Tired but Happy

This month so far has been the craziest and busiest I have had in a long time by far. I’ve also felt happier and more myself than ever before.

I am so glad that I decided to go forward with NaNoWriMo. I have 23,410 words written so far. I should get to the halfway point by the end of the day today! It’s amazing that I’ve come so far already when I didn’t think I would have time to do any of it.

And I don’t hate it. I think the novel is turning out to be better than the ones I’ve written in previous years. It’s amazing that with the progress I’ve made on writing in the years since I’ve started doing NaNoWriMo, I’m actually able to see myself getting better. I’ve always been frustrated with not doing enough, but I don’t think I’ve valued enough of what I have done. Maybe this will be the year I finally write a good novel for NaNoWriMo!

It’ll be hard this week to work on my novel, because Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson came out today and what I want to be doing is dropping everything to read all day. My best friend is also coming to visit this weekend and, of course, I’ll want to prioritize spending time with her.

But somehow, I’ll manage. I have so far.

This month, in addition to my novel, I’ve continued boxing every other day and eating healthy, I’ve spent time with my little sister, continued running my Pathfinder game, joined a D&D game, started dating someone, hung out with friends and family, and kept up with things at work, just to name a few.

These experiences have reiterated my self-knowledge that the busier I am, the happier I seem to be. I love doing things, especially things I love.

They’ve also encouraged me to go for my goals, like writing a novel, even when I don’t think I have time or think it will be impossible to achieve them. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, I feel energized and enthusiastic. I’m excited about life. I’m excited about the future. I’m excited about myself.

Too often, I’ve stopped doing one thing I love in pursuit of another, because I was worried I wouldn’t have time or wouldn’t be able to put enough time or energy into both. This month has really proved to me that I shouldn’t limit myself (and neither should you!) Certainly, if you are feeling overwhelmed, stopping and taking care of yourself is most important. But give your dreams a shot. Even if they’re hard. Even if you’re already doing a lot. Because they’re worth it. You’re worth it!

Why I’m Writing A Novel This Month

For those of you who don’t know, November is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo (NaNoWriMo website) The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November. This works out to be 1667 words (or about 8 double-spaced pages) per day. Sounds crazy, right? It is, but it’s also pretty awesome.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer. I want others to read my fantasy books and be immersed in my world, just like I so often am in others’. I’ve come up with story ideas in my head since grade school, occasionally writing them down in short story or idea form. I first heard of NaNoWriMo in high school, but I didn’t start participating until my 3rd year in graduate school. I always found an excuse- I was too busy, I could never do something like that, now just wasn’t the right time.

Finally, in 2012, my graduate advisor encouraged me to do NaNoWriMo with him. I had even less time than ever before, but what I did have was the motivation and the social support. I convinced another grad student friend to do it with me, and together we embarked on this crazy journey. Day 1: less than 1000 words in and I already wanted to quit. The writing was awful- nothing like I imagined- and I already had run out of ideas. I probably would have quit, but I kept thinking how do I tell my graduate advisor that I quit on Day 1?

So I kept going. And going. And 50,000 words and 29 days later I had a novel. It was a crappy novel, but it was a novel. I have never felt prouder of anything in my entire life. What I had dreamed of for so long had finally come to pass.

I tried in 2013, but didn’t finish (I was also applying for jobs, teaching 4 classes, and writing my dissertation at the time). I was glad I tried, but also glad that I prioritized my career.

I skipped 2014- my first year in my brand new job.

I participated again in 2015 and 2016 and “won” both years with two more crappy 50,000 word novels. Finishing didn’t feel as good in these years, though there were some extenuating circumstances (mostly to do with my ex). Nevertheless, I was still proud that I participated and completed my novels.

Now it’s the first day of NaNoWriMo 2017. I promised myself back in September that I was going to do it again this year.


Since September, I’ve had about a million things going on. I’m teaching more classes this year than I have before, I have more advisees, I’m prepping new courses, I’m boxing every other day, I’m running a Pathfinder campaign, I’m working on my 2nd year review for work, I’m playing Magic, I have a little sister. And those are just the NEW things I’m doing. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed every day after I come home from work, barely able to heat up some food and collapse on the couch for a few hours before bed.

I’ve been dreading November. I keep wanting to call it all off. There’s no way I will have time to do everything AND write a novel. I keep trying to convince myself to quit. I almost have so many times.

But I refuse to let myself be ruled by fear.

Why do I want to quit? It’s the fear of failure. Fear that despite winning the last two years in a row, I won’t win this year. Fear that I’m not good enough. That I’m never going to be a writer. That I’ll never write a good novel.

This fear hasn’t stopped me just in November, but for the past year, I’ve hardly written anything because I’ve been afraid of failing.

No more.

Trying and failing is far better than sitting back and watching your dreams float away because you were too afraid to reach out for them. If I don’t finish this year, because of everything else in my life, I will at least be content that I tried. That I didn’t quit before I even started.

Yes, it will be hard, but it will be worth it. Like my boxing coach says, What Doesn’t Challenge You, Doesn’t Change You.

On Being Motivated

In general, I’m the kind of person who likes to take action. I hate sitting around and planning. I’m impatient. It’s hard for me to do nothing. Once I know what I want to do, I do it.

Sometimes that makes it hard for me to understand when others don’t make progress toward their goals. When someone tells me they want to achieve a goal- whether it’s my students who want to get better grades or a friend telling me they want to lose weight or start exercising, I’m immediately on board. I tell them everything they can do to start making the changes they so desire. Go to the Learning Center on campus. Come to my boxing classes with me. Often, I’m not met with enthusiasm, which is baffling to me. If you know what you want and you know how to get it, why don’t you do it? Sometimes I get angry in these situations, because I don’t understand why people wouldn’t want to achieve their goals and meet their fullest potential. Our biggest enemy is so often ourselves.

Lately, I’ve started understanding them better. For whatever reason, this semester, I’ve had a rough time feeling motivated. I’ll think about what my goals are and how to meet them, and choose to sit around the house instead. I’ll read or watch TV or even mope and wonder why I’m feeling bored and sad. I hate it. I hate myself when I do it. But I do it anyway.

Occasionally, I’ll engage in an activity that seems to re-inspire me. Boxing often does this, (though while I’m mentally energized, it does leave me physically tired). Yesterday, I met with someone on campus who recruits faculty to write for the newspaper. I went into the meeting feeling bleh and unmotivated. But I came out of with a newfound desire to work on planning the novel I want to write next month for NaNoWriMo. I’ve been avoiding that for at least a month and avoiding creative writing for almost a year. It was exciting and inspiring.

It got me thinking a lot about motivation. I’m usually someone with almost endless amounts of it, but I’ve really been sensing its limits lately. Maybe my motivational energy has been used up for inspiring me to keep boxing and eating healthy. Maybe it’s just decreased in general. Either way, I was so grateful for yesterday’s energy.

I think what makes me motivated is achieving or working toward achieving goals.  But I realized yesterday, some self-knowledge I’ve been resisting, is that other people motivate me. I feel motivated to write or even eat healthier when others praise my existing efforts or tell me they’re good ideas. I feel embarrassed that others motivate me, because I’d like to think I can just do everything myself. But it’s okay to rely on others for help and it’s okay to be who you are.

Figure out what motivates you. Whatever it is, don’t be ashamed of it. Use it to start achieving your own goals and taking control of your life.

Why Don’t We Do Things?

It’s been quite a bit longer than usual since my last post, so of course I spent awhile thinking about why I haven’t posted in awhile. I came up with a few theories which I eventually rejected, like I only needed this blog to get over my ex or the classic lie I’m really busy. Partly, I think it was because I psyched myself out over it. It had been so long since I last posted, I figured this post HAD to be really good. Thinking about it that way meant I always second-guessed my ideas for the next blog- it was okay, but was it the really good one I needed to keep people interested? Often we make these issues much bigger than they need to be in our minds. That can be what prevents us from doing them. I similarly have trouble coming up with creative ideas. One really helpful tip I found was instead of thinking of just one idea, think of ten. Then, you’re not picking the *best* one, but just listing anything you come up with. That helped a lot!

The other reason I haven’t posted in awhile is that I’ve doing horrible with my happiness project and I couldn’t figure out why. I also don’t like failing at things (I mean, who does?) I did a terrible job meeting my creative goals last month (I rarely did any of them) and I had been dreading the Work month. Surprisingly, not because I didn’t want to focus on work. Instead, it was because it wasn’t something to work toward. I already work hard at work and need to work harder this month (it’s advising season, so my time in the office is taken up by meeting with students about their schedules rather than getting other work done). I want this project to be about goals that I want to integrate in my life that I don’t already. Things I strive to achieve.

Yesterday, I went to the doctor’s office for my yearly physical (I swear this is going to be related- just bear with me). I couldn’t wait for her to get to the part where she asked me how often I exercised. In fact, I didn’t wait- I told her about how I joined Title Boxing Club right after she came in. Never in my life have I been excited to even talk about physical exercise. I’ve never sat in that seat in the Doctor’s office and felt proud. It was such a different experience.

As I talked to her, I found I was really interested in getting more information about health and exercise. We talked about my progress on losing weight and eating better. We talked about how to improve my sleep. I knew a surprising amount about these things, but I didn’t always utilize them for my own life.

I also got some good advice in health-related areas- things like is Diet Coke actually bad for you? (My opinion, biased of course by my love for Diet Coke, is that it has 0 calories so it’s fine!) Surprisingly (or maybe not to you!), that’s wrong. We both thought it might be leading to other health issues I’ve had like my low percentage of REM and deep sleep each night.

I told her about my counting calories weight loss strategy and as I was talking, realized that though I don’t do this every day, I should. I mentioned that I felt guilty not having seen a nutritionist all year, even though we talked about it the year before. After we talked, we both came to the realization that I didn’t really need to see one. It’s not that I don’t know what to do, it’s that I’m too lazy to do it. And I don’t like failing- if I don’t try, I can’t fail.

I absolutely hate that point of view though. I don’t want that to be me.

After that appointment, I felt inspired. I realized that what I really wanted to do was focus on my health. For so long, I’ve been lazy and uncaring about working out and about eating healthy. I just did whatever I wanted. It worked okay. Mostly, I felt a lot of guilt- I knew I *should* be doing it, but I just didn’t. Now I’m at a point in my life where I care about getting rid of the guilt. And I care about being healthy.

So, instead of my monthly happiness goals, what I want to focus on this year is my health. I want to track what I eat every day. I want to learn to eat healthier. I want to give up drinking Diet Coke every day. I want to keep boxing and do it more often. I want to take control of my health and my life. Instead of being intimidated by and feeling guilty about these activities, I want to embrace them full on.

I think I’ve made a great start with boxing and with getting myself on track to eat right, but there are a lot of other areas in which I still need to improve.

It helped me a lot to realize why wasn’t I inspired by my happiness project. I don’t like doing something just to say I did or just because I want to meet my goals. I want it to be for a purpose. Now I have my new purpose. And I can’t wait to get started!

Being Yourself While Being Sick

I’m finally recovering from bronchitis, which I’ve had for about a week and a half. The first few days had me stuck on my couch with a fever and no voice. I took one full day and two half days off of work- something I never do.

It was immensely frustrating.

While I was sick, I felt like I couldn’t do anything. Especially the things that made me ME. I didn’t have the mental fortitude to do much other than watch TV or nap or lay on the couch. I don’t mind watching TV, but I probably spend far less time than the average person doing so. Sitting around all day doing nothing makes me feel terrible, rather than relaxed. I had to skip work, two friends’ birthday celebrations, a Magic event, and a week and a half of boxing.

I didn’t feel like myself, because I wasn’t able to do any of the things that made me feel like myself. After I started getting better, I spent awhile introspecting about this. Okay, regardless of whether or not I’m sick, I spend a lot of time introspecting about who I am. But this experience was more enlightening than usual.

I felt like I couldn’t make any progress on my goals. I made very little progress on any creative goals and I stopped paying attention to what I was eating, because I had very little appetite and getting myself to eat anything was a challenge. I spent a lot of time home alone, instead of spending time with friends and family. I hated not being able to do these things, but didn’t quite feel well enough to do them.

I didn’t expect how much I would miss boxing. It took me a week and a half before I was healthy enough to go to another boxing class, and even still I had to take it easy. At first, I thought I didn’t really miss it, I just wanted to prove a point to myself or others about my enjoyment of working out. I was worried I was just faking my love for boxing and that I’d lost my momentum entirely and would never get back the gym.

Yesterday, I proved myself very wrong on that count. I went home from work early in a shitty mood. I was bored, and despite having a ton of work to do, completely unmotivated to do any of it. I walked my dog and, on impulse, drove to the gym. I had planned to wait until Friday or Saturday to go back, but I couldn’t stand it any more. I needed to box.

I was also worried my body wouldn’t handle it well. Not just because of the bronchitis, but because I hadn’t been in awhile. What if all that progress I had made was completely erased by this illness? What if I couldn’t handle it and felt like crap afterwards?

As it turned out, I was completely overreacting. I went to the class and, though I took things slowly, did quite well. I felt amazing afterwards. I hadn’t realized how much I had missed it and how much boxing had become a part of my life.

People tend not to realize how important things are to them, until they are gone from their lives (whether temporarily or forever). Don’t wait until you lose something before you appreciate it. Enjoy the people and activities you love while you have them!

Everyone Deserves Someone Who Will Take Them to a Masquerade Ball

I’ve always wanted to go to a Masquerade Ball. I’m not really sure that these happen in real life, but I see them in movies and TV shows all the time. You know the kind- where people wear fancy ball gowns and ornate masks, dance to a live orchestra, drink champagne, and eat fancy hors d’oeuvres.

I honestly have no idea where this desire came from, but it’s something I’ve wanted since college. I thought about it again, because the swordfighting club I used to belong to in Pittsburgh is having a Masquerade Ball in a few months. My first thought was I need to go to this! And the second was But I don’t have anyone to take me.

I don’t have a good solution to that second problem. I’ve been feeling really disenchanted with dating lately, as I’ve mentioned. But it’s not the fact that I can’t find dates or that I couldn’t find a partner if I wanted to. It’s that, well, I don’t know anyone who would take me to a masquerade ball.

I’m speaking of this, of course, in a metaphorical sense. The kind of person I want to be with is someone who wants to make me happy, who will read a post like this and say I’m going to surprise the person I love by taking her to a Masquerade Ball. For awhile, I thought my ex was that person. We talked about a lot of things like this that I wanted to do and I would dream of him taking me. But he never did. He never listened and he never gave.

Love is not an emotion. Feeling passionately about someone, wanting to be around them, feeling butterflies when you think of someone is infatuation. It’s obsession. These are not love, but they are so often mistaken for it.

Love is selflessness. The ultimate way to show your love for someone is to do things for them. To care so much about another person that you put them first, you think of their needs before theirs.

Part of the reason I find dating and relationships so frustrating is that I want so much to have that selfless love. I want so much to find a partner who is my equal in everything and who will selflessly love me as much I as will them. And I won’t take anything less.

Stop wasting your time with people who won’t take you to masquerade balls. Stop giving to people who only take from you. You deserve more than that.

Oh and if anyone wants to come with me to a Masquerade Ball, it’s Friday November 3rd in the suburbs of Pittsburgh.

Inspiration and Pathfinder

This summer I started DMing a Pathfinder game. For those of you who are less nerdy than I am, it’s basically D&D- a table top roleplaying game. I’ve always wanted to do it, but was worried about the time commitment, or maybe more realistically, failing at it.

A lot of my favorite fantasy book authors say that before they were writers, they were the DMs for their gaming groups. They said it was a small step between DMing and writing their novels. I still want to be a fantasy author, and so this seemed a good next step for me. Plus, I had a great setting and some NPCs available to start my own campaign. I hoped the campaign would help inspire me for the novel I hope to write in this setting.

So far, it is a lot of work, but it’s worth it. It can also be surprisingly difficult at times. When things don’t go right, it’s easy to blame myself. I had a particularly thorny issue last week, where the party did approximately nothing for two and a half hours, which culminated in yelling and party in-fighting. It also included one of the players almost quitting. I was pretty shaken by the whole experience. It’s hard to tell as a DM how much of what happens in game is my responsibility. I felt I should have done something better. I worried my game was falling apart and that I was a failure as a DM.

This week though, the session was amazing! I was really proud- I had a cool idea and spent some time developing it. Importantly, I learned that it is much like writing a speech (I used to be really active in Toastmasters- a public speaking and leadership group). It helps to have the outline and idea of where you want to go. But it falls flat if you just memorize the words and what you want to happen. I found that sweet spot between planning and improvisation. I had a cool mix of combat and roleplaying. My players had fun, and so did I.

It made me feel inspired! I wish it wasn’t 11:15 on Sunday night and that I didn’t have to teach at 9 am tomorrow so I could write or plan next session. Or maybe get some writing in. Or both!

It’s a good feeling. Inspiration might be my favorite feeling. I hope I can keep it up so I can make good progress on my creativity month!

Creativity in September

Those of you who have been reading this blog closely might have realized by now that I’m doing a terrible job of following the order of goals I set out for each month. I’m a little neurotic, so I feel somewhat guilty about that. But on the other hand, I’m a big proponent of allowing yourself to procrastinate work with other work. If nothing has a looming deadline, why force yourself to do it in a specific order? Whatever keeps you productive and doing work instead of slacking off is what you should be doing.

So, this month, I decided what I really want to be doing is working on my creative projects. Partly, I feel a little overwhelmed with the idea of meeting new people- I’ve already got a lot of new activities that I started within the last few months (boxing, Magic, my Pathfinder campaign) and am having difficulty keeping up with all of them. I also feel like I’ve been doing nothing with my free time. Some people feel great about themselves when they spend all day doing nothing. I am not one of those people.

Last night, I had a few hours of free time and I couldn’t figure out what to do with myself. I didn’t really feel like reading or playing my computer game- my go-to’s of the last few months. I thought about doing other activities, but it was hard to start them. I just lacked the motivation. And I was really frustrated about this! I want to be the kind of person who does creative projects in her free time.  I really do enjoy them, once I start, but sometimes I find it really hard to start.

Thus, I’m hoping to boost my motivation for my creative projects this month by making it my monthly goal!

Here are some specific goals:

-Do something creative at least once per day

-This month, finish my Alaska trip scrapbook

-Write at least one short story a week

-Apply to that Ohio creative writing contest

-Do at least one creative project I wouldn’t ordinarily do

-Get my shutterfly stuff before the end of the month (figure out what projects I want to do with photos, make photobooks for mom and dad)

-Get ahead on my Pathfinder campaign


Looking forward to updating you on my creative projects later on and sharing ones that turn out well!

Health and Motivation

On Monday, I ran into a colleague at boxing. I didn’t know her terribly well, but it was exciting to have someone I know at the workout with me. We took a photo afterwards (I still need to get this from her), which is the only photo I have of me in my awesome boxing gloves.

Today, I ran into her at work and we started talking about health and exercise and boxing. Coming into this conversation, I was feeling a little unmotivated. I definitely didn’t pay any attention to what I was eating on my birthday (had three different kinds of cake and also flan that day. Probably that’s 1500 calories of just cake!)  I didn’t care what I was eating the next day either- it was my birthday party. Whenever I take a day (or two) “off” like that, it’s always hard to get started again, and this time wasn’t any different. I gained a half a pound over the weekend that I haven’t lost yet. August is almost over too, and I had hoped to make slightly more progress.

Talking to my colleague, though, was inspiring! She shared how hard the boxing workout had been for her and her own experiences with health, exercise, and weight. She had a similar story- a scary number on the scale prompted her to start being healthier. The similarities end there though, because now she runs marathons! That is especially impressive to me, because I hate running. Partly it’s hard and it’s boring- but partly I bet it’s an artifact of my younger days in gym class when I was super chubby and out of shape. I told my colleague how impressive I found it, which she sort of shrugged off saying she also hated running and it took about a year and a half before she found it fun.

This didn’t necessarily make me want to start running, but it does make me inspired to keep going with my health goals! Keep boxing, maybe even work out on the side, and keep eating healthy.

I am going to continue my 1500 calories a day (+500 on boxing days) for at least the next month as well. It’s not necessarily the best diet plan, but it’s one that works for me. I love being healthy- the feeling I have after my boxing workout is incredible. The feeling I have when I see the scale after a successful week of eating is incredible. Knowing that I am fit and active is a feeling that I haven’t experienced that much in my life and I’m really enjoying it. I want to be healthy so that I can feel good about myself and my body.

Find your own motivation to do whatever it is you want to do. It’s not always easy, but it is always worth it!

Being A Nerd

I got back from GenCon two days ago and it was amazing! For those of you who don’t know what GenCon is, it’s essentially a giant nerd convention (http://www.gencon.com/) that focuses on board games, but also has RPGs, LARPs, art, crafts, nerd celebrities, and more. It’s probably the biggest nerd convention too, with around 75k people in attendance this year.

Last year was my first year there and I went with my ex and his college friends. It was okay, but I wasn’t terribly impressed. I almost skipped this year, but I ended up getting into an event I just couldn’t miss and decided to go. (For those of you who are curious, I got to play an RPG based on the books of one of my favorite authors- Brian McClellan- with Brian! It was pretty much the coolest thing I’ve ever done.)

I forgot how incredible it is to be among fellow nerds.  I spent most of my life feeling like I needed to hide my love of fantasy books and later of role-playing games and wishing I had more socially acceptable hobbies. I’ve recently become a lot more open about this which has, much to my surprise, been an incredibly freeing feeling. But nevertheless, there’s a difference between acceptance (people who appreciate my nerdiness but aren’t fellow nerds) and passion.

On the second to last day of the convention, I impulse bought a really awesome hat (I’ll link a photo of it when I get home). It’s basically a steampunk pilot hat that’s soft and fuzzy. Of course, I wore it the rest of the convention. I actually got a lot of compliments about my hat and was very pleased- I thought I looked pretty cool. I wore it home and my parents were visiting when I arrived. One of the first things they did was look at my hat quizzically and ask me what it was. My dad, trying to be cool, said “Wow, you really love Captain America!” (It’s not at all related to Captain America).

I love my parents- they actually spent most of that day helping out around my house, which was AMAZINGLY appreciated- but they really don’t get my nerdy side. It was a jolting realization that I was back to normal life.

At GenCon though, my hat made me cool. My flexible dragon that I wore around my neck made me cool. My purple d20 earrings with matching d20 dragon necklace made me cool. There’s no better feeling than being among “your people.” I love my non-nerdy friends too, but once in awhile it’s really incredible to be appreciated and admired for the stuff you love- the stuff that most people tease you for.

Don’t ever let anyone stop you from doing the things you love or being among the people you love!