dollars that I could still play a scale, piece of cake. All that practice builds something we call “muscle memory” which makes my body automatically pick up on things. That’s why I can still play softball, even though most of my interaction with the sport nowadays is as a coach. My throwing, hitting, catching skills are so deeply ingrained into what my body is used to doing, that I could take a few years off and then hop right back in, almost as sharp as ever. (Almost. I mean, let’s face it: I’m not getting any younger.) A few years back when I started taking taekwondo, I had to revisit my sluggish practice-motivation again. I enjoyed it, and I felt like a bad-ass when I was working through the forms, but old habits (or the lack thereof) die hard. I just didn’t want to do it. After I got my black belt, my attendance started to wane. I refused to be one of those people that only went so far as getting their black belt and then quit, but I had too many other things starting to fight for attention – coaching, work, friends, dating, life. I’ve gone back a couple times and I realize that I miss it, but it’s not a priority right now, and I can’t give it the attention that it deserves.

All this is a really round-about introduction for me to tell you what I’m up to right now. Because guess what else you need to practice at to get better at? Writing. WHAT? I KNOW. Writing is like anything else: the more you do it, the better you will be. It doesn’t matter how much talent you may or may not have; if you work at it, you will get better. There are roughly a bajillion quotes from well-known writers out there who drive this point home. It’s not about how naturally it comes – it’s about how hard you work. Just like anything else in life.

I’ve not made a secret of the fact that I really, really want to be a writer. I’ve wanted it since I was ten and got a weird ten-year-old high off of creating stories. Folded and stapled sheets of notebook paper were my drug of choice. I was addicted. But then I promptly freaked the hell out when I was in high school and realized I had to decide a Career, because it’s the smartest idea ever to make kids decide what they want to do with their lives when they are seventeen years old and don’t know anything about what life actually entails. Seriously, how did this become a normal practice? It’s dumb. But I digress. I pored through all of the career books in our school library, systematically dismissing fields that bored me or at the very least didn’t interest me. I always kept coming back to the jobs about writing and advertising. My mother is actually the one who planted the seed of graphic design into my head; I looked into it, and the more I read about what graphic designers did, the more I fell in love. THAT was what I wanted to do. It appealed to my creative side and it seemed like a more legitimate (read: employable) profession. Writing was terrifying, because: well, if you’re an aspiring writer, you know why it’s terrifying. It was this idea of putting all of my eggs into my career-dream basket and then if that fell through, I would be left with absolutely nothing. Graphic design seemed safer.

So I went on my merry little way through design school, and I did enjoy it, and I was probably decently okay with it, but I was distracted. My biggest battle with depression hit me right around my sophomore year and I never fully recovered from it in terms of the level of motivation to be a great designer. I did okay. I enjoyed it. But deep down, I knew it wasn’t what I wanted. I started my first incarnation of a blog and that, quite frankly, pulled me out of the dark spaces. It saved me. So I kept doing it. But I never, ever reconsidered choosing it as a vocation.

Fast forward to right now because this post is getting really long and the details don’t matter. I’ve been agonizing over this, and I’ve finally admitted, out loud, to certain people and even on this blog, that what I want to do is write books. It’s not just that I wanted to be a writer, it’s that I wanted to be a novelist. (Go big or go home, right?) I would love to write a collection of humorous or profound essays (kind of like a blog on steroids) but I will not be satisfied until I complete and ideally publish a novel. (Key word: ideally.)

Super! Good for me, I figured it out. But I had to get started somewhere.

Enter: Alice Bradley.

I’ve mentioned her beforewhen I found her “Write Anyway” column and was completely enamored and started printing off her posts to make a binder that I could read over and over whenever I felt like giving up. Because I'm not weird or anything. But I noticed that she offered a course last year on writing called The Practice of Writing and my brain promptly dismissed it. For all of the reasons we dismiss things that we’re interested in. Probably for most of the reasons that I closed the browser window instead of signing up for BiSC in 2010. Fear, self-doubt, ALL OF THE EXCUSES. I’m really good at making excuses.

This past December when I saw a post pop up in my reader that she was offering it again, I clicked through. I stared at it. I came back to it. The first paragraph on the home page drew me in:

You want to write, but you don't have the time.
You want to write, but you're afraid you have nothing to say.
You think about how much you used to love writing, and it makes you sad.
You want to write, but you're too old or you're not educated enough, or... or something.
You want to write, but you're scared.

I found myself in each of those things. And then she quoted the Richard Rhodes quote that I quoted not long ago and I decided it was probably fate. It was very, hauntingly similar to my experience with Bloggers in Sin City. I watched my first opportunity come and go, decided that I was unfit for the experience and I couldn’t really afford it anyway. It came back around again and finally I told myself to just DO IT ALREADY, so I took the same deep breath that I took in January of 2011 and clicked the button and signed up. For all the ways that BiSC has changed me and changed my life, I really don’t know why I don’t take chances like this more often. I’ve seen how good they are for me. I’ve seen how quickly the fear dissipates into something meaningful.

The course officially started on January 14 and I’ve already noticed a difference. I’m blocking out a space of time each night to write, even if I’m tired, even if I don’t feel like it. Some of the prompts have made me feel silly and awkward, but once my pen starts moving on the paper (we’ve been instructed to write it all longhand), those feelings fade and there I am, writing. Oftentimes, the prescribed fifteen minutes turns into forty-five, and by that point I’m usually ready to grab a book or open my laptop and work on my story, but unfortunately it’s usually late and my logical brainparts are like, “dude, you need to sleep” so I get all huffy and go to sleep. But it feels great. My friend Maria sent me a link to a workshop being held at our alma mater, a creative writing workshop/class, something that would have absolutely terrified me a month ago. People READING my creative writing? This blog is one thing, but when it comes to, say, fiction, I get weirdly self-conscious about it. But you know what? I’m strongly considering it. I’m not sure it’s a great idea to do two of these courses at once, and I’d have to miss the first class because I’ll be out of town for work (and my straight-A student style is absolutely CRINGING at the idea of missing the first class, I mean, hello, that just SCREAMS “starting off on the wrong foot”), but... I don’t know, guys. Alice has gotten me into the practice of writing (see what I did there) and each day I feel a little bit stronger and a little bit more confident. I may actually do this thing.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

This Is Where We Start.

The first post back after an absence is always the hardest, I think. As the time passes, I’ve accumulated an ocean's worth of words that I haven’t written (at least not to completion) and figuring out where to start always leaves me a bit overwhelmed. I probably would have started posting again a week ago if I had found a good jumping-off point. I still haven’t, which is why I’m writing this point. It’s a transition post to get me jump-started again.

There was a post I wanted to write on January 2. It was another New Year-type post, something to reconcile the frustrations of December 31 and the cautious optimism of January 1That’s where I’ve been stuck. I felt like I couldn’t write about anything else until I finally choked this one out. So this is it, more or less.

I’ll be honest – the end of 2012 was rough. Most of 2012 was rough. I’d been trying to put down on paper (or pixels) exactly why this was, what was bothering me… and it was hard, because it was eluding me. On the surface, I was happy. The January 1 recap of the previous year showed a shiny year full of accomplishments and traveling to new places and all-around goodness that was woven into the story of 2012. Things were going swimmingly. But on the inside, though, I was incredibly discouraged. I was noticeably unhappy, and this feeling of despair was starting to latch on to me and I couldn’t breathe. It wasn’t just depression – I know what that feels like. It felt like all of the demons in my head were actively prancing around, trying to break me. It was working.

I tried to write it out. That was always my solution, and it had always worked. But the iron vise around my throat wasn’t relenting, and the words weren’t coming. I kept reading posts about words – the words people used for 2012, the word they wanted to anoint upon 2013. I had found an old post of mine where I had wanted my word for 2012 to be “simplify.” It was perfect at the time. I wanted to cut the excess out of my life, I wanted to stop feeling overwhelmed. Social obligations, clutter, not enough time, too much stuff. I wanted to cut it down to only what I needed.

I made it worse.

I’m not sure what word actually ended up describing 2012, but the only things I could come up with were “self-doubt” and “insecurity.” These are not good words, people. But there they were, present in almost every detail of my mundane life. They were the catalyst for my creative frustrations (namely, that I wasn’t creating.) They circled around me as I fretted about my weight gain, about my messy apartment, about my tendency to be chronically late and undependable, about my certainty that I was an awful friend sometimes and that I frequently got too wrapped up in my own issues to see what was going on around me. They kept me company on the days I spent wishing I could just crawl back into bed and hide under the blankets until the world decided to leave me alone.

I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching and had a lot of tear-filled conversations and lots of fetal-position naps and suddenly it clicked. I traced it back to the feeling I had when I returned from Vegas, when I felt like I had been trying too hard and that I hadn’t connected with anyone the way I had the previous year. When I had felt like a phony and that I didn’t belong. THAT was the clearest moment that I could trace the root of all of my misery to.

You know what the problem was? It’s obvious in hindsight.

I wasn’t being myself.

I WAS trying too hard. I was trying to be cool and hip and funny and witty and outgoing and trend-savvy and all of these things that I’m not. I’m happiest when I’m by myself because when I’m by myself, I’m not trying to impress anyone. I’m just me. I’m quiet and a bit reserved and much more thoughtful (not in the sense of doing thoughtful things, but in the sense of being reflective and contemplative) and I love absolutely nothing more than to sit and read a book or scribble in my notebook. I like smaller groups of people. I’d much rather sit around someone’s living room drinking wine and telling stories than going to a party or a bar and getting lost in a crowd. I love nerdy jokes and I have a strong distaste for popular culture. I’d rather watch a movie in my pajamas than hit the nightlife. I always tried to play the role of the sophisticated young professional, an accomplished career woman making it in the big city, I thought it was what I wanted. What I want to do is hole away in an apartment, with a mug of hot chocolate and my cat, punching words into a computer, making stories come to life. I’d rather be a novelist hiding in a small town than a corporate executive in a sparkly city. Perhaps that’s why I never got around to leaving the Midwest; I could have, but it felt wrong.

I mentioned in my last post how I was resentful of all of those blogs and articles and books I’ve either read or heard mentioned about being authentic and intentional, and I was to the point where if I heard one more person refer to their “authentic self” or “living with intention” I was going to throw my computer out the window. It sounded fake and pretentious and ultimately like Not a Real Thing. The problem, ironically enough, is that those people were on to something. I realize this now because I haven’t been authentic, not to myself. I mean, I haven’t been running around lying to the world, but I’ve been exaggerating aspects of my personality in order to make people like me. This is stupid, because it’s not only exhausting, but it’s making people – if their bullshit detectors aren’t ringing – like the wrong me, a Kelly-on-steroids that I can’t sustain. Eventually, inevitably, I’m going to run out of battery and that’s when I lock myself away, hiding in my safe spaces, feeling like a failure. It’s unpleasant, but it’s been a cycle that’s hard to break.

When I was in my early teens, I very much had a fixation on quotations (not that that’s terribly different than now, but I got all the cliché quotes out of my system then) and had purchased a little wallet-sized quote card with Shakespeare’s “To thine own self be true” on it. It seemed like such a profound revelation at the time; I knew it was important. I didn’t heed the advice, but it’s been tucked in the back of my mind. I was more interested in surviving the social landscape of high school and then college. I was desperate for people to like me. I thrived off their acceptance. I needed it. [Relevant link: this post from almost a year ago.]  

I had an epiphany on Sunday, in the middle of a conversation with the BF, who has this really irritating tendency to not only be right, but to be so profound in his right-ness that I sometimes wish I could write down everything he says and pass them off as my own thoughts. Because I’m pretty sure I could write a best-selling self-help book if I could mine the contents of his brain. The actual words in this conversation are unimportant, and I’m dancing the line of things I said I wasn’t going to write about online, but I think it’s important to share my takeaway from this, because it’s two days later and I feel like a huge, huge weight has been lifted off of me. I’ve slept really well the last two nights, better than I have slept in months. It was a more restful sleep, somehow. So noticeably so that I was kind of disoriented when I woke up.

The epiphany is this: my tendency to hide under this public-facing persona that I’ve set up for myself has created some friction with some of my close relationships. It’s impossible to be genuine when you’re pretending to be something that you’re not; and while I try to be me, the real me, when I’m with those people… sometimes it’s hard to switch back. I’m fighting for the acceptance of people that already accept me for who I am. It’s become such a habit that I don’t even realize when I’m doing it

It’s ironic, because the relationships I value the most – the boyfriend, some of my closest girl friends – are exactly the opposite of the outgoing, fun-loving personality that I’ve been trying to wear. They’re down to earth, they’re thoughtful, they’re smart. They stay away from the drama of social media, for the most part, and they live their lives in the world, not on the Internet. They’re the people I’m most comfortable with, the ones I feel can see past all the shit on the outside and like the Real Kelly that I have a hard time accepting. Most of all, they’re themselves, all the time. The BF, especially, has gotten increasingly frustrated, and who’s to blame him? Who wants to be with someone that isn’t being themselves? We work best when I take my shields down and revert to my “natural state” – and he all but flat out told me this weekend that if I wasn’t going to be myself, this relationship was doomed. It was hard to hear, but at the same time – isn’t that what I wanted all along? Someone who wanted me for me, the real me, who understood me and saw my flaws and wanted to be with me anyway? I’m reasonably certain that I have that written down in a journal somewhere. And yet here it is, in front of me, and I’m royally screwing it up by playing my game of trying to be popular to people I don’t care about (which is to say, most of the world. And I'd be lying if I didn't say that I was still on some level trying to impress the people from high school that I never felt good enough around.)

I’ve been caught up in the “facebook culture” where I play the game and grasp for attention because I’ve learned to need validation. Why? That’s bullshit. The only person I need validation from is myself, and I haven’t given myself permission to grant it. I love you all, but I can’t give you the power to make me feel like a good person or a bad person, like a worthy person or a waste of space. That has to come from ME. And I’ve been searching for it on the outside, and it’s been a disaster.

It’s so funny, today, when I think about it. Not funny ha-ha, but funny strange. It’s like I’m stepping outside of myself and watching. Something clicked. When I read Ashley’s post about closing comments on her blog because she was writing for herself, writing for the sake of writing, not writing for an audience… that resonated with me. (I'm not closing comments... I like feedback and now that I have Disqus, we might actually be able to have conversations here - which I'm really excited about. So, we'll still have comments, at least for the foreseeable future.) As I read the incoming bios of BiSC Class of 2013, I’m starting to relax, I’m forcing myself not to obsess over whether they’ll like me – I’m trying really hard not to put on a show. I’m trying to be myself. They’ll like me better that way, anyway. 

I need to change my mindset – social media is a tool for communication, it is a fun way to pass the time, to keep in touch with people, but it’s not the end-all, be-all. It’s not filling a void – it’s an accessory. It’s pretty and fun, but not necessary. It’s all fake, anyway. Just like advertising, just like marketing. We’re managing our personal brands. I’m tired of being a brand. I want to be a person again. It’s been said a million times, but I’ll repeat it: facebook is a highlight reel, it’s image projection at the most base definition. People want to make themselves look good. It’s a giant game of ego, and it’s easy to get caught into that trap. It’s so, so easy to play the comparison game (oh, but that’s another post for another time) and feel less than good enough, or worse, to engage in heavy competition for betterness. It’s exhausting and it’s a game that no one wins. I’m not saying people lie, but reality is definitely skewed.

My goal for the year is to be cognizant of myself. To be aware of when I’m reaching for the safety net of Fake Kelly and to consciously flip that switch back so I’m being myself. 2013 is going to be about getting my train back on the track, about getting my outlook back in balance, about somehow convincing myself that I’m actually as awesome as I pretend to be, without all of the fanfare and without all of the pretenses. Maybe 2013 will be about perseverance – just keep swimming, just keep swimming. I held on in 2012, I held on until my knuckles were bruised and bloody, until I couldn’t feel my fingers, until I was convinced I was going to let go. But I didn’t. I held on tight and I’m trying now to hoist my leg back up over the side (of what, I don’t know, metaphors have never really been my strong suit) and pull myself upright.

My other goal is to write shorter posts, but let’s tackle one thing at a time, mmmkay?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Here's Looking At You, Kid. (Kid = 2012).

Ok. It's 2013. Let's start this year off on a positive note because, let's face it, we need all the help we can get 'round these parts. Yesterday's post was, well, depressing, though I suppose that's apropos because I'm not a giant ball of sunshine right now. I'm not completely lost in the dark and gray spaces, though, either, so, um. Let's crack into the leftover bubbly from last night and reflect on the bright parts of the last 365 days.

I spoke briefly about Nicole's ebook Why Wait? and then promptly went off on my own woeful rant about how my life feels like a giant and mysterious cluster of IDKs and therefore I got overwhelmed and couldn't do the "homework" and thus neglected to talk about what my favorite part of the ebook is, and that's the "Eff Yeah 2012" list. 

This is the part where you list all of your achievements and good things that you did or that happened over the last year. Seems obvious enough, but it's so easy to focus on the stuff we failed at (dammit, why is that muffin top still hanging around?!) than on the stuff that was, y'know, AWESOME.

It occurred to me, somewhere in the midst of compiling this list, that I was an incredibly crappy blogger this past year. By which I mean: there were a TON of things I simply never got around to posting about. This was incredibly apparent as I went through my folders of photos. This delinquency stretches all the way back to last December - no wonder I've been slightly stressed out all year. I'm so behind!

But that's not important right now. What IS important is this:

It was really hard to put together this photo mashup. Partially because I limited myself to a small space, but also because there were a lot of photos that didn't make the cut, and I always feel bad when I have to reject something (be it a small photo or a person.)

It also felt a little weird to leave out the most significant part of 2012, which was the addition of The Boyfriend to my life, but I'm respecting his privacy and have chosen not to share his picture all over the Internet. So, just because you don't see him, doesn't mean he's not there or not important. He's just, y'know. Hiding. Like a ninja. Ninja boyfriend. Or something.

Anyway, I suppose I shall proceed to the written portion of this episode, which is simply a list of all the things that happened this year in as chronological order as I can remember them:

I had only the vaguest recollection of what I did for NYE 2011-12 but a scan of my blog tells me that I spent it passed out on my futon with my cat in an extended nap. My life just screams GLAMOUR. Not much else really happened that month, I had the best of intentions (I can see myself scrambling to get caught up on posts, even back then) but ultimately it kind of set the tone for the year - always trying to keep up. The highlight was my work trip to Atlanta where I got to see Jenn and eat the best queso ever.

February was full of awesome, in all of the most unexpected ways. Our annual adult charity prom was super-hero themed (and it occurs to me that I never wrote about it, so, uh, COMING SOON TO A BLOG NEAR YOU) and a lot of fun, mostly because it reminded me a bit of Halloween and I love seeing the creativity of people's costumes. Future BiSCuit Treavor stopped in Des Moines on his roadtrip through the Midwest and I got him to concede that Iowa didn't actually suck. I had my first date with the boy now known as The Boyfriend, it lasted seven hours and it felt so natural to be hanging out with him that I didn't have any of the crazy anxiety that tends to go along with the mere act of dating, which was actually kind of a weird feeling in and of itself.

The most noteworthy event in March was my first-ever midnight movie showing (The Hunger Games, natch) and the second most noteworthy thing was that I bought a new curling iron that gave me magical powers of Having Pretty Hair.

I finally visited Chicago, which was appalling on so many levels, not the least of which being that I live so damn close to it. I had my very first slice of Chicago-style pizza, I saw The Bean and rode on the ferris wheel at Navy Pier and got a great look of the city skyline at night, I saw famous works of art and started a new game of spot-the-Lincoln-statues because, dude, they are everywhere. I also neglected to blog about all of this because I am a terrible person.

BISC! BISC! BISC! If anything else happened in May, it is forever overshadowed by the glory that is Bloggers in Sin City (Part II). It breaks my heart to not be able to see the other BiSCuits more often, because at this point, they feel more like family to me than some of my actual blood relatives do. A few keywords to describe BiSC2012: Lightbulb fires, frozen hot chocolate shooters, beauty queens, buffets, ice bars, THE FABULOUS LAS VEGAS SIGN, sequin fedora, rooftop dance parties, and so many hugs. Also: In-N-Out Burger.

My seventh summer of softball coaching (second or third as a head coach, and largely on my own for the season since my assistant was a professor at ISU who was in Rome for a month, no, I'm not jealous or anything) - every time I think maybe it's time to turn in my scorebook, I get a new batch of girls that remind me why I do what I do. It's fun and rewarding, and I feel like I'm providing a positive female role model for these girls. I overhead that there was a girl from a different team that was disappointed because she wanted to be on my team, and that warmed my heart right up.

I also went on a spontaneous road trip to Kansas City to a small music festival, and never got around to blogging that, either. 2012: THE YEAR OF UNBLOGGED THINGS.

I met the BF's parents, which was a whole new level of nervous that I've never felt before.

I ended the month in Kansas City again, and was able to catch up with a friend from college and experience what it was like to have your car break down in an unfamiliar city (well, it wasn't MY car, but I was the passenger). Spoiler alert: it's not particularly fun. Other spoiler alert: sometimes, strangers can be incredibly kind and helpful.

On July 1, I participated in my first ever 5K in the middle of the hottest summer that I can remember - the Kansas City Color Run. I didn't meet my running goal because I started my couch-to-5K training way too late, but I had a ton of fun and got a lot of great pictures (of which I'm sure I didn't actually post).

One of my good friends from freshman year got married, and even though I hadn't seen her in a couple years, it was great to be able to be there on her big day.

Also in July, a friend and I roadtripped out to Denver to (a) hang out with my friend Stacey, whom I've known since I was five and (b) see Florence + The Machine. It was the best, most surreal concert I've ever been to. The rest of the week was incredibly fun as well, exploring downtown Denver and a scenic drive to a nearby town and MOUNTAINS and delicious restaurants and participating in a pie-eating contest (because OF COURSE my name would get drawn), which was something I'd never expected to cross off my list of life accomplishments. Needless to say, I owe you all a post on these things as well, if for no other reason than what's the point of even having a blog if you can't post pictures of yourself with whipped cream all over your face? (In case you're wondering, no, I did not win, but I was on track for probably third or fourth place.)

And because July insisted on being eventful, I hopped a plane in Denver directly to Las Vegas to go work a trade show, which meant a second stint in Sin City for the year, only this time by myself. Oh, there were so many thoughts and self-reflections, being in a city that I'd previously only been in under the safety blanket of a group of sixty, and yet somehow the city never entirely lost its sparkle, not entirely - it felt like it was welcoming me home. Though without the BiSCuits, it's not nearly as magical. But I meant to post something about my reflections on traveling by myself and how obvious it was that I've grown as a person over the last couple years, and also on my entirely-too-complicated quest to find a regular (ie: nonsequined) fedora, but of course I didn't, and at this point, I know you're not surprised.

In what was probably one of the most miserably hot afternoons of my life, I saw the President speak at my old college campus. I also saw a fire dancer show one Friday night down by the river in Des Moines, and it was breathtaking and awesome. I really didn't do much else.

I turned 28 and found out I was going to be an aunt(!). I was a bridesmaid in the wedding of one of my very best friends and cried through most of the ceremony because I have turned into an utter softie. I went to a pumpkin patch for the first time in my life. I was a finalist in a literary contest of sorts but ultimately didn't win. I paid off my credit card debt - an accomplishment four years in the making. All of these things (well, maybe not the pumpkin patch) are much more significant than their single-sentence recaps would indicate. This was a pretty significant month, in general. Big things were set in motion.

I wore pink every single day. I did another 5K and while I didn't run the whole thing, I ran for 32 straight minutes (though very very slowly), which is more than I have ever run in my life, even when I was young and thin and in shape. The BF and I took a vacation to Portland which was every bit as awesome as everyone says it is. I climbed an actual mountain and spent hours in the biggest book store of all time, which somehow managed to re-spark my conviction that, yes, I should start writing more, and in fact, I should - and maybe even could - write a book, like I've wanted to do since I was nine. I saw breathtaking views and got rained on a lot and will someday eventually put it all into a post.

I participated in NaBloPoMo though I can't really remember anything I wrote about, though given what an intense election it was, they were probably mostly politically-themed, which is ironic, given how much I get so agitated about politics. So agitated that apparently the only way to appease said agitation is to write about them. I probably annoyed a large quantity of people in the process but quite frankly, if I can't hold on to my convictions enough to stand by them despite the fact that my desire for people to like me tends to weigh above all else, then... why the hell even bother? At any rate, it gave me a voice again. I installed Disqus, which was a long time coming, because Blogger's commenting platform suuuucks. I traveled across the state for a bridal show/bachelorette party for another of my dear friends who is getting married this weekend and for which EVERYONE SEND GOOD WEATHER JUJU TO MOTHER NATURE because it's a long drive and I will probably have the biggest meltdown panic attack ever if there's snow, even though I'm slowly getting less afraid of it.

The BF went to China for two weeks during which I'd hoped to get caught up on this blog and some other projects, but it felt like all I really did was bake and decorate cookies. But he has taught me about six phrases in Chinese (technically Mandarin, but I guess over in China if you refer to it as Mandarin they look at you funny) so now I feel all cultured and want to go back and re-learn Spanish or maybe French (I'd even bought a learning kit or whatever not long after I'd graduated college, because I'd gotten a wild hair that it would be a fun albeit useless thing to do). We got our first blizzard in probably two years (oh, Winter 2011-12, you spoiled us!). I sat through the jury selection process but ultimately did not get chosen, though it was an extremely interesting experience. I also started watching Doctor Who (finally) so if this space continues to be full of no posts, you'll know why.

The main takeaway of this post is this: I have a LOT of back posts to write, which is both good and bad... good, because it provides a nudge against the dreaded writer's block, and bad, because: OMG IT WILL ALL BE OUT OF ORDER FOREVER and also HOW THE HELL DID I GET SO FAR BEHIND?!

Anyway, I have now written my recap of 2012 which means I get to hang onto my blogging license for another year, and I shall now begin the task of Goal Setting and Reflection and Making Lists and basically treating 2013 like a project (BY GOD, THERE WILL BE SPREADSHEETS!) to be achieved rather than the mess that 2012 kind of felt like. I mean, it was a happy mess, but I spent a large portion of the year feeling overwhelmed, unorganized, and inadequate, and quite frankly, now seems like the best time to put an end to that shit. FULL SPEED AHEAD!

What were some of your highlights from 2012? What do you want to do in 2013?