Thursday, December 31, 2015
January 1st, 2015, no one had any idea there was 9 feet of snow on the horizon for Boston. And I had no idea what was on my personal horizon, either. I started the year at a low point, with only one hope--that even though my book wasn't selling, the new one I was writing would. That was what I clung to as the snow piled up, burying all of us Bostonians in our own trapped worlds for months on end.
At work, life was taken over by the new program I was lead developer on. We scrambled to make up snow cancellations, and I scrambled to pull together a new workshop in a third of the usual development time.
When the snow finally melted and we could venture back outside, I got severely poisoned by my food allergy and spent over a month in misery, occasionally passing out--once so badly that I broke my finger upon falling.
Still, I pressed on. The book had to get finished. The program had to get out the door. I refused to fail any of my commitments.
July arrived. I was walking on the thinnest of wires between health (and sanity) and complete immune breakdown. I knew it--and that was the saddest part of all. I knew it, and pushed myself on anyway. My book was drafted and sent to my agent, but the program wasn't done yet for work. That had to get done. It had to!
Mere days before its premiere, my immune system finally gave up on me and my single-minded obsession to GET EVERYTHING DONE. I woke up with a fever of 102, went to work ANYWAY, and then that night had to be rushed to the ER by a couple of very loyal friends as I spiked to almost 104.
I had never felt more shame.
The 104 degree fever stayed. For a full week. The fever stayed, I was diagnosed with pneumonia, and I ended up having such a severe cough that I fractured at least one rib. My program did end up going out the door on time, but I wasn't there to see it off.
People had to babysit me. Feed me. Feed my cats. I barely remember most of those days. I wasn't me. I wasn't human.
It's hard to put into words how it feels to have your autonomy completely taken away by an illness. Meanwhile, around me, life went on. My program went on without me. Everything I worked for...and in the end, I wasn't needed. Or at least, that is how it felt.
The fever broke, and I turned to what I'd clung to at the beginning of the year--my new novel. I had gotten revision notes back from my agent, and slowly began chipping away at those.
I'd learned a valuable lesson--I'd learned how hard was too hard to push myself. But I'd also learned where the line was (much to the chagrin of my friends), and now knew how to safely toe it. Hah!
I was broken, depressed, and barely had a shred of energy to give, but I wasn't going to give up on my dream of being published.
And that's when I got the phone call that changed everything.
I'd been offered a book deal by HarperCollins. Not for the new book--no, that one still wasn't out there in the world. For the old book. The one I'd assumed we would have to shelve.
I was going to be PUBLISHED! AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!
Arguably the biggest dream of my entire life. I still wake up in disbelief, months later.
And thus, 2015 flipped. My ribs healed. I finished revising the new novel.
...I interviewed for and got a new job at the museum.
My writing life and my work life both drastically changed as I went into the fall. I rushed to keep up, but the year had already taken its toll. I was exhausted--physically, mentally, emotionally.
And then, I had to go and hurt my right knee (for those not in the know, that's my GOOD knee--my left was broken years ago). I was put in a brace, had activities restricted once again...and then learned that this will likely be a lifelong affliction. That I will have to live with bum knees forever, and that there is very little to be done to change that.
As I said at the beginning, 2015 was a rollercoaster.
The year wrapped up with me flailing around at work, saying goodbye to six years in one department and trying to get a grasp on my new job, while simultaneously getting my first revision notes from my publisher. The need to DO EVERYTHING and BE THE BEST I CAN BE rose up again and I had to smack it down on repeat, since I know what that need drives me to and never again want to experience illness like I did over the summer.
A true emotional rollercoaster, from start to finish. One that I never could have seen coming.
Beyond the rollercoaster, though, I learned a lot in 2015. I learned my limits, and I also learned just how much I can accomplish before tipping over the edge. And this morning when I asked myself what I was most proud of in 2015, I surprised myself with my answer.
It's not surviving pneumonia or the numerous other health issues. It wasn't creating a new (highly successful!) program for work. It wasn't getting promoted, or even getting my book deal. It wasn't finishing my first ever revision for my HarperCollins editor or signing my contract.
It was finishing that book that I set out to finish last January.
I don't know if it's because that book was the most complex I've ever written, and has tormented me for years trying to get it onto paper, or if it's because I kept pushing on with it despite all the obstacles the rest of my life threw at me along the way. But whatever it is, that new novel is unquestionably the accomplishment I'm the most proud of in 2015. I wrote it. I did it. Despite everything, I did it.
As for 2016...well, I'll write another book. After all, that's what my publisher wants.
Signing off on 2015, a very tired but exceptionally proud,