My proofs came.
I can’t even start this blog any other way. It was a singularly surreal moment I have very little to compare it to. The box came and I set it on the ottoman and just stared at it.
For about an hour.
First, it’s a thing I’ve been working on for so many years, I struggled to think it would ever be complete. Perfectionism in the worst way.
You see, I’ve had so many mixed emotions in the last few months about this book.
I started to tackle edits again ten months ago. My father is the co-author. He’s a wonderful storyteller, but not so good with words. I’m good with words (most days) and the combined effort has been lovely. He’s been depressed for the last couple of years but it seems to have reached a near breaking point. Because of the emotional turbulence that has come of things I won’t talk about publicly, I set boundaries on the subject with loved ones that were for my own mental health.
I found myself struggling more with this manuscript. There is this piece of me that wanted to finish edits for my dad. Because maybe it would give him something to hold on to. It’s far more complicated than this short explanation. But I didn’t go into it for me.
There were fears that in moving forward with this novel, it would feel like I was picking sides in family debates. That I would be cast aside for wanting to be successful. That success is tied to my dad. A man who is flawed. But we are all incredibly flawed. Everybody makes mistakes, everybody fucks up. Unconditional love has taught me that it’s how we chose to move forward after, that defines us. I want to be defined by my ability to be firm but kind. My ability to listen and my willingness to view all sides of something without casting judgment first.
I’ve felt guilty for being on relatively good terms with Dad. I’ve felt guilty for wanting to publish. I’ve felt anger at feeling like this book is one of the only reasons that Dad wants to be part of life again. But I’m lucky. I have someone pretty incredible in my life that has helped with this perspective. Helped me to understand a bit more about what it’s like living with depression. He’s taught me that any reason is a good one when someone feels the way Dad does. Life is about give and take and when someone can’t give as much, it can be harder to understand if you can’t truly empathize. I’ve never really suffered from depression. I have OCD and with that comes a lot of anxiety that has taken the better part of my life to learn to live with. I suffer from anxiety and conflicting thoughts and ticks, and sometimes it’s so overwhelming that I can’t breathe. But it’s incredibly different from depression. I’ve been sad, and I’ve struggled but I’ve never really been depressed in the way that my father has. In the way that others I love have.
I have spilled countless tears and hours in anguish over my family. I want nothing more than for things to be better. To say some magic words suddenly there’s buckets of forgiveness and the hurt fades to the background because the good outweighs it by miles. But that’s just not my reality. Likely there is some much-needed therapy all the way around and some deep conversation where words are chosen carefully.
I don’t know if finishing this novel and deciding to publish it actually helped or not. If it made things worse. And instead of enjoying this huge accomplishment, I let myself feel horrible about it. I cried while editing, I sobbed into the arms of my SO, and I pushed through. I pushed through snide comments and through passive-aggressive remarks, not really sure if I’ve read into things too much or not.
The other night I was going through my notepad, looking for a document on a different novel. Yes, there’s another book planned for 2022! But I was digging and I came across hundreds of disorganized documents. One-liners, story ideas, blog ideas, things my students have said, crazy dreams, musings on life… So many, many thoughts.
And it suddenly hit me.
I have spent YEARS of my life perfecting my art. I wanted to be a writer at 9 years old. It was the first “job” I can ever remember wanting to do. That is if being a mermaid doesn’t make the list. I’ve taken classes, attended conferences, I even ran a not-for-profit writers group for three years. I have written three novels (one of them three times, so maybe it’s really like five?), and have outlined another twelve. I have more ideas than I have time to even really consider. I’ve only ever really wanted to write. And somewhere along the way, I forgot that.
I let people make me feel guilty about this incredible accomplishment. I don’t want to feel that way anymore. I’m embracing the Lorelai Gilmore view of life, laugh it off. I deserve to be incredibly proud of this accomplishment, guilt-free. I was reminded of the work I’ve put in. The ten thousand hours I’ve spent writing and learning my craft. It was like, a wave of relief washed over me. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so bad anymore.
I felt a bit of freedom.
I wanted to write again.
I didn’t publish this book for anyone else. Yes, my father is a big part of the reason I wrote this book in the first place, and he’s a large part of the reason I chose to move forward with publication. But I wrote this book. I’m proud of it and I want the world to read it. No one gets to take that feeling from me.
I am a writer.
Staring at the box of proofs, I wondered if the recent happiness I’ve felt would fade when I finally held it in my hands. Would any of that guilt come rushing back? Would I regret this choice? Would I feel sad? Would the happiness be gone?
It was not.
I filmed a thing for TikTok of me opening it. Then I called my favorite person and told him all about it. Do you know what he said? “You seem so happy. You sound so giggly and genuinely excited. I’m so glad to hear that in your voice.”
It’s true. I am.
My first novel comes out in a little over a week. I don’t even have the words to explain how truly and deeply excited I am about it. But I hope you’ll take a look when it does. Here’s the video I filmed. Please watch it and maybe shoot me a like, help the algorithm gods send it to more people. In hindsight, I should have turned the fan off first.