You see, I've never been the type of person who can "wing it." I don't like not having a game plan because there's too much that I want to do in life and life is already too short to not spend time doing what you love. That's not to say that I don't turn off auto-pilot every now and again, but for most of my life, I've been very strict with myself.
I double-majored in college and didn’t have the typical experience that most college students do. Instead of partying on the weekends or going bowling during the week, I stayed in my room writing and studying horror. I submitted to magazines, I watched horror movies, I aced my exams, and then on my breaks, I’d go home and work. For most of my life, I’ve had three jobs and I’ve worked too many hours while juggling too many projects, and by the time I finished my undergraduate degree, I’d had three internships, a list of publications—some of which I was even paid for—and was on my way to study renaissance art in Italy.
After that—literally, as in a few days after I got off the plane—I started graduate school. I was back at Seton Hill full-time while working three jobs and barely sleeping. I was drinking between 10-12 cups of coffee a day to stay awake and work, and most days, I’d fall asleep covered in books at my writing desk. In the time it took me to write my thesis—a full-length dark fantasy novel—I also wrote two poetry collections and started editing for Raw Dog Screaming Press. In addition to all of this, I was applying to university jobs, trying to find an agent, working on my CV, and genuinely, just trying to keep my head above the water.I've said "no" to most things, and most people, most of my life.
I drank so much coffee and pounded so many energy drinks in college that I destroyed my digestive system, and had to adjust my entire diet after my gallbladder basically exploded and had to be removed.
I've turned down vacations, I've walked away from sure-thing jobs, and I've ended relationships all because they weren't part, or refused to be a part, of the one thing I wanted more than anything in my life: writing.
I didn’t get a full-time job until about eight months after I graduated. That's eight months of feeling defeated, depressed, and completely at war with myself for giving up everything. I had a 70k + bill looking at me straight in the face, my car gave its last breath, and I still had to come home to my parent's house every day and live in a room that I outgrew seven years ago. When I got the job offer at Carlow, I accepted, packed my bags and moved out, all while doing my best to take care of myself while still working three jobs in addition to editing and writing. Let’s not even take into consideration that I was licking my wounds through all of this after a particularly brutal summer on my heart...
But now after all that time:
- My novel has sold
- I’m teaching at Seton Hill and Carlow University.
- And I have a full-time job that lets me live a life that for the past 10 years, I didn’t allow myself to have.
And you know what? I’m finally happy--blissfully so--but I'm tired. And I’m allowed to be tired. I didn’t allow myself to really sleep for ten years because I worked my ass off trying to independently build a life for myself, and now that I’m finally settled and happy and working on goals and publications with a creative freedom that brings me joy instead of stress, for the first time in my life, I’m taking care of me. I don’t want to live a stressed-out life anymore. No more three-job tango. No more anxiety. No more four travel mugs of coffee for breakfast. No more fear for when the student loan bill comes in. No more chain smoking at 3 a.m. to stay awake or crying in the bathroom because I only got two hours of sleep the night before and it physically hurts to stay awake....No. For the first time, I want and can have a little bit of peace and stability in my life. And you know how I’m going to do it?
By going to bed at 10 o’clock.
And not giving a single fuck about it.