I’m starting the new year in a new country

I’m leaving the United States on Dec. 31 and arriving in Hong Kong on Jan. 1. I’ll then proceed to my final destination, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. That’s one way to start the new year, right? It actually wasn’t planned. It was just when I could get a free flight, but I think it’ll make for an interesting story to tell people. Also, will I get champagne every time we pass over a new time zone and the clock strikes midnight? I certainly hope so!
So why this new country in 2015? I’m heading to Cambodia to work for a few months for an NGO, hopefully do some freelance writing, and just try to have some fun. I’m excited, nervous and content.
I’m nervous about the cultural differences. I’m nervous about meeting people. I’m nervous about the emotional toll the job could take on me. I’m nervous about losing my passport and money and being stranded on the side of the road in a remote village where no one speaks English. (The mind is a funny thing.) But at the same time, I’m super excited to just go with the flow and relearn how to overcome obstacles when they arise. I’m excited to see new sights, meet new people and get off the daily grind for a little bit, too.
2014 had its ups and downs, as most years do. But it was a huge year of personal growth for me. The last quarter seemed to really change me. I feel like I woke up one day and a light went off in my head and it all became clear: I’m the only one who can control my happiness, so why not choose to do what makes me happy? Happiness looks different to different people, but as long as I’m being a productive member of society, paying my bills and not hurting anyone else, who says I can’t live my life how I want to?
There will always be fear and worry, but why let it stop me from doing what I want to do?
I’ve never been someone who has made resolutions. I have goals. I have many, many goals for myself. But they never coincide with the new year, and if I were to have a goal for this year I think it would be to put less pressure on myself to reach certain milestones or life goals I’ve previously set. So that’s why I’ve decided on five mantras to live by in 2015:
1. Choose happiness
2. Trust in myself and my abilities
3. Know my worth
4. Say yes often, but be content with my decision to say no
5. Nervousness and worry are a natural part of life. Don’t let them control how I live it.

Do you set resolutions or words to live by? What are they?

Cheers to 2015!

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Who doesn’t like the miniature version? Fairy doors in Ann Arbor

I’ve always had a fascination with dioramas and what they represent: capturing one specific moment in time in a miniature form.
As a child I was obsessed with small three-dimensional models. I’d spend hours in between school and dance or gymnastics practice cutting out people and furniture from magazines and attaching sticks to the back to add to my shoebox scene of family life (with authentic carpet scraps!) or figuring out which liquid would last the longest in my homemade snow globes created using leftover olive jars.
I’m not quite sure why I was so enamored. I think I may have liked the thought of being able to create my own perfect situation and then holding it in my own hands, or maybe I just enjoyed small stuff since I’m kind of small. (I’m hoping it’s the latter because the former sounds like I may have some control issues. But it may be all of the above.)
Whatever it was, I still have a love for the miniature model. But I spend a lot less time making them now. So when I was on a recent trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan — a city I knew up to that point solely for the University of Michigan campus and football stadium — I was delighted to learn about the urban fairy doors throughout the city’s downtown area.
In fact, I first learned about the miniature dioramas at the base of a handful of storefronts while in one of the stores. I promptly walked outside, got down on my hands and knees, and — kneeling in front of the store’s main entrance — gazed in amazement through the tiny door and looked at the scene before me — a tiny replica of the store I had just walked out from.
I later learned that there are a handful of fairy doors in the downtown area, all of which are the work of artist and “fairyologist” Jonathan B. Wright, who first created the doors at his Ann Arbor home before expanding to local businesses. Children will sometimes leave treats at the tiny doors for the fairies.
The doors are a wonderful way to get kids and adults to stop and pay better attention to the world around them. I found myself putting my phone away as I walked down the street in hopes that I’d be able to find the next fairy door. If you’re ever in Ann Arbor’s downtown district, make sure you keep your eyes open for the fairies — and their doors.

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Book adventure

So, if you didn’t know, I wrote a book. It was a tiring, fun, educational ¬†and stressful experience. There’s a lot I did well, I think, but also a lot I’d change looking back on it.

I wish I’d had a bigger publisher. I wish I’d gotten an advance. I wish I had more time to work on it. I wish I had done some companion video pieces with it. I wish I’d done a lot of things, but I didn’t have the time nor the resources. (Isn’t it always about time and resources?) And near the end, it was ¬†largely a mental game of just racing to the finish line and getting it completed.

But I’m still really proud of how it turned out. I’ve reached a life goal I’ve had for as long as I can remember: pitch, research, write and release a book, and that’s what I’ve been most excited about throughout the entire process.

Once it was actually released, though, I had to promote it. I’d kept the whole thing quiet up until that point, only telling two or three people about it. I think I was a little nervous about actually getting it done as well as coming off as braggy. If you know me well, you know I hate promoting myself or patting myself on the back. You should also know, however, that I’m trying to get over that because I think #selfpromotion (yes, in hashtag form) is our new world. (Fake it until you make it, right?) So I started sharing on social media, telling friends and family, and conducting book signing and lectures throughout the state. I’ve also gotten some press in local TV, radio, newspapers and magazines.

It’s been amazing and humbling meeting people who are interested in spending their hard-earned money on something I produced, and it’s been a great reminder that drive and not letting rejection or doubt get in the way can often determine whether you reach a goal or not.

Before a recent signing in Yukon, Oklahoma.

Before a recent signing in Yukon, Oklahoma.