A Fish that Doesn’t Swim

I’m certain that this will come as a shock to you, so it might be best if you read this sitting down.

Several people in my life have told me that I am, in fact, too hard on myself.

I know, I know, why would they say such a thing? That’s not like me at all!

Except that I know it is, and even though I know it’s true, it still doesn’t seem to help.

Well, that’s not entirely truthful. I’ve definitely learned how to tone it down recently. I no longer feel the need to call myself a lazy loser if my only accomplishment for the day is reading thirty pages of a book, or threaten myself with visions of future doom and destitution if I don’t manage to write anything creative by the end of the day. Life is stressful and difficult and tiring as it is without adding on all this internal pressure to do more, do better, be better.

I know I’m not alone in this idea of being too hard on myself, and I’ve seen it in some of my friends too. These impossibly high standards, this very strict definition of success, this merciless idea of what is “acceptable”. It’s an understandable trap, the desire to do more, because it comes from all the best intentions. We believe we can do amazing things, we want to do amazing things, and we want to constantly push ourselves to do the best we possibly can and always strive to improve.

It’s great to want to improve and make or do something you’re proud of.

There is, of course, a point where it goes too far, as is the case with most things.

Because when you start pushing yourself for more and better and greater, you sometimes forget that you’ve actually achieved quite a lot.

And when you start basing your worth as a creator or a person on how “well” you think you’re doing or how much content you’re producing?

That’s a dangerous game.

One big thing I’ve experienced while being depressed is that it is absolutely impossible to live up to any of my high standards while simultaneously fighting through a mental illness. In fact, it’s impossible to even be able to do what I was doing before, which I used to think was “barely adequate”.

No focus, no energy, no motivation. It makes those already sky-high standards feel truly exorbitant.

So as somebody who is often too hard on myself, not being able to accomplish very much is beyond frustrating. It started to eat into my sense of worth, my sense of value. If I’m not producing 2000 words in a day, what kind of writer does that make me? If I’m not writing stories to share, then what am I doing with my time besides wasting it?

It was really easy to fall into this trap of “wasted time”, as if every minute of the day had to be spent doing something “meaningful”.

It’s probably pretty obvious that beating up on yourself like that isn’t a good way to feel better when you’re depressed.

So. Slowly (and painfully), I had to learn to not be hard on myself. Which felt a little bit like telling a fish not to swim, or a dog not to wag its tail when it’s happy. I had to let go of this idea of “wasted time”, I had to let go of this idea of my value being in how many words or stories I was writing, I had to let go of this idea that it’s not okay for me to spend my time reading books and watching YouTube videos and eating snacks in bed.

Because it is okay to do those things. Of course it is.

There is no right or wrong way to spend your time, as long as it’s something you feel is good for you.

Just because you’re not producing or accomplishing something does not at all decrease your worth as a person.

Not gonna lie, for a long time it felt like if I stopped pushing myself, if I told myself it was okay to spend my evening lying in bed listening to music instead of writing, then I would never do the work that makes me feel happy and meaningful and I would never feel better. But making myself feel guilty for not being able to do very much work wasn’t making me feel good at all.

It does feel better, to just accept your limitations. To be gentle with yourself. To admit that broken bones can only heal if you give them lots of rest.

I know that the world favours the capable, that it praises those who can do big, remarkable things, and it feels lonely and disappointing to not be one of the achievers. But it doesn’t stop you from being beautiful or wonderful or incredible or important.

You can be sprawled out on the couch for hours watching Netflix and still have a gorgeous head full of astounding hopes and dreams and beliefs.

You can be wrapped up in a blanket in a dark room and still have a breathtaking heart that is brave and loving and kind.

You can spend your time doing nothing but breathing and still have a laugh that makes the earth shiver and a smile that makes the sun soar and a body made of atoms that started their lives in the hearts of stars.

Your worth will never be tied to how much you can do, you hear me?

You have my full and wholehearted permission to stop being hard on yourself.

I know, it’s like telling a fish not to swim. But you’ll get used to it.

Turns out, floating is kind of nice.

-Alex

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The Good, the Bad, and the Doubtful

Oh, crippling doubt.

A very familiar presence.

I’m pretty sure that the very second you begin to even faintly consider yourself anything of a writer (or any type of creator, really), you automatically sign yourself up for daily/weekly/monthly deliveries of doubt. Doubt that you’re any good, doubt that your work is inspiring or meaningful, doubt that you’re doing the best you possibly can. That little voice at the back of the head nags you, telling you it’s pretentious or passionless or clumsy or juvenile. And from what I’ve gathered, doubt isn’t really the sort of thing that goes away, even after years and years and years spent creating.

And doubt is exactly the thing that came creeping up on me not long after I’d published my last blog post, Infinite Imaginings.

I doubted that it was inspired enough, I doubted that it was written as well as it could have been–I doubted that I did justice to the message I was trying to convey. I felt like maybe I could have been more creative and imaginative, creating deeper, more unique stories for the things I talked about. I felt like maybe if I’d spent more time and really pushed the message, really polished it up, I would have made something so much better.

Of course, there’s the catch: it would have taken more time.

As you’ve possibly noticed, I’ve been trying very hard to blog on a more reliable schedule. I’m aiming to get a post up every Wednesday and Sunday, which means that I’ve been keeping myself busy writing blog posts and juggling this with some of the other projects I’ve been working on. Right now, I don’t have a queue–I’m writing most of these posts the day before they’re due, allowing me to do a quick edit on the posting day and to add any last touches I might think of. I also don’t really have a backlog of ideas–again, these ideas are being thought up one or two days before I’m actually posting them.

It’s not as tight a schedule as when I used to blog every other day (how the heck did I manage that?!), but it’s still a lot tighter of a schedule than, say, posting once every three months. I have to keep coming up with ideas, I have to keep writing them, and I have to keep moving on to the next one just as soon as I’m done.

That means that there’s not too much room for doubt.

I would love to sit down and spend a week or two working on a blog post, carefully crafting it into the best possible content I can produce, and I hope that if I come up with an idea that really inspires me, I will, but if I did that for all my posts, I wouldn’t be able to keep up this schedule. And of course there’s always the risk that if I let the doubt get to me, if I let myself believe it’s not good enough, I need to do better, I might just end up never posting it at all. I might never think it’s good enough to share and then what’s the point of writing it at all?

It’s a really tricky balance, I think, trying to push for the best you can achieve while also allowing yourself to just create.

You really have to be okay with making mistakes, or with producing things that aren’t the best.

I mean, obviously in 20 years I’ll have a different writing style and maybe it will be “better” than the one I have now. Obviously in 20 years I’ll have learned some things and will have more insight and experience to offer. Obviously in 20 years I will be more capable of many things than I am at this very moment. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t write and create things now, even knowing that it won’t be the best I’ll ever achieve.

Because sure, if I look back at all the things I’ve written on Valourbörn, I can find lots of examples of posts I’m admittedly a little embarrassed about. Ideas that weren’t as meaningful as I thought, concepts that I wasn’t very passionate about, messages that just came across clumsy and shallow and not at all what I wanted to be. That tends to happen, when you create things–you make a lot of bad content, you make a lot of mistakes and misjudgements.

But I can also think of lots of posts that I am still really proud of.

Posts that ended up being more inspiring than I first thought, posts that were very significant and personal and honest, posts that made people laugh and smile and feel things. I’ve made plenty of “bad” posts that in hindsight I would have scrapped, but I’ve also made so many posts that remind me why I started blogging in the first place.

I mean, one of the first ones I think of it The Shadow’s Heart, which is a post I wrote on a whim that received a lot more love than I expected. There was the one about not eating dog poo that I thought was pretty fun, and the whole caramel pears debacle that everybody else thought was fun. There’s the story of The Christmas Slug that my mother brings up every year, and The Warrior Within, which holds a special place in my heart. And then, of course, there is the Epic Saga of the  Quest for the Styrofoam Balls. All of these posts make me smile when I recall the passion and energy and heart that went into them.

But the only reason I even have those good posts is because I wasn’t afraid to write the bad ones.

I wasn’t afraid to follow an idea, to take inspiration as it came, and write as honestly and freely as I could.

I wasn’t afraid to tell doubt to shut up for a minute and let me work.

It’s kind of another reason too why I won’t let myself delete any of the old blog posts I’ve written that I’m not fond of anymore. If I let myself delete them, if I deem them “not good enough”, then I’ll be less confident about letting myself make those mistakes. I’ll be thinking “Is this a post I’m going to delete in a few months?” and it will make things worse.

(Plus, it’s always nice to have contrast–it makes my good posts look that much better next to the mediocre ones.)

So sure, maybe I still think that perhaps my last post could have been a little bit better, but at least it’s out there. At least it’s been written, at least it’s been shared. And I mean if you think about it, the only reason I’m writing this post is because I wrote the last one. So it’s provided me with inspiration and more content to produce.

And of course, as is often the case, it applies to more than just blogging or writing or creating.

To do anything good, you can’t be held back by doubt.

You gotta just go for it.

-Alex

Infinite Imaginings

Last week, I noticed on my way home that someone in the neighbourhood has acquired their own little food truck.

I suppose it’s more of a food trailer than a food truck, seeing as how it looks like it fits on the back of a regular truck to be towed around, but still. There’s no mistaking the flashy red paint job and “BBQ & Grill” emblazoned on the side with a picture of some sort of savoury food next to it.

Normally it’s quite easy to tune out the background imagery of the neighbourhood, seeing as how I can pretty much put myself on autopilot to take the familiar drive home from work, but it’s rather hard to miss a bright red food trailer.

The few times since then I’ve driven past the trailer, I’ve been nosily trying to see who owns it and what it looks like on the inside. A couple times I’ve seen the back doors open and someone working away inside, but I’ve never really got a good glimpse of the owner or the kitchen space. Still, it’s a little point of interest to break up the monotony of the daily commute.

And it’s really fun to imagine.

Imagining the proud new owner of the food trailer making plans, babbling on about menu and locations, eagerly setting to work getting the trailer set up for business as the summer creeps closer. Imagining what the summer will be like, the very first season of this new culinary adventure, with people lined up and smoke billowing out the top and the smell of barbecued meat wafting through the hot, sunny afternoon. Imagining what sorts of stories this food trailer owner will soon be able to tell.

It almost burns, the curiosity and accompanying desire to know more, to know what’s true, to know what’s going to happen.

But it’s funny that we humans with our big, imaginative brains, seem to do that. Make stories out of the things we see, weave them into our lives.

A few days ago, as my coworker and I were just getting out of work, I was standing by the door waiting for her when I looked over towards the shipping centre next door and saw a man and woman hauling a big box into their car. The picture on the box indicated it was a child’s stroller, and a big one too. Once they got it in the car, they exchanged a high five before climbing inside.

It made me smile a bit, the little high five, and I wondered if this was their first kid. Was it still just a baby or was it a toddler now, big enough to warrant a bigger stroller? Where were they going to go with that stroller? The park, Disneyland, the zoo? Was the kid actually going to want to be in the stroller or would they at some point demand to go up on dad’s shoulders, to get a better lay of the land?

Just today, I noticed on my way to work a young man taking pictures of the back of his flame-orange pickup truck, which was obviously crumpled from some sort of collision. I only got a glimpse of him, not even enough to see the expression on his face, and I wondered how upset he was. He looked pretty young–was it his first car? Was it his first accident? Was it even an accident, or was it a hit and run in a parking lot, the kind of surprise you really don’t want to find when you get out of the store?

And what possessed him to get such a bright orange truck?

I mean, it’s amazing, but wow. Not many people go for bright orange.

I wonder if it’s his prized possession, that tropical orange truck. Maybe he’s absurdly proud of how unique that colour is, how it makes him so strikingly different from everyone else on the road.

Sometimes it really is just so much fun to wonder these things, to imagine what the answers might be, even if you’ll never find out if you’re right or not.

And I think it’s neat to notice these things, to give them the time of day. Like I said, it’s so easy to slip into the monotony of the day, of routine, and just completely block out all the familiar things around you. But once you actually start to notice things, once you actually pay attention to them and treat them as significant, it seems to fill your day with so much more colour and life.

I mean, you’ve heard me say it before: life is the greatest adventure.

And what a many-layered adventure it can be.

Because if you think about it, even though I don’t own the food trailer or the stroller or the orange pickup truck, even though I could never see any of those things again in my life, they have irretrievably become a small part of my life. They’ve been written into the daily story I’m telling, and the story I’ve chosen to share here.

In a way, they have become a part of my adventure, landmarks to celebrate particular moments along the journey.

If you wanted, you could dive into those little threads of story, you could follow the food trailer and the stroller and the orange pickup truck and you could see all the places they go, all the things they witness. You could take the small part they play in my story and expand it, dig into it like a little pocket of space in the timeline of infinity, and the overall story would become larger.

Let’s say the person with the food trailer serves food to a couple of girls with neon-dyed hair. You could then choose to follow their story, watch them fall in love and get a dog and move to Europe. You could dig into their lives, expand a new pocket of space, and make the story even larger.

You could do that an infinite number of times, opening up pockets, unravelling stories, crafting the overall narrative into something as immense and limitless as the universe itself.

You could take something as simple and linear as my life story and transform it into something massive and boundless.

Just by noticing things, just by imagining things, just by following stories.

I suppose I’ll never actually know the stories of the food trailer or the stroller or the orange pickup truck, and I’ll never get to see the universe-sized story that could be woven together from all the small individual strands, but it doesn’t change that I’m still a part of it. I’m woven into it just like everyone else.

Part of something bigger. Part of something magnificent.

Part of an adventure that’s bigger than anything I could even imagine.

It’s kind of amazing.

-Alex

POTS and Plots

A friend pointed out to me recently that it’s been quite a while since I last mentioned anything about POTS (y’know, that huge novel I was in the process of editing…), which is a fair observation, because I really haven’t said much about POTS lately. Nor have I really been working on it either…

Sigh. I mean, on the bright side, I have been working a little bit on other stories, mostly short stories or short series, so it’s not like I’ve not been writing anything. I just haven’t been writing the one thing I should be writing.

Ohhhh POTS. What am I to do with you?

I think last time I talked about it I’d just “finished” the third draft, or something like that? I can’t even remember anymore. But I realized when I finished that draft and considered moving on to the next one that I was feeling really discouraged by the whole thing.

It feels like, with that draft, I didn’t do very much to improve the story. It feels like, if anything, I might have strayed farther from what I want it to be.

Which is unbelievably frustrating, but not very surprising, given my track record.

I mean, when I first started editing POTS, I had no clue what I was doing. I naively thought that I would be able to just edit as I went through–that most of my problems, I suppose, would just be scenes that needed tweaking or holes that needed a little bit of filling. But that very quickly proved to be mind-numbingly asinine, because trying to fix the beginning of the novel without addressing the issues at the end of the novel really really reaaaaaally does not work.

But I still didn’t really know how to do that, how to rework the entire plot and keep the big picture in mind while also going scene-by-scene to put things in order. So I just kinda winged it as I went along, hoping I was getting closer to the story I wanted while also kind of realizing I was not doing that.

I have realized through a few NaNoWriMos that I tend to have the brain of a pantser (making up the story by the seat of my pants) but I write a much better story if I approach it like a planner. When I’m actually writing the story, I tend to just get into a flow and go with whatever’s coming to mind, which often results in me writing myself into a wall or writing in scenes that are terrible and completely sidetrack the plot (straight off the road and right into the ditch, woo). Things that seem like a great idea while I’m writing them out are often not as good of an idea when I’m reading them back later. If I plan the story before I start writing though, I tend to have much less of this sidetracking and come out with a much more reasonable story.

So clearly that’s the best thing for me to do, to look at the story as a whole and plan out what I need it to be, what needs to happen, and what I need to change. But it’s been terribly difficult for me to do that, and I’m trying to figure out what exactly is going wrong.

I mean, I know roughly what’s going to happen. Bad thing happens > protagonist is taken to other world > joins group of weary adventurers > travels point A to point B to point C > gets in a fight at point 1 and point 2 and point 3 > reaches the final destination > last big battle of the novel. It’s quite simple, really, like most adventuring stories are, and that of course isn’t the problem. It’s all the Whys and Hows that are the problem.

Why does she get sent to the other world? Why does the bad guy want to do bad things? Why do they need to go to their destination? How is the bad guy going to achieve his evil goals? How is everyone going to get from point A to point C? How is the final battle going to play out?

Why is the protagonist here? How is she going to react to all of this?

And it’s the technical parts where I’m really struggling. I can’t make my plot work, I can’t even figure out what I want my plot to be, and it pretty much feels like a big old soggy mess that I can’t for the life of me sift through.

Sooooo naturally, I’ve been avoiding it.

Which isn’t a permanent solution, I know, but it’s been admittedly nice to write short stories that aren’t as confusing and technical.

But of course, POTS is still my baby, and recently I’ve really missed writing it, so I’ve been trying to figure out how to approach it, to actually make it into the story I believe it can be.

And honestly? I’ve been allowing myself to question everything.

I mean everything.

If you think about it, I’ve been working on POTS for about 6 years now. Some of those years took place in high school, some of them took place in university–arguably a very big transitioning point in one’s life. And if you look back to the very original version of POTS, it’s actually a story I wrote when I was in seventh grade, which was about 8 years ago. Clearly, the story has followed me through some pretty big milestones in my life.

It’s only natural, therefore, that my writing style and ability would have changed in the time since POTS was first created. My ability to write, my ability to craft stories and develop meaningful characters, is a hell of a lot better now than it was back then. And who I am as a person, the things I think are important and the things I’ve learned about the world? Astoundingly different from when I started.

On one hand, it’s really cool to look at this story and see elements of my younger vision mixed with elements of my more mature insight. It’s like a scrapbook showcasing my development as both person and writer, and I think it’s what makes POTS such a special story to me.

On the other hand, it’s pretty clear that the story I wrote 6 years ago isn’t quite going to match up with the story I want to write now. I can see now where I’ve made mistakes, where I’ve lacked depth, where I’ve fallen short of the full potential in a scene or character. I can see now where things can be improved, and I can see new ways of bringing life and spirit to the story.

Which is actually quite possibly where I’m tripping myself up.

I’m trying to weave these two very distinct stories together, the young one and the more mature one, and I’m finding that the original plot that I had just doesn’t really work with my current goals. The message I wanted to convey with the story when I first started writing it was much simpler than the one I want to convey now, and I really can’t convey it well if I’m trying to use the same plot I started out with.

Basically: the reason I’m struggling to figure out the plot is because it’s just not working anymore.

I mean, I don’t think I have to throw the whole thing away, but I think I really need to take it in a new direction. And I think the best way to approach the story is to start from the ground up.

Which is what I’ve been trying to do. I’ve been re-establishing my characters (who are they, what do they want), re-designing my world (what’s the current state of affairs, what’s the biggest challenge), and I’ve been re-working my plot (what kind of story do I want to tell, what’s going to happen to get my message across).

It feels nice, in a way, to be able to look at everything again, to give myself this metaphorical Play Dough that I have the freedom to shape into whatever I’d like. What if this character wanted something different? What if the bad guy actually did this instead? What if the protagonist made this decision here and changed the outcome?

It’s made it easier for me to work on POTS because I don’t have all this pressure to make it better, to make things work. I can just play around with things, scrap things or add them in, and I don’t have to worry if it’s an improvement of what came before it–all that matters is that I’m creating something that feels true, that feels important, and feels reflective of what I wanted when I first started writing this story 6 years ago.

It feels an awful lot like creative freedom, and I’m loving it.

I’m hoping that this story that’s grown up with me over the years will blossom into something beautiful.

And heck, I’m hoping I’ll do the same.

-Alex

Happy Birthday to Meeeeee

Four years (and one day) ago, Valourbörn was born.

Which is crazy.

Oh, little blog. How I wish you were more.

I feel like this is the only kind of blog post I can manage anymore. Some woeful daydream about how I’d love to blog more and bring this blog back to life and actually do something meaningful with Valourbörn.

But all the poor thing seems to do these days is collect dust.

It’s just that every time I look at the blog and think huh, maybe I should try to write something today… I just… don’t know what to write.

I mean, it’s not like I’m the same person who started Valourbörn four years ago. I’ve been off to university, and flunked out of university, and got an amazing job at a vet clinic, and am (hopefully) on my way to college. I’ve also been depressed, and trying to pick myself up from that, which has led to a lot of mental and emotional changes and growth.

Which I think is part of it, because I’m still tackling some of these mental and emotional things, and I think in a way rebuilding my identity, so it’s hard to think about other things I could write. And I’ve already determined that I don’t want to blog about depression stuff here, so it leaves me with not a lot to say.

I used to be able to just get a spark of inspiration and sit down with it and churn out an entire blog post all in one sitting. I used to be excited about a lot of things and have a lot of passion for what I was blogging about. Now things seem more complicated. It takes a lot more focus and effort to get out a passionate post like that, and focus and effort are not in surplus at the moment.

Sometimes I think I also overthink things. I’m always considering if I’m getting the right message across, or if my message is “right” or “meaningful enough”, to the point where I’m not confident enough to just try to say it. Or I get a stroke of inspiration and think yeah, I’ll write about that, but when I actually manage to find time to sit down and write it out, I’ve lost the spark. And maybe too I’m just afraid that I’ll run out of things to say. Which is silly because I haven’t even said anything at all.

Huff. I don’t know what to do.

I mean, I still don’t know what I want Valourbörn to be. I actually don’t think I ever did. I just kinda winged it.

But I can’t bear to just close the blog down, because I still love what Valourbörn stands for, and I still believe it has potential. Plus, I used to love blogging. I met a lot of amazing people through it, some of whom I still talk to fairly regularly. It’s not a part of my life I’m keen to give up.

It’s just… not really a part of my life, you know?

So. What on earth am I to do?

In case you hadn’t guessed it (but this is me we’re talking about, so you probably have) Your Story is totally not happening. Sorry sorry, I just really was not as capable of taking on that project as I thought I was. Yes, you can roll your eyes if you’d like. I know this is a common story with me.

I’d be surprised if anyone even remembers Language of the Small Folk, but I’d like to try to finish that eventually. Key word being eventually. I still think it’s an important story for me and I’d like to try to tell it.

Other than that… I don’t know what exactly to do with this poor old blog. I think I’ll work on cleaning it up a bit, for starters, fix the old About pages and maybe even reconsider the theme for the thousandth time. And I’m also going to just try to write something. Just make a post at the end of the week where even if I just write about how the week went, at least I’m writing something.

Maybe that will help get the creative juices going? Hopefully…?

I think I’m at a point right now where I’m just really tired of looking at all the times I’ve tried things but was unsuccessful, and of being surrounded by lots of things that I’m just not capable of doing at the moment. I want to do something, I want to succeed at something, I want to take this dusty blog and bring it back to vibrant life.

I will succeed.

Somehow.

Probably.

And I know I say this sort of thing a lot, I know I always make these promises and then things just fall through, and heck, even I’m skeptical, but hey. Maybe this will be the lucky shot. Because one of them has to be, right?

Right…?

-Alex

Your Story 2017

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In 2014, I started a collaborative project called YOUR STORY. It’s exactly what it sounds like–it’s your stories, straight from your own hearts. It reflects the belief that life is truly the greatest adventure, and we are all the heroes of our own lives. Everyone has strength and courage and hope. I want to hear those stories. I want to celebrate that strength. I want you to see just how remarkable you are.

This is your opportunity to share your story, to put it somewhere where it will be recognized for its worth and importance. Everyone has different experiences, everyone has different struggles, but it takes courage to live, to endure difficult times, to pursue happiness.

This is your story. This is your strength.

The Story:

  • You can tell your story however you think is best (fiction or memoir are both accepted)
  • You can use any style (e.g. humorous vs. heartfelt, essay vs. poetry)
  • Wordcount is flexible (the longest story was 3000 words, the shortest was 150)
  • Keep the language rated PG, please and thank you

The Rights:

  • This story 100% belongs to you forever
  • My only rights are to post it on my blog, tweak some formatting, and run a spellcheck
  • You can post it anywhere you’d like without crediting me
  • You can ask me to take it down at any point in time if you change your mind

The Process:

  • I’m accepting submissions from now till March 1st
  • You can submit your story by emailing me at valourborn@gmail.com
    • it can be an attachment or pasted in the email itself
  • You can have it published anonymously or under your preferred name
    • you can also give me links to your blog/social media to include with the post
  • Please include links/files for any videos and pictures you want to include
  • You will have a chance to approve the post before it goes live
  • I’ll also send you a link in an email telling you when it’s posted

There’s no theme for this story. Any experience of strength or weakness, courage or fear, happiness or despair are welcome. It’s up to you what you’d like to share, it’s up to you which moments are important, and there’s really no right or wrong topic for your story. I’m not looking for a polished masterpiece, I just want you to share something honest and meaningful.

I do ask that you keep the subject matter more or less PG, just because of the nature of my blog. If you have any concerns, feel free to send me an email and we can talk about it. I want you to be able to share your story in the best way possible.

If you’d like some inspiration, I’d encourage you to read the previous story entries. Or if you’d like to try writing to a specific theme, I’d challenge you to write about hope. This past year has been difficult for lots of people, but the darkest times are when hope is most important. Let your story be a beacon cutting through the darkness.

I hope that I can share lots of stories in the next couple months and celebrate the incredible strength and spirit of ordinary heroes. Whether you consider yourself remarkable or not, your life is truly an adventure worth sharing.

You are all wonderful. Never forget it.

-Alex

Lucky Number Seven

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Ah, 2017. The year that couldn’t come fast enough.

I’m not the only one who thinks 2016 was especially terrible. Not even just with world events, but in my own personal life there were lots and lots of stumbles. There were of course good things tossed into the mix that shouldn’t be ignored, but largely I’m welcoming 2017 with open arms.

My first real accomplishment of 2017?

Applying to college.

Y’know. For the second time in my life.

I’ve recently decided to make a slight change of direction regarding my career path, so instead of going back into the animal bio program this fall, I’ll hopefully be going into the vet tech program at a different university. The vet tech program will be nice because I’ll only be taking a couple online courses in the fall and winter semesters, allowing me to keep working at the vet clinic I’m at, and then in the summer I’ll go to the university to actually do the hands-on courses and build on a lot of the skills I’m already learning at work.

I think it’s going to be a more exciting and fulfilling experience for me than taking biochem for the third time, and I think it will be good to be able to continue my education without drowning in coursework that’s beyond my current ability. Therefore, starting off 2017 by finishing up my application is a very positive beginning to what I hope will be a very good year.

Speaking of positive beginnings.

2016 was a rough year for lots of people, requiring tons of strength, courage, and hope to get through it. But we made it. We are here starting over, redefining ourselves with resolutions and commitments to change. We are counting blessings and celebrating victories. And I think we should be celebrating. Because whether your last year was spent with endless struggles or with personal victories, I hope that everyone can acknowledge how remarkable and wonderful it is that we’ve completed another long year. I think one way of celebrating that accomplishment is with another round of your personal stories.

I skipped Your Story last summer because I was so swamped, but with the new year happening and myself being in a much better place, I’d like to take the opportunity to share your strengths and victories once more. I’ll make another post for that explaining the details and whatnot, and will hopefully have it up sometime tomorrow. So keep your eyes peeled and get your stories ready my dears.

So. Shall we review the past year?

October

Ah yes, my favourite time of year. I was a lot more relaxed about October this time around, trying not to stress myself out too much about the whole Halloween thing so I’d actually have time to enjoy it. And I did. I really did. My costume this year was Red from Transistor and I should really take the opportunity some time to talk about it more because the character means so damn much to me. I also just felt really good about myself in October. Lots of body positivity, lots of happiness. It was a good month.

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November

November, not so much. I did try to do NaNoWriMo, as per usual, but I really just struggled. I mean, things were changing at work and I had more hours and I was starting on with a new therapist and Christmas was starting to gear up and I just didn’t have the time or energy or focus to complete NaNoWriMo. I wrote a few thousand words, so I still accomplished something, but I was still a bit disappointed and discouraged to have failed this year. I know I can accomplish incredible things when I put my mind to it so it feels like a more personal failure.

December

Ugh, what a crazy month. Christmas snuck up on me for sure. I had one super stressful week at work where everyone but me had final exams so I was covering basically everyone else’s shifts, but I survived and impressed myself with my own capabilities, which is always a good boost to the old self-esteem. Christmas itself wasn’t even as stressful as I expected, me learning to take extra breaks and lower my expectations of myself when needed, and Christmas morning with my family was really, really lovely. This was also the month I decided to rent a violin and start learning to play, which has been such a fun experience so far.

So that was the past few months. As for the year as a whole, well. Many of the resolutions I made last January 1st didn’t quite take hold as well as I’d have wanted them to.

  • Work through the 3rd draft
    • Get some people to read it
  • Blog more (I’ve missed it)
  • Find balance and bravery, one step at a time
  • Build up my self-esteem
    • Start by admitting that my words and my self are important
  • Let go. Just let go. It’s the past. Let it go.

POTS, for example, didn’t get quite as far as I wanted, and nobody ended up reading any of it. Which is fine. It was a difficult year. I did what I could. Unfortunately, the blogging also went rather poorly. As did the whole finding balance thing… I’m maybe a little braver, and maybe think a little better of myself, but yeah–I could definitely still learn a thing or two about letting go.

Which is all right. That’s not really the point of the resolutions, you know? You don’t have to succeed, you just have to try. And I did, and I can see where I made progress, so that’s good. It’s all good.

But. This year has some resolutions too.

  • Keep writing. Always keep writing.
  • Blog more (for real this time)
  • Continue learning to love myself
  • Continue learning to breathe and let go
  • Spread more love to others

They’re not very specific, they don’t come with any particular plans, but they’re things I’d like to learn to do and they’re things I want to have as part of my life. I’m especially hoping for the writing and blogging ones, because I think they’ll help with the rest of it. And I’ve really missed having lots of words in my life.

As always, I’ll leave you with a song that meant something to me this past year. It’s High Hopes by Kodaline, because I have high hopes for this upcoming year and I believe that we are capable of amazing things. Sure, there are stumbles, sure, there are struggles, but we’re here. We are going places. I am hopeful.

Happy New Year, guys. I hope–I genuinely hope–it’s a good one for you.

Any resolutions you’d like to share?

-Alex

October Already?

Well.

I suppose it goes without saying that Villain Awareness Month is not going to be a thing this year.

Which honestly… it’s frustrating. I’m frustrated, even with just the lack of posting the last little while. I’m the kind of person that likes to have a bunch of projects on the go and push myself to make progress and produce good things and so not making progress and producing things is very frustrating.

I feel like my life is a ridiculous balancing act that I just can’t keep up with, or a race that I’m just barely managing to win by like a fraction of a second, even though I can’t quite fathom where this sense of pressure is coming from.

I mean, all I’m really doing is working right now. I don’t have school to add things like deadlines and tests and studying to my workload. I work a steady, not-overwhelming job that gives me a very comfortable number of hours each week and doesn’t require me to do anything like studying or homework. Really, I should be quite relaxed. And yet.

The logical explanation would be that I’m just putting a lot of pressure on myself but at the same time… I’m trying very hard to relax and not push myself. I’m trying not to let myself get too worked up about not blogging or whatever, but I still feel very anxious. Which makes it hard to blog when I’m not able to just indulge in some creative, cathartic writing.

But in any case. I might put together a couple Halloween-esque posts this month, but yeah, VAM is so not happening unfortunately. I’m not even sure I’ll be attempting to do Your Story in November like I mentioned… sigh. We’ll see.

I guess first I gotta work on finding my zen. If only I knew where to start.

Any suggestions?

-Alex

Lights in the Sky

There are some people who are as radiant as the sun.

Their light is bright and warm and powerful. They illuminate every room with their imagination, brilliance, and joy. They are not easily forgotten or ignored. They are wonderful and caring and oh so happy.

But there are some people who are more like the moon.

Quiet, reserved. Their light is subtler, surrounded by a deep and awful darkness. And their light is… fragile. Easily lost, easily drowned out. It doesn’t make it any less beautiful, but it makes it much harder to hold onto. Much harder to light the way.

And while the sun rises every day without fail, the moon is much less predictable.

Sometimes it’s bright and full, light unhindered and beauty shining for all to see, but sometimes it is thin and dark and swallowed whole by the abyss.

And those days are hard for the people whose souls are like moons. Because when the darkness has swallowed you whole, what light is left to guide you?

Of course, just as the moon passes through its phases, so too does the light emerge once more from the darkness in a never-ending cycle. But unlike the people whose souls are like suns, the moon people must accept that hardship, struggle, and fear are going to cycle in and out of their lives, ebbing and flowing like ocean tides.

And they must accept, as hard as it is, that there will be winter nights that are so much longer than summer nights–nights when the darkness lingers until it is nearly unbearable.

But every night passes. Every new moon bears new life. The full moon always comes back again.

It’s hard. But it’s the way the world is.

And just because the lights are different, just because one may not be as warm or as strong as the other, doesn’t mean one is worth more.

Because I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t stand to wake up without a sun in the sky.

And a night without a moon would be excruciating.

May your light be ever cherished.

-Alex

Editor for Hire

This lovely writer is doing some editing work if any of you are interested! :)

Adventures in Writing

As you know, I am a writer. You may not know that I also edit work (and not just my own). I have edited both fiction and non-fiction for friends and family members. I am now opening that opportunity up to you, my blogging buddies!

Proofreading consists of checking for typos and formatting issues. (That’s errors such as misspellings, lonely words, and accuracy with page numbers and table of contents.) Proofreading is most helpful for a fully finished draft that has gone through many revisions and is about to be sent in for consideration (or in the case of articles and papers, turned in). Proofreading should be your last step.

Copy editing is for checking grammar, syntax, capitalization and punctuation, missed words, repeated words, using the best word for the job, tenses, and other language errors. This step is for when you have your story completed and are ready to…

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