A Brilliant 2020

I already wrote my post reflecting on 2019, so this post is about my hopes for 2020 and beyond. Last year, I said I don’t like resolutions because they’re broken so easily, but I did keep to my 2019 goal of reading 40+ books (the grand total is over 60 and I promise I’ll post the entire list and highlight my favorites). I also sent queries to over 20 agents, so I kept to my goal of pursuing publishing in 2019. I *didn’t* do so hot at keeping up bi-weekly manicures (and my hands are still a mess most of the time) BUT I was getting a little better at “treating” myself more frequently–then we moved and I’ve yet to find a nail salon I love as much as the one in the Central West End (but one goal for 2020 is to stop being passive-aggressively-bitter about no longer living in St. Louis).

Riding on last year’s coattails, my goals for 2020 are similar. This year, my goal is 50 books. I’m not anticipating the downtime of a move between jobs, so most of my reading will be squeezed into the in-between-life moments: brushing my teeth, waiting for elevators, steeping my tea in the mornings.

I’ve decided to hold off querying any more agents until I’ve gotten a first draft of my sequel finished. Partially because I think this might take some pressure off, mostly because I know how the story ends but no idea how to get there, and I like the flexibility of being able to tweak book 1 if needed to make the entire story better. So my 2020 goal is to finish drafting Sticks and Stones (working title), then regroup in terms of publishing. (Of course, that goes completely out the window if an agent offers representation now) 😉

I like the idea of doing something very resolution-y and health/physical-body-related, even though my follow through is statistically horrible. I’m going to try getting up a half hour early and incorporating a quick yoga routine into my mornings. And maybe get more manicures again.

I’m also going to return to therapy in 2020. This one’s kind of cheating, because I’ve already made the appointment, but I like crossing things off lists. Look at me go, already starting 2020 ahead of the game! I want to be more honest (I know that’s a goal I’ve had in the past, but this year I’m particularly focused on no longer lying to myself), and I hope therapy will help me separate out how I actually think/feel/want to act from the ways I *think* I should think/feel/act.

And I’m totally going to bake more, because I absolutely love it. I want to master challah, and tackle at least 5 items on my baking bucket list in 2020: macarons, croissants, sandwich bread, pretzel buns, and rainbow cookies.

Because everything in life should come with a soundtrack, here’s my song for 2020: BRILLIANT by Shinedown. If I can be one thing in 2020, let it be this kind of brilliant.

Best Nine of 2019

I love the trend of posting your best nine pics of a given year. Not only is it a chance to revisit some excellent memories and gather them all into one collage (remember making actual collages in the 90s, pasting together photos and stickers and ticket stubs? Am I dating myself?), but pulling together nine pictures from across a year reminds you just how blessed you are.

Maybe I’ve just had an extraordinarily *good* year. Maybe I’m just getting better at seeing the positives. Either way, this year I struggled to narrow down my 2019 experiences into nine thumbnail-sized shots. So what are blogs for, if not reminiscing?

At the beginning of the year, we got a perfect snow in St. Louis–enough to disrupt work for a day, not enough to put us on lockdown. One of the neighborhood restaurants opened its patio that night and provided free spiked hot chocolate/hot toddies around fire pits. Such a midwestern thing to do, and such spontaneous, snowy fun!

We also went to our first (and only) musical at the Fox Theatre while in the Lou. Fiddler on the Roof was every bit as magical as I remember it being when I watched it on VHS in middle school (moreso, since it was live, and I was old enough to appreciate what was going on in the story–I did NOT realize how dark it gets in Act II!).

Taking advantage of our location, we did a long weekend in the other Lou–touring bourbon distilleries, appreciating the baseball history, and visiting Churchill Downs. Louisville remains one of my favorite trips we’ve taken, and I can’t wait to visit again!

2019 saw the first newborn member inducted into the Olin Boys’ Club, as well as a whole host of get-togethers and adventures with our b-school buddies. These include Olin’s formal, graduation, and a trip to the Ozarks, to feature a few. The hubs turned 30, which we celebrated with bowling followed by a rooftop bar.

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We also enjoyed adult beverages in the street, because St. Louis.

We visited Chicago and continued an hour north to see Milwaukee (my favorite of the small cities we’ve visited since moving to St. Louis). We popped home in time to watch the Blues win the Stanley Cup. Then began our journey east.

After a pit stop in Indianapolis (and another, not-pictured, in Pittsburgh), we made it to our new home in DC. I worked on polishing my manuscript and query materials, and began seeking agent representation for my novel.

My brother visited during his (too) brief tour of the US before returning to Korea. I bravely (for me) explored DC on my own, between job-hunting and writing. And my in-laws (after at least 8 years of talking about it) *finally* bought a home in Old Town.

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We made it out to Rehoboth Beach, where we discovered we’re no longer used to the brilliance of a sun reflecting off ocean waves.

An agent responded to one of my queries, complimenting my writing sample and requesting more. I couldn’t stop smiling the entire walk home from our new favorite pizza place. My husband bought a car (unrelated, but almost as exciting for him).

Dear friends tied the knot. Others have growing families. I turned 30.

And celebrated with a parade. Okay, that was for the Nationals, since they won the World Series and all. I started a new job with a fun group of people. I watched so much Great British Baking Show that I was inspired…

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The challah that started it all!

I spent time with those adorable faces (and equally adorable sister- and brother-in-law, not pictured). I baked a lot more delicious stuff. Turns out, I’m a baker! #challahatyagirl

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As the year winds down, holiday parties are filling the calendar. Crazy to think there’s only a week left in 2019, and in the 2010s! What a decade it was. Here’s to the memories, friendships, and epic life changes!

And to 2020: No pressure. 😉

Let’s Do What We Can to Get Our First 2019 Post Out in January…

Hi guys! It’s me, your (possibly) favorite recluse! Welcome to 2019, the year in which I anticipate several big changes–most notably, my husband’s graduation and eventual job-starting in a potentially new city (fingers crossed it stays St. Louis, though–and other fingers crossed it’s another entirely new adventure, I could go either way). Also, there’s the whole matter of my *finally* hitting the big 3-0 at the end of the year, which I anticipate will be hugely satisfying and I intend to arrive there with the two gray hairs I’ve grown and not a single one more.

I also have a goal to pursue publishing this year. Like, query some agents, let my baby fly, drown my rejected sorrows in any manner of alcohols, publish. I know I’ve had publishing as a soft goal in years past, but this year I intend to put my story into the world–even if no one bites until next year/the following, the process starts in 2019!

I’ve also made a goal (that sounds so much more “adult” and attainable than “resolution” don’t you think?) to read 40 books this year. So far, I’ve read 3. I’ll try to be better about posting reviews/recommendations (please note: that one’s a try, not a goal 😉 )

My last resolution–because this one feels the most like something I’ll say at the beginning of the year and let drop off sometime mid-February–is to take better care of my hands. I have Reynaud’s Syndrome which makes them dry out easily, especially in the winter, as well as anxiety that is short-term-soothed by picking at dry cuticles and ragged nails, but I’m an adult now (I’m practically 30, if you didn’t catch that). So I’m getting semi-regular gel manicures with the hopes I can train myself to treat my nails better with the hardier polish until I reach a point where I can be trusted to get a regular manicure bi-weekly without chipping the normal polish as soon as I get home.

So that’s my beginning to 2019. How’s yours going so far?

What Happened to 2018?

Oh, hey, guys! So, turns out 2018 is practically OVER. When did this happen? I seriously feel like I blinked at the Thanksgiving dinner table and suddenly December is more than half-finished.

Ever happen to anyone else?

I’m staying on top of the borderline panic that builds with each day I *don’t* notice ripping off the calendar by burying my head farther into the sand and pretending life isn’t speeding right on past. And by sand, I mean my book–the one I simultaneously feel so incredibly proud of and also want to douse in kerosene and light on fire (metaphorically, of course. While I have plenty of hard-copy drafts, the heart of it lives in my laptop and have you SEEN what computers cost these days??). Most days, I’m so excited about this story that is a living, breathing thing taking over my soul that I want to start posting excerpts and side stories on my blog so I can get more people loving it too.

Before you start saying “yes, please!” (Mom–looking at you), I’ve got to admit I’m nowhere near ready. I thought I had a really great, polished draft to give to a technical-writer-friend to look over for the mechanical stuff (and to tell me if the story is in fact good) and not halfway through sending her chapters, I’ve already changed so much. And that’s both exciting and disheartening, because I want so badly for it to be out of me already, but I also want it to be perfect–or as perfect as it can ever be.

Damn, there I go ranting about my book again. I just wanted to pop in and say, ‘hey, I survived NaNoWriMo and it was awful.’ I guess I’ll save that for another post. For now I’m going to go pretend I’m *not* stress-sweating over the fact that Christmas is next week (um, how??). If I don’t get another post out before the New Year (at this rate, I’ll be happy to get myself to the New Year), have a glorious Christmas, a magnificent Candlenights, an enjoyable Festivus, and a fantastic New Year. (PS SORRY I MISSED CHANUKAH, I HOPE IT WAS WONDERFUL–we did get most of the candles lit but I’m pretty sure the grinch stole a couple nights in the middle. That’s the only explanation for this lost time.)

If I Can Be Honest

This year, I’m going to be more honest. This means if I take a picture that’s perfectly Instagram-worthy, I’m going to mention all the little tweaks and not-so-perfect behind the scenes details that got it there. This means I’m probably going to swear more, because as Tosca Lee once said about picturing her mom reading her writing, “even if I didn’t write it down, I’m thinking it anyway.” (hi, Mom). This means I’m not going to shy away from discussing my struggles when I feel led to do so, or pretend I’m healthier than I am, even if my husband calls it “dirty laundry.”

Because that’s the problem. We treat things like anxiety and mental illness as dirty laundry, something to be swept under the rug or shoved into a rarely-used closet. Ignore it until it goes away.

But it doesn’t go away.

When left unattended, it gets into the good liquor and has a party. It scribbles over the walls in permanent marker and TPs the neighbors’ yards.

And we smile and laugh and pretend like the chaos inside isn’t tearing us apart. Because otherwise, we might embarrass our loved ones. Otherwise, someone else might see the chinks in our seemingly perfect facade.

To be fair, my husband is often eerily good at navigating my darker days. He’s understanding and loving. He simply accepts it (without trying to “fix it”) when I tell him I’m having a rough day, or my chest aches, or I’m just not feeling well inside. He recognizes times I may overspend my spoons (side note: spoon theory is one of the best explanations for life with chronic illness I’ve ever read) and helps me better plan my days so I don’t exhaust myself too early. He encouraged me to seek professional help, which I cannot recommend enough if you are struggling with anything.

That’s something else that is so important to me: removing the stigma around counseling and therapy. It’s so beneficial to have an objective person to bounce ideas off of, and it is incredibly validating to have someone who spent years of their life studying mental processes tell you that you aren’t in fact crazy. My therapist took all my Google-search- and undergrad-psych-fueled fears, and refuted most — and better explained others. She helped me understand the anxieties I do have, and gave me a multitude of exercises to practice to better cope.

Seriously, talk to someone. Everyone could get something out of it.

Even if it’s the freedom of not feeling the need to censor oneself. That’s what this year is about for me: freedom from hiding who I really am. Also, discovering who I really am. You know, now that I’m being honest.