I quit smoking ten years ago this month. It was, at that time, the biggest and hardest thing I had ever done. I went cold turkey and I spent the first three months feeling as if I was going to die and the next three months wanting a cigarette every single day. After a year, it was over. And ever since I made that change, I have started every new year with this statement. “This is the year of Beth.”
Some amazing things have happened since the first “year of Beth.” I’ve written eight novels and published six of them. I’ve had stories in several anthologies. I went back to school and proceeded to get my BA in English, then an MA in Creative Writing, and (almost) an MA in Communications, Marketing, and Digital Media. I adopted Gordo the Magnificent. I bought a home. I went to my first Golden Crown Literary Society conference, then got elected to the board, then moved into the Director of Education position where I took over running the writing academy and have continued to help it evolve into the incredible program it is today. I become an adjunct instructor teaching core English at a community college and literature for an MFA program. I left a long-term toxic relationship and, after several years and several near-misses, met and married the love of my life.
It has been a pretty incredible ten years.
It wasn’t all rosy. There were tears and heartache and moments of not being able to pay the bills. I remember a winter sitting in my living room wrapped in multiple sweaters, and blankets, shivering because I knew if I turned the heat any higher, I wouldn’t be able to pay the gas bill. There have been depressive episodes so bad I couldn’t leave the house. There was a bout with the flu that almost killed me. There was a relationship that ended so badly, my ex took to social media to tell lies about me to our (former) mutual friends, many of whom ditched me based on her say-so. There was the time when Brutus was diagnosed with diabetes and refused to eat so I could give him his shots and he got thinner and thinner until I was sure he was going to die. (Note: He is a chunky-monkey now and doing just fine for a thirteen-year-old dog.)
It has been a pretty traumatic ten years.
That’s life. Bad things happen. Good things happen. And sometimes, stellar things happen. When I look back on the last ten years, I think it has been an amazing decade. Quitting smoking was the start of it. I did something so huge, so monumental—how could I not see it as proof that I was capable of so much more?
Sometimes, sitting at my desk, grading student papers, or working on my next book, I have a sense of unreality. Like, how can things change so fast? How can I have turned my life around so thoroughly from someone who had absolutely nothing going for her and was probably a few more smokes or a few more drinks from death to someone who is happy, healthy, and finally living her dream?
Some of it was luck and timing. And the rest of it was sheer working my ass off. I decided to do things and because I already KNEW I could do hard, even miserably hard things and come out alive on the other side (hello? Smoking?) I believed in myself. I still believe in myself.
And here we are in 2019. This year, I want to start working on paying down the tens of thousands of dollars in debt that I built going to school (and simply surviving). I want to find a mainstream publisher for my women’s fiction book. I want to finish writing the sequel to Coyote Ate the Stars and release that by June. And I’d like to write and publish another lesfic book by 2020. I want to continue to build my reader-base. I want to be published in a couple anthologies or journals. I want to continue to study education and bring the best I can to all of my students, creating a sense of equity and excitement in my classrooms. I want to be successful.
I also want to spend time with my wife simply working side by side at our desks or in the garden. I want to take the old man dog for walks while he still can. I want to support other writers by sharing their tweets, their book release photos, their events. I want to buy people’s books, read them, and post reviews. I want to help my wife focus on her writing and her audio book recordings so she can find her dream as surely as I’ve found mine. I want us all to be successful.
All of us.
2019. It isn’t just the year of Beth. It’s the year of us.