Today is the last day of 2023. A couple of years back I learned of a lovely Scottish tradition at the new year where you clean your house the day before the holiday so that you don’t bring last year’s baggage into the next year. So, for the past couple of years, I’ve taken part in this tradition, deep cleaning my house to get ready for the new year. Last year, I cleaned my dream house in LA, this year, I am back in Chicago.
2023 was one hell of a year, and for as amazing as it was, it was in equal measure horrific.
The last time I posted on the blog, was the day The Lake Michigan Affair debuted. It should have been one of the best days of my life. I worked so hard on that book, and shopped it around to agents for a long time before I decided to self-publish it. On the day that The Lake Michigan Affair debuted, I was laid off from my job in LA. The job that I had relocated my entire family, and life to LA for, less than one year after starting. It was cold, cruel and heartless dressed in fake kindness as layoffs often are. Suddenly, the years of hard work put into the book didn’t matter, my life literally fell apart that afternoon. Granted, no one died, but a piece of me certainly did. I walked through that afternoon with a mix of panic, nausea, and numbness. Anger would come later.
So, you’re probably asking yourself, what does this all have to do with your writing Jackie. I realized something this afternoon as I was mopping my floors in anticipation for the New Year, while I wrote just about every day while I lived in LA, and self-published a book, my attention to my biggest goal in life, being a published author, was swayed by the lure of living in LA. This thought hit me hard.
I recognized that while, yes, I can have two goals or more and actively work on them at the same time, one will always be primary, the rest are secondary. I lost focus.
Living in LA had been a lifelong goal for me, one that I’d had since I was a child. When we bought our house here in Chicago, with two small children at the time, I never thought I’d have the opportunity to live in LA. We were settled. But when the opportunity came, I jumped at it. I knew that I would not get a second chance at accomplishing that goal. I was living a dream in LA and I’d done it despite the odds of being settled in Chicago. Yet the entire time we were there for as much as I loved it, I could not help but feel that we were hanging on to the lives we were making there by a thread. It turns out, I was right, I just didn’t expect to find that out in under a year’s time.
I am sitting in my house back in Chicago, where I now live full-time again. With the loss of the job, the loss of my income, and the loss of the life I’d worked so hard to build, we were left with no other choice but to come back to Chicago. Over July 4th weekend my husband and I, our two kids, two cats and two dogs moved back across the country. The whole drive felt like some surreal nightmare that I couldn’t wake from.
On our second day driving as we pulled into our hotel for the night in middle of No-Where’s-Ville Nebraska, with the harsh realization that I would not see the mountains that fed my soul daily for a very long time, I saw a hitchhiker. It was almost nine pm and the sun was setting on the western horizon, with the most luxurious golden light over green grassland. The clouds in the sky were purple and orange, and here was this man walking. I can’t tell you why, but there was something about him that I could feel in my soul. Then there it was a spark of an idea for a book. That night I fell asleep thinking about the man, and when I thought I’d break down and cry driving the next day, I’d think of the book idea for this man that I’d saw the night before.
We’ve been home for almost six months now, and the spark of an idea for a book inspired by this hitchhiker has stuck with me. While the writing has been pathetically slow, I’m working on this idea.
I’ve also started my own business, a PR firm, gotten involved in my local community and adjusted to life back in Chicago. 2023 was a whirlwind, and I still can’t decide if the good out weighted the bad. What I’ve learned this year is that life will pull you in different directions and it can be next to impossible to stay focused on what matters. In 2024 it is time to refocus my efforts. It’s time to be leaner, meaner and take no prisoners for accomplishing the goals I’ve set for myself. With that, I wish you all a Happy New Year and I look forward to putting in the work for what 2024 will surely bring.