Sunday, April 24, 2016

If I could speak to my teenage self, what would I say?

I took a break from blogging last weekend because it was my birthday – I actually took the whole weekend off so that I could spend a day down in Portland, a lot of time with family and the rest of the time I just did whatever I felt like doing. I even decided to remain completely unplugged from everything for three whole days: my computer, e-mail, social media…everything.

Sometimes you just have to do that – unplug to unwind and recharge.

If you’re like me, in the 40-something age bracket, you’ll know what I mean when I say as I get older I tend to let the ages blur together so that sometimes I forget how old I am. It’s not just that I forget; it’s also because I really don’t care as much.  It’s much different than when I was younger and there were so many birthdays that actually meant something: when I was 16 I could drive, at 18 I was a legal adult, at 21 I could legally drink, and when I was 25 I felt as if I was finally old enough for others to begin to take me seriously. Back then, the actual age meant something while now it’s more about how old you feel rather than how old you are.

Or that’s what we tell ourselves anyway. For the most part, I think it’s a pretty good mentality to have as we continue to age. 

My last post before aging yet one more year was about a book club meeting I attended with a wonderful group of women who I gained some much-needed motivation and inspiration from. In that post, I commented about how the book club enjoys digging deeper into the story behind the story. If you’re an avid reader, or you know an author personally, you know it’s difficult to write a story without leaving something of yourself in that story. It’s not always intentional, but whether the author intends to or not, it’s also not easy to prevent it from happening. 

As the book club group and I were discussing my books, one of the last questions asked of me was, if I could give my 14-year-old self some advice, what would it be?

At first, I thought the question was directed more towards what I would say to a teen about what to do to get into writing at such a young age. But, no, this particular book club member was not letting me get by that easy. She specifically wanted to know what I would tell myself, not as a potential writer, but as a teen in the middle of all that my young life had bestowed on me and in preparation for the future.

I answered her question from the heart based on our current conversation, and I stand by my response, but having thought more about it, I would like to elaborate on what I would say to my teen self, and other young adults, as they are attempting to figure out where they fit in this beautiful, but sometimes awful, thing we call life.

And here’s what I would say:
  • Learn to trust yourself and who you are as a person - truly believe in yourself and what you’re capable of - always remember you are stronger than you think;
  • Learn to listen to your gut instinct – we all have one, we just don’t always listen to it;
  • Learn who to trust; keep those in your life who bring out the good in you; limit giving too much of yourself to others who only take from you;
  • If someone has hurt you, whether physically, mentally or emotionally, knowingly or possibly unknowingly, or they have betrayed your trust in some way, try to avoid letting that pain and distrust completely define you;
  • Don’t take the blame for the actions of others; don’t fall into the trap of wondering what you could have done, what you could do, or what you should do to make someone else change for the better;
  • Don’t tell yourself you’re not good enough or that you deserve the difficult times you’re going through;
  • As hard as it may be, work on learning to forgive the person, or the circumstances which caused that person to cause you pain, because the sooner you can forgive and move away from that place in your head, the sooner you can learn to trust others as you form new relationships throughout your life;
  • If you believe in serendipity (an accidental discovery that is actually fortunate), then you may also believe there are some people who we are meant to meet at some point in our lives - you’ll want to avoid letting your past completely define you, or learn to forgive and let go, so that when you meet someone special who is destined to be in your life, you’ll be open to form a new relationship without the baggage of distrust or self-doubt;   
  • Remember that you’ll never make everyone happy, it’s just not possible, and your life should not be about making everyone happy – that is not your purpose; and
  • It may take time but try to find your purpose - what are you passionate about…what feeds your soul…what gifts do you have that you were you meant to share? – discover your purpose so that you can enjoy the life you were meant to live and remember to savor each precious moment of the life you’ve been given, for however long it lasts.

Would my teenage self have listened to advice from my older self if ever given this opportunity? I really can’t say. As teens, we tend to have this strange notion that we already know everything. But it sure would be interesting to know how things may have changed had I known then what I know now. Funny enough, we all say that at some point in our lives, don’t we?

So now I’m interested…what would you tell your teenage self if you were ever given the chance? 

Beyond that, would your teenage self have listened to the advice?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Book Clubs = Just what the doctor ordered

I attended a book club meeting yesterday to meet with a terrific group of ladies who are in the process of reading and reviewing the Jorja Matthews mystery series.  It was, by far, the most fun I’ve had as it relates to my writing in a very long time.

And it was much needed medicine for this weary writer.

Sadly, I’m not weary because I’m writing too much…I’m weary due to my continued attempts to do my best to try to write in the middle of all the chaos around me.  And feeling like a failure every time I’m not able to produce as much as I feel, as much as I know, I should be able to.  

When I set out early yesterday morning, I really hadn’t thought much about what to expect.  I knew the group wanted to meet me.  I knew they would have questions about me, the characters and the series.  I also knew I’d have to be careful what I said so as not to let slip any spoiler alerts.  As I drove the hour-long drive to my destination, I listened to music and just let my mind wander.  I do my best not to stress too much before book signings or events.  It helps to reduce my expectations, my fears and hopefully keep me from over thinking altogether. 

When I met the book club members, I felt immediately comfortable in their presence.  I’m not sure exactly how long I spoke to them about myself and the series…an hour, maybe two…it just flew by so fast.  I was pleased by many of their questions, both insightful and deep, and I was surprised by the direction some of the topics took us.  They were also a very entertaining group of women, with good humor and a very thoughtful approach while they enjoyed digging deeper into the story behind the story.

I spent three hours with the book club, speaking with them, signing their books and then chit chatting with a few before finally heading back home.  By the time I left, I can’t deny I was on cloud nine.  But, my euphoria wasn’t completely due to the fact that the club loved the series, my characters, or was happy to finally meet me – although admittedly that part is always fun.  No, my intense mood was mainly due to how this wonderful group of women ignited a spark in me that has been only dimly lit for too long.

And I can’t thank them enough for it.

Bethlehem Baptist Church book club

This just goes to show, or it reminds me, that we have to remember we can’t always do things on our own.  Sometimes you have to put yourself out there, whether you feel ready or not, and in doing so, you let others remind you of why you’re doing what you do.  I don’t write just for myself – I also write for those who enjoy my stories or appreciate what I’m trying to share. 

And now that the spark has been ignited beyond the dimly lit ember, I’m going to do everything I can to keep this fire burning.      

To the wonderful women I met yesterday, who truly bestowed upon me more than I believe I gave to them, thank you from the bottom of my heart.