Women writers. Ordinary journeys. Extraordinary stories.
Author: Rachel Connelly
Rachel Connelly is a freelance developmental editor, born and raised in Houston, Texas. For as long as she can remember, writing and reading and storytelling have been her passions. As an editor, it brings her so much joy to help others bring life to the stories inside their heads. read more
Another busy month has gone by! January always feels like it lasts a thousand years, doesn’t it?
I’ve already done and learned a lot this year. My editing work is continuing, and I’ve taken on some new responsibilities — writing newsletters and such. Both there and in my day job, I’ve suddenly been learning a lot about different
website building platforms, which has been cool. Between the social media and the website work I’ve been doing, I’m finding that I actually really enjoy that sort of thing. I’m considering looking into it further.
In my personal life, it’s been mostly the same. I’ve been deep into crafting, as always. I’ve got about 7 different crochet projects with varying deadlines, and took a break from all of them so I could learn to make a handfasting cord for my beautiful friends who are getting married this weekend. I love learning new
crafts, and this one was so special. Both because there’s something so powerful about learning to do something that’s so traditional and was probably something some distant ancestor of mine would have known how to do (I’m VERY heavily Irish/Celtic), and because I got to do something so meaningful for people who mean so much to me.
I’m not sure what February will hold, but I’m looking forward to continuing to learn more. Until next time!
I don’t know how it happened, but it’s 2024, y’all!! Every year I feel like January 1st sneaks up on us. That the previous year felt simultaneously like an eternity and like a matter of days. Despite this, it’s generally a welcome change I think.
It’s an opportunity to pack up the past and put it in a box labeled “LASTYEAR”, and start fresh.
It’s a wonderful opportunity to mark the end of a chapter and start fresh, but at the same time my challenge to all of you is to release some of the pressure associated with the new year. By all means, if you’ve got a resolution that you’re passionate about trying, give it your all. But allow yourself some grace if it doesn’t catch on immediately. Make it part of your goal to view your missteps and mistakes as part of your growth journey, rather than a “failure” to achieve your resolution.
Two steps forward, one step back, and all that. Or ten steps forward, nine steps back. It’s all still progress.
And also, if you don’t have a resolution for yourself, or any specific goals for the new year, there’s zero shame in that either. There are 366 days in 2024 (happy leap year!) — January 1st is not the only day you’re allowed to begin a journey or start trying something new. Maybe you don’t want to try something new right now. Maybe you’re happy where you’re at and your current goal is just to keep living life one day at a time, and see where it takes you.
Neither is better than the other. And neither is set in stone. You could resolve to run a mile every morning and decide you actually hate running, and stop doing that by February. It doesn’t mean you failed, you succeeded in discovering that you don’t like something, and should look at other forms of exercise if you want to pursue a fitness journey. You could enjoy your day job now and not want to make changes this year, but decide in a few months you’d actually really like to start taking classes to pursue a new career. You don’t have to wait until January 2025 to start.
Ultimately, as exciting as the clean slate is, it’s important to remember that January 1st is another day on the calendar. We’re creatures of habit, and our brains aren’t naturally wired to make big changes overnight, no matter how big a party we throw signifying that the year is over and we can be a new person now. Any change is going to be gradual, whether you start on New Year’s Day or the middle of September.
My wish for all of you (and myself!) this year is simply that we are all collectively able to carry ourselves with gentler hands. That we’re a little kinder to ourselves and others. It’s been a wild, overly eventful few years, and (not that we need to earn gentleness), I think we all owe it to ourselves to take things slow right now.
Whatever you resolve this year, wherever 2024 takes you, let it be with compassion for yourself and those around you. Rather than pushing yourself
to become someone new, let this new year be one of learning to love who you already are, and build upon that with only the softest, most loving intentions.
I wish all of you the happiest of New Years. May you find pockets of joy and peace in all 366 days.
Much love, -Rachel <3
P.S. For what it’s worth, my sole resolution in 2024 is to wear my retainer to bed more. I’ve been slacking since the pandemic began and I can’t let two years of suffering through braces in high school be for nothing. And in three days I’ve already worn it more than last year, so mission already accomplished. Any other achievements this year are just a bonus now.
It’s been another busy month here. It’s officially been six weeks since I moved and I’m finally starting to feel settled into my new routine. There have been a lot of adjustments of course, but it’s no longer a daily stressor, it’s all just part of what I do now.
Somehow the holidays are already here, which seems impossible. I’ve promised myself that I’m not going to stress too hard about gift-giving and making sure everything is perfect. It’s been a hectic year and I think ending it on a low key note sounds perfect to me.
Amidst it all, I have been working hard on intentionally carving out time to engage in hobbies that bring me joy, that I’d spent the past few years pushing aside. I’m reading a lot more, which was all I did growing up, but recently I’ve struggled to make time for myself to pick up a non-work related book, and it’s been really nice to get back into reading for pleasure.
I’m also doing a lot more crafting, both for other people and for myself. I have several crochet projects going that I’ve been commissioned to do and I’ve been painting decor for my friends who are getting married in a few months. I also learned just this weekend that I really love watercolor painting, and would love to do more of it. One of my best friends was
celebrating his birthday at the raptor sanctuary where he volunteers. They were having a painting class where they brought in one of their birds for us to learn about and paint.
I tend to lean towards crafts that involve a lot of coloring inside the lines, or making an exact number of stitches so the product is identical every time, and it was really
freeing and fun to work with something less exact and predictable. I see a lot more of that in my future, and maybe next time I’ll have more art to share!
It’s been another crazy few weeks! Long story short, I’m moving again (fifth time since 2019!) and very unexpectedly. It’s definitely the right choice and I’m looking forward to it, but I am exhausted. In the span of under a month, I’ve had
to make the choice to move when I wasn’t planning to do so for another year at least, and get all my belongings packed and ready to go.
It’s a lot.
I was talking about it with my mom earlier and I observed that it seems to be a common theme in my life that as soon as I’m finally comfortable in a situation, something unexpected happens that shakes everything up and
forces me in an entirely new direction, whether I like it or not. It feels kind of like when you’re about to fall asleep and your body does that involuntary jerk that wakes you right back up.
This isn’t a complaint though. Honestly I’m grateful, because it’s always with situations that were objectively wrong for me. Things I know aren’t right and don’t fit with my life path, but eventually I make a conscious choice to accept it regardless, generally because it’s the safe and easier choice.
And almost like clockwork, within weeks of finally making peace with the safe choice and resolving to stick it out, the ground falls away, I trip on a curb, a giant explosion happens, and I’m involuntarily jerked awake.
Suddenly fired from the soul-sucking receptionist job by the attorney who used to scream at her clients’ families, dumped by the girlfriend I’d later come to understand was terribly emotionally abusive; all situations that I did not belong in but I was already there and they were familiar and didn’t require taking any scary leaps, so I probably never would have left of my own accord. Or at least until conditions were absolutely perfect and I knew with absolute certainty that I was making the right move.
It didn’t matter if the house was on fire, I wasn’t leaving until I knew the weather outside was perfect.
I don’t have an explanation for the uncanniness of it all, although I do like to imagine that there’s a spirit guide or some higher power rolling their eyes behind me and going, “Fine. If you won’t choose to take the risk, you just don’t get to make a choice at all.”
It’s like I’m playing a game of chess against the Universe, and I’ve been safely moving my pawns forward one-by-one to create a safe border protecting my more powerful pieces, which is physically keeping my king safe but also blocking me from making any big game-changing moves. And then the second I have all my little pawns back in a row, the Universe’s queen surges forward and knocks out the one right in front of my king, immediately exposing him and putting him in serious jeopardy if he doesn’t get the heck out of there.
So I do what I have to do, and get him the heck out of there, and start playing the game with a backbone, and eventually it turns out that was exactly what I needed to win all along.
Now I don’t know if any of that is actually good chess strategy (although I skimmed a chess forum and it sounds like I’m at least kind of right), but I do know that as much as losing that pawn and being forced to make an immediate decision was startling and felt chaotic in the moment, ultimately I’m so thankful every time for that shove into action.
It’s always terrifying, but it hasn’t steered me wrong yet.
So I’m excited to see where it takes me this time.
As I’m sure most people can relate to in a post-pandemic world, I’ve been in a pretty big creative slump lately. I was tired, stressed, struggling with mental health, and my brain simply would not produce whatever juices it needed to in order to get me up and moving and start doing things for myself again.
I’ve been productive when it came to work and that sort of thing, but I had let creative hobbies fall to the side for a while because I simply couldn’t muster up the motivation.
I’m not sure if it’s that my meds are finally working, or that I have a day job that genuinely brings me joy now, (probably a combination of the two), but I am excited to say that I think I’ve busted out of that slump and am back to being excited about engaging in hobbies and creative projects just for
I’d say the official slump-buster was a gift I decided to make for a friend’s birthday recently. I realize that sounds like it’s for someone else but I promise, making stuff for people is just as much a gift for myself because it gives me something fun to do.
Not only was it a big ol’ project to take on, but I taught myself new skills and learned how to design the pattern myself, and could feel myself excited about working on an art project again and getting my hands busy.
From there, I finally completed some projects I had put on the back burner for months (which, of course, only fed the stress cycle by having something unfinished hanging over my head), and I’m already planning about 10 other ideas.
I can’t say if it’ll last, but I can say that I plan to enjoy the ride and the fullness I feel from getting back to something that has brought me peace and joy throughout so much of my life.
It’s been a BUSY few weeks over here in Rachel Land. Last week, after months of rehearsal and hard work, we finally opened The Music Man at Art Park Players! It feels like it’s been a very long journey, but also like the time flew by in seconds. Community theatre is such a funny thing, because we’re working so hard to get a show off the ground, but we also have our own personal lives
to attend to during the day. It’s rewarding, and we give our free time to rehearsals and performances because we love it, but it makes for a lot of late nights and pulling out laptops to catch up on work between scenes. Personally, you can find me in full costume, wig, and makeup, trying to fit in a few chapters of the novel I’m editing in the brief break I get between “Pick a Little, Talk a Little” and “Wells Fargo Wagon”.
It’s something I’ve been doing for years, so I’ve definitely got it down to a science, but you do learn very quickly how to still find moments of peace and solitude for yourself in the midst of going to work, running straight to rehearsal after, somehow finding time to eat in all that, and then going home to sleep, and doing it all again the next day. In school, I would just
stay up way too late in the evenings so I could have some time to myself and just be incredibly tired the next day.
Now…well, I still do that, but I have a work schedule that allows me to wake up late, so it’s fine. I’ve also learned to be intentional about finding podcasts or music to listen to while I’m driving between work, home, and the theatre. Things that make me happy, that I don’t otherwise have time to listen to. I make sure to have food ready for myself at home that I’m excited to come home and eat, and pick out a show that I’m excited to come home and watch. When you’re super busy, it’s all about finding those pockets of time during the day where you can still fit in joyful moments for yourself.
In other news, I had a birthday! I got to celebrate the same day we opened our
show, which I had been joking all week was perfect, and that more of my birthdays should involve a room of people applauding for me. In all seriousness though, I am incredibly lucky to get to ring in another year surrounded by my friends, doing what I love. I don’t know what this year holds for me, but I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in store.
Also, come see The Music Man at Art Park Players! Running now until July 22nd! Tickets here: https://web2.myvscloud.com/wbwsc/txdeerparkwt.wsc/search.html?display=detail&module=PST&category=theatre&search=yes
Well folks, it’s been a busy few weeks over here and unfortunately, I got my dates mixed up and did not manage to get my post written and up on time. Oops!
But, I do have a lot of fun updates!
First and foremost, after [redacted] months of searching, I have finally landed myself a job. It’s a long term temp position, but I’m finally starting to feel like I’m back in the swing of things, and it feels great. Admin work isn’t the most interesting, but I’m putting on pants every day again and leaving the house to go do something I’m really good at, and that counts more than anything.
It feels really nice to have my brain up and working again, and getting to interact with other people. I’ve been doing my editing work all this time, but it’s definitely not a social job, so I’ve been missing human connection.
Wow. Someone tell antisocial 11-year-old Rachel I just said that. She would be horrified.
Speaking of things I’ve been up to that my antisocial preteen self would have hated, I also went to my first concert in almost eight years!
My best friend and I saw Jukebox the Ghost perform at the Karbach Brewing Co. Love Street Music Fest, and it was such an amazing time. I haven’t
been to a lot of concerts to compare it to, but they were really fantastic.
It’s so funny. When I was growing up, there was nothing more I hated than loud
noises, big crowds, being outside in the heat, and standing up for a long time. This was, of course, all of those things at once, and I had a BLAST.
I really couldn’t say when I changed and started to get over those things, but it’s crazy how different I am from the person I was growing up.
Only in the best ways of course.
I still value the same important things, and I love the same hobbies. I’m still kind and caring and funny and smart. I’m just so much less complainy and grumpy about things. Maybe it’s just me growing up and maturing, but it’s such a relief to be able to have FUN now. I’m able to have so much fun and do so many fun things that I never would have opted into as a kid.
I’m still complainy and grumpy of course. But, like, a LOT less.
I was eleven years old when I performed in my first “real” play. I’m twenty-three now, meaning we’ve officially passed the “more than half my life ago” mark, which I’m realizing now for the first time and it’s blowing my mind a little.
For my entire childhood, I was plagued with severe anxiety, so the fact that I would A) voluntarily choose to be onstage in front of several hundred people, and B) enjoy it as much as I did, was shocking to anyone who knew me.
At the time, I didn’t understand it either. All I knew was that the second I walked onto that stage, I felt more at home and in my element than I maybe ever had in my life. Looking back now, I think it was the first time my brain was truly silent in a room full of people.
It seems contradictory, to be a person with social anxiety who loves getting up and performing in front of crowds of strangers. It’s not nearly as bad as it was in school, but I still have a very hard time letting myself be seen and fully letting loose or expressing my emotions in front of others (at least, not without overthinking it for the next 3–5 business days). But to me, the stage is a safe space to do exactly that.
When I’m onstage, I’m playing a character, and the things I do are directed by someone else. So I can be loud, or messy, or ugly, or imperfect, and subconsciously, it feels safe. My social anxiety quiets down and steps out of the way because it can hide behind the idea that it’s a performance, and I can let myself do and be these things because even though everyone is watching me, they’re seeing a character.
And the thing is, it’s not that I didn’t ever want to be those things. In fact, growing up, I wanted desperately to just once be the life of the party somewhere, and have everyone think I was fun, and cool, and laugh at my jokes, and want me to be around them.
It wasn’t even that I was bullied, or was made to believe I couldn’t do that, but social anxiety convinced me that I had dug myself into a “quiet weird girl” hole, and any attempt to break out of that would be met with instant ridicule and judgment.
And that’s why theatre appealed to me. Because more than anything, I wanted - and really, needed — to be seen. I needed some way to let the world know that this other girl, the dynamic, fun, loud, emotional girl, existed somewhere within me, even if I had to shield her behind the invisible fourth wall of a plywood set.
Fast forward twelve years, and I’m an adult now with a pretty active social life, full of friends (none of whom I would have met if I hadn’t joined community theatre after high school) who make me feel that level of safety even when we’re not performing. I’m able now to go to parties and join conversations and laugh and be loud and a little messy and feel more loved than I ever thought was possible, and do all the things I was too afraid to let myself do when I was growing up.
I still struggle with reminding myself that I can be that vulnerable of course, although I’ve reduced the overthinking time to about 1–2 business days, which is definite progress. But I don’t think I would be anywhere near where I am today if I hadn’t put my name on that audition sign up sheet twelve years ago.
Theatre has time and time again given me the opportunity to safely shut off the anxiety noise and openly explore parts of me that have spent so long locked away. With every show I do, every bow I take, another bar is removed from that girl’s cage and it’s just a little easier to bring her to the surface.
I have always been that dynamic, fun, loud, emotional girl. She just needed some stage lighting to guide her way out.
One of the really great things about the work I do as an editor is that I have the freedom to make my own hours and adhere to my own schedule. I hate waking up early and have always done my best work late at night (I may be writing this at almost midnight, but shhhh), and I love being able to work around the hours my brain seems to naturally do best with.
One of the hard things, though, is having to be the one to enforce that schedule. Especially when things like mental health get in the way.
I’ve always made it a point to advocate for destigmatizing mental illnesses, and in past blog posts have certainly alluded to the fact that these past few years have been rough on me, like many others. So, leading by example, I have no problem sharing that I have had some pretty intense struggles with depression and anxiety, particularly over the last year.
Of course, I say I have no problem sharing, but there’s that part of me in the back of my mind going “NOOOO delete this and write something else, this makes you look SO unprofessional, people are going to think you’re falling apart and you’re unreliable!!!”
Which is exactly why it’s so important for me to share, because it’s not any more shameful than a physical illness. If I had chronic migraines, I wouldn’t be embarrassed about them keeping me from work or other life events.
And yet, when it’s a depressive episode or panic attack, it ends up being a big source of shame that I let something that’s “all in my head” prevent me from completing projects on time (and thus I feel unprofessional, and I’m ashamed, and that causes stress, and that makes the anxiety/depression worse, and then we get ourselves a nice little spiral). As always, not something I would ever hold against someone else, but our self standards are never as realistic or gentle.
In a way, it’s nice not having a regular 9–5 in these moments, because it’s much easier to take a day off without having to answer to anybody. I’m my own boss, and I can’t exactly fire myself or have myself written up for subpar work or unapproved absences.
But of course, I do have clients, and I do end up feeling incredibly guilty when I’m not always able to meet the deadlines I promised when I was in a better headspace, or I forget to answer an email and the anxiety of it all makes me put it off even longer.
If I was injured, or came down with the flu, I would have no problem sending out emails to alert folks that I’m going to be a week or two behind schedule. But it’s not exactly a standard practice to send an email that says “Hey Jimmy, this is going to take me a while longer. Unfortunately I’m having a prolonged bout of anxiety because I had to deal with something triggering in my personal life and now I must lie in bed and watch all of Breaking Bad instead of attending to my work responsibilities while my brain calms back down.”
…Which may or may not have been what I was up to the last few weeks, hence this choice of blog post as I’m getting back to a better frame of mind and playing a great deal of catchup.
I don’t really have much advice here or a plan of action for next time, other than therapy and becoming more comfortable at least saying, “Sorry, I have a personal matter to deal with.” But I wanted to write this anyway, to let other professionals and creatives know that if they’re dealing with similar things, they’re not alone. All we can do is be gentle with ourselves, do what we can, and nurse our souls back to a place where we’re able to pick back up and get back to our real selves.
And for the record, my Breaking Bad binge truly was epic. Not sure it helped my stress, but DAMN that’s some great TV. And a good reminder that as down or anxious or otherwise stressed as you may be, at least you’re not trying to build a meth empire in Albuquerque.
If you asked me at any point during my life what the most important things to me are, I would say my friends and being creative. Art and the people I love have always been the things I care most about in the world, no contest. And yet, while I have so many incredible friends and so much time to dedicate to creativity, I’ve considered myself a failure for years simply because I didn’t have a steady job or other material things and, in my eyes, wasn’t “good” at life.
Now, as my editing business has grown exponentially over several months, and I am finally starting to see a glimpse of what could be a path forward, I’ve begun to do a lot of thinking about what success actually looks like for me. For most of my life, my measurement for success in life has been completely tied to my accomplishments and nothing else. If I’m doing good work, supporting myself, and checking all those boxes, I’m successful. When I wasn’t living up to those standards the past few years, it didn’t matter that other things about my life were good, I was unsuccessful and a failure, and it became a source of major problems with depression and low self-esteem.
Now, as things are starting to pick back up career-wise, ironically I’m finally starting to unpack how unfair it is to have spent so much time giving material things complete control over my perception of whether I have a good life, and really, over my self worth. It’s not a measurement I would apply to anyone else but myself, and I’m finally beginning to accept that my standards are impossible. I’m realizing it wasn’t my lack of material success over the past few years that was causing my mental health to deteriorate, but rather the pain of failing to meet standards that don’t even matter to anyone else but me.
Of course, having that realization isn’t quite enough to suddenly reprogram a lifetime of thinking, and it’s going to take a long time to fully separate my definition of success from my concept of self-worth, but it’s allowing me to become more realistic and gentle with myself as I start to consider what I want the next few years to look like, and what success really is. I think it’s still fair to have material goals for myself, but I’m also able to start giving more weight to my personal successes as well.
In the next few years, I’d like to get back to a place where I’m able to independently support myself again and am building my work as an editor to a point where I’m able to have a full-time career that I find fulfilling and exciting. To me, that’s what being successful will look like.
But also, I want to continue building and maintaining the friendships I have, and be able to dedicate time to my non-work related passions like theatre and making art for the fun of it, not just to pay bills. If I’m able to do that, even if I don’t meet my material goals, that’s really what being successful will look like.
It definitely makes me sad that I haven’t been recognizing my personal successes for what they are, but as I work to release all of the screwed up, impossible standards I have for myself, I’m finally understanding. Though I may not have the career I want yet, or my own apartment, and I’m not always able to pay my bills on time, I’ve still been able to fill my life with fun, rich experiences and so many incredible, beautiful people who I love and who love me right back.
Even in the times when I’ve only had $1.25 to my name, I’ve really been the luckiest, most successful version of myself all along.