Goals For the Season

“By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands—your own.”

MARK VICTOR HANSEN

Four years ago today, I sat overlooking the Rocky Mountains on an afternoon trip to Estes, Colorado, with one of my best friends. We spent the day hiking around the lake, driving through Rocky Mountain National Park, touring the Stanley Hotel, and photographing our journey along the way. I held my mother’s film camera tightly—just like I had in London, Paris, and Italy, right before this trip to Colorado. I still didn’t understand aperture, f-stops, or what to set my lens speed to, but that didn’t stop me from snapping through a film roll. I had always wanted to understand the rawness that film captured, and at the time, I was learning to love the light leaks and imperfections my processed photos held.

Right before this trip, I had let go of my biggest goal of the season and focused on what would come of grad school and writing. Around this time, the idea for my first novel came to me in the parking lot of the Elementary school where the kids I nannied each day attended. That idea later manifested into my fascination with the love that hangs in the words of a handwritten letter and how that interest and prompt would then become the thesis for my master’s degree. When I spoke about grief this time in September four years ago, I had no idea that later I would experience my grief more than ever before.

At the time of this photo, I was in a brand new relationship with its issues. I struggled each day to see the longevity of that love. At the time, my trustfulness gave power to the process of just following what felt right. I knew little of my callowness, but I later would learn that I did know something—I was trying to navigate the same raw and imperfect emotions that I would one day learn to love. I did everything I could to make the view come into focus for photography, but I needed my personal view to focus on what I was experiencing.

What I needed to improve on in 2016 sometimes feels like the same thing that I need to improve on in 2020—allow myself to be imperfect. 

For the first half of 2020, I began setting goals and then painstakingly laid the foundation of who I want to be and where I want to see myself in 2021 and 2025, and 2030. These goals became my benchmarks for recognizing change within my life. This included goals like “make two new friends,” “get a job,” and “start paying down student loan debt.” I have kept track of these goals in my 2020 planner—something many believe was the worst purchase of 2020, but for me, it was one of the best investments because it set into motion the process of becoming the person I most wanted to be.

My planner allows space for me to track my goals and to feel productive with my time. I feel best when my day is full, where I am productive, and I am working towards who I want to be. I hold myself to this standard because I know how good I feel when I get up early and tackle the day. At the end of those days, I feel tired and sleep better than any other day. At the end of those days, I look back at all the little red checkmarks and believe I made something of myself.

But because of that, the biggest challenge I face is allowing myself the space to be imperfect and making room for error. I look at an empty week in August and wonder what happened? Where did the desire to be productive go? Why wasn’t I proactive for my future? 

My negative self-talk can be all-consuming. Sometimes, I get angry at the girl from 2016 who was learning to love raw and imperfect emotions. What happened? Where did your desire to be productive go? Why weren’t you more proactive? Why didn’t you think of me, our future, and how your impulsivity brought me heartache?

I knew I would curse that Hannah for years to come. How disappointed I was in her for just rolling over on one of our goals and forging through the warning signs that she ended up internalizing. But something I am learning to understand is just how important those decisions in 2016 were for a growing me.

What I was learning in September 2016 is the same goal I am setting for myself this autumn. The goals I have set for this season include focusing on how I spend my time and allowing myself the space to learn from the past and what I deem as “imperfect traits.” 

Journaling and tracking my days are just some ways where I feel like I can take control of what I want for my future. I have found that I lose track of time quickly—weather it is scrolling aimlessly, binging the next season of a Netflix series, or cleaning all day while I put off what I really should be doing. A goal is to spend shorter intervals of time on tasks and breaking them up into sprints instead of marathons. And with that goal comes the responsibility to allow room for rest days.

This trip to Estes feels like a lifetime ago, but it was one day that put my future into focus. When you overlook the world’s vast beauty, it changes the way you view how small the imperfections are in your life. At that moment, I didn’t think about what I should be doing to better myself for the future; I was thinking about how beautiful a moment could be. So here’s to finding the beauty in imperfections and setting ourselves up for futures we sit in awe of when we set out dreams in motion.

Leavenworth, Washington

This travel post is going to be a little different than the ones I have posted in the past because Leavenworth wasn’t just a city I passed through, it was a moment of immortalization in my memories.

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Before last year, this town never existed on my travel bucket lists or must-see cities. It just sort of appeared on my radar and stumbled into my life, but now it holds so much of my heart and fond memories. Around this time last year, I was tucking into my thesis depression and searching far and wide for a location that made sense for my novel. Then the trifecta appeared — my love for small towns, random generators, and my boyfriend’s suggestions — that had me researching this town nestled into the Cascade Mountains that replicated Bavarian life in the Pacific Northwest.

I was getting stressed about the little nuances that came with naming characters and deciding their unbiased background that I was using a random name and school generators. Usually they would give 10 options at a time, so I always picked option five. I told myself I couldn’t write about a “David” or The University of Washington. I said I wasn’t going to write my book about a love interest because I thought it was cliché. Then option five was the “University of Washington” and trust me, I thought about lying and doing it again, but something was telling me to just look into it.

Then I started to research small towns in Washington. I had just come home from spending a week in Spokane, not a small town at all, and didn’t know where to look. I thought about Forks, WA, where Twilight was set, but then nothing about the town intrigued me except for the fact that they have vampire tours now. So no, I didn’t want a town clinging to its defined claim to fame necessarily; I wanted something whose charm influenced the way people perceived it. So I asked David.

He suggested I look into Leavenworth. I saw the way the European facades contrasted with the mountainscape and found what I loved so much about Europe in America. I was sold by that, but worried, who was it that live in this tourist-attraction, Disney like town? I was searching for places that weren’t shopping for replica old-time photo booths and every t-shirt variety possible with the same city, just written in different fonts. And then David found it, Mailbox Peak, the ending of my story lied in those peaks, so I knew it had to be in Leavenworth, but I needed to go to Leavenworth and see the town for myself.

I remember getting into the rental car and immediately thinking about how I wanted to document every feeling and thought I was experiencing, so I took photos to try and capture them all. I flip through them all and hear the way. Delicate plays through the speakers as Seattle’s cityscape appeared through the mist and clouds. There were videos about how the sleet splatted on the windshield as we started to drive into the mountains. Or when the sleet turned to massive flakes that coated everything around us until even the tire tread marks blended into the white wonderland around us.

Into town, you heard the laughter of children as they slide down the small hill in city-center. Some buildings had a Bavarian-style on the outside or a sasquatch mascot wearing lederhosen inside, but most had both. It’s a quaint town with charm, locally-owned businesses, and places to explore. But something I don’t know if I could ever clearly describe was the silence that came from the way the snow soundproofed the town. We were there in February when the activities surrounding Christmas had died down, and Spring Breakers weren’t ready to slide into their boots and traverse the slopes.

We came up to the creek, trudging through shin-high snowdrifts until the silence turned into a bubbling of icy water flowed in front of us. I could feel how my jeans were slowly absorbing the snow that clumped onto my legs, but I never wanted to leave. The snow just fell around us delicately, clinging and spotting our hair and furry hoods. IMG_0373.jpeg

We explored even more of the parks, where young adults made makeshift snowboard ramps out of ledges and stairways. We stopped to warm up at Hewett Brewing Beer and Pizza where serves up some spectacular varieties and piping hot pepperoni pizza. So many locals came in just for some crowlers (can growlers to go) and pizzas for the family.

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When we left the restaurant, we headed into the main square where a horse-drawn carriage contrasted against the Dodge pick-up trucks and Toyota Camrys. There were Christmas lights clinging to all of the trees, gazebo, and buildings.

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Then I went into one of my favorite stores, A book for All Seasons where hopefully one day they will stock my book! I hope to go back soon to give more advice-based feedback around the town, but until then, its 100% worth just walking around the snowy days or stopping in for Octoberfest during autumn.

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First Impressions of ‘Uncommon Types’

While an autumnal spice blend and rich pumpkin scents are thrown throughout my small New York City apartment, I enjoy the pitter-patter of rain on my bedroom window, over-cast skies, and Tom Hank’s narration of his first collection of short stories, Uncommon Type: Some Stories.

Because my morning started off with Tom Hank’s recognizable cadence and meticulous character interactions, it must mean that September’s book-of-the-month read has begun. To commemorate my monthly book club, my best friend selected Uncommon Types: Some Stories as the book well will discuss at the end of the month. However, before I release my final thoughts, I felt that should I preface my first ever book review post with a first-glance into my initial impressions.

I’ve grown up with Hank’s and his witty sense of humor, eclectic characters, and oscar-worthy acting. I am always up for a Hank movie marathon and can be found quoting the movies of his I have seen an uncountable amount of time. Many of you may know that You’ve Got Mail is one of my mother’s and grandmother’s favorite movies. I grew up dreaming of autumns in New York and love that

Weirdly enough, I found myself living the plot of the film. To this day, I still remember the moment I FaceTimed my mother and flipped the camera to show a non-contextual aerial shot of a Starbucks from above. “Do you know what this is?” I asked. She replied, “You’ve Got Mail.”

“No,” I said, “that’s the Starbucks next door.” I grew up religiously watching the movie besides her, and she smiles whenever my life relates to the rom-com now. I found my current heartthrob online, I live in the UWS with him where I occasionally zip my credit card through the credit card machines at Zabar’s, but at the apex of it all I spent one summer working with the corporate team of the IRL Fox Books.

Up until the summer of 2018, the nostalgia watching the film focused around my childhood and my relationship with my mother more so than the growing pains surrounding what life used to be.

Ever since You’ve Got Mail, Toy Story, and The Polar Express entered my list of top watched movies, I wondered how he would turn out to be a writer. I still am curious to see how his love for story-telling and affinity for typewriters would mix when he channeled an inner author.

With the book being released in October of 2017, it is currently ranking at an average of 3.45 stars from 24,724 ratings  and 4,532 reviews on Good Reads; with some of the top reviews mentioning “these stories are aggressively competent and aggressively bland.” In total, Uncommon Types: Some Stories is “a collection of seventeen wonderful short stories showing that two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is as talented a writer as he is an actor.”

Because at the root of it, the reason I bought this book because I knew the author because he is an actor. After just completing The Road by Cormac McCarthy, national bestseller and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, I knew this story may pale in comparison. That’s okay because there is always something to appreciate from another’s writing style.

Hank’s may never win an award for his literary feats, but from the two short stories I have read, I have enjoyed them both for a lazy day spent in bed enjoying Tom Hank’s narration as I read along.

‘’Three Exhausting Weeks”: Two best friends decide to enter in a romantic relationship, but even after the first night together, readers can feel their incompatibility. Read to discover how an authoritative, busy-body creates a regime for a laid-back, home-body.

“Christmas Eve 1953”: An incredible recount of a cold Christmas Eve that harps on joy, belief in tomorrow, and the healing wounds of a past filled with physical and psychological trauma.

Both stories stay true to the movies Tom Hank’s stars in, and the humor he uses to keep readers following along. The nostalgia of typewriters remains a theme throughout both stories, which I am happy to see since I know Tom Hank’s is a fond collector.

There are still fifteen short-stories for me to dive into, and although at times the crisp short sentences and dimmed imagery can pull away from the reader’s attention, Hank’s makes up for it with a handful of beautifully crafted paragraphs to leave the readers wanting to know more about the characters he described.

Read along with me this month, and stay tuned for the 30th of September where I unravel the ends of September’s book-of-the-month, review other books I may have read over the coming weeks, and announce October’s read!


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I Wrote a Novel

For my Master’s thesis, I undertook 280+ pages of pure emotion that bleed throughout my first completed fiction piece. I only needed to write a 20-page academic paper to get my degree, but my advisor encouraged me to write a novel because it is what I want to do in life. It was hard, but I did it

Entering February, I only had a 1/4 of my book done and I needed it completed before the end of March. In April, I found myself trying to edit my book, but there was so much more I neede to accomplish, including actually writing that 20-page academic paper.

Although the novel isn’t where I wish I would be, I would love to share my site, some samples of my book, and where you can find it as I start the process of publishing my work. I look forward to blogging more about my process and the steps that are to come in the

Book Synopsis

Elizabeth Calhoun fantasizes about her child’s future, while her daughter, Annabelle, fights for her life after a devastating accident. The traumatizing sight of her daughter in pain spurs Elizabeth to gather her thoughts into letters for Annabelle to read. For two years, Elizabeth fills the letters with stories and advice while imagining a world where her daughter opens them after turning eighteen.

What remains on the page is a mother looking back on vulnerable teenage years, misguided decisions, and serendipitous first loves, all while reexamining who she is as a person. The letters tether the mother and daughter together through a collection of memories that Elizabeth uses to uncover who she is through the words of wisdom she aims to pass along to her daughter.

To face the harrowing details of love, anger, grief, and relationships, Elizabeth must come to terms with her daughter’s altered life journey and meet her darkest temptations. Through the process of Elizabeth’s passage through madness, depression, and pain, this evolving stack of letters collect on her desk and become a refuge that both heals and terrifies a mother.

About the Novel

I conceived the idea of Open When, my first self published novel, while reflecting ways I have tried to help my friends and family through trying times. During my time spent writing, I traveled to Leavenworth, Washinton to experience life in such a unique city. From there the idea of having letter writing tether two lives together inspired the epistolary form of the letters. The entirety of the novel is narrated by Elizabeth, the mother, as she encounters advice that her daughter may need in the future while still maintaining the form we have all come to know within letter writing. The novel had its first reading on May 10th, 2019 during “XE Thesis Symposium” where I presented on the Explorations of Form.

Enchantment Park, Leavenworth, Washington when I was on-site for research 

Sample of the Book

Purchasing a Copy

Within the immediate future, I will revisit the manuscript, initially prepared for my graduate thesis, and prep it for literary agents to manifest it across bookshelves in the future as a way to inspire more to understand life’s most difficult times. In the meantime, Open When is available for purchase on Lulu Publishing.

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.