I want to stop hiding. I always hide. I look at the floor instead of at people. I hide behind my hair. Invisibility. I want to be seen but I also find it uncomfortable. I put on a cliche face & appear open but there’s a thick glass wall between me & everyone else. I’m tired of wearing masks. I’m tired of not being as colorful, as bold, as cool, as vibrant, as alive as I can be. I go out but I don’t want anyone to see me even though deep down, I crave being seen. I want people to know me. There’s nowhere left to hide. I want to be so authentic that when other people see me it makes them feel braver. I want to give them permission to shine like the brightest star too. I want to stop only posting manufactured, manicured posts to social media. I want to stop showing only the “perfect” things. I want to share what it’s really like. I want people to see who I really am. Even if they don’t always like it. I’m tired of playing small. It’s bullshit. I’m every color of the freaking rainbow, & I’m going to stop being afraid of showing it.
MASTER OF MY WORLD.
I want to be the master of my every moment. The master of my universe. To be the one shaping my world, designing & molding & manifesting exactly what I want. I’m tired of my subconscious fears & anxieties & limiting beliefs controlling what happens. They don’t know how to drive. I’m taking the wheel back from them. Taking away their licenses. My car, my rules. I want to create the kind of life for myself that I deserve. In sync with the Big Universe out there, co-creator & collaborative artist & lover. To both be the one in control, & the one creating & tapping into the flow that I effortlessly skate along. To let that flow guide me. To be able to create real magic for myself. To love myself, truly & deeply & completely. Like we did when we were children. Before we learned how to hate ourselves.
HUGE POSITIVE IMPACT ON THE LIVES OF OTHERS.
I want to be a really, really kind person. I want to be used as a force of immense good in this world. I want kindness to be the way I change the world for the better. I want to be the kind of person who gives huge tips at restaurants. The kind of person who shows up with a car filled with dog food & cat litter at the animal shelter. The kind of person who shows up & writes a huge check for a local charity. Who makes care packages for the homeless & handmade cards for lonely in the hospital. Who creates places & opportunities that empower other people. To do my part of throwing the starfish back in the ocean.
LIFE REALLY IS MY PLAYGROUND.
Life is supposed to be fun. I get caught up in the stress & boredom we’re conditioned to feel as adults. I fall down onto what they tell me adulthood is supposed to feel like. The drudge. The dreaded Mondays. No more time to play & breathe & explore. But they’re all wrong. Why was dancing invented if we were all supposed to be so serious most of the time? Why does it feel so good to be happy if we’re supposed to despise at least 33% of our lives? I want to lean back in the swing & look at the pure blue sky. I want to lie on my back in the meadow & see the shapes of dinosaurs & flamingos in the clouds. I want to sit at the end of the ocean & build a moat to protect the sandcastle, & I want to start each day with dancing. It doesn’t take any courage to hate Mondays or to be dragged into the rat race, but it does take courage to play.
COMPLETE FREEDOM TO LIVE THE WAY I WANT TO.
I started the year focused on becoming a millionaire. As if that was the be all, end all. But it never was enough to keep me focused. Something was always missing. I was afraid. If I wanted to succeed, I had to make my goal about HOW I WANTED TO FEEL & not just how much money’s in the bank. That’s what the journey is actually about. I want to know what it’s like to live my life exactly the way I want to. Because if you don’t have a foundation, where’s your hustle? Where’s your hunger to push through & make something happen if you become lazy in success? I want to build a life that’s mine & on my terms. Complete, beautiful freedom. The concept of “millionaire” is part of that, but not all. & “millionaire” doesn’t (won’t) feel the same to me as it does to numerous unhappy others. Money is amazing, but it alone isn’t solid enough without a good foundation under it. That foundation is the underlying lifestyle & story I’m going to design for myself. Otherwise you end up a stressed, cynical millionaire. & that’s not what I want to be.
I want to be free. What do I want my life to look like? What would my life look like in a year if I loved myself truly & deeply? How would I dress? What hairstyle would I have? How would I make money? Where would I live? How would I spend my time? It’s my responsibility to build the life I want for myself. Living in complete freedom is living like you love yourself completely, truly, & deeply. I want to make my life biggest, most beautiful art project.
Why are you doing the thing you’re doing every day?
There are seven levels of “WHY”. If you keep asking yourself, you can get to the bottom of it & find out what REALLY is keeping you going.
I heard about this idea first while reading the article “How to Consistently Act From Your Deepest ‘Why’ and Optimize Your Time” by Benjamin Hardy. In it, he says,
“Think about what it is you want, and ask yourself this simple question:
What about ___________ is important to me?
Just answer the first thing that comes to mind.
Don’t over complicate it.
[…] It’s good to go at least 7-questions deep into this exercise.”
You start asking yourself “WHY?”. The first reason is probably some semi-B.S., superficial reason that’s visible immediately. It’s your initial knee-jerk reaction, which also might be a somewhat canned response.
I’m going to use my personal examples here because I know them the best obviously. But this is something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently.
Why do we do the things we do?
What keeps you going? Why do you keep doing what you’re doing even when it really hurts? What separates the things that hurt but matter from the things that hurt but are bad?
So I went down the seven levels to find out my core reason.
Why did I want to be a millionaire? I asked myself.
Why was being a millionaire important to me?
So I could have financial freedom, of course. Plus all the things “financial freedom” encompassed.
Why was financial freedom important to me?
Because financial freedom would allow me to spend my time doing things that made me happy. It would give me the freedom to help others. So the obvious “freedom” was the answer.
Why was freedom important to me?
Because freedom would allow me to maximize my happiness. It would allow me to make my life a perfect expression of happiness.
Why was happiness important to me?
This is when this questionnaire became a little more difficult. Why did I want happiness? I couldn’t put this one in a box so easily. My first reaction was, “Happiness is important because HAPPINESS is important.” I felt like I’d reached the end of the road. How could I go a level deeper?
But I knew there WERE more levels. “Happiness” was too easy of an answer. It wasn’t deep enough.
So, why was happiness important to me?
I suddenly knew. A phrase I came up with months ago came to mind.
Because I know I cannot FULLY love myself until I’m living a life that makes me happy.
Aha! So there WAS an answer to this. But self-love was, in itself, a pretty good answer. Just like happiness had been. But, like happiness, there had to be a deeper answer.
Why was self-love important to me?
Because I know I deserve to live my best life. Because it’s my purpose.
Six levels down.
& with sudden clarity, the answer to the seventh came so easily. It was an ineffable feeling of destiny, of KNOWING something without doubt. But put into words, it’s something like this.
Why was living my best life important to me?
Because it’s WHO I AM. WHO I CAN BE.
- Become a self-made millionaire. This is my top goal because it will help a lot of my other goals happen. I’m going out there to get the good things that I deserve. I do this because I love myself, & I also love a good challenge.
- Start eating healthy consistently & exercising daily. Over the past year, I have IMPROVED, but I’m still way behind where I’d like to be as far as healthy habits. I know I could do better. I end up only eating 1-2 servings of vegetables a day. This is due to my “addiction” to processed sugar & non-vegetable foods. I also walk a bit each day, but I can be quite sedentary at times & don’t exercise the recommended 30 minutes a day. Sometimes, I also eat too much sugar. But I want to eat healthier, I know it will help me feel my best & have the most energy, so I’m going to do this.
- Live with passion every day. Like Tony Robbins talks about. I’m going to make 2018 my happiest year yet. Making sure I’m living with passion & taking time for self-care are habits that will help me do this.
- Publish more books. This year’s book list includes: my Epic Florida Road Trip book. A photography album of artistic photos of the Tampa Bay area. A seven-zine series of photos I took on my road trip. The second zine in my Flowers series of photography zines. A zine of botanical garden photos. Several poetry books. My essay book, Not a Dime a Dozen. A Tarot card dictionary. Several more books for my Wonderful Wildlife & 50 Adorable Facts animal series. The second book in the Summer Hayes series. More issues of Assemblage.
- Release my third album of music. I released my second album, “confusion is over”, in 2015. I’ve done some cover songs, but I have not released any more albums or singles since then.
- Get a pet tortoise & pet crested geckos. I’m currently prepping for a red foot tortoise hatchling right now & I’m doing a ton of research. Tortoises are fascinating & so sweet. I’m really looking forward to adding one to my critter family. Sometime later in the year, I plan on getting some baby crested geckos too.
- Create & release my first Udemy course. I’m working on a course RIGHT NOW that’s based on my 101 Ways to Love Yourself course. I still have a pretty long way to go on it, but it’s going to be an amazing, comprehensive course. It will have more than 100 videos, many worksheets, podcast versions of each episode, & much more.
- Go to A LOT more amazing concerts & other awesome places/events. I have some of these activities planned already. I’m making sure I always have something to look forward to doing. I learned in the past year that adding to my “experience library” is something that adds immense value to my life.
- Release at least two more apps for iOS devices. Last year, I released my “Adorable Fall Stickers” app for iOS devices, & I have a few more apps in the works.
- Travel to a state I’ve never been to, travel somewhere else in Florida, & travel to another country. This was on the list last year. I did go somewhere else in Florida & to another state, both of which were goals on the previous list. I’m refreshing this goal because I want to do the same thing this year but with different places.
- Become a certified ethical hacker. Ethical hacking has always fascinated me. If nothing more it will help me educate myself about web security for my own benefit. I bought the Udemy course, & now I just have to DO THE COURSE.
- Go on another road trip. An RV would be amazing to help me achieve my road trip goals. I would love the feeling of being able to have a mini-home I can take anywhere.
- Buy an RV. An RV would be amazing to help me achieve my road trip goals, & I would love the feeling of being able to have a mini-home I can take anywhere.
- Become a life coach. I love helping & coaching other people achieve their goals & live their best lives. I realized that last year, so becoming a life coach is definitely going to be something I pursue in 2018.
- Direct, produce, write, film, & act in a full-length indie film. This was on last year’s list & I didn’t do it. Which means I HAVE to do it this year. I love film, I love acting, & I think it would be super-awesome to actually make my own film. I’ve completed four short films, but I’m taking the bull by the horns this time & making a feature-length film.
- Expand my network & make genuine friends. Everybody can benefit from this, & it’s something I definitely need to do. It’s also outside of my current comfort zone, so you know what that means? I have to do it to grow.
- Get all the domains I have purchased but never made websites out of made into websites & making money for me. I currently own 10 or 11 domains, & I’m only using three of them. I’ve owned some of the domains for years & still haven’t made them public. This is embarrassing. They’re sitting around costing me money & no one can see them. So VERY SOON, all these sites are going to be up & running, & I’m going to post links to them on this blog when I do!
- Become a fashion designer & start selling my first original clothing design. I have some great designs that I will release over the next few months. I’m so excited about seeing them when they’re done. I’ll be even more thrilled to be able to wear them myself, & being able to share them with others.
- Walk a marathon. Last year, I walked a 5k. I need to challenge myself physically. I don’t enjoy running, but I did want a goal that was out of my (current) league, so I chose this. I know it will require a lot of training, but I’m ready to train. This will also help me achieve my goal of making 2018 my healthiest year yet.
- Launch several products that I have in the works. Many of these are things I’ve wanted to do for forever. It’s time I made them something you can buy!
- Complete all the online courses I have purchased. I bought them, & like my domains, they can’t benefit me until I use them.
- Read 75 books. In 2016, I read almost no books. In 2017, I read 57 books. My goal for 2018 is 75 books. Another stretch goal, but I’m going to do my best! Besides, for a book-lover like me, the idea of reading 75 books & gaining all that knowledge makes me drool.
- Interview more people for my blog. I love doing this, & I have a few people slated for this right now. It’s so much fun, I love the value I’m able to provide whomever I’m interviewing, & I always learn a ton.
- Grow my online store. I have so many products, product ideas, & new designs that I can’t wait to show you!
- Become more of a minimalist. I made progress here in the last year (it was on the 2017 list too) but I have a lot more progress to make. To echo what I said in my 2017 blurb about it,
“This means excluding things – physical things, mental things, wasted time, unhappiness – to make more room for the things that really do feel good. I’m not trying to have as few things as possible, but as many things that make me happy with as few unnecessary things as possible. I really like this quote from this article I was reading earlier, titled Like Henry David Thoreau, but with Wi-Fi. ‘Everything in my life become my favorite thing.’ I want to live my life like that. “
- Become a contributor to the Entrepreneur Magazine website. They’re one of my favorite websites. It would be an honor to be considered “good enough” to be a contributor. This will require me to improve & hone my writing skills, so it’s a good challenge.
- Partner up with some of my favorite brands & companies in a way which benefits us both. With these new products & new ideas that I will launch in 2018, I’m going to add a LOT of value to the brands I partner up with.
Here’s to making 2018 YOUR FAVORITE YEAR YET!
Just one favor from you: hold me accountable.
I’m going to become a millionaire in 2018.
That’s my big goal for the upcoming year.
I don’t know how yet, but I have some exciting ideas. But the how is not the important thing just yet.
The important thing is that I’ve decided.
Declaring this goal publicly is equally important. Being publicly held accountable for ACHIEVING the goal you set is supposed to be really helpful. Public accountability makes things happen.
So I need your help, just one tiny favor from you:
HOLD ME ACCOUNTABLE.
That way if I wimp out & DON’T do this, I’ll know that other people were counting on me to hustle & make my goals happen. I’ll feel embarrassed that I didn’t do what I said I was going to do. I’ll be disappointed. I hate disappointing myself, but when it’s only you you’re answering to, it’s easy to say, “Well, I guess it just wasn’t the right time yet.” When really, you could have done it if you had a reason to.
If you knew you HAD to. If you burnt all your boats & went for it.
By saying this to you, I’m making it so I HAVE to do this.
Not that I don’t have very compelling personal reasons “why” even without anyone knowing about this. I do know my “why”. My “why” is because being a millionaire would allow me to live my best life, provide for my family beyond their wildest dreams, help elevate & empower & promote other artists/writers/musicians/awesome people, & to do my part to take care of the world. They deserve me living my best life. I deserve me living my best life. I feel like achieving that level of success so I can do those things is my duty. Because I can’t lift up other people as much as I’d like to if I’m in the pit too.
IF YOU’RE GOING TO BE ALIVE, YOU MIGHT AS WELL TRY TO BE ALL YOU CAN.
I know I deserve to live my best life, because I’ve always, ever since I was a kid, known I was destined to. I’ve definitely had my dark times & doubts, but they never were able to kill that underlying thread, the message deeply entwined in who I am that one day, I AM going to make it big.
When things have been dark, that knowledge that I’m meant for something greater — the greatest happiness, the greatest success, recognition, wealth, & intentional & good-feeling fame — is what’s allowed me to rise back into the light. I have always been heading towards these things.
I hold myself accountable to a very high level. But even I sometimes wimp out & play small & think, “maybe I don’t deserve this”. Or I stop when I don’t know how to move forward & let myself get distracted by other things. Or I’m afraid of succeeding. Afraid I won’t like it once I get there. & then I don’t make it happen. I don’t try push enough. Then at the end of the year, I look back with some disappointment that I didn’t do what I TOLD MYSELF I was going to do.
& because I’m getting very tired of falling back on playing small, on not LETTING myself have the money & the success & the HAPPINESS that feel far away even though I know they’re totally within my reach, I’m trying something new this year.
That’s why I need your help.
I just read the amazing “ What Happens When You Take Full Responsibility For Your Life” article here on Medium from one of my favorite writers, Benjamin P. Hardy. The article is about taking radical responsibility for your life & actually COMMITTING to making your dreams happen. Unconditionally & unquestionably RESOLVING to achieve your goals. I highly recommend you read it if you want to make 2018 your best year EVER.
In his article, he challenged the reader to make a big decision & then make sure everyone else knows about your decision so they can hold you accountable. The reason it encourages success is because people like being seen as consistent with what others believe they are. You like seeing YOURSELF as being consistent with what you believe you are. This is one way you “burn your boats”.
Your mind will almost literally move mountains to keep up with what it believes its standards are.
This is why people who don’t believe they deserve something will go to great lengths to sabotage any sort of success. They can’t believe they deserve it, so they don’t let themselves have it. Even if having it would be way easier than resisting it.
This is also why people who believe in their own success will overcome even the most crushing of setbacks & achieve outstanding things. People can do miraculous things when they really believe they can do something.
People also don’t like letting other people down, because disappointing others & not living up to their expectations doesn’t feel good. Especially if they expect something great from you & if they genuinely want something for you which is in your actual best interest.
So, if I’m not a millionaire by the end of 2018, I’m going to feel disappointed because I didn’t do what I said I was going to do. I’m not going to feel like I was consistent with what was expected of me. With what I TOLD YOU I was going to do.
But I don’t think I’ll be disappointed. I believe this IS possible for me. Even if I can’t see exactly how yet. But I do have a lot of options, a lot of ways it could pan out.
Sure, it’s an ambitious goal. It’s by far my most ambitious yearly goal yet.
But I’m no stranger to making big goals. At the beginning of this year, I made some pretty big plans about traveling by myself for the first time, & they weren’t even very specific goals. ALSO, a lot of the goals I set at the beginning of the year were NOT things I actually expected I would accomplish this year. I made them with good intentions, but I also put them on there like, “Well, I hope this happens this year (but deep down inside it’s probably not going to)”.
& I still made them happen. Because somewhere along the line, I started genuinely believing they WERE possible.
That’s how 2017 ended up being the most freaking amazing year of my life. I went on an epic road trip around Florida by myself (my first trip away from home), traveled from Tampa to Houston to see Queen (one of my all-time favorite bands) in concert, saw a lot of my other favorite bands in concert, ran my first 5K, published numerous books, acted in a play, started investing in the stock market even though I knew nothing about it when I started, grew my online business, started a podcast, bought my absolute DREAM guitar (Fender Telecaster Thinline 72′ Series), & started my own weekly show on YouTube. I also really figured out what I wanted & who I wanted to be.
An amazing freaking year. & yet at the beginning of the year I assumed the year would be cool but also kind of lame, & that I wouldn’t really move forward much. That it would be just like every other year before it.
But I was wrong. I got out there & made shit happen.
& I learned who I want to become in 2018. What I want. Another piece of the map showing me the way to my best life. The best life that I am actively creating for myself.
It’s time I took radical responsibility for my life. It’s time I stopped playing small & pretending I can’t have or don’t deserve the things that make me light up.
So I’m sending my declaration out there loud & clear. I’m ready. Let’s make this happen.
By the end of 2018, I will be a millionaire. & it’s going to feel really good, in all aspects.
So, will you help me?
Will you hold me accountable?
& I’ll hold you accountable too. Let me know in the comments what you’re going to create for yourself in 2018.
We’ll watch those boats burn together. Then, with no more excuses stopping us from becoming our best selves, we’ll watch 2018 become the most amazing year of our lives yet.
Thank you so much for reading this! If you could click on the APPLAUSE button on the left, that would be fantastic! Hope you have a really great day.
You still have time, but you have to go NOW.
But it’s your choice what you make of the last month of the year.
The year is almost over.
But you still have time.
What are you going to do about it?
Save $1. Exercise for one minute. The tiniest step in the right direction is better than doing nothing at all. When done consistently, it can move mountains.
Previously published by Thought Catalog at www.thoughtcatalog.com.
Much too often, perfect becomes the enemy of good. Perfection becomes more important than making progress in the first place. There have been so many times I’ve given up on something because I wasn’t able to do it as often, as devotedly, in the same capacity that I’d originally planned to.
But starting, even with the most seemingly insignificant action, is always better than not starting at all. The smallest action in the right direction, especially when doing it becomes a habit, is incredibly powerful.
The tiniest step in the right direction is better than doing nothing at all. When done consistently, it can move mountains.
Sometimes, it feels like if you can’t commit to exercising an hour a day, if you can’t save 10% of your income, if you can’t write 5,000 words a day, that you might as well not do anything at all. That you should wait until it’s a “better time”.
Don’t wait for the perfect time to do something. Don’t stop & start over because you messed up, or you don’t think you’re ready, or you don’t have the time, the money, the resources. It will never be a better time than it is RIGHT. NOW. No one cares if you cheated at your diet for one day, or if you only start out writing ten words a day in the novel that’s been inside you for a decade.
What matters is that you DO SOMETHING.
Walking for one minute is better than not exercising at all, if that’s all you can do for now.
Practicing playing guitar for two minutes is better than not playing it at all, if that’s all you have time to do.
Eating a tablespoon of canned vegetables along with your burger & fries is better than not eating any vegetables at all, if you’re working on eating healthier.
Flossing one tooth every day is better than not flossing at all, if you don’t have the time to floss all your teeth.
Throwing out one item you no longer need is better than not throwing out anything at all, if you know streamlining your belongings would make your life better.
Opening one window in your house is better than no windows at all, if you want to let fresh air in but only one window has a screen.
Reading one new word in that language you’ve always wanted to learn is better than not learning anything at all, if learning that language seems too challenging.
Writing one line of code is better than not working on your app at all, if you’re working on becoming a programmer & getting your app out there.
Posting something on your blog, at the “worst” time of day, is better than not posting at all if that’s the only thing & the only time you can post it.
Choosing just once today to respond differently is better than staying stuck in the same habits or emotions or beliefs, if you’re trying to reach that next level.
Writing ten words in your novel every day is better than not writing anything at all, if you’ve got a story burning inside you that you know the world needs to see.
Putting $1 in your savings account each week is better than not saving any money at all, if that’s all you have the ability to save right now.
Painting one brush stroke on the canvas is better than not painting anything at all, if you don’t know what to paint, or how to paint it.
Because everything you do eventually adds up. It eventually counts for something. At the end of the year, you will have written 3,650 words more than you’ve written right now. You will have saved $365 more than you have currently. You will have spent 6.08 more hours exercising than you would have otherwise.
Everything you do will compound. Everything you do will leverage every other thing you do. You might be worried that you’re taking the easy way out by only taking one step. But if that’s all you can do right now, your tiny action is as valuable as gold. You will find the time, the motivation, the resources, to get better at it if it’s important to you. You will get to where you’re heading.
Consistency is more important than perfection ever will be.
What you do today to take a step further in the right direction is never a waste of time. You will be that much closer to living the type of life you want to live. The type that you deserve to live.
It’s kind of like the famous “Starfish Story”. You can’t throw all the starfish back into the water. But it will matter, invaluably, for the ones you do.
You can’t always make all the progress you wish you could make. You can’t always win every battle.
But it will matter, invaluably, for the ones you do.
Now, go out there & do something.
Happiness is hard. Authenticity is hard. I know this very, very well.
I’m not going to give you some fluffy sermon about how if you just take a bubble bath, smile three times a day at yourself in the mirror, & think happy thoughts constantly that your life will magically be better. These things might help you, but they also might not.
But the thing is, you have all the power in the world to change your life.
Hating yourself is boring. Feeling ugly & unloved is boring. Living someone else’s plans for you is boring. Being depressed & feeling hopeless about your future is boring.
You deserve better than that. You were born to live an awesome life. It’s your duty to yourself to pursue that, as vibrantly & lovingly as you can.
What do you have to lose in learning to love yourself? Or in trying to be happy, & starting to live a life that genuinely makes you feel good? There is nothing to lose.
Change is hard. But the ability to adapt is the thing which separates the winners from the losers. You are trying to make your life better. That puts you in the category of the winners, right now. You’re strong enough, & smart enough, & determined enough to win.
Think about this. You have made it through everything that’s happened to you in your life so far. You have made it. If you can do that, you can do this. You can do anything.
You can love yourself. You can feel better. You can be happy.
You can start living any super-awesome amazing life of your choosing.
And you can start today. Right now.
The key to having all this starts when you start loving yourself. Self-love is the backbone to everything else available to you. It’s the ship that you’re sailing on, & the wind that fills your sails & your lungs. It’s the star you see up ahead in the dark of night. It’s the start of everything else. The first brick on the yellow brick road.
When you start loving yourself, everything else falls into place. You become stronger & more resilient. You start respecting yourself & knowing your worth & only accepting the things you deserve. You start realizing that you can create whatever life you want for yourself, & start empowering yourself to go out there, & go get it.
Happiness is hard. Authenticity is hard.
But when you start loving yourself, that’s when these things become easy.
Be gentle with yourself as you work towards the changes & beautiful transformations you’re going through. You’re stepping into the things you’re supposed to be, & you’re getting closer to the things that you’re creating for yourself. Not every step you take will lead you to where it hoped it would, but all of it is leading you closer to the things you ultimately want, even if they don’t seem like they are. The doors you open may lead you to strange, indefinable places, but place a little more trust in the instinctive knowledge you have inside you. You are not as lost as you sometimes feel you are.
Five years ago, I did one of the most frightening, brilliant things I had done in my 16-year existence : hit the “publish” button on Amazon’s Kindle Publishing page, and in that moment, released my first book to the world.
The journey had started long, long before then, when I was 13 years old. I had been coming up with stories & working on a variety of books, mostly about children/teens & their pets, since I was about ten years old. I had completed several books prior to writing Strange Occurrences, each one somewhere around 50 – 70 typed pages. Strange Occurrences originally started as a screenplay I was going to write, but when I realized that to turn it into a film would be an challenging, expensive endeavor, I decided to write a book about the idea instead. My book was going to be about a young teenage girl who got sucked into another dimension, one which would allow her to see other people’s points of view, & understand how her actions fit into the grander scheme of things. This was inspired by watching the movie It’s a Wonderful Life for the first time, & being awed by the end portion of the film, where George Bailey sees what things would have been like if he’d never been born.
I remember a distinct moment from when I was 13, and walking on the treadmill stationed in my parents’ bedroom. My grandmother had died recently. I decided to incorporate this element into my story, & have the main character’s dying grandmother warn her about the “Strange Occurrences”, something the grandmother had experienced when she was the main character’s age. Originally, the main character’s name was going to be Carol, inspired by the name of Jack Ryan’s wife in the film Hunt for Red October, which I must note, I was OBSESSED with at the time, but eventually decided on Cathy. As I walked on the treadmill, I decided that Cathy would “use walking as a means of escaping from her problems” and traverse her neighborhood with her dog.
Strange Occurrences really began months later, as I sat on the bed in a cheap hotel room, holding the old Dell laptop on my lap, & leaning back on the made bed against a wall of stiff hotel pillows. We were moving to a different house & staying in the hotel while we looked for houses. I described the hotel as being “oppressive, like a dungeon”, & wanted to do something to take my mind off this fact. I remember sitting on the bed, typing the opening lines, looking over at my sister & explaining what I was writing, & my parents coming back inside from retrieving something from the car. This was where I typed those first few pages.
Over the next few months, even as I attended college as a dual-enrollment student, I worked on Strange Occurrences in my spare time. The story took shape, and changed multiple times. After a long, arduous editing process which spanned several months and included both me & my family (including my relatives) reading through my book several times, I finally worked up the courage to start sending off samples to a variety of big-name publishers. Eagerly, I awaited a response, & imagined the perfect-movie-moment in which I would open their letter with trembling hands, & read, “we are interested in publishing your book, and would like you to send us the rest of it”. One day, a letter arrived in the mail, & I opened it. I was both terrified & elated that after weeks of waiting, I’d finally received a response. When I opened it though, I saw the dreaded words, & my spirit temporarily fell : “unfortunately, we are not interested in your manuscript at this time.” I was temporarily surprised and disappointed by this, but being a confident optimist, I kept thinking, “Maybe the next letter will be a ‘yes’.”. After receiving several rejection letters, I realized that the best course of action would be to take matters into my own hands.
For a long time, I hadn’t been open to the idea of self-publishing a book. This was mostly because I was in love with the fantasy of having an actual publishing house send me a letter telling me they liked what they’d written. Looking back, I was firmly set on having this because I felt like getting a deal with a big publishing house was a very prestigious thing. Furthermore, achieving this would not only prove to myself that I was indeed good at writing, but it would prove to those around me that writing was a legitimate career, & would be the thing which would make me a “real” writer.
Thankfully, two things happened around this time. (1) My father repeatedly told me about how he thought self-publishing, especially ebooks, was a good idea, & sent me multiple articles about successful authors on Kindle. (2) I was starting to get fed up with waiting for people to give me approval about my books, & I started wondering why I was letting someone else hold me back from doing what I wanted to do. I came to the conclusion that I might as well try self-publishing, & began researching how to make this happen.
To be honest, I procrastinated publishing Strange Occurrences by endlessly editing it. “I just want it to be perfect.” I thought. I kept finding things about it that I could change or improve. “Just one more edit, then it will be done.” I kept saying that, for a few months. Eventually, I realized that I could edit it a thousand times & always find things about it that could be made better, but if I did that, my book would never get published. “You’re afraid of success.” My dad told me. So I got to work on painting the cover, & wrote the book description.
I remember sitting in a kitchen chair one afternoon, sunlight streaming in, & I sketched out the cover for Strange Occurrences on a piece of paper taken from a sketchpad of mine. Once the sketch was perfected, I filled it in with paint. I wanted my sister to photograph me painting it, “to document this moment.”, I told her. A while later, the cover was done. I painted the title words on another piece of paper & added them to the cover image in Photoshop.
After learning about how to format a book, making multiple formatting errors, & finally getting it right, then came the moment when I was on the Kindle publishing page, filling out the information about my book, & uploading my files.
April 4, 2011. It was finally time. I put my cursor over the “Publish” button, took a few deep breaths, & looked around at my family gathered there on the couch. “I’m going to publish it now.” I told them. All my hard work & all the effort I had put into this book was finally coming to life. I didn’t know where I was going by doing this, or what would happen, and even though I didn’t feel entirely ready, I knew inside that I really was. I hit the publish button. A feeling of relief, & of nervousness, filled me, but mostly, it was a feeling of accomplishment. I’d done something awesome, especially for a 16-year-old. I was really doing this. By doing this, I was saying to the world that I believed in myself & in the things I created, & in my opinion, there are few statements as powerful as that.
In the five years since then, I have written more than 45 books & started a monthly zine which currently includes 10 issues, as well as a variety of albums, blogs, & videos. I’ve written a novel in three days, participated in multiple NaNoWriMo challenges, & been featured on a TV interview with Fox News. These are things that I never would have thought were possible five years ago, but by the mere fact of them happening, it proved to me that I was dedicated and confident enough to make this happen for me. To be a writer. To make my goals happen, without waiting for anyone else to tell me that I was good enough.
Here’s to the five years since then, & the next five years. Here’s to all the people who are just starting out as writers & trying to get people to read their books. Here’s to those who came before me & set the stage, & the ones that encouraged me to go farther. Here’s to the people questioning if their books, their writing, their music, their art, their dreams, are good enough. Here’s to the people tired of waiting for others to tell them it’s okay to take the next step, those who take their goals into their own hands & nurture them & turn them into absolute brilliance, even if it feels messy or amateur.
Here’s to scared, ambitious teen hitting the “Publish” button on her first book & seeing that her dream of being this was possible.
Here’s to courage, in whatever form for you it may take.
(image from Ashlee Craft / Assemblage, Issue 10)
Happiness is the best revenge. Or, as I also love stating frequently : haters gonna hate. The people who don’t like you don’t like you because they feel like you’re above them, or because they’re afraid of you being better than they are, because they are jealous of you. Because they are made uncomfortable by your vastness, your talent, your personality, your brilliance. If they really were above you, they wouldn’t see a point in bringing you down. Down is the key word in that. People who are vast, successful, happy, wealthy (in things more than just money), etc, have what they need, & don’t need to hinder or hold back or quell or block out or squash or shadow or disrespect anyone in any way, ever. They don’t have to do that in order to feel better about themselves. Because they are BIG. Because they are bright + brilliant. Without having to take light away from others in order to feel powerful.
The people who don’t like you aren’t really above you at all. For a minute, they might seem like they do – they might make more money, or have a better car, or more “friends”, or have an attractive & charming significant other, or an important sounding job. But trust me – if they’re that hell-bent on causing pain & sadness to you, they probably lead bitter, sad lives, or at the very least, have doubts about their confidence or their choices. People who are comfortable with themselves build people up & are excited when they do well.
So, if you’re dealing with someone who makes you feel bad about who you are or the choices that you make, or anything else, let your happiness, & your success, be your revenge to them. It will annoy them to see you doing well in the ways they thought you never could. No matter what you do, they still won’t like you, so you might as well do what makes you happy & pursue happiness like the wealth that it is. Be so damn happy that they shake their heads in absolute & utter confusion about how someone they think is as fill-in-the-blank as you can be so happy. Be so successful in your endeavors, so dedicated in your hard work + pursuit of a really really good life, that the people who don’t like you may find themselves desperately wishing that their lives resembled yours, and that they were as happy as you.
But in the end, it never really was about them anyways. This whole process was never about how your actions affect them, because there are so many more worthwhile things to do than caring what someone who doesn’t respect you thinks. It’s all about proving yourself & your beliefs about what’s possible wrong by providing the best life possible for yourself & reaching a higher level of self-love. It’s about asserting your own belief in yourself & confidence in your opinions. Your happiness being “revenge” is the one type of revenge which is about building someone up rather than tearing someone down. All their efforts to tear you down & make you feel bad about yourself are exceeded by you pushing back against them, rising up higher again & again, overcoming their darkness by you shouting you from rooftops “I AM GOOD ENOUGH. I DESERVE BETTER.” It is the one thing you can do in response to all their darkness which reasserts that you are free from them, they never owned you at all, that you are your very-own person which their choices and words do not influence, that you will not be broken by them. That you will keep marching right on forward & becoming positively radiant in the face of all that lies ahead for you. And in succeeding where others would love to see you fall, by continuing to try even when they try to tell you that you’ll never make it, I think this is when you start to know what it means to be your own hero.
Remember that you’re rad, & you’re so deserving of love + respect, & so deserving of an absolutely magical, epic, badass, beautiful, & awesome life filled with great experiences, dreams coming true, & complete happiness so brilliant it makes your haters need sunglasses. You deserve it.