Just a quick update to share I was accepted into Author Mentor Match, the writing mentorship program I applied to last month! Thanks to everyone who wished me luck. I can’t wait to take you all on this journey with me.
Category: stoic adventures
Wow, how is it already a new month??
January was an exciting month here in the U.S. (a little too exciting at times in the political sphere but that’s a whole other blog post). To me, January felt like a month of hope, growth, and positive change. I didn’t do everything I set out to perfectly, but I still moved in the right direction. Here are some stats:
Number of days I meditated: 27/31
Yoga workouts completed: 23/30
Number of days I journaled/practiced gratitude: 19/31
Hours spent writing my novel: 20/20
Books read: 4
Times I ordered delivery/ate a meal that could be microwaved: 0
The most important lesson I learned this month is that perfection really is the enemy of progress. In the past, if I was on a streak and missed a day, I’d just write off the whole rest of the month. For the first 15 days of my yoga challenge, I didn’t miss a single day. When I did end up missing a few days, I wasn’t too hard on myself, and that made it much easier to come back to it. Instead of trying to be perfect, a better goal is to just do the best you can. Sure 100% is amazing, but 70, 80, 90% is still amazing! In fact, pretty much anything other than 0 is great.
Out of all my goals, I’m most proud of how much healthier I’ve been eating. Ordering food is so easy and tempting when you live in a big city, but I started learning how to cook (better late than never!) and I’ve really enjoyed taking the time to prepare my own meals, looking up new recipes to make, and eating foods that are both good for me and actually taste good. Since I started cooking, I honestly haven’t felt as much of a temptation to order out. (To illustrate how big of an accomplishment this is for me, when I told my friends I was going to try not eating fast food for a whole year, they actually laughed out loud).
If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that I started doing stoic adventures this year. I’d originally planned on doing one each week, but honestly I’ve kind of struggled to come up with ideas, especially with the pandemic going on, limiting how much I can do outside of my apartment. I’m still going to aim to do a few each month though. Here are some updates on my stoic adventures so far:
Stoic Adventure #1 Update: 30-Day Yoga Challenge:
I definitely hit the ground running with this one. For the first 15 days, I didn’t skip a single workout, even on days I really wanted to. A big part of my motivation had to do with using the WOOP technique. Tracking my progress after each workout in my WOOP app was so satisfying.
I’ve never been the most active person. I’m about as flexible as C-3PO, and I’ve only gone to a handful of yoga classes in my life. It goes without saying the first few weeks weren’t the easiest. Downward dog, which is apparently supposed to be a relaxing pose (ha!), was the bane of my existence. Every part of me ached after each workout. But about halfway through I felt myself get a little stronger. I wasn’t as sore as I was in the first few days, and I was sure I’d hit a turning point. It was all going to be uphill from here! Wrong. My arms and shoulders ached, I’m pretty sure I strained a muscle in my chest, and I was scared I was going to do some permanent damage to my wrists.
Since I hadn’t had any rest days yet, I decided to take time off to let my body recover. During this time, I researched the proper technique for yoga poses and found ways to take the strain off my wrists and shoulders. After my break, I felt much better. I was a little concerned that I’d be back at square one, but surprisingly I made even more progress than I had up until that point. I found myself actually enjoying downward dog and, for the first time, I could bend down and reach all the way to my toes!
I want to continue doing yoga and improving my flexibility, though I’d like to mix it up with some cardio and strength training going forward. Yoga with Adrienne is such a great resource for those looking to get into yoga, and Adrienne has such a calming presence. The one thing I would do differently going forward is take more regular rest days. Even once or twice a week would have allowed me enough recovery time to avoid taking as long of a break as I did, and rest days are important for avoiding injury. Overall, I completed 23/30 days. Not perfect, but still pretty good!
Stoic Adventure #2 Update: Applying for a Writing Mentorship:
Unfortunately, I don’t have an update on this one yet, because the results haven’t been announced yet. I’ll know this Wednesday!
I was still determined to make progress on my writing, regardless of the outcome, so I set myself a goal of writing 20 hours in January. I took a break the first half of the month after completing my last revision, but I ended up writing about two hours a day when I got back into the swing of things. Getting into the program would be amazing, but even if I don’t, I’m in a great place with my writing.
I’ll have more updates for you on this one later this week!
So that’s January all wrapped up. I’ll be carrying a lot of the same goals into the next month. Some I’ll be adjusting, and some I’ll use the lessons from this month to improve my progress in February. It’s importantly to continually take stock of and adjust your goals as things change. For example, one of my resolutions was to read 100 books this year. If I were to set my mind to it, I’m sure I could do it, but I also realized that trying to read that much was taking away too much time from my writing, which is a bigger priority to me in 2021. I’ve set my new goal to 50 books. That’s still a lot of books, but it’s a much more reasonable goal given what I want to accomplish this year.
Now, on to February!
Stoic Adventure #2: Applying for a Writing Mentorship
Hello from NYC! After a month of lounging around my parents’ house in NJ, getting spoiled with three home-cooked meals a day, taking as many relaxing baths as possible, and getting a much-needed break from the sweet chaos that is New York City, I’m finally back in my apartment!
I’m happy to report Stoic Adventure #1 is going great. I officially hit the halfway mark yesterday, and so far I haven’t missed a single day. New Year motivation really is a magical thing, because there were definitely some days old me would have skipped, like yesterday when I spent the whole day binging Bling Empire with my sister and brother-in-law. Instead of ignoring that little message from Netflix that’s basically saying, “Uh are you okay? You’re watching A LOT of TV. Maybe you should go outside or something…” and forging ahead to the next episode, I asked if we could take a break so I could work on my practice. I’m still by no means an expert yogi, but I can feel my body getting stronger and I’m just feeling more zen overall. I’ll be writing a more in-depth post about the experience at the end of the challenge.
Which brings us to my next adventure of the year: entering Author Mentor Match. For those who aren’t familiar, this is a program that pairs inexperienced writers with writers who already have agents or have been published/are soon to be published. You have to have a completed manuscript to enter, because the whole point of the program is to work with your mentor to get your manuscript ready for the querying stage, which is when aspiring writers try to nab an agent.
It’s quite a competitive program, with over 1500 applications this year. You’re only allowed to submit to four mentors, and I’ve seen mentors tweeting about how they’ve each gotten about 200 submissions. That means my chance of getting selected is roughly 0.5%.
There are lots of these sorts of online publishing contests out there, and you would think as someone who’s dreamed of being a published author since she was 12, I’d take full advantage of these opportunities. Ha! That would be entirely too reasonable. A reasonable person would think to themselves:
“What’s the worst that could happen? So maybe I won’t win, but I’ve got nothing to lose. If I do win, it’ll be a great experience, so I might as well try.”
Here’s what I think to myself:
“What if they think my writing is terrible? What if I find out I’ll never be an author? What if I lose? That’ll be the worst thing ever.” *insert heavy sweating and hyperventilating*
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but rejection seriously freaks me out. I will do everything in my power to avoid it…which is why I knew applying to this mentorship would make for the perfect Stoic adventure.
I was fortunate to receive a lot of support from friends when I told them I was thinking about entering. My writing group helped bring my submission materials up to par and another friend copyedited my application for me. Usually I don’t tell other people when applying to stuff like this, mainly because the idea of having to tell them I didn’t get in is not very fun, but I was heartened by how much effort everyone put in to help me out.
The day I submitted, I looked over all my materials about five times before hitting submit. It was terrifying, but also exhilarating. Once it was out of my hands, I felt a little calmer knowing I’d done everything I could. Whether or not I was chosen, I was proud of myself for putting my work out there and taking advantage of a good opportunity. I already felt a little braver…
That was, until I got an email in my inbox a little over 24 hours later. It was from the program, letting me know that at least one of the mentors had enjoyed the first 50 pages of my manuscript enough to want to read the whole thing. They asked if I could send my full manuscript for their consideration. Abuzz with nervous and excited energy, I sent my manuscript their way.
I’ll know whether or not I made it into the program a few weeks from now, on February 3rd. Even though it was an encouraging sign that someone wanted to read more, I know based on how many people applied, the odds still aren’t in my favor. Still, I already feel like I got some great things just out of the experience of applying. I remembered what a supporting group of friends and writing community I have in my life, and I also learned I could be brave and that putting my writing out there isn’t the scary thing I’d made it out to be.
While I wait to hear back about the results, I’m not going to put my writing on pause. I received a lot of helpful feedback from my writing group, who read my manuscript over the holidays. I’m going to be delving straight into my revisions, so that even if I don’t make it into the program, I’ll still have made some progress and I’ll be in a good place with my writing. And then after that, who knows? The funny thing is, now that I’ve entered one contest, I want to enter ALL the contests. Might as well…what have I got to lose?
Stoic Adventure #1: 30-Day Yoga Challenge
I knew going into the new year that I didn’t want to just set a bunch of vague resolutions like I did in years past. Life is unpredictable (as 2020 was so keen to teach us). I’ve learned that despite your best intentions, there will always be circumstances out of your control, circumstances that will hinder and even erase progress you’ve made towards your goals. I’ve also learned that goals can change. I don’t want all the same things I wanted last year, because I’m not the same person I was then.
As readers of this blog will know, I’ve spent a lot of time learning about happiness and what it truly means to be happy. Science has shown that wealth, fame, beauty, and all the other things we as a society mistakenly chase, don’t necessarily make us happier. It’s ultimately our attitudes and how grateful we are for our circumstances that make a real difference. This is a concept many of us haven’t quite grasped. That’s why we’re so moved when we see a video of a school janitor bursting into happy tears when a group of students sings happy birthday to him or when we read about a guard at Disney World who asks little girls dressed up as princesses for their autographs. On the flip side, we’re shocked when celebrities who seem to have it all take their own lives. These stories don’t fit our idea of who’s supposed to be happy and who’s not.
I’ve been thinking about life lately and what it means to be a living, breathing person who occupies our little planet. We’re alive for a certain number of years and then one day we’re gone. That’s just a fact, but what are you supposed to do with that time here? If being wealthy and famous and having a six-pack doesn’t matter when you’re on your deathbed, what should you aspire to?
It all sounds a little nihilistic and there have been days where I’ve felt a little morbid thinking about it, but the strange thing is, I’ve also found a lot of inspiration in the idea that life is fleeting. I’ve started to think of my life as a story or a canvas. Books end, paintings are finished, but it’s up to the artist to fill it up with as much excitement and beauty and adventure and twists as possible. When you look it at that way, there are no good things and bad things. There are only experiences and, while I haven’t quite figured out the meaning of life just yet (sorry), I have decided that for me a meaningful life means getting to experience as much of it as possible.
I want to do things that scare and exhilarate me. I want to flirt with handsome strangers and travel to amazing places and learn new skills and meet interesting people. I want to fail and learn from my failures and do things I didn’t think I was capable of doing. I want to have adventures both big and small, and I want to collect good memories the way other people collect rare coins or stamps.
In one of his books, modern Stoic William Irvine talks about the concept of “Stoic adventures.” This means regularly subjecting yourself to trials where there’s a high chance of failure or rejection. Going on these Stoic adventures teaches you to be more comfortable with failures, and that there are elements of every experience that are in and out of your control.
I loved this idea. I’m a big believer in the importance of failing, but being the hypocrite I am, I also do everything I can to reduce my odds of failing. Even if that means not taking a chance in the first place.
I don’t want to live that way anymore. That’s why this year I’m going to spend every week taking on a new Stoic adventure. Some will be small things and some will be bigger things, but they’ll all be things that are hard or scary or I have a chance of failing, but will improve my life in some way. I’ll be posting about each adventure on this blog to keep myself accountable.
The first adventure of the year is doing Yoga with Adriene’s 30-day yoga challenge. This might not sound very scary but if you knew how bad I was at working out regularly, you’d understand that this is no easy feat for me. I don’t think I’ve ever worked out for 30 days in a row in my entire life. Having said that, I’m excited to share I’ve already made it to day 9 with no days skipped so far! I’ll be posting a final update once I make it to the end of the challenge.
I hope you’ll join me as I embark on this adventure (or 52 adventures). I’m a little nervous, but mostly I’m just excited. It won’t be easy, but if I can pull this off, I know it’ll be a year to remember.