Hello, everyone. So, as I write this, it is 10/15/2021- five days after I completed my first draft manuscript of Bleary Eyes, my paranormal horror novel releasing next year. Such a momentous occasion has left me thinking about a time before I even started writing it, and how that decision to write it changed my life. Not everyone will take the time to want to read this, but I think a select few might find it interesting how much a life can change in a year- and why. With that in mind, I decided to take a leap and write this out, and get a little more personal with you all. Please be warned that you're about to learn about the worst time of my life, and the best time of my life.
Let me explain a few things about myself before I dive into the last year. Sometime in 2019, my life was in standstill. I didn’t have a highschool degree, which is a story in itself. I didn’t have my health- I weighed 350 LBs and at the time, was doing nothing to fix that. Everything I did was a hobby, everything I wrote was nothing to advance with, and ultimately I was not progressing towards anything in my life. Most of all, I had only a few close friends, and they were dwindling fast.
I got to a point that, now, seems rather clear. Looking back, I’m horrified. I was constantly worried about things, picking up problems but never moving towards solutions. I can’t say I was unhappy- I wasn’t. I was content. Which I think is infinitely worse. Now, I can say I truly believe being content, with nothing to improve on or reach for, goals to advance and no reason to hunger or desire or work towards anything, is a curse in itself. I had eaten the apple of sloth, and not realized how unfulfilling my life was. There were tiny, inconsequential signs that I just didn’t see. I didn’t see how tightly I clung to my only best friends, like a lifeline wrapped around my palm, burning into my flesh. I didn’t even notice that all my hobbies reeked of the progressive qualities I lacked: My writing was rigidly linear, consisting of goal oriented stories with milestones to be met, my favorite video games were all progression based, and I found many things that other people enjoyed to be a complete waste of my time. I relied on the things I had going for me, because I had so little going and I was convinced that when I lost them, my world would fall apart and I would not survive it.
I guess you could call my biggest problem reliance. I had three people my world revolved around, and while their lives progressed, mine sat down in a stubborn lack of effort. I became consumed, head stuck in the sand in comfort, with these three wonderful people keeping me afloat. They were my buoys, never leaving me at risk of drowning.
And then I lost one.
Let’s call her Maya. Have you ever had a friend you thought you would never lose? Maya was that friend. I think of friendship- true friendship- and I think that it is someone you can rely on, and they rely on you. A balanced relationship is 50/50, right? But sometimes, it’s okay to be 100/0- and then, when the tables turn, 0/100. Like a teeter-totter, a see-saw, back and forth, seeking balance. When you fall, someone steps forward to help you up. And when they fall, you do the same. I had my issues, she had hers, but I thought our friendship was equal and unshakable and supportive. I thought we could talk about anything, and with that communication, a good friendship never ends.
I was so stuck in my daze, so complacent, I didn’t see the warning signs. Trust me, they were there. Absent weeks away, uncomfortable avoidance, conversations without substance. Longer… longer… longer absences. And then, a “How are you doing”, an answer- and silence. Horrible, gut-wrenching silence. Panicked fear, anxiety skyrocketing, that I had given the wrong answer and was being punished for it. I wasn’t a stalker, by any means, but I had been her friend for five years, and silence brought worry- so came the social media check, the emails sent, the confusion. A few days was normal. A few weeks were normal as of late. A few months was not. Six months. A year. I had a complete crash. This person that made up a third of my reasons for living was gone, and with her, a chunk of my heart.
I couldn’t understand it. As I’m sure many of you who have been ghosted by someone more than a stranger will understand- it’s a guilty feeling. It’s a search for, “What have I done wrong? Was I a bad friend? Where were the signs?” And when you are too close to something, there are no signs to see. It takes backing away to see those signs.
The last year, I owe to two people. Maya is one of the two. Have you ever seen the posts on social media that say sometimes a person does you the biggest favor by leaving? Maya saved me by leaving. She was my crutch, and I couldn’t see it. If I could talk to her now, I would say three things.
Thank you. I understand now. You were the person I needed to destroy my life, so that I could start fresh and live better.
I harbor no ill feelings towards her. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to love someone so much you don’t imagine your life without them. Everyone has a person like that. But I was so content in her presence, I didn’t have to be content with myself- and that was killing any hope for a fulfilling life. Honestly? I looked in the mirror after the silence sunk in for real, and I didn’t like who I saw. It was a cruel, horrible lesson to learn, but I needed it. Maya abandoning me is what made me a better person.
So, with a hole in my life, I searched for a replacement. This sounds bad, but let me get to the second person who I have to thank for the last year. A healthier sort of love, because I had learned from my mistakes.
In my search to fill the need of a distraction, I met someone. We’ll call him Xenon- the name he has chosen to be credited in the book with. Now, this is not the romantic “I found the love of my life” sort of thing. This is the, “I found someone who picked me up on my feet and made me feel like I had the ability to walk” sort of thing.
Xenon is the Axel to my Winter- a reference those who read my book will understand. I won’t disclose how much he inspired me, or how, but I will say that he opened my eyes to not only his issues- but mine.
I was anxious. I was depressed- my form of depression, perhaps, not the all consuming depression of Axel and Xenon, but a depression that was on a downward path of life-rotting corrosion. I was lonely- lonelier than I’ve ever been in my life. Not for lack of people, people are everywhere. I was lonely with myself. Does that make sense? I have no other way to describe it, except that I could have been in a room full of people, and been bitterly alone. I’ve never believed in ruining my life with drugs, irresponsible sex, or over-consumption of drugs. I’ve never self harmed. But I was poisoning my life in other ways. Complacent, unmoving ways. The ways that hit you when you wake up one day and don’t recognize how you got there.
Talking to Xenon, Winter and Axel were created. A story started. The concept was simple. A girl meets a boy with depression. This girl, who loves other people more than she loves herself, who thinks silence screams at max volume, wanted to understand. She wanted to help- and in wanting to face his demons, she has to face her own.
I focused everything on one person, and my own life stopped, hung up on her.
Then, I focused everything on one person again- and learned how to use him to start. To propel me forward, like a jumpstart on a car whose battery was on empty.
Many things happened after I met Xenon. He is a hardworking student, a talented writer, and a person who makes me think on everything, small and large.
First came Bleary Eyes. Writing has always been my life. I’ve written every day since childhood, experiencing fits of anxiety if I took too long of a break from it. Ray Bradbury, in “Zen in the Art of Writing”, puts it best:
“And what, you ask, does writing teach us?
First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right. We must earn life once it has been awarded us. Life asks for rewards back because it has favored us with animation.
So while our art cannot, as we wish it could, save us from wars, privation, envy, greed, old age, or death, it can revitalize us amidst it all.
Secondly, writing is survival. Any art, any good work, of course, is that.
Not to write, for many of us, is to die."
Mr. Bradbury repeatedly describes the lack of a writing outlet as a poisonous thing- and poisoned, it does feel like. I’ve never related more to a way of describing the writing bug; which I claim as my calling in life.
I always knew I wanted to write a novel, I just didn’t think any of my ideas were worth it. Much like my previous outlook on non-progressive hobbies, it all seemed to be a waste of time. A story for story’s sake was not something that mattered to me. It had, once, and somewhere, I forgot why.
Xenon reminded me why people write- and why they read. He reminded me that writing heals the soul. That somewhere, people see themselves in a character, and feel less alone. That they see a character do something momentous, and think to their own goals and desires, and it feels possible. People write because they have to, and they read because they want to. It’s escapism leaking into reality, and it’s so breathtakingly beautiful to have a part in crafting that.
So I wrote about a depressed boy. He had no friends, and as the blurb says, “he doesn’t have any interest in his future- he barely has interest in his present.” I thought I was writing about Xenon, about something I could only hope to try to understand.
I wasn’t. I was writing about myself, too. I was in a depressed rut, and in writing about a character in a depressed rut, I understood. It began as writing about pieces of myself in Winter, and pieces of Xenon in Axel- and now I know it also works the other way around. There are pieces of me in Axel, too- and pieces of Xenon, the friend that appeared when I had almost none, in Winter.
I don’t think I’ve ever told Xenon that, but there it is. Xenon, you are my Winter.
In writing Bleary Eyes, I found healing, and I found a way to grow. I found possibilities, and hope, and desire to build on the blocks laid in front of me.
On 11/18/2020, I passed my GED. Something I had no schooling for besides self study, that I had procrastinated on for years, I finally bucked up and got it done. I can gladly say I am a highschool graduate, when school had failed me- and I had failed myself- and that I plan on attending college in the next few years.
Inspired by Axel’s half Japanese heritage, and my own love of Japanese music and culture, I began learning the Japanese language on 8/5/2020. I had spent years with an interest in linguistics, unable to settle on what language I wanted to learn most, and I finally just went for it. Learning this opened up a whole world- new acquaintances, new friends, new accomplishments that bring me pride. I am not quite fluent yet, but I’m on a good path, and I find it rewarding and fulfilling. I even joined a Japanese language and culture club at my local college, where I’ve met some of the most understanding, generous, and kind people, and gotten my first foray into college campus life. This sounds like a small thing to most, but I promise you to me, it’s not small at all.
While on my novel writing journey, I contacted and met amazing artists- who became dear friends. On 11/9/2020, the first artwork of Axel Dunn was created, giving me my first visual of him, by an artist named BountyIllustrations. Winter followed on 12/12/2020. A map of Caligo, the small town of my novel, was created on 11/14/2020 by Andrea Dalla Bona, a dear friend of mine who later did several concept arts of houses and buildings in the town for me, as well as his own versions of Axel and Winter, and he continues to work with me on other projects. Then, I met Makhiyo Trish Sy, who has since become an artist of nearly all my most important characters. She, too, created a version of Axel (2/16/2021) and Winter (2/28/2021) and many other artworks since. And in June of 2021, I met Miha Brumec, an extraordinarily talented man, with whom I signed a contact on 6/18/21 for the cover art of Bleary Eyes- something that gets better and better everyday. All this will be revealed in time, and all of it was extraordinarily impactful for me.
I stumbled, and slowed, on my Bleary Eyes progress. I had pitfalls of doubt, moments when I asked, “Would anyone want to read this?” And “Is my writing even good enough for this?” But on 5/27/21, I reached the milestone of having written 55,000 words for my novel. It was the first time I had ever stuck with anything so long, ever felt such a desire to see a story through because it is a story that needs to be told. This was when things really began to take off. I saw myself, for the first time, as a success at something that mattered- more than anything had ever mattered to me in my life.
With renewed focus, I joined writer’s groups, reader’s groups. I learned about the industry. I met amazing, talented writers- too many to list here. I began book reviewing, and found more purpose in that. I renewed my love of reading, of being a reader, and once again learned why writing is a beautiful thing. I fell in love with life. My friend group grew. I had, at the time of Maya’s disappearance, one friend. One best friend, Knieka Hodgson, who is really more a sister to me. And I love her, she carried me through so much, but I couldn’t survive my own loneliness. Knieka, and then Xenon, and then it exploded from there. I was comfortable with a small group, but I found that when you find a few people you truly like, a bigger group is okay too. Today, I count sixteen strong friendships. From one, to sixteen- and I’m richer for it.
A thousand other small milestones came over this year- this horrible year for the rest of the world, but an incredible year for me. I got within 50 LBs of my weight goal. I found a sense of myself- what fashion I liked, what I liked to do to my hair, how to do makeup I could tolerate (I am not a makeup person, I’ve always hated it). I got two piercings, made plans for new tattoos, and took more care with my health. I built a website, I got more hobbies, I grew wiser, stronger, and more honest with myself- the last being the most important. I started a dozen more writing projects, and because I remembered the reason people spend their time on reading books, I no longer believed it wasn’t worth my time to write them.
On 10/10/2021, I finished my manuscript for Bleary Eyes. If I had to say what the biggest theme is in Bleary Eyes… At one point, I would have said depression. But now, I don’t think so. Now, I would say the biggest theme is loneliness. Axel Dunn battles his demons alone, and at the start, he doesn’t know how to fight them.
I have such a long way to go. So many things to pursue, to write, to witness, and to achieve. But I won’t be alone. Anyone who knew me a year ago, who really knew me, might have said that for all my positivity, and optimism, and warmth- I liked to live an isolated, closed-in life. I was content with my one best friend, and my 100+ fictional characters in hobby writing that would never be shared. I was happy, but I was also quite lonely. Xenon was the start to ending that loneliness- and with him, I wrote what is the pride of my 22 years of life.
I have such a long way to go, but I won’t be alone on the journey.
This time, when I run, I’m not running in place. I’m seeing new horizons.
One foot after the other, with one hand holding Winter’s, and one hand holding Axel’s.
For those of you who have supported, encouraged, and loved me in the past year, thank you. I’m not always smart, or kind, or stable. I’m a flawed person, and I want to write characters that show it’s okay to not always be okay. It’s okay to be flawed. For all my accomplishments this year, I’m still learning. I’m still pushing myself to reach new things, to make more of an effort. I don’t always succeed, but I keep trying.
A few years ago, I didn't know who I was. I knew I liked to write, but I didn't know why. I knew what I enjoyed writing, but there was no deep passion there. Now, I write what I'm passionate about. I write what matters to me.
Axel and Winter taught me that- they taught me that it’s okay to have a hard time finding self worth and purpose. You just have to hold on until you find it- and sometimes, you need a little help. Xenon helped me, even if he doesn't think he did. So did Maya, in her own way, even if it nearly broke me.
And I hope this book, my sense of purpose, will help others too.
I’ll be posting updates on the website soon, and starting up a newsletter. For those who have read this far, thank you for listening to why Bleary Eyes was my personal journey, and why it matters so much to me.
Bleary Eyes is the start of my life, because I wasn't really trying to live before.
- Signing off, Summer Rain. 10/15/2021.