Part I: When Dreams Come True

I have a really strange confession to make.  When I was about 22 or 23, I took a course on how to write a book at a local adult learning center.  I was toying around with a book idea, but I hadn’t written anything for years. I figured it’d be a good idea to freshen up as I felt pretty rusty (and I’d much prefer to feel brassy).

The moment I started the car to drive over, the stereo started right at the beginning of a song.  When I arrived, another song came to its exact end as I turned off the ignition. The same thing happened when I drove from the learning center to the grocery store to pick up a few items.  And it happened a third time when I drove from the grocery store to home.

I loved music and I loved writing.  For songs to begin and end in perfect timing with my driving on the night I attended a book writing class, it had to be a sign that I was meant to write a book.  Not necessarily a sign from God, but a sign from the universe.  Because ya know… if you don’t believe in God, then the next most rational thing is to have conversations with our solar system.  And solar systems totally love telling you what you want to hear.

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This had me so excited and energized that the next day, I told my work-friend, Andrea, about it.

“Ugh.  I hate that fucking shit,” she said when I brought it up.  She had gone to a fairly religious college and, not being religious herself, she tended to hate anything that tiptoed into the waters of faith.  She mocked the kind of people who’d do this at her school. “Some girl would see a bird land on her car and take it as a sign that she should become a singer.  It’s so stupid.”

I laughed at her corny examples, but the truth was it kinda hurt my feelings.  I am not sure exactly when the dream of writing a book started floating in my blood, but it had been a few years and this sign from the universe had me really energized about it.  My big moment of hope had been totally mocked (hence me feeling like it is a strange confession).

Flash forward to 12 or 13 years later, the dream has now been completed.  Although the book is entirely different from the one I had in mind years ago.  And thank the baby Jesus for that because that original book idea would have been AWFUL… so awful that I had to write the word “awful” in all caps.  Thankfully, life had put me on a frightening journey that made me a much better person than who I was back then.

Achieving your dream is a very bizarre feeling.  I’ve racked my brain trying to come up with an analogy for it, but I can’t think of any.  I kind of feel like that guy who wins a professional hot dog eating contest and isn’t sure if he should barf or not.  Except the only thing that upchucked out of my face was my tears.

The book’s formatting process was not going well at all.  The jokey footnotes caused errors during the process. And each time we tried to fix those mistakes, it’d go careening off the rails with more errors.  My amazing formater, George, spent maybe 30 hours working on it.

The moment it all came together perfectly, and I submitted it to Amazon for publication, energy just flooded right out of my body.  It was a wonderful sensation and when I cried (lightly), they were tears of joy and relief and exhaustion. The giant boulder I had been carrying on my back for the last couple of years had lifted.  But, just like it would have for the hot-dog-eating-contest-winner, a new question hit me immediately. What do I do next?  Where do I go from here?  

I was extremely conflicted.  Pursuing a dream wasn’t necessarily as glamorous as I thought.  I already knew this would be tough. But the term “dream” can maybe give us this lovely mental imagery of how tough it would be.  I thought it would be more like sitting-around-in-a-silk-robe-while-drinking-herbal-teas-and-working-really-hard tough. But I don’t even own a silk robe.  Instead, I own a whopping case of ADD.

Don’t get me wrong.  There were great aspects to living the dream.  Having the house to myself. Going to the gym whenever I wanted.  Getting to connect with some awesome people on social media. Traveling whenever I wanted (after getting some free flight benefits), and cleaning the house whenever I wanted (because I am somehow both messy and Type A personality).

But these glamorous aspects were simultaneously my greatest obstacles.  They led me to be overwhelmed, stressed, broke, and lonely. A lot of my local friendships became distant and some of those people on social media ended up being not so awesome after all.  And Instagram often became a source of stress and anxiety (more on this later).

Worst of all was the impact it had on my partner, Luke.  Once my savings ran out, he had to use his income to pick up the slack.  We had to start making all sorts of sacrifices in order to stay afloat. And in order to get things done, I had to spend less time with him and our dog.  If something happened to either one of them, I would have really regretted that.

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So, yeah.  When I submitted the book to publish on Amazon, and all that energy came flooding out of me, and I asked myself where do I go from here... I had to be really honest with myself.  As amazing as it felt that my dream was just about to come true, I couldn’t go on like this.  The idea of quitting and having a normal life again sounded better to me than pursuing more attempts at being a full-time writer.

It was about 10 a.m. when I submitted the book and, since I had taken off work, I had the whole day ahead of me.  Therefore, the one decision I did make, in that moment, was to go to the gym (I hadn’t been in almost three months), go to the Korean Spa (I hadn’t been in over two years), and curl up on the couch with Luke that night (I hadn’t done in almost two months).

While working out again felt beyond incredible, I was noticeably weaker.  This didn’t boast well for the “writer’s life.” Fitness has become such a source of well-being for me.  Upon arriving at the Korean Spa, things didn’t get any more comforting. When I handed over the gift certificate that Luke had gotten for me two birthdays ago, the woman behind the counter yelled at me.

“This coupon almost expire!” She shouted with her thick Korean accent. “It only good for two year!  You need come in sooner! It expire in two year!”

I wanted to argue with her and say that, if these gift certificates expire in two years, then they need to have that written on the actual certificate.  Instead, I just leaned in with an exhausted look on my face and said, “It’s been a rough two years.”

She gave me my towel and locker key and, once I stripped all the way down, I made a beeline for the showers.  This should come as no surprise, but I love showering in public. It goes back to that great feeling of total exposure and not feeling the fear that I need to hide myself from the world.  

When I slid into the hot tub, it was the perfect temperature.  I found the strongest jet and figured out every which way I could to shove its power against my various back spots.  This was exactly what I needed and I don’t think the hot-dog-eating-contest-winner would get to enjoy this after his victory.

As I bounced from the hot tub to the dry sauna to the steam room to the cold dipping pool (and checked out some of my fellow naked spa-goers), I thought about how I missed out on this over the last two winters.  I didn’t want to go another two winters before coming back here or to the other one on the other side of town called Lake Steam (where the nicer staff wouldn’t yell at me).

My self-imposed two-hour time limit started to approach.  Luke was cooking a special celebratory dinner and I needed to head out soon.  While I was absorbing the last moments of steam, a gentleman came into the room and sat catty-cornered from me.  

Just as we exchanged friendly head-nods, he leaned over and said, “I follow your blog.”

This caught me off guard, but in the best of ways.  Now, not only was I relaxed, wet, and naked, but I was also very flattered.  He was incredibly nice as we made small chit chat about my writing. Unfortunately, I had to excuse myself as I was starting to get overheated and the time had come to wrap things up.

I hit the showers for one final rinse and the mystery gentleman decided to take a chance and do the same in order to come chat some more.  He introduced himself and apologized if this was at all intruding on my time there. It wasn’t. He seemed kind and genuine and I was more than happy to talk as I rinsed down.

He went into his backstory - a tale that was both heartbreaking and inspiring.  I thought about writing it here, but I’m leaving this guy anonymous. Besides, I don’t remember all the finer details and wouldn’t want to mess it up.  

As we dried off, the guy got emotional and started to choke up while telling me about his journey.  He apologized again if it was awkward and, again, it wasn’t. In fact, it was the opposite. I saw it as quite admirable.  Then something strange occured to me. Here I was… a naked writer… having a very unexpected naked conversation… while both of us were literally naked… on the day my book was finally submitted for publishing.

To make things even more bizarre, this guy didn’t even live in my city.  He lived in California and was just here on business. On top of that, I wouldn’t have even thought about going to the spa if the weather hadn’t have happened to be cool and snowy on what otherwise should have been a nice spring day.

As dumb as it might sound, it seemed like way too much to be just a mere coincidence.  My dream had come true and I didn’t know what to do next and now this happened. Could this have been the universe once again sending me a message?  Was it telling me I needed to keep going?

After dinner and some couch time with our dog, I felt more confused than ever about my next steps.  While my gut wanted me to stop so I could have a life again, my heart now wanted me to keep going because of the amazing connection I get to have with readers.  They both tried reasoning with my brain to be the tie-breaker, but my brain is the most indecisive fucker of them all.

So, where do I go from here?  I decided not to decide. If there’s one thing I’ve learned repeatedly, it’s that it’s best to not make major decisions during emotional times.  And when our backbreaking dreams come true, things definitely get emotional. The one thing that helps give us a clearer perspective is simply time.  The blog will continue for now and I have more book ideas for the future. But we shall see. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get a few more signs (or coincidences) to guide me along the way.