Today I Am 29

I always tend to be a little maudlin on my birthday, and this one is no exception.

I feel like I’ve lost so much time. My childhood was a hot mess that I’m still trying to recover from. My twenties were off to a slow start with a bad marriage, a hard divorce, unemployment, a struggle to survive. Things were bad.

My mid-twenties stalled out too, but it felt like I didn’t have an excuse. I was still depressed, still struggling, even with a steady (if stressful) job. No excuse, I told myself. No excuse. I started drinking a lot. I started smoking on the weekends as a way to relax and breathe. I stopped when I moved in with my brother because I knew he hated smoking–threw away my first pack, still half full. It was easy to quit because I wasn’t addicted, but I still think about it, especially when times are hard. I think about leaning against warm wood baked in California sun, breathing until my lungs burned, and slowly exhaling. In, out. In, out. That’s what you’re supposed to do, right?

My late twenties, I moved to Utah. A new start. Same problems. But maybe, I thought, I would get better. My brain would get better. I would transform, become a new person, the person I wanted to be instead of the person that I was. The person who wrote a lot and wasn’t tired all the time and drained by work. The person with friends and a life not defined by work and netflix.

That didn’t happen. But things did get better. The bad times decreased into something more manageable, but still–I struggled. I struggle, present tense, since I’m still here.

Last year, I sold a short story. People said, the first of many more.

It is still the first. I haven’t sold anything this year, and I’ve received seven rejections between two short stories I wrote in 2016.

Double-take. Only two short stories? In nine months, nearly ten, I’ve only written two short stories?

It feels like I wrote so much more. But looking back, I didn’t.

Change. It happened, and it didn’t happen.

In many ways, I feel like I am trapped in the same place with changing scenery. I’m still in customer service, something I have been trying to escape for close to six or seven years. This year I said goodbye to an opportunity to make more money and to get out of customer service because my former employment treated me like garbage. It was a chance they could take away, a chance they did threaten to take away because of “coffee breath.” It wouldn’t be the first time they took something away from me that I had earned. You can’t handle it, they’d say. You’re too anxious. So many things. Sometimes I think I made a mistake, but I know I didn’t. They wouldn’t have promoted me. There was always a reason. I should be flattered they could only think of coffee breath.

(Writing this–why do so many people tell me I can’t do something, that I am literally not able to do it? I have grown up with people telling me this. I have been told this as an adult. It has been a constant presence, and to this day, I don’t know why.)

So I know it was the right decision. I needed to get out of there. I needed to.

I hate the way “escape” has shaped so much of my life: the need to escape my emotionally abusive home life as I was entering my twenties; the need to escape my emotionally abusive husband in my early twenties; the need again to escape Texas where I had nothing but a bachelor’s degree that has cost me so much (and has provided so little); the need to escape California because I knew I couldn’t stay with my brother forever and that if I ever lost my job, I would be right back where I was when I graduated–unemployed; the need to escape my really terrible job when I was finally in a position where I could leave.

I’m tired of it.

And even though I know that this particular escape decision was a good one, I feel like it was also a gigantic step backward, that I’ve sealed my fate as a cs rep forever. The other point of view is that I chose my own well and that’s good–right? But where is the proof of it? What has really changed?

Two short stories. Only two.

I’ve decided to go to therapy. The new job has better insurance–I wasn’t able to do that at my old job. Change. I went to the dentist after four years instead of seven. Change. I’m on the depo shot. Change. I’m learning social strategies so that I can create a network because I am alone here. After two years, working on a third year, I am still alone in Utah (like I was alone in Texas–there I go in circles, same place, different scenery). I don’t have a group of friends that I hang out with when I’m not working. I don’t have a girlfriend. I am so alone, and sometimes I feel incredibly lonely. There are times where living alone is hard. There are times where I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I don’t know how to change that, and it’s one of the reasons I decided to go to therapy, but at the same time, I’m too tired to go out anywhere. Everything exhausts me, even with a job with less stress. I don’t feel like going out because I’m too tired all the time. No change.

I’ve said before that I’m over my twenties and I’m ready for thirty. Now I’m afraid that my thirties will be a repeat of my twenties. That I will still be in customer service. That I will still be trying to get something published, let alone making a living at writing (the dream!). That I won’t succeed in writing. That I will still be drifting from apartment complex to apartment complex every two years when those bastard landlords raise my rent too much.

See this theme? I am tired.

I need to rest. The panic of nothing changing makes it difficult to do that. I’ve spent years creating rigorous schedules about all the Internal Change that I will do: I will exercise, I will write every day, I will get in touch with my spiritual side, I will read. 7 am, I will get up and stretch. 7:30 am I will leave for the gym. 7:45 am I will start exercising at the gym. 8:15 am I will leave. 8:30 am breakfast. 9:00 am shower. 9:30 am leave for work.

Every hour of every day plotted. Most of the time I didn’t manage to get up until 9:00 am and I’d leave for work without breakfast.

And when I fail, I am so hard on myself. Internal scoldings, internal despair. Frustration. Disgust. Hatred. They’re right. I can’t do things. I can’t do shit. I can’t even eat right.

It is a weight on me. It is a weight I have born for years.

My goal for year 29 is to put it down and to leave it behind.

I want to give myself space to rest. I feel like I have been struggling with physical metaphorical roadblocks or my own #badbrain bullshit for the past 8+ years. I know that it’s time to rest–and I am so grateful that I’m in a place where I can finally do that.

The challenge will be learning how to do it. There is always an undercurrent of fear or anxiety that things will go back to the Bad Times. That I will never change or realize even my smallest of goals.

But I have to let it go. I have to.

The trick will be letting myself rest without falling into inaction. I don’t do a lot of things, even on good days. I still struggle to clean my studio apartment that is the size of a master bedroom regularly. Improvement: I’m cleaning it once a month usually, which is better than I’ve ever been. I don’t let my dirty dishes or my garbage pile up.

But I also want to start a regimen of positive self talk. I have this very negative perception of myself: I don’t write enough. I’m not good at my job (despite…so much evidence to the contrary), I can’t do this. I never get up early enough. I don’t, I’m not, I hate that I–. Etc.

It creates this cycle of shame and guilt and doubt that is exhausting.

And so, I want to start there, I think. I want to start believing in myself instead of persevering despite myself. So I want to start doing that with this post.

List of things that I did and that I’m proud of in my twenty-eighth year:

  • I was published! Like dang that’s still pretty impressive.
  • I finally took the plunge and started posting my Very Long Azula fan fiction. It counts. It counts. I have been working on this thing for years. I never posted it because I always thought it wasn’t good enough and that it never would be good enough. Finally, I posted it anyway.
  • I have done so many things that I was told I couldn’t including taking down a 60lb hanging desk and driving to Reno.

List of things I’m looking forward to for year 29:

  • Experimenting with my writing style and my chosen genre. I don’t have to be published this year. It is not the end of the world. I need to learn Me.
  • Practicing managing my time and budget.
  • Making sure I allow enough time for me to grab eight hours of sleep. Since it sometimes takes an hour or more for me to fall asleep, this means I aim to give myself 10 hours of sleep time every day.
  • No alarm clocks on the weekend unless in case of emergency.

I also want to take a roadtrip on the Extra-terrestrial highway, but not by myself.

Something to look forward to. 🙂

 

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3 thoughts on “Today I Am 29

  1. Hi again! Look at that, I have a wordpress now (I commented about your story in Mothership Zeta and mention the Lightspeed submissions window a while ago?) I also turned 29 this year, and have been experiencing some similar realizations and frustrations. The escape pattern and the loneliness especially resonated with me (and I’ve racked up a number of story rejections myself the last few months; I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to that.) I think your goals sound awesome and I am sending good vibes your way to help you stick to them 🙂 Affirmations are great, I’m trying to work on that too. And one of the best times of my life was on a road trip so I’m definitely cheering for you there!

    I read something the other day that reminded me that no one who really succeeds at this writing thing (or many things in life) does it alone. And I know when you’re poking at a story, or sending it out for submissions, you can feel incredibly adrift. If you ever want someone to talk to, about writing, or life, feel free to drop me a line. Chat, commiseration, beta-efforts, whatever. Sorry if that sounds weird–no pressure or anything. I have this maybe-weird, maybe-unlikely idea of forming a little supportive community for people trying to play in the sci-fi/fantasy genre, and I guess I’m starting with you because I really did love your story (I’ve re-read it a few times), and because so much of what you said here resonated with my own experience of the last few years. And I guess I want to believe that we can both break the negative cycles in our lives and learn to be more, to be the awesome powerful people I know we can be. I hope this first week of your 29th year was a good one!

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    • Hey! I’m sorry for the delay–I don’t check WordPress as often as I should! Happy Belated Birthday! I really, really like your idea about setting up supportive community of people! I think that would be GREAT and AWESOME! (also, thank you for the complimentary words on my story–you are too kind.) I hope your 29th year is going well too! We can do this, we can break the negative cycles!

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  2. Sonja, I can’t believe that it took me so long to get on this and read it. For some reason I just thought that I hadn’t checked it out lately. Very interesting to read and I do hope that your 29th year will be a great one. Think of you often, come spring or summer we will get together again. Love ya. Gma

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