Sunday, December 31, 2017

Notes from a year named Illuminate: Epilogue

2017 came on the heels of what felt like a hard, cracked-earth kind of personal year (2016 had been named Thrive.) It was a hard year for everyone, but it was hard for me because I left something—someone toxic behind. As I choose to name 2017 Illuminate, I knew that it was also going to shine on the shadowy parts of me... make me have to examine them.

There were chunks of 2018 that were one trigger after another, a continuous deep breath and stop to determine why I was jumping, furious or terrified, at those shadows. It has been a year of learning there is a lot that was not good or actively harmful in the years before this. A year of coming to understand that healing isn't a thing one does once and is done—it takes time and hard work, and then one has to keep doing it.

Maybe what I have at the end of this year is a deeper understanding of how the past can be the past, but it irrevocably informs the present. It conditions one to see certain shapes in those shadows. To see those shadows behind other people.

The job that I took in March offered me a promotion in early December, a recognition of my knowledge and expertise. Informally the team had been coming to me, and the promotion was to formalize what the company recognized was already happening. There are some uncertainties around this heading into the new year, but we're going to be all right. Their faith in me is sometimes alarming, mostly because it helps me understand what a lack of support there was from management at my previous employer.

This year instead of tracking words, I tracked days. 181 of them. That's how often I made time to write, to work on words whether it resulted in 35 or 3000.  And I finished a draft. It's not the draft I intended to finish, but it's the one closer to getting me somewhere in publishing. I feel like it's the same draft I finish every year for the past four, but I'm saying it counts because that decision belongs to me. I'm currently on a read through of the draft, so I can share with people in January.

Starting tomorrow, with the brand new year, I begin working on a brand new project. The goal is to complete it in 2018. I'm trying to remain ambitious, but at least realistic about what I can accomplish. That's another thing I learned this year, my frustrations come from being someone who thrives on accomplishing goals. When the goalposts are constantly being re-evaluated, it makes me bonkers. I've set a goal that should be attainable and then through factors and other people it can't be attained, which results in me feeling like those people are obstacles instead of resources.

It's not a thing I enjoy about myself, and it requires more than knowing it's there. But I'm actively managing it in a way I couldn't last year.

I also took 2017 off blogging. I don't know if I'm coming back to it. It's time and words that I found more helpful to put into actual writing. But I look at entries from previous years, discussing what I learned, and chronicling my progress is helpful. What's left to decide is the best way to do that.

I wish I believed that January 1st gave us all a hard reset, but I'm not sure that I do anymore. It's more it's that we get our allotted damns for the year back, and that we have permission to evaluate where we are going to keep putting them.

I hope you are warm, well-rested, and that you send off 2017 the way of your choosing. See you in 2018.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Notes from a year named Illuminate

I've taken 2017 off blogging—putting words into other things and other places, but tradition is tradition is tradition. So. Here we are. 36.

It is a strange thing to go to work on four hours sleep at 36, hazed and mostly content in one's skin. I went to see Oh Wonder last night; they were great, even if the crowd was a mixed bag. I came home buzzing with concert and unable to sleep. Some things don't change.

In March, I left my community management and customer service job with FAN EXPO HQ to go work as a community manager for a digital agency. The team I'm on is seconded to a consumer package goods client. It's not a weird job. It's possibly not weird enough. But it pays better than pop culture conventions, I'm on the biggest team I've been on yet in my marketing career, and I'm community managing four major accounts.

It's not as easy to have fun. The content is not as interesting. There's no flow yet, no sense of completion at pulling off a massive event by sheer force of will and knowing what happens next. But I spent the Thursday evening of FAN EXPO Canada with my former colleagues and... I miss them, and we make a point of staying in touch, but it's not a place I could go back to.

I'm not sure about the fit of me and agency life, but it is absolutely helping me hone my skills and focus on what it is about social media I enjoy. Where I want my career to go. And I'm grateful for that. I'm grateful for the foundation that allows me to strive and push myself and repair the damage to my confidence that I didn't fully grasp was there until earlier this year.

It is good to feel competent and confident again. It's good to consider the possibility of being able to move into a place above ground on my own. It's good to have time and energy for friends and hobbies and life.

I went to a writer's retreat in August. I'm not writing every day this year, but I'm working steady, and I believe in what I'm doing again. It's no longer this bitter, I worked so hard snarl of frustration. It's an understanding of knowing what I can and can't give to the business. What kind of publishing career those choices will allow.

I'm reading more than writing, but maybe that's the flow of it. A year focused on making words; a year focused on learning how to make words. Maybe. I no longer feel like I'm writing because I'm running out of time—because I have to or else—but because I want to.

My grandmother has dementia. It's a little more obvious each time I see her, so I feel compelled to visit while it will still matter. My travel this year has been to family, including a trip to celebrate my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary earlier this month. It was a lot of work, done primarily by my mother, but worth it to see my grandfather enjoying himself and not having to be the one doing the work at a family event.

It's been six years, Toronto and I. What a thing when you realize a city becomes home even if you weren't planning on it. Even if it's because of jobs, because of leases, because of choices. The home of my heart will always be: BC mountains with their streams feeding into deep, clear lakes; rivers combining and making their way to the Pacific Ocean; skies so big you can't see them all at once. There will always be a deeper peace waiting for me there I don't feel in Toronto.

But I am here. This city is home. I didn't think, six years ago, that it would be. It is easier to think that in another six years, I'll still be here.


And now, the note for next year... because that's really what these birthday posts have always been. Notes for a future self from a present self (reflecting on a past self.)

Acknowledge I'm often the expert in the room and go get the job that recognizes it as well. That might be found where I am. That might mean moving on to somewhere else.

Keep writing. Even if it's not this story or the next one. None of them have ever really been the one, and that's not ever really been why I do it. Get new critique partners or finally take people up on those offers to read.

Go on an actual vacation. That's starting to sound like Japan. But pick something. Book the ticket. Go on the trip. It's time for some of that time off to not be spent visiting family.

Get finances in order and talk to the bank about mortgages. I'm not going from the end of this lease to a purchase, but if I can see myself still wanting to be in Toronto in another six years then it's time to buy a condo.

Remember I have Lorde tickets for next March.

Keep growing. Keep glowing. Onwards. Upwards. Keep walking towards those mountains.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Best Books of 2016

I read 48 books in 2016—many were great, a number of them were magnificent, and there are a few that months later, I don't remember at all. So let's stick to the ones that left a lasting impression.

If you only have time for a Top 5:

1. This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab (Monsters of Verity 1) 
This is perhaps my favourite book of 2016. It's both a re-interpretation of the Romeo and Juliet trope, as well as a powerful look at what makes someone human/what makes someone a monster. I love the characters; I love the world. It's a triumphant return to YA for Schwab.

2. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
One of the best books I read this year, Yoon has written an intricate story of two people and their lives and love and how it echoes out into everyone they meet and encounter. It's got an incredible voice for each of its narrators, and

3. Crooked Kingdoms by Leigh Bardugo (Six of Crows 2)
I love the characters in Bardugo's Kettledam books, and given that this was a duology means tightly executed arcs. They're heist books with complicated and diverse casts, and the world is built with an ease that belies how vast and complex it is.

4. Spindle by E.K. Johnston (A Thousand Nights 2)
Thoughts about it here

5. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Cycle Finale)
Thoughts on it here

If you've got time, here are some other great ones I read in 2016:

Behold the Bones by Natalie C Parker (Beware the Wild companion)
Thoughts on it here.

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab (A Darker Shade of Magic 2)
AGoS was more than a middle book in a trilogy—it's better and more engaging than ADSoM, but it also perfectly sets up the finale. (A CONJURING OF LIGHT is out in February.)

Exit Pursued By A Bear by E.K. Johnston
I read it n 2015, but it came out this year. Johnston's first contemporary title is a powerful reimagining of A Winter's Tale. It features what I very much love about her work: People taking care of each other and small towns/rural settings being treated as important and vibrant as cities. It's a book about how important it is to write the world the way it should and can be.

Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff
I'm not sure I would have enjoyed this book as much as I did had I read it at any other time, but Yovanoff's lyrical prose is at its best and the magical/unusual element is so subtle that this might as well be contemporary.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab (2013)
A look at heroes and villains, this dark novel really gets superheroes.

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn
This fun book about superheroes manages to also say important things about friendships. Led by a diverse cast, it's a romance with a little bit more to it.

Necessity by Jo Walton (Thessaly 3)
Walton's finale to her Thessaly trilogy makes up for the somewhat meandering second book, and brings everything together in a meaningful way.

A Little Taste of Poison by R.J. Anderson (Uncommon Magic 2)
Anderson has written two stupendous magical mystery books with delightful characters in an early 20th Century setting. They are all the best bits of Dianna Wynne Jones.

Swan Riders by Erin Bow (Prisoners of Peace 2)
Bow has written an incredible companion to The Scorpion Rules that explores identity and humanity.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Lyrical with influences from Indian and Greek lore, this lush fantasy story spends time building its world and intrigue.

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi
A colourful adventure through a magical land of Mafi's own creation, Furthermore is in turns delightful and terrifying. A magical middle grade.

The Dream Quest of Vilette Boe by Kij Johnson ( novella)
A reimagining/sequel of The Dream Quest of the Unknown Kadat, Johnson provides a feminist view of Lovecraft.

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
A feminist Dexter, McGinnis writes a great friendship between a set of characters. Again a smalltown setting. (I'm sure Netflix will make an adaptation of it soon enough.)

Every Heart a Doorway by Sean McGuire (Wayward Children 1)
Interesting characters, excellent concept. It's a little thinly written, but if it is going to be an ongoing series then perhaps the author will flesh things out in multiple shorter volumes instead of a single story.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker
This was not what I was expecting at all, despite being warned by several people that it wasn't going to be what I was expecting. What could be an animal in the wild adventure becomes a contemplation of human nature, world, and love.

Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston
This is the first Star Wars tie-in I've ever read, and I had no familiarity with The Clone Wars beyond a brief introduction from friends. As a result, there are things that I understood would've meant more to another reader. But there is enough introduction that a new reader will feel intrigued and want to learn more. Also, Ahsoka Tano is the best Jedi ever.

A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith
This book conveys the experience of being a Japanese American in Japan (please note it's not an ownvoices title.) It's seeped with the sense of being in Japan, but it's dark and angry in a way that Western stories about Japan don't tend to be.

Fate of Flames (Effigies 1) by Sarah Raughley
This book is heavily influenced by Avatar the Last Airbender, Pacific Rim, and Sailormoon. It's great to read a diverse cast in a book that commits to being over the top. It's very well-paced and the fight scenes are intensely visual.

Searching for John Hughes by Jason Diamond
I don't read a lot of nonfiction, but Diamond has an interesting tale of how Hughes movies and their settings in and around where he grew up influenced his life. Like many of Hughes movies it's a tale of what someone went through and had to overcome, and how they ended up all right.