Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What kind of life do you want?

This is one of those questions I spend hours contemplating. Don't we all?

I know there are people on the fringe who think that they are the only enlightened ones and that the rest of the world is living like muggles or mindless drones enslaved to consumerism/popular culture/other people's opinions/the powers that be/whatever. That's pretty much the premise of all dystopian fiction,

from this
to this

But I don't actually believe that's true of our world. I don't think people are drones or muggles. I think we're all regular people. I think we live in regular-topia, not dys- or u- topia.

And it seems to me that most regular people live intentionally, even if they don't use that term. We all make choices about what to do with our money, our time, and our other finite resources. We choose what to watch, where to live, when to go to bed at night. Some of those choices are good and others are bad, but they're still choices. No one actually lives on autopilot. And if you feel like you are living on autopilot, it's easy to fix that. Just choose something different. Start with one little thing.

Okay, this is turning into a motivational poster, which was not exactly my intent. Ahem. Getting back on track . . .

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm saving up to purchase a tiny house. This isn't one of those little, everyday choices; it's a big a decision, one I've come to slowly and deliberately. I don't want to go into my entire history with tiny houses. That's another story for another post. For today, let's just say that this is something I've spent nearly five years considering, which is basically half of my adult life. I've gone through all the stages of tiny house obsession:

1. the initial awe and aimless daydreaming
2. the realization that this dream will be harder to achieve and will require more sacrifices than I anticipated
3. the conversations with family and friends, explaining that I'm not actually crazy (Well, not as crazy. We're all a little crazy.)
4. the "Oh, yeah, I have to pay for this. How am I going to do that?" part
5. the logistics of it all—parking, financing, building vs. buying, floorplans, utilities, timelines, downsizing my possessions, and on and on and on

Through all of this, I've kept quiet about tiny houses on the blog. This is mostly because for the first part of the process I wasn't blogging and for the second part, in spite of my best efforts, I really wasn't sure I'd be able to make it happen. So I kept quiet, but I also kept thinking about the kind of life I wanted and how to achieve it.

Now that I can say with confidence that it's going to happen, I'm starting to freak out a little bit. One of my biggest fears in life is that I'll work super hard for something and then realize after I get it that I didn't really want that thing I worked so hard for. I'm not going to lie, this could very well happen with my tiny house. That's why I've decided to call my tiny house The Folly.

I picked the name months ago because a folly can be defined as a costly ornamental building or a really egregious error. That double meaning amuses me.

So why am I still determined to do it even if I think it might turn out to be a bad idea?

Because I know what kind of life I want.

Remember my PQLR? (If not, see this post.) It's basically a quick way to see how my choices align with my personal values.

Living in a tiny house currently scores a 19.5 out of 20. In comparison, writing fiction full time scores a 16, and I love writing! Going to girls camp, which I also really love, gets a score of 18. To be perfectly honest, the only thing that ranks higher than moving into a tiny house is marrying my absolute ideal guy. And since that's not entirely under my control, I've decided to pursue this alternative in the meantime.

If I get married someday, great! I'll be even happier. If not, I want to make sure I'm living my life to the fullest right now. And for me, that means living in a tiny house.

Like this one! Look how pretty it is!

But there are always trade-offs. Yesterday was one of those days when I spent a lot of time thinking about the trade-offs.

It started in the morning when I looked at all the funds I've saved up so far to use as a down payment on my tiny house and I thought, "I could go on an awesome trip to Europe with that much money." Even though I like to think of myself as a person who loves to travel, the truth is, I haven't left North America more than three times in my whole life. I've been to a grand total of six countries, and one of those was only for a layover in an airport. Someday, I hope to change that.

Later in the day, I thought about how "going tiny," as it's called, could potentially narrow my career opportunities. I've never been the kind of person who dreamed of taking over the world or becoming a huge professional success. I think it's kind of inherent to writing and editing that you prioritize doing work you love over work that pays you well or earns you glory, laud, and honor. But yesterday something happened that made me feel like I was right on the cusp of a breakthrough in my career. And it made me wonder if now was really the right time for a tiny house.

Then last night I went to a fancy event downtown with my grandparents. It was their birthday present to me, and it was really a wonderful evening. I got to eat yummy, expensive food; meet lots of prominent, influential people from our church; and listen to a speaker I deeply admire and respect. And I thought about how the trade off for living a small, simple life is not knowing what you could've done if you'd really tried to do something big. Standing there in that room, talking to those people, I realized that I've been blessed with some incredible advantages. If I wanted to, I could capitalize on those and make something of myself the way each of those people had. I could become a serious force for good. I could serve so many people.

But . . . even as wonderful as all that sounds, it's not the life I really want.

Yes, traveling is important to me. It's one of the reasons a tiny house is so appealing. I want to be able to move my house around with me as I explore new places. And yes, my career is also important to me. I want to be able to work remotely someday so that I can continue doing the work I love, no matter where my house and I go. And yes, I do want to become a force for good, but I think the best way to do that will be to live in harmony with my personal values and to worry less about how big of an impact I'm making and more about doing the best I can to serve in whatever capacity I'm in. After all, Christ wasn't concerned with becoming influential; He was concerned with helping others individually.

I don't mean for any of this to come across as judgmental. If you want any of those things I mentioned, I am so ready to support you. I'm just trying to point out that for me, the trade-offs aren't worth it. I know exactly the kind of life I personally want. And I'm so thrilled to be so close to reaching it. People, I've got a dream. I hope you do too.

After I finished writing this far, I seriously debated about whether or not to actually post this. Part of me has always been nervous about talking about my future plans in case something goes wrong and the plan doesn't come to fruition. I'm not actually afraid of commitments, but it's one thing to personally commit to something and quite another thing to post that commitment on the internet.

Posting this feels like a promise to you all and to myself that I'm actually going to do this, and as much as I would like to move in tomorrow, truth be told, there are still several hurdles to clear before I can take that step. But then I reminded myself that I've overcome obstacles in pursuit of my dreams before. I can do it again. We all can.

In fact, we have to. Because it's our dreams that keep us from living on autopilot. They change us from muggles to wizards. And even if we find out later that they aren't exactly what we wanted, that's okay because the pursuit of them has already changed us for the better.

My pursuit of a tiny house has already changed so much about the way I live my life, and I can't wait to see how much more good will come from it once I'm actually living in The Folly.

So I guess this post really is a promise. I promise to pursue my dreams, even if they change, and to do my best to support others as they pursue theirs. I promise to keep you all posted on my tiny house progress. And I promise not to give up because I know that, as cheesy and motivational-poster-y as it sounds, our dreams are what make life worth living.

And that's the kind of life I want.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Did you miss me?

Because I missed you, blog. I really, really did.

It's been a whole month and five days since my last post, which I just realized is the longest I've gone without blogging since I started up again almost two years ago.

In that time we've almost made it to 100 total posts on this blog. This is number 98. I was going to wait to do all this reflecting until I actually made it to 100, but I figure no one but me will ever know or care about the numbers. We'll just call this post "pretend number 100" and let ourselves indulge in a bit of nostalgia. It's a cold December evening and less than a week away from my birthday. It would almost be wrong not to wax nostalgic.

But first, I should explain about the long break in blogging.

What have I been doing with myself? Honestly, not much. Mostly lots and lots of writing. I finally won NaNoWriMo. That's National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated and all those who have somehow missed my incessant facebook posting about it. To win you need to write 50K words in 30 days.

I first heard about Nanowrimo when I was still in college. Back then I knew that there was no way I could write a novel and also pass my classes, so I responsibly opted to put off the noveling (which is not to say that I actually passed all of my classes, but that's a different story). After college I tried four different times to write 50K words in a month, but it wasn't until this year that I actually succeeded. Go me!

I credit all my success this time to a couple of other authors who were my writing buddies on the Nanowrimo site. I knew they would win, so I just tried to keep up with them. That worked fine until I went on vacation. My family is great, but they're a serious time suck. (Just kidding, guys, if you read this. I loved being with you!) But after a week of that I had to literally lock myself in a hotel room alone ALL DAY to get back on track.

This is where I wrote all day. Not to brag, but I 'm pretty sure 8,800 words in one day is my new personal record

And this is where I collapsed and watched HGTV after I ran out of words.

But really, besides the noveling and two trips to California, I have done almost nothing in the past month.

Except think. I'm always doing that. I can't help but think about where I am, where I've been, and where I'm going. And now we've reached the nostalgia portion of the post.

When I first started blogging again, all those posts and years ago, I said that I would talk about all the different parts of my life, not just my books. I also said that I would have to be "brutally, ridiculously, and sometimes boringly honest because that's just how I am when I write to myself."

Have I done that? I've spilled my guts a few times. I've talked about things that I'd never be able to talk about in a real conversation. And I do my best not to keep things from you all, unless it's not my secret to tell.

But I think I could get better.

I still feel like there's a lot about me that people don't know. And maybe no one wants to know this stuff. But if I can't say things out loud, then I should at least make an attempt to say them in writing. That's always been easier for me to do.

And I've learned a few things from all this blogging. I've learned that I need to be more open on my blog and in real life too. It's hard to do, but it's the only way to really connect with people. Otherwise it just feels fake and you constantly worry that all of the people you know are about to leave the second they realize who you really are.

Your flaws may not be something you're proud of, but they make you who you are just as much as your strengths and accomplishments do. And when someone really cares about you, they love your flaws too. They want to see them. They don't want you to feel like you have to hide all the time or put on a show. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm going to keep blogging, and I'm going to do my best to keep peeling back the layers and letting you all in on who I really am. I hope that's okay with you.

So with that in mind, here are a few things that are going on right now that I haven't really told people about. Some are good. Some are bad. Some are just life.

1. I'm saving up to buy a tiny house. And I'm OBSESSED with it. I think about my house ALL the time. I'm sure I'll have a lot more to tell you about this when I get a little closer to making it a reality. Probably more than you want to know. Just wait till I start posting about composting toilets. ;)

This is the one I want. And I WANT it.

2. I haven't heard back about the second Jane Journals book, but the first one did not sell especially well. It did okay, but not outstanding, so I'm thinking the second one may not make it into print. This makes me wonder about the future of my writing career.

3. I've been slowly gaining weight and ignoring it. I hate when I do this. But I haven't yet reached the point of hatred at which I feel like actually doing something about it. And I sure as cuss don't want anyone else to offer me helpful suggestions about what I should do. I will deal with it when I feel like dealing with it.

4. It's winter. And it's cold. I miss long hours of sunlight. I miss when it was warm.

5. My job is pretty great. I like the people I work with a lot. I still love working up high in an office building with a good view of the mountains. And I'm learning new things and developing new skills. Those are good feelings.

6. I do really miss publishing. I was good at that. I'm not sure I'm good at my new job. I think I'm okay, but I'm not sure my heart will ever be in it the way it was when I worked in publishing.

7. I LOVE living with my grandparents. It's been really fun to get to know them better, and I still get that thrill of flashbacks to my childhood at random moments and places in their house. I love that feeling.

8. Salt Lake City is super cool. The houses here are awesome. There are some really unique neighborhoods to explore. I've tried lots of yummy restaurants. And I love living close to the airport, the temple, Park City, downtown, and lots of other stuff. When I was in California last week, I found myself missing Salt Lake. I've never really felt that way about anywhere in Utah before.

9. I miss having a bike.

The good old days.

10. I feel a little directionless right now. I used to think I knew where my life was headed, but now I'm not sure what my big goals for life are anymore. All I know is that I want to move into a tiny house and continue to write for myself, even if no one else will ever read my writing.

11. I'm not sure I'll ever get married. My feelings about this range from content to patiently hopeful to despairing, depending on the day (or hour). And there are also times when I'm really, really happy about not being married. Like ecstatic. It's just really fun to think about all the things I want to do with my life and know that I'll most likely get to do them, that no one will be able to get in the way of me pursuing my dreams. I know that's probably not how I'm supposed to feel, but . . . honesty, right? Of course, I'd still rather find someone who wants to pursue our dreams together, but if I don't, I'm okay with that. Usually.

12. I'm thinking about dying my hair blonde because my latest protagonist is blonde and I want to know how it feels so I can write from her perspective more authentically. Of course she's also from 1974; I'm not sure how to replicate that. But going blonde would be a start. This urge is odd because I've never ever wanted to be blonde before, and I'm generally opposed to dying my hair. But maybe I'll do it just to see what it's like.

13. I miss having a good group of friends. When I started this blog I was a lot more of a social butterfly than I am now. I should probably make more of an effort in this area. I have no one to blame for my lack of connections but myself. I'm terrible about reaching out, even when I know I need to.

14. I'm planning on enrolling at WGU (where I work) to get a masters because I get this crazy awesome discount on tuition, but I can't decide what degree to pursue. (See number 10 above.)

15. I can't believe it's already December. I can't believe I've been working at my new job for 4 months already. I can't believe I moved back to Utah over a year and a half ago. I can't believe how much the kids I used to nanny have grown up since then. I can't believe my sister Ali will be home from her mission in three months. I can't believe my niece and nephew are both over a year old. Time is flying.

16. Lately I've been thinking about pets. I think I might want to get one when I have my own house again. But the last pet I really loved was Jeeves, my little cat who got hit by a car right before my birthday. It's been years since then and I've lived with other pets, but it hasn't felt the same. I'm still a little scarred. I usually blame allergies and uncertain living situations for my lack of a pet, but that's not the whole story. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever again trust myself to be solely responsible for another living thing. (Not counting the basil plants I keep on my windowsill. Or those kids I nannied; I always handed them back to their parents at the end of the day.)

For now I'll stick with Scotch, the bunny that lives in the backyard. 
He's not exactly a pet, but he'll do.

Well, I think that's enough honesty for one day. Sorry this post is so long and rambly. That's what happens when I get nostalgic. It's also kind of a downer, isn't it?

But I don't want you guys to worry about me. I've always loved those verses about the different times and seasons in life, and even though in some ways this particular season may not be the most glamorous or exciting one, I'm still glad to be in it. I know there are lessons I need to learn now and ways in which I need to serve. I feel like I'm in the right place at the right time and that there are still lots of good things in store for me.

As usual, I don't actually have all the answers. But I never really promised that I would. In fact, that same post that I quoted earlier ended with these words: "I can't promise that I'll be able to give you a correct answer, but I can promise to be honest. And now comes the part where I cross my fingers and hope this isn't a big mistake."

I know now that it hasn't been a mistake at all. It's been really, really good for me.

And it's only going to get better.