I was recently listening to the 500th episode of public radio program, This American Life. What does it feel like to have created five hundred shows, the host, Ira Glass asks himself. “It feels like both a milestone, and it feels like nothing,” he says. “Like an odometer clicking over.” Initially, the staff had wondered if they should publicly note the milestone at all.
But, “if we didn’t do something today,” Ira Glass says, “that would feel weird.”
Would it, though? Is 500 any more significant than 200, or 501? My 100th blog post went by without a mention. So did the one year anniversary of this blog. I didn’t even realize they’d happened until they had passed. That’s the amazing thing about words. You can use them to label an episode, or a day, or a blog post as special, and even though, technically, they are just clicks on the odometer, those words make them feel like something more. Think of your birthday, for example. Without the label, it would just be another day.
At first I was upset that I didn’t commemorate my one-year blog anniversary, which was on July 23, but since it happened so recently, I have decided to celebrate it today. After all, it’s been roughly a year that I’ve been writing this blog, and I am approaching 200 posts, and both of those feats seem cause for a mention. Besides, if I label this post as special, it will be.
One year ago, I had recently made a big decision: to quit my full-time teaching job in the DC area and move to Cape Cod to focus on writing. The way it happened was all very squeaky-wheel-gets-the-oil. I had been complaining on the phone to my friend, Nikki, that my job was sucking all my time and energy, and I wasn’t doing any writing. I had recently gotten promoted – I was head of the math and science department, and making pretty good money for a teacher – but I was bordering on miserable.
“What do you really want?” Nikki asked.
What I wanted was very clear in my mind. “I want a part-time job, so that I can work on a novel and move towards making writing my career. But there’s no way I can afford to do that.”
A few days later, Nikki emailed me with a plan: I could come live for a year with her and her husband in Cape Cod, rent-free, and be their “writer in residence.” At first I thought this was absurd. I was about to turn thirty-one. I couldn’t work a part-time job and and sponge off my friends for a year. On the other hand, I was single, and I wasn’t particularly attached to DC… Wasn’t this exactly what I wanted? So, I made the leap.
After I decided to leave my old life behind and move to the Cape, things started falling into place. First, I started this blog. When I began, I wrote every day, and the blog not only forced me back into the habit of daily writing, it proved to me that I could write about anything –any time, anywhere, even when I didn’t feel like it.
I began ESL tutoring in July 2012 as well. My first student, Sergey, is a Ukrainian businessman, and, in the past year of our Skype tutoring relationship, he has become a dear friend to me, and in fact, he and his family will be visiting me in Seattle this Friday.
In September 2012, I got another Skype student, as well as a job writing math curriculum for an education company based out of New York. Both the tutoring and the curriculum were part-time, flexible, low-stress jobs I could do from anywhere. (Usually, in the first few months, they were done from my bed.)
With my part-time jobs squared away, I had time and energy to focus on writing. I wrote a young adult novel while on the Cape, along with several short stories, and I began shopping around for an agent. I also received several acceptance letters from literary magazines who had decided to publish my stories and poems.
In September, as well, I started talking to a boy named Paul, and by New Years he was officially my boyfriend – the first real boyfriend I’ve had since I was twenty-one. It was because of Paul, who was living in the DC area at the time, that I decided to leave the Cape early and finish out my “year off” at my mother’s house in Richmond, Virginia, only (technically) a two hour drive from Paul’s apartment.
Up until then, I had been thinking of this as a “year off.” I figured that, eventually, I would have to get a full-time job again, probably teaching. I would have to go back to the real world. It wasn’t until February, when I taught a class at the San Miguel Writers’ Conference in Mexico, that it hit me: this is my real world now. There was no need to go back to teaching: writing is my career. And luckily, with Skype tutoring and math curriculum consulting, I could actually afford to only work part-time and spend the rest of my time writing.
February was also when I made another big decision. Paul had recently accepted a job that would place him in Seattle for a year, and I decided to go with him. After all, I had jobs I could do from anywhere, and I even though we’d only been together a short time, I felt I had to go for it.
A few months later, we drove across the country, and now, here we are, living less than a mile from the Space Needle. I’m working on a new novel and feeling confident in my writing career, despite the fact that I’m still at the bottom of a very long, steep hill.
A week or so ago, I was taking a walk through Queen Anne, my lovely new neighborhood, and talking to Nikki on the phone. “Can you believe how much your life has changed in a year?” she asked me. “Last year you had just moved to the Cape, and now you’re in Seattle, living with a boyfriend.”
“I know,” I said. Although recently I’d been noticing little similarities between Seattle and Cape Cod. Both are artsy communities surrounded by water and serviced by ferries. Both have whales (humpback on the Cape and orca here) and seals (gray seals on the Cape and harbor seals here). Both have houses that lack air-conditioning and people who wear Wellies.
And yes, things seemed so different now compared to a year ago, but on the other hand, no, they didn’t. Here I was: I had just made a leap of faith; I had just moved to a new place – the same as last year. Here I was: still pursue writing, still making my own rules, still excited about the possibilities.
This past year I’ve learned that if you are very clear about what you want, and if you say what you want, out loud, (perhaps to other people, or perhaps just to yourself), it becomes easier to make it happen. It’s sometimes scary to squeak, but that’s how you get the oil. I’ve also learned that to have the life you want, you have to take leaps of faith. Otherwise, you’ll stay stuck where you are.
So, happy anniversary to me, and here’s to another year of blogging. After all, every day is “just another day.” It’s we who decide that this one is going to be special.