Everybody fantasizes about having their year.
A magical, golden year where everything falls into place, everyone seems to admire you, and the reality of your life lives up to the image you project on social media. Your career accelerates. Your risks pay off instead of blowing up in your face. Even the challenges and difficulties just add to your “plucky protagonist” mystique. The little details of everything, from your perfectly beat-up SUV to your perfectly ugly-cute dog to your perfectly quirky hairstyle, all add up to you being the star of your very own real-life romantic comedy.
The thing no one tells you about having a perfect year is what happens after. Even a perfect year can’t last forever.
Your truck can’t stay the perfect level of beat-up-enough-to-take-camping-but-still-reliable forever. Eventually, it passes into the pale of oh-my-god-I’m-going-to-die-in-this-rolling-deathtrap. You may have to retire your truck. You might get a bland, beige, character-free import which gets good gas mileage but won’t carry your kayak. You will not complain, because after all, George the SUV wasn’t safe anymore, and gas is expensive, and you have a crazy long commute.
Perhaps your dog makes an adorable, writerly pet who curls up at your feet as you compose prose. But if he makes the rest of your family miserable, and you make him miserable because he’s a social creature who spends 8 hours a day in an empty house? You have to let him move somewhere he’ll be happy, and your husband won’t be tempted to strangle him.
You’ll miss his warm butt on your feet and his adorable face, but you’ll accept that you did the right thing. And you will not miss his flatulence and habit of eating your socks and underwear.
Your hair may be wonderfully quirky and bright, and a good conversation starter. But you may reach a point where you tire of having daily conversations about your hair with every person you meet. Your stylist may point out the bleach which makes the bright colors possible is rotting some of your hair.
So you’ll switch to a shade somewhere in the vicinity of your natural color, which you haven’t seen in years. You’ll have forgotten the reason you haven’t seen it in years is because it’s a brownish-blonde which could charitably be called “dishwater” or more honestly, “nondescript.”
You may have the most fun year of work ever, enjoying a madcap spree of writing speculative fiction while your day job involves traveling to Comic Con and hanging out with Captain America, the Mad Hatter and Nick Fury. You may wear wheeled sneakers and roll whimsically through your workplace, inciting coworker giggles. You may make the bestseller list on Amazon for your books’ genre, twice in one summer.
But then someone may report you to the Plant Safety Officer, resulting in a stern lecture on the dangers of wheeled footwear. Your day job may get mired in boring routine, for reasons that have little to do with your efforts. You may find yourself in a grey cubicle surrounded by other grey cubes, with little enthusiasm for what likely lies ahead on this trajectory.
You’ll soberly consider that while writing your books has been fun, they haven’t yet turned into an income to replace your grey cube. You’ll face the grim reality that while you have a lot of talent, you still need an editor. While gushing praise is nice, critique is essential. Essential, but still painful. You’ll learn that revisions and rewrites, while worthwhile, are a lot of hard work.
A perfect year can’t last forever. You have to come down from your mountaintop experiences eventually. The only constant is change, and all that jazz. Your drift into disappointment could be slow, like a kid on a pool float who looks up in alarm to discover the family party barge is no longer in sight.
Less metaphorically, you might look up to discover you’ve become an overweight dishwater blonde who barely remembers fresh air, sitting in a cube farm after driving your soulless vehicle through another grinding commute, with no stories in your head and a blank screen glowing back at you when you manage to find time to write.
It will feel as though you’ve awakened from technicolor Oz to find yourself back in black and white Kansas, without even Toto left to help you remember it all.
You will be tempted to scream, jump into the beige car and drive to Key West as fast as you can possibly go.
Don’t panic. And don’t run away to Key West.
Remember you’ve survived hard, awful years, too. Years you thought would end you. Don’t dwell on those hard, awful years. Just use them to know you’ll survive the end of your perfect year, too.
- You’ll pull the ejection seat for a job that’s gone from comfortable to stifling.
- You’ll find a personal style somewhere between Joan Jett and June Cleaver.
- You’ll figure out how to take your writing seriously, without taking all the fun out of it.
- You’ll realize you don’t need an animal familiar to summon your muse.
- You’ll get outside, go for a walk or run, make a goal to do something cool and active with your spouse.
Eventually, you’ll get over your perfect year. The first step is probably planning another good one.