The other day, I tweeted that I had been feeling lost often lately, but that I’d had a good day and I was grateful for it. A bunch of people liked it, which is pretty uncommon for an earnest tweet of mine. I imagined people could relate. A few friends responded to the tweet or messaged me privately to check on me, which was much appreciated, but I was fine. I am fine. I’m just lost, and it’s a state I find myself in often. Is it uncomfortable? Yes. But is it bad? Not always.
When I say I feel lost, I mean that I don’t know where my life is going. I don’t know exactly what I want. I’ve had mortality on my brain a lot lately, and the other day, I asked myself what I would want to accomplish before I die. What is so important to me that I should work on getting it done right away, so that I can die knowing at least I’ve done this, whatever this is? I don’t know. That answer kind of scared me. But at the same time, it made me think that maybe I couldn’t answer it because I already had so much of what I wanted from life: love and happiness. In spite of my constant state of uncertainty with my life’s direction, I’ve found security in my loving family, my friendships, my relationship. I’ve had so many moments that were so blissful, I knew what it meant to be full and happy, truly happy. What is the goal of life, if not that?
We’re going on a year of this pandemic. Which is also a year of this newsletter, that never did quite become what I thought I wanted it to be. But there’s still time to change that. I’m still not sure what I want it to be. I think I started it as a way to have an outlet for my writing, to have a portfolio even though most of my pitches weren’t getting picked up. I’d use it as a way to write the stories I wanted to write, whether or not a magazine or website wanted to buy my words from me. And then I thought it was silly to write for free. And I thought I should find one theme and hone in on it. I still think those things are true, but maybe the point of this thing all along was just to have a creative outlet that didn’t have to be so planned out, so organized.
A year ago, when I started this newsletter, I had my first post-grad job. After years of ditching college to make my music writer dreams happen (they never really did, not how I wanted them to, at least), I went back, studied English literature and creative writing and loved nearly every second of it, and graduated with honors. I spent months looking for publishing internships and jobs and getting denied for them all. It got me wondering what was worse: never hearing back from a job I applied for, or landing an interview, maybe two, feeling the real possibility of getting the job and imagining how it might change my life and then…not getting it. (After this year, I think it’s the latter.) But after quite a few rejections, I finally got this first post-grad job, much in part to a connection with someone at the company, which seems to be the only way to get anything anymore. It was marketing for a small educational publisher and it wasn’t a dream, but it paid well enough, was flexible enough that I didn’t feel myself being pummeled into a rigid routine, and was a good resume booster for future work in publishing, I hoped. Then a few months later, COVID got real, real quick, and as the only hourly, contracted employee, I was the first to go. Back to square one.
I hoped with a few months of marketing experience in a children’s education and publishing setting, I’d be able to land the jobs I really wanted: marketing or editorial for a YA imprint at an established publishing house. Especially since it was apparent that I wasn’t let go for any other reason other than COVID. Especially since I had years of experience in editorial writing, promotional writing, digital marketing and now, a degree in English - something I was lacking for a long time. Someone would be impressed with my resume, someone would take pity on me, someone would hire me and be so glad they did, because I’d be just what they were looking for.
But it’s been a year now and I haven’t heard back from a single publishing job I’ve applied for in the last 11 months. Dozens of cover letters litter the “Resumes” folder on my laptop. I hold onto them to alter every time one of the companies post a new opening. But nothing seems to change. I’ve kind of accepted it, I guess. Other things keep me busy, or busy enough. I’d be lying if I said that a large chunk of my days didn’t feel like the same day on a loop. But there have been some standouts.
When the event cancellations portion of the pandemic started, I texted with a friend, neither of us quite prepared for what was to come. “I’m so glad this is happening months before BookCon, because I would be so upset if we had to miss it,” I said. “SAME,” they replied. It would be my first year attending. We decided to hold off on buying tickets, to be safe. Little did we know. Little did we know.
A few months later, set up in the home office my boyfriend started on for me, I eagerly sat at my desk, laptop propped open in front of me with Youtube loading up a panel of authors. My schedule was planned out in my phone’s calendar — I’d RSVP’ed to the majority of the now virtual (and free!) BookCon’s events. I still maintain that it was my favorite weekend of the whole pandemic.
Watching authors talk about their process, bond with each other, and give advice to budding writers filled me with the same sense of affirmation and belonging that my creative writing workshops in college gave me. I found new favorite authors to follow, whose presence on my Twitter timeline reminded me even more of what I really wanted to do: write. Despite my love for YA fiction, I’d never thought about writing it before, partially due to the creative writing workshops in college that frowned upon anything that wasn’t sad and serious. But that didn’t matter anymore.
I learned about NaNoWriMo. I decided to participate in the camp program in July. I wrote 50,000 words that made up a messy first draft of my first book. I invited myself into these online spaces for writers, where I found new friends, people to relate to and share my work with and read their words and gush over them. I continued to work on my book, revising and rewriting, which I’m still doing. It’s a lot of work and it’s harder than I thought it would be, but it’s also so worth it. It’s the first time I’m really writing for me, and I love how that feels.
Writing a book is a new journey for me, and that journey comes with new ways to be disappointed, new ways to make myself feel inferior, new ways to convince myself that all my work will be for nothing. It makes me feel lost. But that’s okay. Uncertainty is a part of the bigger picture. And one day, when the pieces all come together, it will feel that much sweeter.
I’ve learned a lot in this past year of feeling lost.
The lack of structure, especially with my personal writing, has been hard to work around, but it’s taught me to give myself grace, which is a valuable lesson. Another valuable lesson is that every day won’t be full of creative energy (especially during a global pandemic, filled with anxiety) and it’s often better to step away and recharge than it is to push through a “block.”
I’ve strengthened my relationships: with my partner, with my close friends, with new friends, with old friends. I found different ways to love writing again: through this newsletter, my book, and sending real letters to pen pals. I found love and happiness in places I wasn’t looking before, places I probably wouldn’t have looked in if I wasn’t in the position this pandemic has put me in: home, unemployed, isolated.
I made handmade Valentines this year and sent them to penpals, friends and family members. There are people who I’m new to that think of me as a crafty person, which is hilarious, but also wonderful, because it reminds me that I am always allowed to reinvent myself, to change courses, to be who I want to be.
I say all this to say, if you’re feeling lost, you aren’t alone. So many of us are with you, including me. And if you have love in your life, moments of genuine happiness and fullness, a sense of community — you have so much.
It would be wonderful to have a great job, to be landing more freelance pitches, to have a more clear idea of my future, to have something resembling financial stability. But being lost sometimes just means I’m going down an uncharted road, which can lead to great discoveries. I’ve been working on my optimism a lot lately - can you tell?
Anyway, on this day of love, I hope you’re able to think of something you love and hold onto it tight, whether it’s a person, a memory, a job, a book, a song.
I’m not sure I tied all my loose ends here, but it’s my newsletter, and I am my own editor, and I understand myself enough to OK this message.
Happy Valentine’s Day. I love you.