I've never really had an issue with the whole "be yourself" thing. Part of the reason for that could be that I've always been blessed to have a family and support system who love and respect who I am. Part of it could be because I have issues with stubbornness. It happens. But while continuing to be myself even when others are not understanding or accepting has always just been what I've done, the accompanying mental state of actually liking myself has proven to be more complicated.
I feel like I need to clarify some things here because this sounds terrible and sad. I generally feel pretty good about myself. I think I'm at least a slightly cool person. But there are some things that other people comment on more frequently that have made it more difficult to be myself without worrying about what other people think. There's those little comments that get in your head and spoil the activities you enjoy doing. After all, it's hard to enjoy things when you're thinking about how many times it's been suggested that you should enjoy other things more.
I'm a very introverted person. I value my alone time. I like to stay home and relax because my apartment is adorable and cozy and comfortable. I'm creative, so being able to make things makes me happy. I find silence to be comforting and calming. As my mother says, I do a lot of "deep thinking." And if I'm being completely honest, I'm getting tired of those things being viewed as qualities I should fix or change or minimize to "come out of my shell."
Because it's not a shell. It's just my personality. And for quite a while, I've been letting those perceptions get to me and make me feel like there's something wrong with me every time I choose alone time over socializing. But I've come to realize that if I can teach my fourth graders that people are different and expect them to accept those differences, I can do the same for everyone else.
I've started doing the things I enjoy unapologetically, and I've loved every minute. For someone who has, at times, been hyper-fixated on others' opinions and expectations, it's freeing to push those thoughts out of my head. I am who God made me. And I'm not saying that there's no room for improvement, but there's certainly no need for a complete personality shift. I know what I enjoy and what helps me function best and it's way past time I stop letting people's opinions make me feel bad about it.
So I guess this is my open letter, if you will, to the promise of being myself and liking it. And hopefully along the way, other people learn to like me being myself too. In the meantime, I'll be home, creating new things, basking in the silence, and enjoying every moment.
Well, I'm back with some more thoughts after... who knows how long. But you know how it goes- something gets in my head, and then eventually it makes its way out in writing. Today's inspiration was partially the sermon in church this morning, partially God doing that fun thing He does sometimes when He just sort of reaches down and pokes me. Like a, "Hey, I have something to say to you and you're not listening" sort of thing.
Anyways. My church is currently in the middle of a sermon series on prayer, and this morning's focus was on allowing Jesus in because He wants to spend time with us. He wants to be close to us. Which, as someone who grew up in church and in a Christian family and has always had a walk with God, I knew. But there was a point somewhere in the middle of the sermon where I had a sudden thought. I miss Him. And you know what? That's on me. I've been reading my Bible and praying and going to church and checking all my good Christian duties off the list, but I realized that there hasn't been any time recently where I've just been with Jesus.
When I was little, I never had the chance to miss Him because he was everything. I loved Jesus, but I was also head over heels in love with Him, too. He was my Savior, yes, but also my friend, my confidant, my safe place. You know how in the Narnia movies every time Lucy sees Aslan, you get that beautiful scene of her running to him and just burying her face in his mane? That's how it was every time. Jesus was always on my mind.
I've had the privilege of having a beautiful walk with Christ. From the innocence of childhood through the hot garbage fire that was high school, He was there every step. Even when I had no friends and didn't fit in anywhere and cried way more often than I'd like to admit, He was there every step. And when I went to college and things were new and scary, He was there every step. Now, in a new place with a new job when things are going really well, He is still with me every step. And it's because of that relationship and His faithfulness that I still know He is the most important part of my life. It's why I start each morning in my Bible and make sure to carve out time in my day for Him.
And that's great. Don't get me wrong, it took me a while to get to that point, and I know that routine is essential for my life. But somewhere in all the busyness and piled up to-do lists, I forgot that it's not all about a routine. I forgot how I used to just talk to God about my day. I forgot the resting piece of things, the part where maybe I shut up for once during my time with God and let Him speak. And when I realized this morning that I missed Him, deeply and viscerally, that was all I wanted. Just to be with Him. Just to let Him hold me. Just to run to Him like I used to, not with my problems, but with my excitement and my joy to simply know and love Him.
I don't want to be too busy to be in love with Jesus. I don't want there to be any piece of my life that isn't completely saturated with that love. I want to go back to casual conversations and resting in His presence. Because honestly, little me didn't have a whole lot figured out, but she really nailed that piece.
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." -Revelation 3:20
Before I get into this blog post, I want to preface it by laying out the things that I don't want to do, and what I would hope that writing this does do. First of all, I do not want to, in any way, suggest that anything has happened to me because I am just so wonderful and holy that I deserve all of what I have and more. No. Instead, my goal here is for the focus to be on how good God is, how He pours out His grace and blessings on those He loves, regardless of whether or not we have earned that love. That's the beauty of God's provision... I haven't earned any of it, and yet here we are anyway! Secondly, I want to make sure that this is not taken as me suggesting that because I am a Christian, because it is my ongoing goal to devote myself fully to God, everything is going to be perfect and work out just the way I want. Yes, He works in all things for "the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28), but He also told us that we will experience troubles and trials of various kinds (John 16:33, James 1:2). Besides, it's an ongoing goal because I constantly fail at it, so let's just bring that back to my earlier point about how this isn't because I'm fantastic and have earned God's blessings and grace. And finally, I know that many of you are here because I write books, not spiritual blog posts... but this is important. God has worked in such beautiful ways in my life, and it is my responsibility, as well as my privilege, to point everything back to Him and bring Him the glory that He is due. So. With no further ado (or disclaimers), it's time to get into what this is actually about.
I got a job! As in, my ideal job. The job that I didn't even think was an option. And I am beyond thrilled and so excited and so incredibly ready to embark on this new adventure! As you may know if you follow my Instagram, I have been teaching fourth grade at a school near my college in an internship/teacher's aid position this past year. It's a wonderful school that very much aligns with my passion and philosophy of teaching, as well as a stable and supportive place to start my official teaching career. As it got closer to the end of the school year, positions started opening up, although none of the available positions were for fourth grade, which is what I would have really loved to teach. I, being the sometimes-too-ambitious-for-my-own-good person that I am, applied to all of them. I figured that as long as I got into the school, I would be happy.
Then the fourth grade position opened (in an interesting turn of events). Of course, this was very exciting, but still, my main prayer was just that I would get any position at the school, and even if that didn't happen, that I could have peace in trusting God's will for my life. I went into an interview with a small committee the next week with the prayer that God would help me to speak with wisdom and grace, and that He would help me to stand apart as a good candidate. Apparently it worked because I was called in for an interview with the superintendent two days later. Again, I prayed for peace, for the ability to trust God fully, and that He would make me far better at the whole interview thing than I am on my own. And again, it worked. At the end of that interview, the superintendent offered me a job... not just any job, but that fourth grade position that originally wasn't even an option.
I'll spare you any descriptions of exactly how I felt and still feel (no one really needs to hear how ridiculous I must have looked walking back to my classroom with a grin plastered across my face) because, again, anything about me is not really the point. Ephesians 3:20-21 says, "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." That is the point. I'm not the one who opened that fourth grade position, or the one who led the administration to like me enough to hire me, or the one who placed me in this school in the first place! I am just beyond grateful and blessed to be the one who gets to experience a relationship with the God who can do all of those things and more. Again, life isn't always going to work out this well. I'm not always going to get everything I want. But the God who is in control for this is the One who is always in control.
So I guess what I want to do at the end of this whole thing is to encourage you. Whatever you're waiting on, whatever you're hoping for, whatever you're stressing about... give it over. Give it up. He's more than capable. And if it doesn't work out exactly as you wanted it, trust that His plan is good and perfect. Know that He loves you no matter what, and He is orchestrating things that we can't even begin to imagine. But if it does work out, I want to extend the invitation of Psalm 34:3: "Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together."
Of all the books I will ever read or write, He is the greatest Author. His is the greatest Story. And He is the One who invites me on the greatest Adventure. God is good!
I'm graduating college. Like, alarmingly soon. On one hand, I have no idea where the past four years have gone and I certainly don't feel like I could possibly be at this point yet. On the other hand, I've grown so much and I'm not entirely the person I was in high school (thank goodness- there were definitely some things that needed to change). From the writing perspective, I've published three books in the past four years (that's nice to see in writing) and have embarked on a new series with messages and stories that I am so excited about. As a teacher, well, I'm about to actually be certified. And I've spent the school year working with the most incredible kids, having an amazing time, and completely solidifying that this is absolutely what I want to be doing. And just in general as a person... I'm not even going to get into that. Just know that it's a lot about confidence and knowing who I am in Christ and all that good stuff.
But now I'm at this interesting sort of juncture. Up until this year, I kind of figured I'd go back home after graduating, get my master's, and then figure out what comes next... in that area. That nice, safe area where pretty much everyone knows me and my family, and where I know pretty much everyone and everything, right down to the spots you have to be most alert for deer jumping into the road.
But now there's this wonderful school that has welcomed me this year and has job openings for next year. There's this community that seems nice to be a part of and these new places to explore. And, of course, there's the allure of being on my own and sort of carving out my own place in the world.
At this point, the issue is not so much making the decision of which direction to take as it is about just working through the implications. The unknown of establishing myself is more exciting than frightening for me. But being unknown is an entirely different matter. I'm extremely introverted, so it's not even that I want to know a whole bunch of people. But here in this new place, a couple of hours away from what has always been my home, nobody really knows who I am, what really matters to me, what makes me tick. And there's just something about the process of people discovering those things about me that seems simultaneously exhausting and terrifying.
I'm not sure if any of that really made much sense. Honestly, I'm still trying to figure out what exactly it is that I'm saying. I'm still processing. But to my fellow soon-to-be-graduates, and anyone else out there on the cusp of the unknown and being known... congratulations! I'm rooting for you.
Honestly, all I can think about as I write this is that new AmongUs game because so many people keep talking about it. But I'm not talking about that kind of imposter. I'm talking about imposter syndrome as a writer, which, frankly, is so much worse. If you don't know what I'm talking about and have never experienced it... I don't know what to say. Send me an email or something and teach me your secrets.
But for those of you who are like me, those of us who find ourselves suddenly drowning in a flood of doubt about anything we've ever done, let's keep going with this discussion. When I think of my own experiences with imposter syndrome, two writers immediately come to mind. Before we get any further, I just want to clarify that I have no negative feelings towards these writers. In fact, they only come to mind because I see them as so successful, so impressive, so admirable, and so inspiring that, well, I'm intimidated.
Kaitlyn Legaspi is the author of the Dark Irregular Trilogy, which she wrote and published at a young age (sound familiar?). Nearly every time I think about Kaitlyn and her trilogy, those thoughts are accompanied by the feeling that I, along with my trilogy, just don't measure up. This feeling comes straight from my own insecurities. Maybe there is some way to objectively prove which trilogy is better. But does that matter? (I'll give you the answer here: no... but more on that later.)
Madison Siwak runs a successful blog all about writing. She creates the most helpful and impressive posts, hosts interviews and guest posts, and (here's what's really impressive to me) has a plan, a schedule, and consistent, reliable posts. Also, she's an incredible writer. Do I need to explain why I'm intimidated by her, or are you getting the picture here?
Here's what I've found to be the bottom line with imposter syndrome: we look at someone else and are suddenly confronted with the idea that they are everything we are not. My insecurities tell me that in terms of length and complexity, Kaitlyn's trilogy does have a lot that the Prophecy War Trilogy doesn't (they never seem to remember that my books are written for a completely different age group). My uncertainty reminds me that I don't have a successful, consistent website or blog like Madison (when I'm in that mindset, it's never enough to be happy that I have a website that I'm proud of). I fall miserably short of being Kaitlyn or Madison. But interestingly enough, they can't be me either. And the thing is... I'm just trying to be me, so how could I ever be an imposter?
To wrap this all up, even at the risk of sounding super cliché... be yourself! After all, there's no one else who can be you.
Disney Princesses- they're the best, right? Most people love watching Disney movies for the nostalgia, the fun, the music, whatever. And Disney princesses are so lovable with their beautiful dresses and catchy songs. But in my obsession with Disney and princesses and fairy tales, I've discovered that there's a lot more to love than that, and deeper, more inspirational things about being a Disney princess. That's why my goal for this month is to live more like a Disney princess. Please allow me to present my reasoning and also assure you that the end of the semester hasn't compromised my sanity completely.
Let's start with the singing. I feel like people and society today don't appreciate singing and the rest of the arts nearly enough. I can assure you, it's not just for the professionals. I started playing the piano in tenth grade just because I wanted to. I taught myself, so I'm no professional, but I love it. Same thing with drawing. I draw my characters all the time, and find that process enjoyable. I started painting recently. I'm not very good at it, but I like it. This is my point here: who says you have to be great at something to do it? Lesson number one of being a Disney princess: make beautiful things, even if no one else finds them beautiful.
Onto my next point. Disney princesses are always kind. Not nice, which is bland and weak, but kind, which is strong and wonderful and persistent (there's a poem about that here: instagram.com/p/By01-2Sn-U8/ ). Kindness is a lost value partly because it's so hard and partly because people don't see the benefit of it. But it's such a powerful thing. Studies have shown that even plants grow better when they are treated kindly... imagine how that works with people. I started growing plants recently, and I make a point to treat them with care and kindness because maybe they'll grow better but also because, I don't know, maybe I'll grow better. So lesson number two is this: always be kind to everything.
And finally, Disney princesses are always having adventures and discovering magic. If you think adventures and magic don't exist in our world, then you're not looking hard enough. Maybe it's not the same, but it's still there. Walk a different route than you usually take and see what you find. Don't rush to get out of the rain or snow, but let it sink into you (maybe there's magic in those snowflakes that you can't see just yet). And if you can't find magic or adventure, make some yourself. Send a stranger a genuine smile. Give gifts. Spread love. You are the magic. Here's the third lesson: life is more than you think. Find the adventure.
So go ahead, be a Disney princess. I'm gonna try it out, too. It's going to be a good month.
I would like to begin by saying that while I am a fantasy writer, and while I do often embellish what happens in life to make it more interesting to read, this story is completely true.
It was supposed to be a quick weekend trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania with my two closest friends. They wanted to see their younger brother, and I wanted to find an adventure (in literature this would be foreshadowing, but in real life it's just called not knowing what's about to hit you). The trip began exactly as planned. We made it down to a college about two hours away from Gettysburg in time to watch their brother play lacrosse. It was when we got back in the car that things started to very much not go as planned. We heard a grinding noise first, and then a squeaking. When the car began to wobble, we immediately pulled over to the side of the highway. Fast forward through some very confusing phone calls, a ride in a truck that required us to practically sit on top of each other, and about two hours of waiting, and we were sitting in a Mavis Discount Tire waiting for a mechanic who had offered to give us a ride to the Philadelphia airport. The plan was to rent a car at the airport, drive the two remaining hours to Gettysburg, and carry on with our trip. That's not exactly what happened.
We got to the Philadelphia airport only to discover that we couldn't rent a car without a credit card (which, of course, we didn't have). By this point, our mechanic friend had continued on his way home after we insisted that he didn't have to stay to help us. The car rental worker that we talked to had said we could stay as long as we wanted, so we naturally took up temporary residence there until we could figure out what to do. We stayed for a little over an hour, eating snacks and talking, until we were picked up by a transportation service to take us back to the town where the car was being fixed. The ride to our newly reserved hotel room was spent confusing our driver with the tale of how we got to that particular point in our trip and going to the wrong address before finally arriving at our destination. Once we checked into our hotel room, we realized that we hadn't eaten since 7 o'clock that morning and it was now 10 at night. So, we had a very nice dinner at the hotel restaurant that we ate in mostly stunned silence. Of course, our adventure for that day was apparently still not over, and before we settled into our room, we were met with a horde of rambunctious thirteen-year-old boys. They said they were there for a variety of eating competitions (we're still not sure if that was true). They also said I looked like a slow runner (I know for sure that one's true). Finally, we collapsed onto our beds and went to sleep... still two hours from Gettysburg.
We woke up the next morning, planning to leave around 10 because that was when the mechanics had said our car would be done. However, we were given a ride to the shop around noon with the explanation that the parts for the car were not in yet. The parts didn't arrive until 2 o'clock, and after three hours of work (and a few other complications with the car that I can't describe because I don't know enough about cars) we were finally ready to go. I should add that absolutely none of this was the fault of the mechanics. They were incredibly helpful and positively angelic, but I guess the call for unexpected adventure was just too much that weekend. At this point, it was around 5:30 in the evening, but we still decided to make the two hour drive to Gettysburg and then drive five and a half hours home because, frankly, we hadn't come all that way to not actually get where we were planning on going.
So, we drove to Gettysburg (a trip that was blessedly uneventful) and finally arrived at their brother's dorm building (where he greeted us with a very reasonable, "Why are you here?"). After spending about a half and hour there, we left Gettysburg to head home, planning on getting back to our own college at around 1:30 in the morning.
At this point in the story, I'm not sure you'll even be surprised to learn that that didn't work out. Not long after we started our trip home, we found ourselves driving through a vicious rainstorm. It might have been a thunderstorm. I don't know because I couldn't hear or see anything except the rain. My mom informed me over the phone that we were in a tornado watch, a flood watch, and a flash flood warning. Naturally, we wanted to get off the road, but we were on a stretch of highway where the exits were few and far between. Eventually, we made our way off the highway to a hotel. We arrived at the hotel at 11:30 at night and slept until 4:30 the following morning. Then we were up and on the road again before 5 o'clock to get back to college at 8:30. And that was the end of our adventure.
Like all good stories, this one does have a point (besides sharing the excitement with whoever finds themselves reading this). The point is this: that every day, every opportunity, every trip is what you make it. Our experience on this Gettysburg trip could have been hectic and miserable. But because we looked at the blessings, focused on each other's company, and enjoyed the adventure, it was a fantastic experience that I won't forget. I wouldn't trade this experience for any other because it brought me closer to my two best friends and showed me what a good adventure feels like. Adventure isn't always what you think it's going to be, but it's priceless nonetheless.
One last note: the picture accompanying this story is part of the car resting in my hand. The mechanics gave us each one as a souvenir of our trip.
"I want to talk about staying in a leaving culture," said the woman on the screen up front. And as I sat in my seat, I said a silent "amen." Finally, someone got it. Finally, someone wasn't telling me to move on. See the thing is, I recently had a friend who hurt me. She said and did some painful things, and I felt more than a little betrayed. Some of the people I talked to about my feelings told me that I should without a doubt move on and leave her in the past. Let her pay for her mistakes by never being in my life again. But deep down, I knew that wasn't right. So I stayed. I kept communication open. And she hurt me again. And again. Most of the people around me didn't even have to say anything for me to know that they thought I should just leave. I'd be lying if I said that wasn't a tempting option. But if your pet dog is injured, you don't just let it suffer, even if it snaps at you in its pain.
Of course, not everyone's situation is like mine, but I guess that's how I see it. No one's really that cruel without experiencing some sort of pain. And I'm not one to add to the pain by abandoning them. Maybe you think I'm crazy. Maybe you're more naive and think I'm a saint. I can tell you that I'm neither. But I have lived my life knowing and loving a God who forgives and cherishes me no matter what I do. I know I'm not perfect. I've made mistakes and hurt Him. The beautiful thing is, He has never abandoned me. Not even for a moment. So as an imperfect person who has been shown the greatest Love to ever exist, how can I not show at least a little love to the people around me? Yes, it can be painful. No, it's not easy. But no one ever said doing the right thing was easy. So I'll stay. I'll remain through the storms and battles and hurtful words because that's the kind of love and forgiveness that conquers fear, pain, and anger. Sometimes the bravest thing to do is just stay.
Please excuse me while I make my experience this morning far more fantastic and magical than it actually was...
It all started with a light snowfall, a crow, and a college girl who wanted some breakfast. In case you were confused, that hungry girl was me, and I was heading over to campus this morning to get breakfast. It was cold, but not too harsh or frigid. The snow fell lightly in big, fluffy flakes- the kind that stick to your eyelashes and decorate your hair with a frosty crown. As my eyes lifted to watch the snowflakes dance on the light breeze, I saw a majestic crow perched on a signpost just ahead. Now, I usually don't use the word "majestic" to describe crows (I generally feel that "creepy" or "mysterious" describe them better), but this one was definitely majestic. Its feathers were a glossy black and ruffled slightly in the breeze that brushed over them. It made no sound, only stared down at me with inscrutable black eyes.
And immediately, a story came to life in my mind. There was no longer just the crow. There was the illusive and beautiful sorceress staring at me through its eyes. There were spirits of wind and snow dancing around me on the snowflakes, reaching out to me with their magic. There was excitement and intrigue and centuries-old conspiracy all converging on me, the unlikely but brave heroine trekking through the wintery wilderness! And then I passed by the stoic crow and continued on to breakfast.
Sometimes I think that maybe it's time to put an end to such intense products of an overactive imagination. That at almost 19 years old it's time to stop playing make-believe. But then again, why should I? The incredibly vast amount of fictional books published is evidence that stories are an integral part of being human. We, as humans, love to open ourselves up to the new experiences and people we find in the midst of stories. So why would I ever deny myself the thrill of discovering a new story in the recesses of my mind? Why ignore the craving I have for adventure, for something more than what's found on the surface of the world? Stories are how we make sense of the world around us. Life itself is a story that we are created for and placed purposefully in. So as strange as it may seem, I won't let go of my stories because I won't let the magic slip through my fingers and disappear.
A couple of years ago, my mom, who is a school librarian, went to a conference and was given this massive red book full of blank pages. Although other people at the conference may have had trouble determining what to do with that book, my mother knew just who to give it to: her book-loving, story-obsessed daughter. Sure enough, I unwrapped it for Christmas that year and, in a matter of seconds, knew exactly what I would use it for.
Characters. They're the meat and potatoes of a story. And they're so much fun! There have been so many times that I have been surprised by my characters, and by the end of my books, I'm always sad to say goodbye because they have become so dear to me. So I made a character book, complete with fancy headings and cursive lettering. I've used my limited artistic abilities to sketch out some of the characters included in it (they're not the best drawings, but since the book is just for me, I've decided I don't really care). It's nothing scheduled, nothing I have to get done. Just a little side project.
But let me tell you, it's a good side project to have. First of all, I think it's important to spend time with your characters. The more you think about them, the more likely they are to develop in new and exciting ways. Readers don't want to waste time on flat, stilted characters. They want characters with depth, and characters with depth take time to grow. Second of all, it's inspiring! I have had quite a few periods of writer's block ended by spending some time being creative with my characters. Immersing myself in my story world for a little while really gets the juices flowing. Third of all, it's just fun. Writing should be fun! Creating worlds and characters and creatures is magical! Why not spend some time enjoying it?
So that's my advice, from one writer to another. Make a fancy book for your characters... they deserve it, and you do, too.
Read more about the significance of themes, characters, and focuses of my books here
About Books and the Writing of Them
Find some behind-the-scenes of what goes into my books here
Find some quick guides for writing tips and advice here
Enter the Story
Find my short stories that bring friends, family, and fellow writers into their own fantasy adventure here