It's been a good while since I've posted here, and admittedly longer than I intended when I signed off a few months ago, but I'm back.
With my last post, I didn't go into too much detail about why I needed to step away, only that I was doing so, and I feel like I need to explain the reasons behind my decision.
I also said I was going to be back in time for the June Check-In Post I typically do earlier in the month. That didn't happen, exactly.
For readers new to the blog, the June Check-In is a follow-up to the first post of the year in which I'll share a list of goals and things I hope to accomplish writing-wise over the coming months. June marks the halfway point, so I like to check in with myself and revisit that list, acknowledging progress and successes while allowing myself to reevaluate my plans and adjust as needed.
I'm a firm believer in adaptability when it comes to setting goals because, despite your best efforts, life cannot be predicted. Instead, you need to work with what you have to get to where you want to be, even if that path is unclear and foggy and anything but linear.
The June Check-In post itself is undergoing such changes this year. Previously, this would go up in the first week of June. But during my break, I realized this only gave me the scope of five months to look at rather than a full half-year. This might be one of the reasons I get so in my head about how the progress I've made towards achieving my goals seems to fall short of my expectations.
So, from here on out, midyear Check-Ins will be uploaded for the last week of June.
This year's post, as you may already be able to tell, is also formatted pretty differently than those of the past.
I tend to format the June Check-In as a list of blocks, with each section detailing updates and changes relative to each goal established in January. But things haven't been as structured this year and my subsequent post needs to reflect that.
Housekeeping aside, let's shift gears and get down to the topic at hand.
Overall, it was a combination of things happening all at once and a lot of changes taking place around me. The concurrent-ness makes it a little tricky to go over them in chronological order but I'll try to be as clear as I can.
Let's start with the elephant in the room: the Pandemic.
It's impossible to not feel the strain and tumult of the past year, and it's definitely taken its toll on me. Some ways are more obvious, but others are below the surface and harder to perceive or define.
Early in 2020, my coworkers and I were furloughed for what was at the time believed to be two weeks. This was a few days after I was invited to stay employed there part-time after having been hired on a seasonal basis the previous October, something I was thrilled about.
Little did I know, my last shift before the "temporary" closure would be my final one.
A while into the furlough, we got the text I dreaded: the company was going online-only and closing all of its brick-and-mortar locations. As a result, we were laid off.
Needless to say, this was a painful blow.
This job was the first retail job that I genuinely enjoyed. Even when it was hectic, it was a good team to be part of and anything but the kind of toxic environment I had encountered in previous retail positions (which I won't be going into here). Having that snapped away felt like the proverbial rug being pulled out from underneath me.
Trying to regain my balance after that was rough.
Job hunting stresses me out, and the current global health situation made it even more difficult. In my region, many places were closed indefinitely or open limited hours and therefore not hiring. One interviewer said I'd be a great fit but the number of new hires they could take on was dependent on what the surrounding colleges did for the forthcoming semester; a number of employees are students, so if they continued online learning and would stay at home rather than move to campus, they would be prioritized when it came to scheduling.
As anyone who's experienced the hours spent scrolling through various recruiting sites and postings to find a potential fit, polishing up your resume and cover letter again and again, filling out applications, and the seemingly endless wait to hear back after submitting your materials can attest, job hunting is an arduous process—and one that took its toll on me more than usual.
In some ways, I think I was in a period of mourning so to speak, the way one might feel after breaking up with someone they cared deeply about. I'd finally found a post-college job that wasn't temporary and made me feel genuinely appreciated as an employee, without being surrounded by cliques I would never fit into, and more importantly having sincere fun on the clock, only for it all to meet an abrupt end.
Thankfully, it was only about two months from the announcement of the lay-off and eventual closure of the store to being hired at my current workplace where I'm still learning the ropes but feel incredibly good about where I am.
There's a period of adjustment that comes with starting at a new job, but it felt different this time around. For one thing, there's the ongoing global health crisis and shifts in-store policies following updates to the CDC's guidelines. But there's also the shift of getting into the groove of being back at work.
Finding the time to write hasn't been easy. I haven't been able to sit down and edit any of my ongoing fiction in quite a few weeks. I did unofficially start the next of these projects, jotting down a single chapter in a notebook, but my focus has been primarily on blogging in preparation for returning from the hiatus I ended up taking (as I'll talk more about later in this post).
Most of my writing as of late has been in stints during my lunch break. It's not a lot, but it's something.
But even before taking on this position, writing had become a bit difficult for me. Apart from blogging, I wasn't working on anything new. The first draft of Forged in the Salle is essentially done, but it's scattered between various documents and notebooks and will require a substantial rewrite before I can truly dive into edits.
I've taken a break from querying with Bound to the Heart, instead going back to revising it after recognizing it was not as ready for this next step as I believed.
Much of 2020 forced me to contend with some personal and at times rough realizations, many of which carried over into 2021. Overall, this has been a time of reflection and reckoning. Being furloughed gave me an abundance of time to devote to creative projects, but also time to reassess myself alongside them—something I frankly haven't done in years—and many of the realizations surround the state of my mental health.
Entering my mid-twenties and hitting that quarter-century mark this past March made me realize that I'm not sure who I am as an adult. I was pretty confident in myself as a teen, but lately I've been working through a lot of self-doubt and other feelings I won't go into great depth with here because I'm still working through it all and getting to the root of the mess—and untangling it.
As I've learned over these past few months, it hasn't been a quick process. There has been a lot of trial and error with prescriptions. Between letting the medications build up in my system before I can determine how effective they really are at balancing chemistry, then either changing the dosage after a few weeks or switching to another medication if the effects are adverse or nonexistent, it's time-consuming. Not to mention vexing because the things that should be helping you are not working as intended.
There's also the side-effects.
One of the first prescriptions my doctor and I tried left me groggy and almost always fatigued, often falling asleep in the middle of the day and unable to focus on anything—especially writing. There was about two weeks or so that I was sleeping sixteen hours a day because these meds just knocked me out, and I would still be tired.
After shifting to a new med, I was what I described to my doctor as "zingy." I had gotten my energy back, but in a way that made it hard to focus because my mind was constantly darting around. This was the point I had anywhere from three to eight Wix tabs open at a time, each containing an ongoing draft because I couldn't concentrate on any topic. Even though I'm the kind of writer who likes working on multiple projects at once, typically working on a new WIP between editing an older one and blogging, this was getting out of hand; not being able to finish any of these posts exacerbated my feelings of frustration.
Meanwhile, the number of completed posts in my Scheduled folder in Wix dwindled week by week. I write posts weeks in advance in order to be prepared if something happens or I'm not able to sit down and blog between shifts or on my break at work, but I was starting to fall behind for the first time in the two years since launching the site. And the content I was putting out didn't feel like it was at my best.
Towards the end of March, I was changing medications yet again and had just started orientation at my current job. I also had a heap of half-finished posts I struggled to devote myself to no matter how desperately I tried. I also hadn't touched any of my fiction projects in quite a long while.
There was a night I sat myself down and just kind of shut out the world to think. After running through a list of pros and cons and coming to the realization I needed to take a mental health break and tend to myself, to ground myself again after feeling pulled into too many directions, I made the tough decision to step back from blogging. I wrote a quick explanation informing readers I would be taking some time off and signed out of Wix.
For all of April, I didn't touch blogging. I dabbled with my fiction but didn't have any great successes. Instead, I shifted my focus to non-writing hobbies, picking up gaming again. Around mid-May, I started easing my way back into blogging, figuring out which drafts were the closest to being ready for posting and finishing those while tackling new topics that had been on my To-Write list.
And that brings us to where we are now and with one question: what next?
At present, I'm still finding a writing routine that works for me now that I'm adjusting to retail life again and finding that balance between blogging and fiction in the time I have between shifts. With that, I'm also learning to be easier on myself.
Overall, I'm still learning to navigate things below the surface and manage them. Coming back hasn't been easy, but things seem to be running more smoothly than they were when I signed off.
I think the greatest lesson I've learned throughout all of this is to have patience with myself. None of these issues started overnight, so I shouldn't expect myself to be able to fix them overnight. Mainly, I'm just trying to figure things out a little bit at a time.
Baby steps in the right direction will get me to where I want to be, even if takes a bit longer than expected.