2012 in Retrospect: My Year of Living Dangerously

UPDATED. I thought of something else!

If I had to pick one word to sum up 2012 for me, it would be risky. For some reason, I took a lot of risks this year. Let’s get one thing straight: a risk for me may be a walk in the park for someone else. Like my brother, the scare yourself every day guy, says, what’s scary for you may not be for other people, and vice versa. It’s all about getting out of your comfort zone.

With that, here are the scariest things I did this year.

I rode an overnight train. I love trains, but I was nervous about the idea of riding one for 51 hours from San Francisco to Chicago. How tiny would our sleeper car be? Would we be bored out of our minds? Could I live for two and a half days without a shower? Would I be able to sleep?

Of course I had nothing to worry about. Our sleeper car was small but cozy, we weren’t bored at all, and there were showers on board. And while I did have trouble sleeping the first couple of nights, when I finally remembered to wear my ear plugs, I slept like a baby.

I schmoozed (a little) at a huge writers’ conference. The reason MB and I went to Chicago was to attend the biggest writers’ conference in the universe. Or at least it seemed that way. Most of the time I felt overwhelmed and painfully shy, but on the last day, I mustered up enough courage to go up to two tables at the book fair and introduce myself. I knew the organizations through work, and they got excited when I mentioned my company. I felt accomplished walking with two business cards and some give-aways.

I pitched my novel to a bunch of agents. As you’ve noticed, I hate schmoozing. But when a “speed dating with agents” event came up, I decided to try it.

It was pretty nerve-racking reciting my pitch over and over, especially as certain agents’ eyes glazed over and others looked at me like I was nuts. And to tell the truth, I was kind of discouraged afterward. But. . .

I kept going with my novel even when I didn’t want to. After the speed agenting event, I was pretty discouraged. I wanted to trash what I had and start over. But MB talked me off the cliff and helped me see that my book was fixable. The agents’ questions and confusion simply pointed at the weaknesses of the story, and once I figured out how to address those weaknesses, I kept going.

It helped that I had struck a deal with MB: I had to work on my novel five days a week. I had one day off and one day to work on something else. Each time I didn’t do this, I had to give MB $10. (I also had to give him $10 if I didn’t go to krav maga at least twice a week, but more on that later.) But if I finished my novel before I reached $100, I got all the money back.

I got $70 back on Christmas Day.

Seventy is not bad. That means I missed my goals seven times, far fewer than it seemed in my mind.

I did a reading. This year I was lucky enough to be part of The Beautiful Anthology, published by TNB Books. Not only has it gotten mentions by Largehearted Boy, Daily Candy, and The New York Times, it’s resulted in readings around the country. When I heard of one being arranged in L.A., I jumped at the chance.

But as the reading got closer, the more nervous I became. Should I do an intro? What should I say? Should I look up or keep my eyes on my book? What if people were bored? WHAT THE HELL WAS I GOING TO WEAR? Why did I agree to do this at all?

But of course the reading turned out great. My fellow readers were awesome and the folks at Book Soup and the crowd were so nice. Plus I got to meet some online friends and hang out with my bro.

I participated on a writing roundtable. As with the reading, when I got invited to participate on a roundtable to talk about writing for an anthology, I agreed happily. But when the day came, I was nervous as fuck. It was a conference call, which in some ways was better: I didn’t have to worry about my outfit nor (mis)interpret any bored expressions. I could just keep blabbing, which is what I did, and afterward, I was glad I did it.

I schmoozed with writers in a social setting. When a writer/editor friend invited me a to a Christmas party at an agent’s house, I automatically thought I wouldn’t go. I had already done enough scary things this year, hadn’t I? But when she asked me again and I discovered the house was not far from my apartment, I decided to go.

I was nervous about attending a party alone, and also when I found out we were going around the room and introducing ourselves and talking about what we were working on. But I did okay! People actually seemed entertained by what I had to say. And I had conversations with a bunch of different people and collected business cards. Yay for introvert me!

I took up krav maga. This was by far the scariest thing I did this year – in fact, in many years (except for flying trapeze). I’m still not sure what made me decide to do it. Maybe the MB’s talking about his years of martial arts training had wormed its way into my brain. Maybe because the krav maga place is two blocks from my apartment, or because I’ve always secretly wanted to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

From krav maga came a million more scary things:

  • Just going to class. In the beginning, I’d get a stomachache every time and often chickened out. See the $10 deal with MB.
  • Choosing partners. Would I get rejected by the higher level students? Would I get someone who was sorry they picked me? Would I be left with no partner, which is basically the same as getting picked last in gym class?
  • Getting paired with someone bigger and stronger than I was. When a guy who outweighs you by 80 pounds knees you in the stomach – even with pad protection – it’s not fun. (Of course we can tell our partners to go easier.)
  • Learning something new. I was afraid of making a fool out of myself every single time.
  • Getting (fake) attacked by my classmates.
  • Getting evaluated by the instructor.
  • Trying other classes. The first time I walked into KO Bag class (punching and kicking the heavy punching bag), I chickened out. Turned around and left. Now I freaking love it and probably go more to KO Bag than to krav.
  • Deciding to take the yellow belt test.
  • Taking the yellow belt test (and passing!).
  • Going to level 2 krav maga classes. While I now find level 1 classes fun, level 2 classes still scare the shit out of me.

I do feel changed after almost a year of martial arts training. I’m leaner and stronger. I know how to throw a decent punch and a pretty good kick. As for the psychological side, the change is more subtle. I’ve never used my skills in a real-life situation, but I feel more confident that I could take care of myself such a situation arise. Or at least be aware enough to avoid them, or if I can’t avoid them, to not panic and freeze.

But during class, I still pretend I’m Buffy slaying a vampire. :)

I’m not sure why I did more scary stuff this year. Maybe partly I was inspired by my brother; maybe because I turned 40. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I did it all.



  1. Sounds like you had a pretty epic year. I’m especially impressed by the Krav Maga part of things. Happy new year!

  2. Happy New Year, Angela! And happy belated 40th birthday. So glad you did so many scary things this last year and hope you’ll take even more risky, good leaps into the new one. All the best!
    p.s. See you at SF Writers Conference in February.

  3. Congratulations on all the scary stuff you did. 2013 is bound to be scary, so now you are better prepared. Best of luck in the new year, and thanks for sharing bits of your life on twitter and your blog.