Goodbye 20s, Hello 30s

First post of the new year! While I know the world won’t change overnight, I’m genuinely excited for the year ahead.

Part of that is due to my writing goals. 2020 was an extremely eye opening year for me regarding the publishing industry, for better and worse. I came out of the year better understanding the often harsh realities of publishing, and how much things outside of my control will affect my writing career (industry trends, imprints closing down or big publishers merging, etc.). It reminded me that the only thing I truly have within my power is writing itself, and honing my craft. The rest will hopefully come in time.

Which brings me to today’s post: it’s my 30th birthday! At various points in my life, 30 felt more like turning 300, or so far off that it wouldn’t really ever come. I’d stay in my teens or twenties forever. I’ll admit, 30 sometimes scared me. A lot of people would tell me 30 is when you stop being young, or your body starts to break down (happy for those who somehow made it to 30 without having any problems prior! I sure as hell have already). And there was this strange pressure, internally and externally, to achieve greatness before 30.

Why? I see this a lot in the writing community: a deep pressure and fear to be published by 30. A sense that you’ve “failed” if you haven’t gotten the agent, the deal, the book tour, the panels.  And though I tried to keep those things out of my head, I’d be lying out of my teeth if I said the pressure never affected me. 

Truth is, I didn’t grow up thinking I wanted to be a writer. Writing first found me when I was 19, when I couldn’t find a way to get through heartache. It found me a few months later when I started reading again for fun, when I felt so deeply passionate and moved by the stories I read. 

Writing held on to me when I turned 26. I’d spent my early 20s writing here and there, but if I’m being honest, I wasn’t nearly as diligent as I’d hope to be. I spent much of that time building my career in the games industry, and writing was more of a hobby.

Writing fully shifted for me at 27, when I started my second book. It took me two years to fully complete it, ending halfway through my 29th year,  and I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. Since 27, I’ve made true friends in the community, a community I barely knew prior. I applied for mentorship programs. I put myself out there. I experienced deep rejection that made me more resilient in time. I learned about the industry itself. My writing craft skyrocketed. Writing was no longer solely a hobby, but something I deeply invested myself in.

And now, at 30, I can’t imagine ever letting go of writing. While I wish it was easier to break into, and sometimes I wish I was further along, this is my path.

When I look back at my 20s, I smile proudly. Six days after turning 20, I flew to Greece to study abroad, excited and scared out of my mind to leave everything I knew behind. At 22, I graduated college in Los Angeles and moved to Manhattan with my best friend, with nothing more than three suitcases. I scrounged on my own to pay for my rent and groceries, and I barely had enough to buy a book a month. I worked my way up from intern to Director of PR in the games industry, an industry that can be incredibly difficult for women. I traveled to 20+ states/countries, including London completely on my own when I was 24, where I journaled in an ancient pub by the Thames. I snuck into NYC’s fashion week and attended a masquerade for the NYC ballet. I found the love of my life and married him. I mentored people in the games industry. I became a calmer person and focused on my mental health. I challenged myself. I wrote three books.

I figured out who I was in my 20s. Not who I expected to be, or who I was pressured to be, but who I am and want to be. I found genuine happiness.

So today, on my 30th birthday, I look happily toward the years ahead, to all the new adventures, great and small. I hope this is the decade where I find success in publishing, and I’ll work my hardest to make that happen. But I won’t spend another second lamenting that I wasn’t published sooner, or compare my journey to anyone else’s. I wouldn’t trade my journey for anyone else’s, because my life has been so, so much more than one goal or pursuit.

To quote the powerhouse Leigh Bardugo, “I didn’t publish my first book until I was 37, so if anybody out there is reading this and thinking your chance has passed, there’s no expiration date on your talent.”

Cheers to my 30s, whatever they may bring!

Valerie

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