Thirty is a big year.
When you hit the big three-oh, you’re no longer “in your twenties,” but you’re not at mid-life either. You’re expected to know yourself a bit better than your younger counterparts and behave like an adult. Yet you’re still likely to get those older folks who say to you, “Oh, you’re so young!” (Admit it, that’s flattering …)
If all of life were an extended adolescence . . . thirty would launch your tweenage years. For some, it might slip by much like 29 did. But for me, 30 was a year of learning growth and change.
Since my last “name day”—as the characters of Game of Thrones would call it—I have launched a collaborative web show, experiencing the ups and downs of fully collaborative storytelling. Around two seasons of the show, I took a brand-new day job that came literally out of nowhere and faced a host of responsibilities that sat squarely in my previous “I could never do that” column.
On the more personal side, I began writing more frequently about Asperger’s Syndrome. I made the leap from writing Steampunk to dressing up and attending conventions, too. I lost a whole online novel (Rise of the Tiger) to the hungry aethernet and released two other stories: The Aurelia Bestiary and The Realm Maker. With the help of my writing partner Terry Reed, I got most of the way through a final draft of the revised Rise of the Tiger. Oh yes—and I discovered my latent love of cats.
All in all, 30 was an eventful year. So on the day after my 31st birthday, I’m taking time to celebrate what I learned at the dawn of a fourth decade.
1) Collaboration is incredibly rewarding.
By nature, I’ve always been solitary. Until I joined City Beast Studio, I had struggled through most of my writing projects on my own. Having a team around me who have skills I don’t have—and whose skills I can compliment—has made a big difference. Also, learning from the incredibly talented actors and storytellers of Aurelia transformed how I look at storytelling. Not to mention Steampunk Hands Around the World and the Radio Free Albemuth screening. I can now say in truth: I only hope my future work will be as brave, moving, and beautiful as the work that the actors of Aurelia did on the show.
Here’s to a more collaborative 31.
2) The only thing more fun than writing characters is being one.
Going back to #1: like many writers (maybe you?) I’m solitary. The notion of dressing up, acting out a character, and attending a convention was nothing short of terrifying to me for years. But this past year I have attended four conventions—dressing up differently for each and even speaking at some. In the process, I discovered that becoming the character adds a completely different dimension to your writing. As a writer, it’s easy to live in your head. It’s another thing altogether to embody a character in every possible tangible way.
Here’s to a more theatrical 31.
3) Know yourself. You’ll make much smarter decisions.
I’m amazed at how much we often don’t know ourselves—even after years and years of living inside our own skins. At 29, I took the plunge of speaking openly about Aspergers Syndrome; at 30, I decided to speak more openly about this condition, both in the workplace, on my blog, and in other situations where I have a chance to explain, educate, and empower myself and others. In addition, I was challenged this year to take the Gallup Strengths Finder test. It’s probably the most comprehensive—and most revealing—self evaluation test I’ve ever taken. $8.99 is a small price to pay for changing your perspective on your life.
Here’s to a more insightful 31.
4) When you need help, ask for it.
There’s no grand heroism in struggling alone when someone else’s expertise might help you. As a member of City Beast Studio this past year, I learned to depend on my fellow writers and artists to help fill the gaps in my skills, and I in theirs. As an actor in Aurelia, I learned that I could not tell the story on my own without the input of others. As an experience designer for an exhibit marketing firm, I learned that collaborating with the 3D and 2D designers, writers, producers, and others makes for a far stronger product. Strong people don’t struggle alone. They ask for the help they need.
Here’s to a more honest 31.
5) Love your work.
Recently I wrote about my startling revelation that an artist must love their work first before anyone else can. This year totally changed my relationship with my words, as I began looking for what was good about them, not always what was bad. Battling perfectionism is a lifelong process that won’t be “solved” in a year–but I’m grateful for the chance to have this detail pointed out to me by the fantastic Alison Gresik and by Sarah Selecky‘s powerful course Story Is A State of Mind. After all, the real goal isn’t the public results of the work (accolades, publishing deals, etc.) . . . it’s the work itself. Love the work makes every day a joy—no matter what comes down the path. In an environment of love and acceptance, our best creative selves creep out of their hiding places to play.
Here’s to a more creative 31.
6) Cats make everything better.
Okay, so for many writers this is probably no grand revelation. But not having animals around much in my earlier years, I was totally unprepared for the love, joy, entertainment and life lessons brought by the first cat we welcomed into our home from the local shelter, a sociable little tabby named Fritz. Next came the cat toys, the homemade kitty treats, and the kitty jacket for supervised outdoor play. Now a “sister” has arrived for Fritz, a feisty gray-brown tortie named Freya. Her acclimation has been a bit rocky, but we’re committed to making it work. Mostly because I know we need her as much as she needs us.
Here’s to a more playful 31.
Thirty, you were rich and rocky, wonderful and heartbreaking, challenging and changeful. I am grateful for the chance to have lived you, and even more grateful for the chance to see 31 arrive.
To the new year: bring it, baby!
How about you? What have you learned since your last birthday that you will carry forward?