Hello, Camp NaNoWriMo and Book 5
I'm already crying!?
This reflection might be triggering for some readers. Please use discretion when following me on this side quest.
I was working on Ian’s book trailer this past week (check it out here on this YouTube Playlist) when an entire flood of emotions start trickling through the back of my mind. I couldn’t hold the barrage of thoughts back much longer.
We’re boarding the Good Ship Lusty Strumpet for the last rough draft it will ever see. Harumi and GorGor’s love story will finally receive full attention. Nephtyri and Ian might live happily ever after. Aryeh? Well… I can’t promise all sunshine and rainbows from him all the time. The longer I kept thinking about planning this book during this month, the more Nephtyri and I kept feeling all sentimental.
Remember those trigger warnings? They really matter now.
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March 13, 2020
The entire world shutdown.
A rare occurrence, to be sure. Once a century, even.
I was teaching eighth grade developmental reading at a middle school in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle. Every morning started around 4 or 430 AM. Since I lived in the mountains of Maryland, I had to account for my 75-minute, one-way commute. I was on the verge of a breakdown.
I hadn’t written anything seriously since I was in college, circa 2012. The swath of time without Nephtyri in my life had been harder than I realized. Her journeys sat locked away on jump drives that I fruitlessly toted back and forth everywhere in my purse—just in case I had the energy or needed the back up copies. Truth be told, teaching had consumed all my creative energy, and I didn’t leave anything behind for myself—let alone Nephtyri’s story that had yet to be fully appreciated and unlocked.
I left work that day and went home exhausted. I looked at Cody in tears when I walked in the front door, wondering how I was going to make it through until the end of the school year. Was I going to spend another weekend slowly piecing my mental health together, only to spend the summer wondering how we were going to afford to pay the bills if I couldn’t keep a contract? With the brunt of a state-wide teacher strike sparking a national wave of similar behind us, I didn’t see the benefits of staying in a profession I once loved.
I realized earlier that year that the profession would never love me back, would never support me in ways that would allow me to stay healthy.
I also didn’t see a way out of the situation I landed myself in. A student had been making several, documented, credible threats against my life most of the school year, and going back to work after spring break was another opportunity for plans to be placed in motion. The very, same plans they kept track of on paper in their own handwriting—copies of which administration kept on file, just in case. When I asked what could be done to make the situation welcoming and safe for all parties involved, administration generally had the same answer.
“You’re welcome to submit your resignation, but otherwise, he’s going to high school in the fall. Just put up with the situation until May is over, and we won’t have to deal with him again. There is nothing we can do other than keep a paper trail at this point.”
Paraphrasing being what it is, I still didn’t feel safe walking into my own classroom.
Did my union rep help? Who do you think suggested my resignation from a role they struggled to fill in the first place? The point to all of this rambling?
I felt like a failure to myself, my students, my administration, and in some ways, to my family for not finding a better, more stable way of supporting us.
I didn’t want to go back to work anymore, and I didn’t see a way a financial way out. Cody made dinner, we tossed back some drinks, we went to bed. You know, like we did most Friday nights. When I woke up the next morning, inspiration and a tiny light of hope flooded my phone amongst worldwide terror.
“Dear Staff: Due to government orders, we are on an extended break.” The rest is now history. I finished the 4th marking period the same way everyone else did, and I found a new job in Pennsylvania for the following school year—online, too! And a boss who didn’t care if I wrote on my free time, or if I built my social media and small business, so long as it didn’t interfere with teaching.
I started going on walks in the woods around my hometown for the first time in over a decade. I mean, I was cranking out 10k plus steps a day in the classroom physically, why not keep up? I was losing weight still while keeping up with the keto and intermittent fasting regimen I’d been on for PCOS, and the weight poured from me as the cortisol levels shrunk, too.
I started thinking about writing again on those walks. Maryland’s valleys and their beautiful landscape offered so much inspiration. I started talking to an old imaginary friend I hadn’t written for in ages.
For the first time, she truly opened up to me about what it was like to be a warrior and a queen. A ruler and a lover. A friend and a teacher. I realized how many things she and I had in common without me ever intending to write what I knew best. That’s when the question changed from “why am I not writing anymore” to “what time period does this thing belong in?”
Doom scrolling through documentaries on YouTube found the answer in a matter of days. Music started filling in the gaps of inspiration, and when I felt lost with her or her soulmate, Ian, in battle, I reached for dice. I didn’t know when I was younger that I would develop the skills I needed to live the one dream I thought I could never achieve: writing novels to share with the world through proper publication.
And three years later in March 2023, I look back long enough to observe the journey we’ve taken together. Instead of saying, “hey, Dad, I told you I could do this,” I’m in tears as I start writing the last book to the pentalogy that will be my first masterpiece in the making. The first reflection of my soul’s deepest parts will be coming full circle before I know it.
So, I’m in tears as I plot out the final fight. As we consider all the loose strings. As we wrap the package up and ship it out on the Lusty Strumpet, I don’t want this to be “sayonara” as in goodbye. Instead, this is “farewell for now.”
Nephtyri, you’re still as beautiful as you were when we first met all those years ago. I still don’t know to this day who saved who in the end. Am I saving you and Ian and the others by writing the story you’ve picked me to the bard for? Or did you save me while I tried to repair my own sanity?
Whatever the case might be, thank you.
Thank you for this opportunity to go on this journey.
Above all, please take care of yourself. I know you are worth it.
~Your Soul Writer