Someone I really admire – and listen to his podcast often – is author, entrepreneur and angel investor Gary Vaynerchuk. Whenever he has a new guest on his show, Gary always asks them for their “origin story, comic book #1”. Now that I’ve reached the destination that I’ve always dreamed about – becoming a published author – it seems appropriate to tell mine and talk about how I got there.
I grew up in Framingham, Mass., a town 20 miles west of Boston, during the 90s. I had two amazing parents who were always so loving and supportive, and the best younger sister and brother. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to create stories and to write. My mom read to us every night, and instilled in me my love of books. Even when I was really little, I always had some level of understanding that someone had put those stories in those books, and I knew what I wanted to do my whole life: write books of my own. We lived on a street that was set back in the woods, and my siblings, the other kids on my street, and I would spend hours playing outside. I was very inspired by all that time we spent in the woods using our imaginations. I would always write down little stories – Creative Writer 2 on Windows 95 was an absolute game-changer – and I read constantly. Nothing made me happier.
A close second though was sports. I always loved doing anything athletic, and poured my heart and soul into the youth softball and basketball teams I played for – often coached by my dad. Later on, I played field hockey in high school and eventually became the team captain. It was really important to me, and I loved playing. My family, our friends and I also loved watching sports together. Growing up outside of Boston, I naturally gravitated to our city’s pro teams. The 90s were not an era of success for any of those teams, so I didn’t become a fan for any other reason than out of love for my community!
All to say, I was never a good student and in my community, there were very high expectations to be successful at just about everything. Even as a young kid, I always felt the weight of those expectations, and the sense that I wasn’t measuring up to them. It filled me with an anxiety and fear that got progressively stronger as I got older and the stakes got higher. There were times when I was in my head so much that it was difficult to connect with others. I did always have this underlying sense that I was going to be OK, that my writing was going to carry me and the rest of it wouldn’t have the impact that most everyone else around me thought it would. But I did struggle with it all, and eventually my whole identity became wrapped up in being a writer.
There were a handful of people in my life who never seemed to care about any of the ways in which I wasn’t measuring up. They were always quick to assure me that they thought I was a wonderful writer and athlete, and that they enjoyed watching me pursue both of those passions simply because those were things I enjoyed, and they just loved me. My Aunt Kathy was one of them. Going on walks with her along Elm Bank, and watching Red Sox games together, scorebooks in hand, were some of my happiest moments.
I went to college at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, in Charlotte, NC. I really wanted to go to college down South because of the warmer weather, although I think on some level I was also trying to find myself. I had an amazing experience and made wonderful friends. When I graduated college, I stayed in Charlotte to work for Bank of America. I always worked in some kind of communications role, and would write in my spare time. But I always had trouble finishing my stories. I had a blog – this one actually! But I never wrote about anything real. I was too afraid that if I tried to actually be a writer, and nobody liked what I wrote, that it would mean I was a failure as a person. I had the idea for my novel, “Above the Flatlands”. Sometimes I would work on it. But I always had excuses for not being consistent with it. Still, my family and Aunt Kathy faithfully read my blog and encouraged me to keep going.
In 2014, Aunt Kathy died of uterine cancer. The loss rocked me; it goes without saying that I missed her terribly and of course still do, and I had no idea how I would find that sense of unconditional acceptance that she had so beautifully given to me. She just thought everything I did and touched was wonderful. I always thought she was just biased because she was my aunt – clearly, the world around me couldn’t have been mistaken. But over time, I began to wonder if she had been right and others had been wrong. I decided to start to see myself the way she saw me.
Once I embraced it, everything began to change for me. I no longer attached my self-worth to my writing, or anything else I was doing. I knew I was good enough by simply being me, regardless of whatever anyone else might think. Writing was just one thing I loved doing; it didn’t define me. All the anxiety and fear I’d been carrying around with me for my entire life just melted away. People close to me told me they could notice the change in my demeanor, and I was the happiest I’ve maybe ever been.
That’s when I started writing 1,000 words a day, and didn’t care if they were good or bad. That person I’d been looking for while I tried to find myself? It turned out she was in Framingham, in those woods, all along. In 2016, I moved back to Boston. I loved Charlotte and all my friends, but it was time to be closer to my family. That same year, I wrote the last words of “Above the Flatlands”. I put the finished novel aside for several months, and came back to it before sending it to my editor (shoutout to Eric!). I changed some things, but not many. Finally in 2018, my lifelong dream became a reality when “Above the Flatlands” was published.
Sharing the book with the world was the culmination of a dream, and seems like the natural ending to the Origin Story/Comic Book #1. Those are all the things I needed to do and challenges I had to overcome in order to get there. But the end was also a new beginning. “There” isn’t a place where I’m some best-selling novelist, or even making a living as a writer. I’m still trying to make it. Sharing my life on this blog will reflect that for sure. I’m just building on all those experiences and what they taught me as I keep living and writing.