One of the comments I get frequently from readers is that my books are good because they aren't uncomfortable or raunchy. They're books my readers share with their mothers without turning red or can read in front of their students and not be embarrassed.
It's never been a question in my mind as to whether or not I would write sweet romance. Foremost, I'm a teacher, and I definitely don't want any blush-worthy scenes with my name on it.
Even if that weren't the case, though, I'd still write sweet romance. It's what I love, it's what I like to read, and it's just who I am as a writer.
There's nothing wrong with erotic fiction. I'm a huge opponent of censorship or book shaming. To each his or her own in the literary world. Read what you love, and don't apologize. Write what you love, and don't apologize.
For me, my writing has always been about the love story. I want to capture the beautiful, the real, and everything in between. For me, the height of my love stories, the depth of the emotion behind my characters comes from the sweet moments, the hilarious moments, the everyday moments. Real life love isn't always about crazy, sexy romps in the bedroom or flexing muscles or drool worthy abs. I've always believed that real love, real life romance comes in the simple, in the sweet, in the everyday encounters that make us melt a little.
Sure, love involves passion and chemistry. Sure, I can appreciate sexiness as much as anyone. For me though, the passionate moments happen behind closed doors in my writing because that's what I prefer. I would prefer to use my pages, my words to write about the tender moments the modern woman deals with, the moments that are full of complexity and struggle. I want to write about the conversations, about the first kisses, about the fights, about the secondary conflicts. I see the most interesting conflicts and depth in moments other than those happening in the bedroom...that's just how I write.
I pride myself on writing books that are sexy and edgy and unexpected without any of the raunchiness. I like the challenge of showing that sweet romance is definitely NOT a synonym for boring. I like to show that sex isn't the only way to make a women's fiction or contemporary romance exciting.
There are plenty of sparks, plenty of fizzles, and plenty of passionate moments without any moments that will make you want to hide the cover. Sweet romance isn't prudish or dull or conservative. It's simply a focus on emotion, on passion, on the love story. For me, there's nothing boring about that.
"If you get a dog, I swear I'm filing for divorce."
These were the words uttered in a moment of rage a few weeks before Henry came into our lives. They were, I'm ashamed to admit, my words.
My husband had been wanting a mastiff. I had just started my first permanent teaching job and we had just bought a house; thus, I wanted absolutely no dogs.
Chad was insistent, though. He wanted a mastiff puppy, and a litter was just born. We screamed at each other, we fought, and I threatened to leave because it was just so ridiculous of him to be so selfish.
Now, I know I was the ridiculous one.
A few weeks later, I scowled and glowered as a floppy, twenty-two pound mastiff came ambling into our house. I hadn't even driven to Ohio to get him, refusing to be a part of the puppy coming into our home.
Seeing his squishy face, I decided to give him a chance...and then he peed on me. All over me. I hated him.
I continued to hate him for weeks. I hated the way he cried in the middle of the night or chewed on my sweatpants when I was trying to do schoolwork. I hated how he barked, how he needed out to pee every four seconds. I hated how he would sleep all day while my husband was home with him and be crazy all night once I got home.
But then, out of the clear blue sky, something happened.
I don't even know when or how it happened. Slowly, that mastiff puppy breath wormed its way into my heart, melted away the layer of ice I had constructed. Those floppy ears, those huge paws, they started to walk all over me.
Eventually, I fell in love with that crazy mastiff we named Henry.
Now, I don't know how I could have ever disliked him. That mastiff is my absolute best friend. When I'm having a terrible day or frustrated or just tired of it all, I go home to his happy face and feel better. Our nights on the couch cuddling and watching Reign, our movie nights, our days lounging in the sun...my moments with him are my favorite of all.
Some people say he's just a dog (although a rather big one). They look at me like I'm crazy when I worry about him being bored or sad or lonely. People would judge me to know I've passed on plans just so I can spend time with him.
But I don't care.
Sometimes in life, the things we dread the most turn out to be the best things of all. The best thing in my life came against my will in the form of a wrinkly, floppy, clumsy puppy named Henry. He showed me that compromise can lead to great things.
He showed me that sometimes, just sometimes, my husband is right. Just don't tell him.
I never realized I wouldn’t have cable or internet.
When Chad and I first got married and moved into our quaint apartment on Walnut Street back in 2011, I never thought about the things we wouldn’t have. I was thinking about picking out plates and where to hang my mirror and how many bath towels we would need. I was thinking about morning coffee together and lazy afternoons strolling around town. I was thinking about the life we would build together, the successes we would have, and all of the memories we would make.
In all fairness, we were super blessed. We had found an adorable apartment for a good price, and he had a great job. We had awesome family members who helped us get on our feet, helped us get furniture, helped us navigate the waters of living on our own.
But, for the first few months, we didn’t have internet or cable.
We were both nervous. We’d both lived at home until we got married, so we had no clue how to budget or how much the bills would cost or how to plan meals. We had no idea how to make a cleaning schedule or how to host a party or anything else about growing up.
So, for the first few months, we didn’t get cable or internet, wanting to see how we managed our money before adding anything else on.
We thought it would be tough. How would we survive without constant email updates and television shows? How would we manage?
But you know what? Looking back, they were a good few months.
Without cable and internet, we had a lot of movie nights, sitting on the couch with our homemade popcorn watching stuff together. We had a whole lot of game nights, a whole lot of walking nights. We had a whole lot of talking, a whole lot of cooking, a whole lot of time together. Quality time.
Eventually, like many couples, the luxuries started to add up as we got more comfortable with our budgets and moved up in our careers. The cable man came one dreary day, and the internet was suddenly something we didn’t know how we’d lived without. The game nights were still there…but suddenly I wanted to watch a show on television or he was surfing Youtube. Our walking nights turned into sitting nights, sometimes separately as we watched different things.
Now, there are so many nights we’re absorbed in our own world. We have so many things now, and life is nowhere near as simple as it was. We’ve got gaming systems, televisions, computers, a computer room, and everything in between to distract us from life and each other.
Looking back, those simple days were tough. There were days we had our eyes on what we didn’t have. But they were beautiful, too. They were days when all that mattered was having each other. All that mattered was our tiny apartment, our life starting out, our dreams about what would be someday.
In the past month, Chad and I have started a new weekly tradition, a shout out to our first months of marriage. Every Thursday, we have a movie night together. We pick a movie we have or on Netflix, and we watch it together with a snack.
You know what we’ve found? That one night of setting aside our personal distractions, that one single night of just sitting together and laughing at the same screen, it’s been amazing.
You can have internet and cable and still have a strong relationship. But you can have internet and cable and slip completely away.
The bottom line is, no matter what luxuries you have or don’t have, you have to make time for each other. Quality time, together only time, no distractions time. It doesn’t matter if you’re watching Alice in Wonderland or playing Yahtzee or painting a picture or just lounging on the couch. Sometimes simple times make for the strongest relationships.
You've drafted a book. You've spent countless hours writing, dreaming, editing, revising, and querying. And now...success! It's been accepted. You're on your way to being an author.
But being an author doesn't happen over night. We sometimes falsely assume being a writer equals being an author. It's not that simple.
The transition from writer to author is difficult, and for most of us, finding a mentor in our lives is next to impossible. When I started my journey, I didn't know anyone who had ever published a fiction novel. I had no one to seek advice from. I had the internet, which can be overwhelming and lonely.
A little over a year later, and I'm feeling a lot more comfortable with the author title. I'm still learning, I'm still growing, and I'm still figuring things out. But I've learned so much. I've made some author friends online. I've come across some amazing publishers who have been helpful and have really worked hard to help me achieve my dreams. I'm so blessed to have an amazing team at Hot Tree Publishing who want to see their authors succeed..
Some things, though, I learned the hard way....by making a mistake. Check out five mistakes I've made as an author. If you have your sights set on being an author or if you've just started, I'm hoping this post will help you avoid some of the pitfalls I've fallen for.
1. Being shy about your work
I told one person I was writing a book: my husband.
The perfectionist in me was terrified of failure. I figured my book would never get published, so why tell people? I felt like writing a book and not getting it published was worse than never writing at all. So I told no one.
Then I got my first contract. I was ecstatic. I was just ready to tell the world...and the publisher went bankrupt. With the failed deal came self-doubt.
When I got offered another contract, I was TERRIFIED. What if they, too, went bankrupt? I didn't want to tell everyone my book would be published only for it to fall through again and have to issue a "just kidding" announcement. So I waited, sitting quiet on the news until two weeks before Voice of Innocence was released.
Even then, I felt like vomiting when I put the initial publication notice on Facebook. I had never shared my work with anyone. What if people hated it? What if I was a failure? Would I have to move away and never show my face again?
It's hard to find confidence as a writer, especially the first time around. There are so many fears and what-ifs.
But you have to get over it. By not sharing my book early, I was met with a very quiet release day. There was little buzz. The girl named Lindsay Detwiler was basically just a whisper on Amazon and on the internet. I was disappointed.
I've learned with the release of each book how important a platform is. Each release gets easier because my blog and social media platforms are growing each day. As I pull more people in, release days keep getting better.
Seriously. The best advice I can give is: start telling the world who you are and what words you have to share now. Dig deep and find confidence. Your words are worth it. Believe in this.
2. Assuming people will just find your book
This mistake comes from society's impressions of writers.
We are taught to believe that getting a book published equals J.K. Rowling level success.
There are millions of writers out there waiting for discovery. There are millions of books on Amazon that are AMAZING but just haven't really been talked about.
It's easy to disappear into a sea of words online. You have to make sure people know about you, especially at the beginning.
Some authors take this to mean chirping about their book on Twitter every three seconds. I get it. I'm guilty of it too. We all want the world to buy our book. We think telling people "Buy my book" will work.
You have to build a genuine presence. You have to have a personality online. You have to be a real person. You have to show people what you've got in terms of writing before they will invest in you.
Blogging is one way to do this. Like everything, though, it takes time--time to get good at it, time to figure out SEO, and time to build followers. But it's an outlet to show the world who you are behind the book cover.
Networking is also fabulous. Some of the best ways to get new fans are to reach out to other authors. Find authors who are in the same boat as you. Find authors who have found success. Find a network of writers. This has been one of the best things that has happened from my writing career.
Don't be afraid to talk about your work. I'm not saying run around with a T-shirt that says "I'm an author" on it. But when people ask...talk. Talk about what you do. Talk about what it's like. I've found people are genuinely curious about the process. When you get an outlet...talk. Word of mouth marketing is sometimes more helpful than any other type of promotion.
Build a loyal following, and you'll find people will start to notice you.
3. Jumping into all forms of social media at once
Everything online about book marketing says to be active on all social media platforms. So I jumped in: Twitter, two Facebook pages, Blogging, Youtube, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads.
And guess what? I was drowning. I had no idea how to effectively use Youtube and Twitter. I was overwhelmed. I ended up just constantly posting about my book. Mistake!
Now, I've found balance. I backed off a bit. I started mastering Facebook for promotion because I was most comfortable with it. Once I felt good about what I was doing, I added Twitter. Then I worked in Instagram. It's a process. I am still learning.
Do not overwhelm yourself. Pick one platform and learn to do it well. Then move on to something else. If there's a platform you hate, don't do it. It will be obvious to everyone you are forcing yourself to do it. If you aren't having fun on social media, you aren't going to successfully attract the right customers.
For me, Youtube is a struggle. I'm terrible on camera, as evidenced by last week: I accidentally posted an unedited version of my video chat. And yeah, it was bad. People got to see just how much effort and editing goes into making a semi-okay video for me. There was even a terrible, terrible, mouth open face I made at the end when searching for the stop recording button. Cringe!
I haven't given up on Youtube, and I'll continue to play with it now and then. But I know it will never be my strength. I love Facebook and blogging, so I focus on that. It's okay to not be a Youtube star or an Instagram queen. Find what speaks to you. Use social media to reflect the most important part of book marketing--reflecting who you are as a person.
4. Expecting every contest, promotion, and blog tour to equate to sales
I am an English teacher in addition to being an author. Teaching is not a job of instant gratification. You put in a ton of work to every lesson, but you don't always see the results instantly. There are days, even weeks, where you ask yourself: Am I doing anything successful here? Am I making any type of difference?
Book marketing is the same. You pour in time to social media. You send review copies. You put money into posters and Facebook posts, blog tours and contests.
But your numbers don't always reflect this right away. It's a slow, slow build for some of us.
Which is frustrating. We want to see the instant proof that something is working. We want to spend $20 on advertising and see our sales increase twenty fold.
It doesn't work like that.
Some things you do will fail miserably even though they work for others. Some things you think are a waste of time will pay off in the long run.
It's all a bit of a game. You've got to be willing to hang in there long enough to guess and check a bit, to try things and see what happens.
As my husband always reminds me, if it were easy, everyone would be an author. But it's not. It's a lot of work, a lot of time, a little bit of luck, and a whole lot of mistakes. Don't be afraid to make mistakes when it comes to promotion.
5. Giving away too many free copies
Everything I read when I started said to give out as many free copies as you could.
So I did. I gave one to basically everyone I knew. And I footed the bill.
I was also a sap for anyone who emailed me and said they would love to review a paperback copy but *insert sad story*. So I also sent them a copy and footed the bill, including expensive international shipping.
Listen, it's okay to give free copies. Your dearest friends, your family, people who have helped you along the way...give them copies. And spot copies to a person here or there who emails you with a sad story. It doesn't hurt to be generous, and you never know if that story is, in fact, true.
But do not put yourself in the poor house giving away your book.
I think sometimes as new authors, we worry our words aren't worth the expense to our close friends. We think if we give them a copy for free, we won't be judged as harshly.
The thing is--you will always be judged. You have to learn to deal with that. But you also have to learn your words are worth it. They do have value. Treat them as such.
You don't show up to your job and work for free. You expect to be compensated. Writing is the same. It's your time. It's your job. Don't be afraid to ask people to invest in you.
So give away copies to those closest to you. But don't be afraid to ask people to buy them either. By getting people to invest in you, even if it is an ebook, you will be showing the world your words do have value. You will gain confidence.
Give yourself credit. You are a writer. You are an author. Your words matter.
When we're teens, we have a vision of what thirty looks like.
Mine went something like this.
I would have THE perfect hair style after years of failures, of course. I would have mastered my makeup, be both classy and fun in my style. I would traipse around town with a Starbucks in hand, my perfectly coordinated outfits highlighting the body I'd always wanted to have. I would have the perfect job, a perfect house, maybe a few children. Life would be... well, perfect.
In essence, I was living a bit of the 13 Going on 30 facade. Because as I get close to thirty, I've realized perfect doesn't exist.
At twenty-eight, I still haven't figured out what the heck to do with my hair. Smokey eyes... they're a dream I haven't mastered. I still have an odd fashion sense, and I have never achieved the perfect hourglass shape. Kids are nowhere to be found. Our house is cute but it is definitely not from Home & Garden magazine. Most days I feel like my decor is a mix of flea market and college dorm room.
Unless some major strikes of good luck hit in the next few years, I don't think thirty will be the thirty of my thirteen-year-old dreams.
Society tells us we, at some point, have to get it together. The twenties are for exploring, partying, having fun. Thirty--well, thirty is when we grow up.
I disagree, though.
The thing is, a number cannot define your life. It cannot set everything into place. But that's okay.
A big part of all three of my novels, Voice of Innocence, Then Comes Love, and Without You, is the concept we don't always figure out what we want in life at twenty, thirty, or even eighty. Life is always about choices and change, about finding who you are at each stage of life.
So the next time you see that perfect woman on television, in books, or in magazines, the one with sheer confidence in her eyes because her life is perfect, just smile to yourself and know perfection never exists. That's part of the fun in life.
Some people fall in love at a coffee shop, their eyes meeting and instantaneously telling them that they have found their match. Others meet while passing each other on the street or at the library. Love reveals itself at the mall, at work, in the produce aisle of a grocery store. It can come all at once, or it can languidly reveal itself between mutual friends. Love can transpire between two acquaintances thrown together by mutual friends or a dating website. It can come when we are young, when we are old, or anytime in between. It can come once, it can come twice, it can come more times than we can count. Love’s story is unique to each of us, despite the common core of its emotions. No two love stories are the same, despite what movies and literature may try to tell us.
For me, love revealed itself at the art table when I was twelve. True to love’s qualities, my love story is its own.
It was the first day of seventh grade, and my Cocoa Puffs were threatening to spew onto the floor from nerves. New students, new teachers, and new classes had upended my sense of calm that was usually shaky at best. Tapping my new shoes together and wishing I could fly back home, I waited for my name to be called for my seat in art class. Once in my chair, my brown eyes glanced around the room at the other faces, finding few that I recognized. That’s when I saw him. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed kid who would become my best friend, my first boyfriend, my fiancé, and eventually my husband. As fate would have it, he was seated across from me at the art table.
It wasn’t love at first sight. There weren’t angelic rays flooding onto us like a spotlight. No cheesy love song blasted from the speakers. Nonetheless, when I saw him, my twelve-year-old self knew that there was something about him. He wasn’t dressed like a model from the pages of my Seventeen magazine. He wasn’t flaunting himself or even saying a word. There was just something about him that I was drawn to, something that told him he would be important to me. That gut feeling was one hundred percent accurate, as I would soon find out.
From the beginning, Chad and I were the least likely couple you could imagine. I was Miss Goody-Two-Shoes, always saying “please” and burying my nose in a book. I was studious, serious, and rational to the core. He was free spirited, racking up detention halls as I racked up As. He cursed often, he hated school, and he hated rules. We had nothing in common other than the fact that we both played trumpet in the band and laughed at the same jokes.
Over the years, however, we found something in each other. At first, it was friendship fused by a common sense of humor and the time spent together at the art table. There was something between us, a light that ignited when we were with each other. There was an ease to our conversations, even at the young age of twelve. We brought something out in each other. He made my rigid personality lighten up, and I helped bring some seriousness and goal setting to his carefree nature.
As the years passed, we continued to grow together as we grew up. Laughter turned into kisses, dates turned into proms, and “I love yous” eventually turned into an engagement ring. We maneuvered the murky waters of adolescence together, finding that the connection merged would weather us through early adulthood as well. Many were skeptical about our relationship. Who finds their soulmate at twelve? However, we seemed to prove the naysayers wrong as we glided through our maturing relationship, always together.
Certainly there were struggles. There were immature fights over jealousy and the other nonsensical ramblings of teenagers. There were angry words and tears, broken promises and slamming doors. We fought, we thought about breaking up. We wondered if we should move on and find someone new. No matter what feelings or thoughts threatened to tear us apart, though, our love always conquered them. No matter what we faced, we always found that we faced it better together. We realized that together was our only desired option.
Now, at twenty-eight, people are amazed by our story. When we tell them that we have been each other’s “one and only” since we were twelve, we face skepticism and astonishment. In an age where you should try to “play the field,” we are an archaic trend from the past. When we got married, we had already been together for over a decade. At our wedding, our first dance was to Faith Hill’s “Just Breathe,” the song that we first danced to in junior high.
People assume that to be with one person since junior high, you must have an unbelievably perfect connection. This is far from the truth. Is our relationship roses and candles, smiles and stolen kisses? Are we living in a fantasy fairytale that is unattainable for others? The answer is a big fat no. Those who know us well know that we are not the ideal couple.
We fight, and we fight often. Although our opposing personalities often help us balance each other out, they can also lead to turmoil. I am a planner, while he is free spirited. I am a saver, while he is a spender. I am meek and self-conscious at times, while he isn’t afraid to stand up for himself when he feels cheated. I worry about social appearances, while he isn’t afraid to curse in public. Our differences often lead to differences of opinion. Like any other couple, we have been tempted to throw in the towel from time to time. We push each other away, we frustrate each other, we annoy each other. Somehow, though, we always find a way to bridge the gap between us, no matter how wide it gets. For all of the bad days we’ve had, there seem to be at least twenty good ones.
Additionally, we are not perfect adults, nor do we have the picture perfect life. We eat ice cream for dinner and buy way too much candy at the grocery store. We struggle to save money, splurging on impulsive buys. We don’t have a white picket fence in front of our house; in fact, our house is covered in the decaying leaves that I have been nagging him to clean up. I am a terrible cook, and he is a terrible handyman. Our only children have four legs. We are still working out the details and rules of this thing called adulthood.
Through it all, though, we’ve learned one thing together: love isn’t perfect. The idea that it is perfect stems from a meticulously constructed illusion that fairytales do exist in real life, that the show Once Upon a Time can actually happen.
In our world, however, Prince Charming doesn’t exist, but neither does Snow White. Instead, we must realize that love is about sacrifice, about reality. It’s about finding joy in the small things together. It’s about ignoring his annoying chewing habits and him forgiving me for spending way too much on makeup.
It’s about just finding something to smile about each day. It’s about deciding that our faults deserve forgiveness because at the end of the day, we’d rather fight through our struggles than throw in the towel. It’s about deciding that our history together is worthy more than giving up or trying to find something new. It’s about choosing to believe in the power of us and our story over the pull of temptation. It’s about realizing that our life together isn’t even close to being perfect, but it makes us perfectly content overall.
So no, our story isn’t all that special. We are not romantic heroes who deserve a medal for staying together so long in a fickle society. We are not blinded by an unattainable love, we are not the model marriage. We don’t have this whole thing called love or life figured out. We’re still changing, we’re still growing, and we’re still searching for ourselves.
We are, however, proof that against all odds, against the statistics and stereotypes, our generation can stay true. Despite our “short attention spans” blamed on technology and our tendency to stray, our generation can stay in a monogamous, meaningful, fulfilling relationship. We do still believe in the power of love and the possibility of experiencing life with the right person. Chad and I are not supermodels or movie stars. We are not relationship experts. We are, however, two people who found each other at a young age and invested in each other. We are two average twenty-somethings who value love, our relationship, and the life we have built together.
Above all, though, we are just a boy and a girl who fell in love at the art table in seventh grade.
I loathe the gym. I hate working out, exercising, doing more than 5 reps of anything. I hate getting sweaty. I hate getting muscle cramps. I hate running, jogging, jumping, or anything involving coordination.
Perhaps my hatred goes back to my school days when gym class was a minefield and a social devastation. Other than badminton, there was never a gym class skill I mastered…and even that was sketchy. I was the ten minute mile girl, even when I tried. I was the zero pull-ups girl. I was the girl who got hit in the forehead every time we played ultimate Frisbee. I was the girl who fell on her chin in front of the whole class when trying to be the human wheelbarrow. My whole chin turned a lovely shade of black.
In fact, I only had one B my entire academic career…it was, you guessed it, in gym class (I can still remember after the tears settled and I could talk about the B without a sob fest, it was Christmas time. My dad decided to get me Tae Bo DVDs for Christmas to make it better. I was furious. He thought it was hysterical).
As I enter my late twenties, unfortunately my sluggish ways of the past aren’t working any more. While I used to do absolutely no exercise and eat absolutely everything without gaining weight, this is no longer the case. I’m in those awful days where one mini Twix bar equates to an extra flabbiness at the waist, where a few bad days of eating make my pants feel like they’re going to explode. Thus, I do work out a few days a week. But I’m no superwoman in the gym, and I’m definitely not always in my comfort zone.
And I’m definitely not always happy.
I love my classes, I do. I love my instructors. They’re inspiring and motivating beyond belief.
I just have this intensely negative, “I can’t” attitude when it comes to working out.
I make excuses not to go—oh, it’s windy…better not go in case a tornado hits. I whine, internally and externally. I complain. I give up. I get angry—fifteen more push-ups, are you kidding? That’s crazy talk. I try to cheat. I do cheat. I do everything I can to get by…but I don’t give it my all.
The other day at the gym, though, it hit me.
When exercising, I am the equivalent of the worst student on the planet.
See, for me, school is easy. Give me a super difficult test, an awful essay to write, I don’t care. I’ll grit my teeth and do it. The harder the task is, the harder I work. I love a challenge, I love to face the impossible. I am the ultimate bookworm, nerd, and everything that means I love academics.
But in the gym, well, I’m like the kid who hates reading, who hates school. I’m the kid who uses “can’t” and “no” more than “yes” and “I’ll try.” I’m the kid who gives up before she even started, before she even looked at the task at hand. I’m the kid who asks to go to the bathroom eight times a day or tries to make up excuses to take a nap or suddenly has a stomachache on the day of a quiz. I’m all of those kids rolled into one.
Now, when a student complains about Shakespeare or Whitman or Poe, I try not to take it personally. I don’t get frustrated or think to myself Why the heck can’t you just do the work?
Instead, I picture my whiny, sweaty, frizzy-haired self resting on the yoga mat because I don’t feel like doing another side plank. I think of myself sneaking a rest when the instructor isn’t looking. I think of how I internally tell myself to just slow down on the run…it doesn’t matter any way.
And then I am a better teacher...because I know, firsthand, the pull of discouragement and excuses. I know what it’s like to want to quit. I know how to help them get over their mental roadblock, at least for the day.
Because if the klutzy girl who fell on her chin in gym class can try to get through P90X, Shakespeare just might not seem so impossible.
I am and always have been a worrier.
I'm OCD about my hair straightener; I have to check it at least twice before I leave the house because I worry I'll burn the house down. We've had to turn around on a family trip so I could check it.
I worry about burglars. I worry about making mistakes at work. I worry about a lot of things.
I've always been a fearful person. I'm the one thinking about what could go wrong. My list of fears is huge.
But I'm working on it. I'm trying to find the courage to overcome them. It's tough, though. Here are my five biggest fears at the moment.
I would actually define this is a downright phobia. I can't look at a needle or a picture of a needle. I can't think about it. Someone talking about a needle makes me squirm. If I have to get a shot, I squirm and tear up.
I will walk up thirteen flights of stairs to avoid an elevator. Seriously. Once I'm in, I panic. I'm terrified of being trapped in it. I would never, ever, ever ride the elevator ride at Disney called the Tower of Terror. I get sick even thinking about it.
I've never been in a tornado, but ever since I was little, I've been afraid of them. When it gets really windy, I panic. A few times, we had a Tornado Watch when I was home alone. I went to the basement.
I still sit in the hallway if there is a bad storm. Henry also doesn't like storms, so we comfort each other :)
This could also just be labeled fear of the unknown. I'm a control freak. Unless you are the grim reaper, you don't control death. I guess this bothers me.
Will I ever overcome these fears?
I can hope so. I can say I will. But I don't know.
I honestly am not working toward overcoming them. If I had, I would've gotten my tattoo by now, went on those roller coasters, and faced up to the rest of them.
But I'm not taking any steps toward it.
I think that's okay. So many experts tell us fear prevents us from living, but maybe not. Maybe fear is just part of the human experience. If I didn't carry these fears, who knows how different my life would be. Just like our strengths and talents, our fears do define us. We tend to see this as a bad thing, but is it? Isn't it just a part of what makes us different?
Friendships are difficult to define, especially if you are a woman.
When I think about my life, there have been so many friends fade in and out of my life. There have been people I thought were my friends who turned out to be enemies. There have been people who I thought would just be acquaintances turn out to mean so much. There are people who were important for a single stage of life. There are people who have been there through many more.
At twenty-eight, I've come to learn that friendship doesn't always last forever. Then again, sometimes it does.
The quote above is one of the truest quotes I've learned. Interestingly enough, it came on a friendship frame from a person I stopped being friends with long ago.
In life, friendships can sometimes fade. They can change.
But the true friends, the ones who really impact you, do leave a footprint,a mark, an indelible stamp of themselves on you.
Below, some lessons I've learned at each stage so far.
Early Childhood Friendship
When I think back to some of these first friendships, I smile. My first friend ever was a neighbor boy named Thomas. I can still remember the first day we met. I still have a scar from falling on my bike when we were playing. It was a time marked by simplicity and innocence, of carefree bike rides and outdoor games. It was, in short, a beautiful time in life.
In Kindergarten, I became friends with several girls. Cue female friendship drama. I can still think of some of my close friends from elementary school. I can also picture all of our silly fights, our arguments, and the tears, too.
Early friendships seem simple, but they really aren't. A friendship in Kindergarten can easily be tainted by a dropped Pop-tart or a Barbie being named the wrong name. I learned early on that girls can be really mean and dramatic. I learned friendships aren't permanent. I learned sometimes you end up playing alone.
But young friendships can also be some of the purest forms of connection. They aren't completely tainted with the fear of social pressures or fitting in. They're usually pretty pure.
Looking back , these friendships can set the tone for our relationships later in life. They teach us how to get along, how to compromise, and how to move on sometimes.
High School Friendship
The best years, right?
For the most part, yes. These were the years of sleepovers and movies, of mall shopping trips and laughter. These were the years I had the most friends.
It's funny how in high school, you think you'll be friends forever. Adults warn you, but you don't listen. Those gleaming best friends necklaces won't ever rust. You'll never lose touch.
And then you do.
I still talk to some of my friends from high school. Social media has made it easier, for sure.
There's only one person I'm really still in contact with, despite some distance. Kristin, my best shopping friend, fellow bookworm, literature lover, cat lover, and everything else in between, still keeps in touch. We still laugh about our favorite memories, from a winking Santa card to the time I almost choked to death on a piece of gum. Even when we faded out of each other's lives for a while, she was always still there. She was one of the footprint makers in my life, and she will always be such an integral part of my fondest memories of the past and my hope for new friendship memories in the future.
High school friendships help us transition into adult life. They remain a part of us because they are a part of our fundamental years. Sure, there's a heck of a lot of drama. Some of the girls I thought were my friends turned out to be mortal enemies. I was stabbed in the back, gossiped about, and argued with. But it turned out to be a good thing. Even those friendships in high school that go awry prepare us for the tough, no nonsense world of criticism and falsehoods.
College is tough. Gone are all the friends you grew up with, the ones you saw every day at school. You're starting over, you're starting fresh.
And for the first few days, you're alone.
You walk alone. You sometimes sit alone. You (cringe) sometimes eat alone, something that would have been social suicide in high school.
It's an adjustment. You learn to be independent. You learn friendships truly do come and go.
For me, my college years consisted of one constant friend, though, a girl who is still one of my best friends. Jamie.
We met in religion class. I saw her, thought she looked nice. We both had bangs, both were a bit quiet in class. So I choose to sit beside her.
It turned out to be the best choice I made. Once we got to talking, we literally never stopped. Like not for a second. Chad laughs when we're together, saying we never stop talking.
College is stressful. There's a lot of work, a lot of times you don't think you can make it. Despite popular belief, socializing sometimes takes the bottom rung on your priority list. For me, though, I was lucky to have Jamie by my side to make me laugh when I wanted to quit, to commiserate over crazy classes with, and to dance with clay with the Black Potter. We had so many good memories and still are making more. From boyfriends (now husbands) who were stuck in a heart to Jesus in a tree to Sheetz Mochas to dancing to Grease, we made more memories in four years than I've made with others in decades.
College friends come into our lives when we're in transition, when we're trying to grow up. But keeping your college friends close is such a gift because when you are grown up, they remind you of the fun, crazy times. They remind you not to let go of that person you were, the person with a vision, with a dream, with passion.
Growing up sucks. Adulting sucks. Seriously.
Friendship in your adult years can be tough. Time becomes a big hurdle. Between work life, family life, and laundry, when the heck do you have time for friendship, for jaunts to the mall, for careless dinners out?
You don't. You just have to make it.
Friendships during the adult years are kind of a culmination of everything you learn earlier. These friendships are marked by time and distance sometimes. Sometimes friendships work better during certain periods of your life than others. Sometimes friendships fade because of convenience or different life stages.
We've had friends slip away because of a major fact: they have children and we don't. Children can sometimes change the face of friendship, change the connections you once had.
But that's okay. Friendship, like life, is all about changing. Nothing is a constant.
Thus, in adulthood, I think I've come to realize the best friends you will ever have are the one's who sort of have to be there. Your family.
My parents, my husband, my extended family--these are the friendships that have stood the test of time. These are the people I go to when I want to laugh or when I need to cry. These are the people I always make time for, I always prioritize. These are the people who have left footprints tattooed on my heart, but never slip away.
Some friends stay for a few months or for a few years. Some of these friends are forgotten, their impact slipping away and irrelevant in a new stage of life. Some of them mark us, for better or worse, and change who we are, how we see friendship.
Family, though, are the people who mark us with their footprints and stay to see how those footprints change us.
Sometimes, the soul just needs some silence and sunshine.
I had a hectic morning, running around cleaning the house, trying to get everything in order. My mind was swirling with to do lists and what was coming up this week.
But then, I saw the sunshine gleaming in the clouds. I saw the lounge chair on my deck calling my name, saw the Ruta Septys book on my counter begging to be read.
So I gave in.
I put down the towels that weren't folded, ignored the clutter on the counter. I ambled by the tumbleweed of cat hair on the floor that needed picked up. I went straight to the deck.
We live in the borough, so usually the neighborhood is filled with screaming children, cars, and the sounds of life.
Not this morning.
The only sound accompanying me was the sound of the birds, the silent whisper of the wind.
Twenty minutes with just myself, the sunshine, and the silence, and I started to relax. The stress of the week, the constant pang of guilt about things left unfinished...it melted away.
There's something about sunshine, about silence, about sitting outside that calms us. Sometimes, we just need to put down the work, leave some things unfinished, and take care of our self.
My house may be a little dusty this week. My to do list isn't quite finished. But it's been worth it. I'm looking at the week after my morning of relaxation, and I'm thinking, "I can do this. Bring it on."
Sunshine and silence...sometimes these are the things the soul needs.