I'm a fan of the annual holiday letter. I know they're sometimes mocked for being sugar-coated and braggadocious, but I love receiving them. I have a few friends and family members who still send a holiday letter out. They're a snapshot into someone's life, a way to catch up on the big events I missed, and insight into what matters most to the writer. In that spirit, I thought I'd share my own end-of-year letter on this blog.
For the first time since age 13 I found myself unemployed this year. From July through November I lived off savings and job-hunted, after leaving a job I enjoyed because of an erratic boss. Those five months were....great. Every weekday I packed up my notebooks, laptop, lunch, and a thermos of green tea, and Citibiked across town to Columbia's Butler library. I holed up in a beautiful little cubicle that looked like this:
And I spent the whole day writing. 10-4, 5, or 6pm each day, depending on how in the flow I got.
For the first month I finished revising The Devil's Wall. Starting in August I began a brand new novel, Stardwellers. And in September I began querying agents for TDW. I'll remember 2018 as the year of full-time writing, my taste of that life I'd always dreamed of. It turns out I don't particularly need to see or interact with other people on a daily basis. I didn't miss it at all. What I really want from an occupation is just a sense of purpose and a reason to leave the house every day. That, and money. All of which is why I very, very happily accepted the new job I was offered and began this month!
In July my mother and I spent a week in my favorite town in America, Milford, PA. We stayed at an Airbnb, a compact house on an acre or two of lush green woods. We ate every meal outside on the covered porch. We hiked and saw gorgeous vistas. We kayaked down the Delaware River (kind of a glorious disaster). We saw deer, eagles, rabbits. My favorite memory from the trip is us sitting on the porch as a rainstorm came in. As it grew cloudy, we watched gusts of wind wrench distant trees, muss the tall grass in a nearby field, and finally tear through the trees in our yard. The rain followed the same route. For a long time we stayed outside, enjoying the noise and the cool mist that reached under our awning, a treat after a long, scorching day.
I keep a jar on my bookshelf that's filled with "Good Things": a few words apiece on scraps of folded paper. I write down beautiful sights, funny conversations, dear memories, and accomplishments of all sizes, and save them in the jar. At the end of each year, usually on New Year's Eve, I pour them out and reread them, and am filled with joy from remembering so many things I'd already forgotten.This year the jar was full of the new job, writing achievements, time spent with family, fun volunteer days, my writing groups, and new friends made (I was shocked to remember that I only met my amazing mentor just this year!).
So while it was hard to leave a job I liked, to live in a country periodically losing its mind, to watch my grandmother's health weaken, and to have my brother decide to join his fiancee in Chile because of the US's impenetrable visa system, it's the good things I want to keep with me. Those are the events I want to shape my personal narrative. It's the small joys along the way that make everything else worth it.