Forwarded from a friend?
A little over a year ago, I wrote my first-ever pitch. To The New York Times. They said yes. The resulting piece kicked off a year of pie-in-the-sky bylines for me. NYT. WIRED. Romper. My first literary magazine. I was accepted into the American Society of Journalists and Authors at their highest membership level. What a year 2021 was! I’m excited for what 2022 will bring!
Actually that’s not true.
I’m apprehensive for what 2022 will bring. I’m afraid I won’t be able to top 2021. That the bright rocket of writing momentum, nudged off course by a baby (Yay!) and emergency surgery (Boo!), will crash to earth in a million little pieces. That by comparison 2022 will almost certainly be a failure.
It’s easy, especially during this time of year, to get caught up in assessment. Was this year better or worse than last year? How can next year be better still? Taking stock is a good thing. When I do it right, I feel more connected to myself. But assessment can have the opposite effect when it is reductionistic. When “better” is code for “more.” One year doesn’t always need to top the last in every domain. It can’t, and it won’t.
As for what you can expect from my writing life in 2022? We’ll just have to see. This year was remarkable, and I’m proud to be back in the mix this month with a new piece for Reviewed. I’m hoping 2022 is a year of progress. But of the intentional, purposeful type rather than the heedless, perpetual kind.
When I told him about the idea for this post, my husband reminded me that even trees put out more than one branch. More than that, those branches don’t always grow higher and higher. That would topple most trees. Instead, the branches seek out the sun’s nourishment.
There’s no Farmer’s Almanac for life. I can’t forecast where 2022 will require that I direct my energy. But here’s my hope: May 2022 be a year that allows us all to grow toward what lights us up.
New From Me This Month
For my first new piece since I gave birth in July, read The Best Nursing Bras of 2021
Your Curated Reading List
For a gorgeously observed, not-sad literary novel, read Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney.
For an intense family novel about motherhood, pregnancy, and adoption, read The Fourth Child by Jessica Winter.
Check out my Bookshop for more excellent reads.
I subscribe to exactly three newsletters and one of them is Heather Havrilesky’s Ask Polly (Yes, in addition to the famous eponymous column, she also wrote that wonderful NYT piece your friend sent you about marriage this week). Inside her essays are always a string of sentences that go down like a cup of camomile before bed. This week’s Ask Polly Newsletter included this delightful section. (P.S. If it delights you too, you may want to subscribe to her Substack and preorder her book Foreverland: On The Divine Tedium of Marriage).
Understanding your own weird value as a human being is a prerequisite for seeing others clearly. You can’t appreciate someone’s unique compulsions until you accept your own very weird traits and embrace how they might add up to a kind of odd charm that, despite all appearances, others might just appreciate from afar – or even love up close.
You have to take that leap of faith that you’re valuable the way you are, with zero improvements. That’s also a necessary phase of going from a sullen, self-hating teenager to a happy adult.
But as anyone who’s spent time online knows, there are a lot of people out there who don’t like or embrace or forgive themselves for anything, so they spread disapproval and resentment and rage everywhere they go. Instead of accepting their own oddities, they’ve come to believe that unique traits and bad moods and sadness and atypical behaviors are all meant to be kept in check by them, the self-appointed guardians of the so-called normal, the regular, the positive, the mature.Heather Havrilesky
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