Friday, January 17, 2020

Unstuffed: Digesting 2019

Goodbye 2019! New Year's Eve 2019
2019 was a very full year. Full of promise. Full of recovery. Full of hard work. Full of loss and sorrow. Full of love and joy. It took me all of December to fully process all I had gone through, to fully digest the year. Reset myself for a new year—a new decade.

So I took a hiatus from the virtual social media world to live in the here and now, spend time with my most cherished people, truly reflect on the roller coaster of twelve months, and prepare myself for some major changes. Looking back, I am amazed. Despite numerous setbacks and losses, I've achieved a lot.


I am still in shock at the steady progression of my running. In just one year, I ran two ultramarathons and two marathons in three different countries (USA, Scotland, Greece)! Whoa! Never in a million years would past Sera have believed that she would be an international runner.

Running Seth's Fat Ass 50k in December
Congrats on your 50k, Rich!
IllumiNITE Cold Weather Hood & Tahoe Performance Jacket
 I've run close to 1,000 miles for the year. I could have hit that 1,000-mile milestone, but in December I decided to cut back. Running two marathons two weeks apart in two different countries kind of did me in. So even though I signed up for Seth's Fat Ass 50k—a race where you run 10 loops of 3.1 miles—I only ran half of it. It was bitter cold, and even though my IllumiNITE clothing plus a bathrobe kept me toasty, I was so over winter running. Plus, there were sheets of ice over a large portion of the 3-mile loop, and I just didn't didn't have it in me to teeter across it for all ten loops. At mile 6, my hip was on fire and I was ready to quit. But I never give up just because something gets tough. So I made a deal with myself. I had to run at least half the course—25k. That felt like a reasonable distance to finish out my year of running. I completed 16 miles. I'm happy with that.

Sometimes taking a step back is the right thing to do. I found out a week later, my sciatic nerve was inflamed—hence the fire in my hip. I'm proud of myself for showing up, despite the 10 degree starting temperature, for pushing myself through it, and for listening to my body. So, ALMOST 1,000 miles for the year is fine by me, especially since I got to see miles and miles of Scotland and Greece by foot. Wow, what a year for running!


Avenue A Books, the imprint I managed, launched in the Spring with three picture books and one middle grade graphic novel. All in all, I worked on 12 projects before my colleagues and I were let go. I feel blessed to have worked with so many talented children's authors and illustrators. And I learned so much in my role as acquiring editor! I am ever so grateful to the kidlit world for teaching me everything about children's publishing along the way. I'm so proud of all the books I worked on, and I'm beyond proud that the middle grade novel I fought for—the very first project I acquired—was nominated for a Cybils Award. If you haven't read Alexis Vs. Summer Vacation by Sarah Jamila Stevenson and Veronica Agarwal, go read it now!

Love my handmade, black sheep wool
writing gloves from Tarbert, Scotland
It was the best career I ever had—so far. I'm still mourning this loss, but being unemployed gave me the freedom to find my own creativity again. As much as I loved, loved, loved working with authors and illustrators on their projects, I didn't realize how much it zapped my own creativity. I got swept up in the glamour of being on the other side of publishing—the side that makes dreams come true—that I forgot my own dreams.

I'm grateful for the four-month unemployment stint that allowed me to reconnect with my writing. I'm even grateful for the two weeks I holed myself up in my apartment, staring at the walls, racking my brain, trying not to rip out my hair, as I delved back into the fictionalization of my memoir. I may have gotten a few more grey hairs from the process, but this precious time allowed me to fully actualize my characters, plot, and timeline. It's not easy fictionalizing a life lived. It took a while for my brain to wrap itself around an altered timeline with altered people and events. But now these people and their journeys live inside me, and I couldn't be more excited to get them onto the page to share with the world.

See, I've been trying to fictionalize my memoir for two years now, but nothing I tried gave me that epiphany moment where everything clicks until now. I'm a firm believer that with loss brings opportunity, so I cherished that beautiful, temporary break from work. And although it was often tough to keep my faith that all would work out career wise, I treasured the abundance of creativity that flooded through me. I found my Muse again, and I'm so happy she's back. I've missed her so much, and we've been nonstop talking since. Thank you, Universe! Sera is back! 


Night run with my girls!
IllumiNITE Tahoe Performance Jacket
& Cold Weather Hood
A very exciting happening in 2019 was my partnership with IllumiNITE, a Massachusetts-based, family-owned apparel company. This partnership allows me to combine two of my greatest loves: running and writing! And now I can do both in style! I've had way too much fun trying out their different designs! I feel so much safer running in the woods and on the road at night knowing that I am lit up as brightly as a neon sign. I have so much fun talking with other runners (and hikers and walkers) about IllumiNITE's apparel. And if we're being totally honest, I love being so fashionable at races without losing comfort or performance! Thank you, IllumiNITE, for believing in me, and for all your support in my running efforts! I'm so excited to see what's to come for 2020!


We found these two hearts on the same
hiking path in Santorini
They say, whoever "They" is, that you find love when you least expect it. I've always rolled my eyes at that statement. It feels like an excuse you tell people for why love is unattainable. But I now see this phrase in a different light. I've been slowly hoping for love, working on myself—what I want, what I don't want, what my own issues around love are, and how to change negative patterns—but I never expected to actually find a healthy, loving relationship. I thought it just wasn't out there, not for me. I thought I had to accept that I would always be single—or settle for something less than.

But then I found love, or perhaps it found me, or perhaps it was just waiting until I was ready and he was ready—truly ready—for love. And I realized least expect it doesn't mean going about my business and bam! Love hits me out of the blue. Rather, I just didn't expect it to happen. I didn't even realize love had happened, not at first, until I went to visit my friend Mary in California. I told her I had met someone, and after talking for a while, she gasped. "Sera, are you in love?" I was so caught off guard by her question. We were sitting on the beach, and I stared out at the ocean waves for a few minutes pondering. "Yes," I said. "Oh my god. Yes, I am in love." I hadn't said such words in two decades. But I knew it to be true.

One of my all-time favorite books/movies is Perks of Being A Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky). The line that kills me every time: "We accept the love we think we deserve." It wasn't until I I searched deep down inside to figure out what love meant to me, what type of love I wanted, and to convince myself I was worthy of such love that I found true love. It's a love I never experienced with anyone. It's a love I've been searching for my entire life and never quite knew it because I didn't know it actually existed. Hence, I least expected it—especially now that I am in my 40s. But here love is, FINALLY. I feel so blessed. 

A New Focus

A symbol of our love
All of these changes in 2019, both good and bad, have helped me shift my perspective on what is
important to me. The career path I was on, the romantic path I was on, the go-go-go-too-busy-to-think path I was on took me away from the life I always dreamed of. It took a FULL STOP to help me reset my priorities, remember the life goals I've always wanted but somehow forgot about. I feel blessed to be starting off this new decade with a new career that enhances my creativity, a supportive life partner by my side, and a closer bond with my family. It might take some time to adjust to this new focus in life. But I'm ready for it.

Sometimes our dreams get sidetracked by shiny distractions along the way. Every now and then, the Universe tarnishes these shiny things so we can better see what's right in front of us—the path we're meant to travel. Time to take that next step back to the Sera I've somehow lost.

What did you learn in 2019? And what are you hoping to change in 2020? Please share your comments below! Happy New Year!

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