I can’t do this for the rest of my life.
My car windows down and my favorite song blasting, my 21-year-old self should’ve been nothing but happy that August day. I had one more semester until I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. I’d maintained a 4.0 GPA, had been selected for a statewide scholarship for those pursuing the career pathway of becoming a Certified Public Accountant, and had finished my internship. My life’s path stretched out before me — it was steadfast and sure. It was everything I thought I wanted.
Driving home with the gorgeous rays of sun beating down on my car, though, it was this haunting thought that kept echoing in my head: I can’t do this for the rest of my life. After a summer of working on spreadsheets and convincing myself I loved numbers, I’d finally listened to my inner voice.
I wasn’t happy. I saw a life of interminably long, passionless days ahead.
It was on this day I made a decision that was very difficult at the time. I finished my accounting degree, but instead of heading off to the workplace with my peers, I stayed behind. I spent several extra semesters at college earning my teaching degree in a subject I had always truly loved: English.
The thought of spending more money and more hours in the classroom was daunting at the time. I watched everyone else march into the world of accounting with steadfast assurance their journey would be smooth. I was choosing a riskier path, with teaching jobs being at a shortage in my area. I was also giving up precious years, years that I was so ready to use to become an adult and make a salary.
Now, I’m thankful I made that choice. I’m grateful I had the courage to recognize I wasn’t happy. I’m grateful for my family who helped me see passion should guide your life, not safety and rational choices.
I know I was lucky in a way. My realization came at a time when I could still do something about it without sacrificing too much. I wasn’t weighed down by the true pressures of adult life yet or the stability of a path already trodden upon. I was still able to change my mind and my course of life without too much turbulence.
I know for many this isn’t the case.
Finding the Guts to Pursue Your Passion
All around, there are articles, success stories, and even quote pillows telling you to chase your dreams and find your joy. While sometimes inspiring, they also can feel overly optimistic.
In the real world, it isn’t always easy to change your mind or life. The human condition seems to inherently dislike change. We fear the risks involved and the unknown. Thus, keeping the course, even if it isn’t what our hearts truly want, seems like the wisest choice.
In addition, as women we are often taught to put our own needs on the back burner. Selflessness is a quality ingrained in us from girlhood, a quality that sometimes becomes our worst enemy. We’re taught early in life to be caretakers and nurturers—but we’re often not taught that this means we need to be nurturers for our own spirit and needs.
Thus, so many women wake up realizing they’re unhappy in their lives but don’t know how to do anything about it.
There are certainly success stories. Katherine Kallinis and Sophie LaMontagne abandoned a corporate world that wasn’t making them happy to start Georgetown Cupcakes, which was featured on TLC’s reality show DC Cupcakes. They are only one story of women changing their careers, changing their lives, and chasing their true dreams.
Those women can feel far off, however. Having mortgage payments, children who depend on you, and other adult responsibilities can make giving up a known paycheck difficult. It can also feel like women who chase crazy adventures are probably just lucky. Women like us who step in chewing gum every time we wear new shoes or get every red light in town when we’re late for work certainly don’t feel auspicious enough to take a chance like that.
So what’s the answer then?
I think we need to start being real about two things.
One: Selflessness does not mean you have to put your own passions aside.
This is one of those easier said than done kind of maxims, but it’s so important. We must value our inner voice and what fulfills us. It is passion that makes this crazy journey called life bearable and enjoyable. Without passion, all the security in the world won’t necessarily matter. We need to feel alive, to feel joyful, and to feel like we’re pursuing a purpose. Most importantly, we need to understand we have the right to do this.
Two: We need to recognize chasing one’s happiness is courageous.
Pillows and posters about chasing dreams are nice, don’t get me wrong. But we need to start recognizing that it isn’t as easy as chanting a motto to yourself. To find true happiness, the kind that lights your passion and ignites you at the core, great difficulties must be overcome. It requires sacrifice, risk, and determination. It requires self-awareness and self-value.
It is only when we as women and we as a society start to categorize chasing happiness as both brave and admirable that we can start to find the strength to do it.
Chasing happiness is never easy, and it will often involve risk.
As I’ve come to learn through personal experience, though, waking up to a life you undeniably wanted is a gift we should all be brave enough to strive for, no matter the cost.
Lindsay Detwiler’s eighth novel, Inked Hearts, focuses on the courage to chase happiness through her main character, Avery. Inked Hearts releases on October 21, 2017, with Hot Tree Publishing. Learn more here.
Fall Festivals and Small-Town Charm: The Author's Life
I'm a small-town girl with a heart for the small-town kind of world. Sure, I've been dazzled during trips to New York City. The rush of people and the constant thrill is exciting.
But I wouldn't want to live there... because I'm a small-town kind of girl.
I like the simplicity of walking down my empty street, waving at a few friendly faces. I like the sometimes humdrum pace of our town. I like walking for breakfast to a tiny cafe down the street, and ambling to a school event on a weekend. I love the friendly, familiar faces at our local haunts. I love the lack of traffic at intersections and the easy pace of our Pennsylvania town.
So, this weekend, when my husband and I were invited to a bookstore in a small town in Pennsylvania for the town's fall festival, I was thrilled. These are the kinds of places I feel at home.
And you know what?
It was one of my favorite author events so far.
It wasn't my favorite because we sold hundreds of books (we didn't) or because we had lines of people waiting to meet me (we also didn't). It was my favorite because of the atmosphere, the people, and the small-town charm that just made me feel at home.
Watching children laughing as they visited the petting zoo and ate way too much caramel corn. The smell of fried foods and the simple chatter around. The dog costume parade and scarecrow contests. It was an afternoon of warmth and simple, true fun.
Sometimes as authors, we lose sight of the journey. We are always wanting bigger, better, faster, more. We are always measuring our paths by how many books we sell or how much money exchanges hands. We try to collect awards and fame. We become so focused on these things that we lose sight of the simple fun, the beautiful memories, and the days like today.
Today, I'm thankful for a chance to meet new readers and to explore a new town. I'm thankful my author career has led me to new places and small towns all over our state. I'm thankful for an afternoon in the sun with my husband, laughing and having a simple, small-town adventure.
The author's life isn't always about big cities and huge tour stops. Sometimes, as I've learned, the best days and events are the ones that make us feel right at home, that remind us what genuine fun is all about, and help us see that the memories we make along the way are so much more important than anything else.
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One hundred more miles until I am the new Avery, the woman I’ve always wanted to be but was too afraid of. One hundred more miles until I’m a brand-new woman without a past to haunt her, without pitying stares and questioning looks. One hundred miles until I can shake off this coat of expectations and social requirements for my life. One hundred miles until I break out of the perfect square constructed for my life. One hundred miles until I start fresh with new people, with a new town, with a new life. Only Henry knows where I’ve been, and I don’t think he’s telling anyone anything.
And the first thing I vow to myself in this new version of life?
I won’t let a man change that again. I won’t let a man control me, own my heart. I’ll live for myself this time, wild and free, a girl of the unpredictable wind.
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“I’m really done this time,” I bellowed through snot and tears as my husband drove us through the infernal rainstorm toward home.
We were soaking wet, freezing, and most of all, disheartened. As a small-time romance writer, I’d set my hopes and dreams on this book festival. I’d prepared for months for what I imagined was my chance to breakout and meet new readers in a different state. I’d printed my handouts, gathered giveaway supplies, and advertised. I’d found a new sense of positivity and founded my hopes of growing as an author on this weekend event set to draw in thousands.
In short, this was going to be my moment to shine and to get my career off the ground.
Instead, after hours of driving, we arrived at a festival quite literally washed out by an all-day rainstorm. Rain pelted us from every direction as we lugged our supplies into the “rain or shine” event. Under a rickety tent in the back corner of the festival near the bathrooms, my husband and I sat in the midst of a barren wasteland of a literary festival. We spent our entire day shaking from cold and watching a few stragglers wander by our leaking tent.
We watched my dreams wash away into the overabundant puddles. We only sold two books that day, one being a fellow author who took pity on us in our own tent.
In my mind, the day was symbolic of my writing career—a wash. I’d been through a roller coaster of emotions as I navigated the sometimes-hopeless publishing world. My passion for writing was threatening to fade away. That literary festival only underscored my beliefs.
Thus, on the way home, tears mixing with rainwater and the feel of failure weighing heavy on my shoulders, I turned to my husband and vowed I was done. I was putting down the pen, stowing away the unfinished manuscripts, and quitting writing.
Calmly, with a strength in his voice, my also exhausted husband turned to me. “No, you’re not.”
The tears quieted, and confusion took over the sadness. How could he say that? He’d also spent the entire day in the torrential rain, had spent his entire weekend on yet another failed author event.
“Today was a waste of time. I can’t keep doing this,” I uttered.
“It’s not a waste of time. It’s your passion. It rained today and we didn’t do as well as we hoped. So what? Someday, you’ll look back on this and laugh. Just keep going.”
It wasn’t a well-written monologue with fancy sentiments. My husband uttered a few lines that to anyone else would have seemed meaningless.
But to a writer struggling with confidence and resolve, these were the words I needed. They kickstarted a drive in me to keep going and to smile through the journey. They made me realize that overnight success wasn’t the goal. The goal was to learn and grow, to appreciate every step and misstep along the way.
Now, a year and a half later, I look back on that rainy, gloomy day and realize it wasn’t a waste of time. That day was the day I realized no matter what types of deluges I had to sit through, my husband would be by my side, cheering me on in this journey to chase my dreams.
For every writer, this is the most important thing to find—that one person who, even in a rainstorm, will be your cheerleader and motivation.
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Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give by Ada Calhoun
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"To hitch your rickety wagon to the flickering star of another fallible human being--what an insane thing to do. What a burden, and what a gift."
Ada Calhoun's frank, eye-opening, and deeply thought-provoking Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give truly sucked me in from the first page. I'm not a huge fan of books that give marriage advice because in reality, I've found them to usually be condescending in nature or too "prim and proper." Ada Calhoun shattered all of those ideas I had about marriage books with this blunt but real look at what marriage truly is all about.
Ada's writing style is engaging and exciting. She weaves her own anecdotes with advice from experts and experiences of her friends carefully together. In a way, each chapters is its own standalone story, but when you finish the book, all of the chapters weave seamlessly together into a quilt of knowledge about married life. I felt like Ada put into words so many things I feel as a married woman but can't quite express--or don't have the courage to. She is honest and raw in her revelations, letting the reader into her marriage from a unique vantage point and allowing us all to benefit from her wisdom and her mistakes.
I love that she never has a "know it all" attitude about marriage. She doesn't claim to be an absolute expert. Instead, she presents information and various perspectives, allowing the reader to digest it at his or her pace. I could connect with so many of the stories in the book and loved the humorous asides presented.
I also think Ada Calhoun approaches marriage from a courageous perspective. Few are willing to admit some of the difficult realities she does while also holding the stance that marriage is worth it. I love that she doesn't claim marriage is all rosy, but she also doesn't claim that marriage is worthless, horrible, or hopeless. She strikes the perfect balance, showing the reader that all marriages are a struggle, but are also worth it. She gives the reader permission to be imperfect while also inspiring the reader to work hard at marriage.
There are so many beautiful quotes in this book that made me reflect on my own relationship. I really liked the section on J.R. R. Tolkien and the phrase "companions in shipwreck not guiding stars." What a powerful statement and reminder; the book is filled with tons of valuable phrases like these.
Ada Calhoun presents her ideas in a skillfully crafted story that doesn't feel "preachy" or "overly academic." Instead, I felt like I was talking to a close but wise friend about love, marriage, and all of the things so many people are afraid to say.
Thank you, Ada Calhoun, for being brave enough to say the things about married life so many shy away from. Thank you for giving us permission to accept that we may never be the perfect wife, husband, or couple, but that is perfectly beautiful and okay in its own way.
I recommend this book for anyone who is married, has been married, or is considering marriage. I think this should be a wedding gift for every newly married couple because it is just that good, real, and important.
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I adjust my sunglasses on my head, a few flyaway strands of hair sticking to my hot-pink lip gloss and making me wish I opted for plain lips. But a girl changing her life… well, it felt like a pink lip gloss kind of day this morning.
I drive on, Keith Urban’s songs and Henry’s snoring my only company besides my warped memories and anxiety-ridden thoughts. The sun beats down, a few clouds wispy in the bright sky. It’s a gorgeous day, a day screaming of redemption, of resurrection.
With nothing but time to think for the last two hours of my drive, my mind wanders to another dark place—the place beyond the bedroom escapades of my ex-husband. It travels to the place of doubt, the place so many family members and friends have played on in the past few weeks.
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We can’t judge a love story by its couple.
“Wow, you two just don’t... go together.”
It’s a comment my husband and I have heard from both polite company and strangers over the years. In some ways, I understand.
We are complete opposites in our mannerisms, our personalities, and our tendencies. He is a rugged, bearded blue collar worker who hates reading, loves wearing the color black, and doesn’t care for fashion. I am a studious bookworm who loves everything pink, is a teacher by profession, and has way too many shoes. He is a free-spirit who doesn’t care for authority, while I’m a rule-following worrier. He’s spontaneous and extroverted; I’m a planning introvert.
We are definitely the yin to each other’s yang.
Still, it amazes me how so many people can judge our relationship without even really understanding us. We’ve been married five years now, but we’ve been together for over sixteen—we met at the age of twelve and have been together ever since. Our relationship isn’t perfect; I’d argue that none are. Nevertheless, we’ve found a depth in our connection and a fulfillment from being together that, in my opinion, is what marriage should be about. In short, we’ve found a happiness in our love and an appreciation for the journey we’ve walked together.
Writing online, however, I’ve come to realize how quick we are as a society to pass judgments on everything and everyone, especially when it comes to love. We like to think we can categorize and generalize everything around us just from a quick glance.
As a frequent writer about the topic of marriage, the “you two don’t go together” has been expressed in more depth and sometimes more viciously. I’ve received comments questioning the validity of my marriage, accusing us of being together for the wrong reasons, and ripping our connection apart. I’ve been accused of only marrying him for his beard—seriously—and he’s been accused of being controlling. We’ve been berated for not having kids, some claiming this clearly means our relationship isn’t strong. We’ve heard it all. As so many of us come to learn, the online world can be brutal in its judgments and comments.
Although the online world is certainly a harsh representative of our society, even the “real world” isn’t always kind. I’ve come to realize how much we all tend to judge the relationships around us from our surface-level view of couples. We assume we know couples, for better or worse. We are haughty enough to think we can understand a couple’s relationship based solely on their public persona.
There seems to be a constant need to judge each other’s marriages, relationships, and connections.
The True Defining Elements of a Love Story
Like so many things in life, you can’t judge the true worth of a love story by what you think you know. Real love stories happen behind the public persona created by a couple.
Real love stories are quilts consisting of patches from various circumstances and memories. To judge a couple based on one image is to falsify the snapshots that make up who they are.
To appreciate a relationship, you have to be able to see it in its entirety because in the end, isn’t the journey what truly builds a relationship?
The struggle a couple walks together isn’t always apparent in their public interactions. You don’t know what they’ve been through hand in hand. You don’t know what they’ve earned and built together, what they’ve overcome.You can’t see any of that from the picture they show to the world.
You can’t see what they’ve battled and survived in private by the way they hold hands.
You can’t see the struggles, disappointments, and hardships they’ve faced by the way they walk beside each other.
You can’t see the joys and connections they share by how good they look together.
You can’t see the midnight dances in the kitchen over exciting news, the stolen kisses, or the sweet inside jokes shared by overhearing one conversation.
You can’t see the sweet, simple, everyday moments from the way they glance at each other.
Quite simply, you can’t understand who they are through a rash judgement about the foundation of their love based on outward appearances or assumptions.
This idea can certainly go both ways. The couples you seem to think have it all don’t always. The couples who swoon over each other in public sometimes live a much darker persona at home. Just like in Big Little Lies, sometimes the public version of a couple is much brighter than the serious, dark truth hidden at home.
Regardless, the point is this: you cannot possibly judge a relationship based on public appearance or outside knowledge of a couple.
Moreover, real love stories aren’t about flashy shows of affection or romantic gestures. These do not define a couple. If it were that simple, love wouldn’t be such a complex emotion so many of us struggle with. Love is much more layered than a surface-level appearance.
Real love is much harder to define because it’s a collection of moments, memories, events, feelings, and pathways. It’s an intersecting web of choices and situations that create an ever-changing relationship.
In short, a couple can only be defined by the journey they walk together, a journey only they know and understand.
Thus, we must remember that, at the end of the day, a love story is only owned by two people: the two people living it. The rest of us are just bystanders unaware of the true tale.
Lindsay Detwiler is a contemporary romance author with Hot Tree Publishing. Learn more about her works here: http://bit.ly/2u42BjU
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Feisty Sophia never shies away from life. Playful, romantic, connected—her marriage was the thing of fairy tales. But when tragedy strikes, Sophia is left to pick up the pieces of her life.
After leaving the army, Jackson is ready to start afresh. But when he returns home, his life spirals out of control.As Sophia and Jackson find themselves in each other, they start to see redemption is possible.
Trying to piece together a new life, they must answer the question: Should they forge a life together and say goodbye to their pasts completely, or should they loyally go their separate ways to avoid heartache?
A Review of Lauren K. Denton's The Hideaway
The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"I was a new woman--risky and adventurous. It felt foreign and perfect at the same time."
The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton is a sweet, summer read about secrets, family, identity, and love. The southern vibe to the novel is palpable not just through the setting, but the languid style of the writing. I adored the characters and the overall atmosphere created in this novel.
The story is told from the perspective of Sara Jenkins after her grandmother passes away. She moves back to Sweet Bay to take over the bed and breakfast her grandmother owned. However, as the summer unfolds, Sara learns secrets about her family, her grandmother, and herself. Through these secrets, she comes to learn what she really wants in life.
The story is also told from Sara's grandmother's perspective using flashbacks. These flashbacks help the reader get a full understanding of the setting, the characters, and the message of the work.
Overall, this book is a super sweet read about friendship and family. I adored the connections in the book and the overall sense of love at The Hideaway. It made me want to pick up and move to Sweet Bay. There wasn't a lot of suspense or mystery in the novel--it was more of an introspective kind of novel, which was perfect for summer.
I wish Sara had more flaws, perhaps, because at times she almost seemed too perfect. I would've liked to have seen a little bit more dimension to her character. Nonetheless, the book was still expertly crafted and a perfect read that reminded me of a Debbie Macomber book.
I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a sweet read about family.
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Nose scrunches, general disgust, raised eyebrows, and repulsion.
These are sometimes the reactions when I say I'm a romance author.
I understand the genre isn't for everyone. Still, over the past three years as a published author in the romance genre, I'm come to learn there are so many unfair stigmas about romance reads. Some automatically assume whips and chains are a part of your stories, Fifty Shades forever changing the way we think of romance.
Others have told me they only read "real literature" or only like books with "complex characters," so romance isn't for them.
Some simply say they hate cheesy works and stories when eyeing my books.
When I'm met with these responses to the romance genre, I smile politely. Like I said, I understand the genre isn't for everyone.
But as both a writer in the genre and an avid reader of it, I know these stigmas and stereotypes are so often untrue.
My First Love Affair with the Genre
When I first decided to write a novel, I knew without a doubt it would be in the romance genre because I'd fallen in love with it years before.
In junior high, Nicholas Sparks's stories became my obsession, my own love affair of sorts. I adored the way he could weave together two seemingly different lives, two broken people, into a single, working unit. I loved reading about their journey, their first kiss, their connection uncovered. I loved the way he could make the most complex, frightening human emotion seem to make sense.
Thus, putting pen to paper, I knew love stories were what I wanted to write. I wanted to explore the depth of romantic connections. I wanted to uncover romance where there seemed to be hopelessness. I wanted to help broken characters find their way to redemption down a rocky road of love.
I knew when I started writing romance there was a certain stigma about it, but I didn't worry about that. I worried about telling my stories, stories of complexity and emotion. Stories of reality and harsh truths. My romances aren't always about skipping into the sunset and finding a simple solution to life's problems. My romances are about the struggles we as humans face when trying to meld two different lives into one. It's about the obstacles that threaten not only our love, but our identities.
The Truth About Romance
Romance stories aren't cheesy, easy reads or lighthearted, unrealistic sagas.
They aren't all about abs and sexual encounters.
They aren't all about boy meets girl, love, marriage, and happily-ever-after.
As a reader and writer in the genre, I've come to learn that romance is a broad genre with so many nuances in its offerings. There are stories of escape, stories of depth, and stories of gut-wrenching pain.
I know no matter how many articles are written about the value of the romance genre and the depth of its literary value, there will always be stigma. Romance will forever be pictured as shirtless men parading women into the sunsets of forever.
Still, I want to make it clear: I will never apologize for writing romance. No matter how many sighs or shriveled noses I see at my work, I will stand proud knowing I write in this genre. I will never back down from telling the stories I love, even if some don't want to take them seriously. I will never stop defending the genre for its literary value, it's revelation of deep human truths, and its beauty at highlighting one of the most misunderstood yet valued concepts of the human journey: Love.
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