Today is the last day of 2019. The last day of the 2010s.
It wasn’t quite the decade I expected it to be. I thought I’d publish books, and fall in love, and get married, and maybe move to a different country, and perhaps have a baby. None of those things happened.
What happened, instead, was a lot of personal growth, which I posted about extensively on my Patreon. Still, I was able to isolate 10 particular incidents that I would see as the highlights of the 2010s. (And since I’ve been blogging forever, I discovered that most of these moments have blog archives to accompany them.)
1. Graduating (June 2017)
My graduation from Oregon State University (which I posted about here) was the #1 best moment of the decade for me. The most tangible accomplishment I was able to hold. I spent the greater part of my decade working towards this moment, and in June of 2017, I achieved it.
2. Eclipse Day (August 2017)
2017 was a big year for me. Two months after the biggest highlight of the decade came the second biggest highlight of the decade: Eclipse Day (which I posted about here).
Essentially, the 2017 eclipse was passing very close to where I live. My whole extended family had a giant sleepover at my aunt’s house, 25 miles north of us, so that we could experience totality.
That, by itself, was such a bizarre, fantastic, indescribable experience unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before or after. But after the eclipse, when we went home, things got even stranger. In front of our house, in the middle of the country, there were a full-blown traffic jam. Cars were backed up as far as we could see. We started frantically making drinks and serving them to people in cars. Then we invited all these strangers inside to use our bathroom.
I mean. I’m out of adjectives, but wow.
Graduating and seeing the eclipse were for sure the best moments of my decade. The remaining eight were really hard to rank, so I’m just putting them in chronological order.
3. The day my Princess book went crazy on Inkpop (April 2010)
Inkpop doesn’t exist anymore, but back in the day it was a website where people would post their unpublished novels, and other people would read them, offer critiques, and “pick” them, sticking them on their virtual bookshelf.
The website was owned by Harper Collins Publishing. The books on Inkpop were all ranked, and every month, the top five books would get sent to Harper Collins editors, who would give critiques. (I actually remember one Inkpopper, Wendy Higgins, who was offered a publishing deal after the editors reviewed her book.)
The book-ranking algorithm was a bit complicated, but let me explain it as best I can.
Users all had a “trendsetter ranking.” If you “picked” an unknown book, and it became popular, your trendsetter ranking rose. The top trendsetters, and their picks, were displayed on the front page of Inkpop.
Every time your book was “picked,” it rose in the rankings. The higher the trendsetter ranking of the person who “picked” you, the more your book would rise in rank.
Anyway. One evening, on a whim, I added a few chapters to a novel I was working on, called Leftover Princess, and uploaded it Inkpop. I literally did nothing else. Not a single thing to promote it.
But somehow, the #3 trendsetter on the website found it and “picked” it. And my book started rising in the ranks. It started out ranked about 20,000 or so, but by the end of the day, it was ranked number 295, and the seven top trendsetters had all “picked” it.
I went to the Wayback Machine and found a snapshot of Inkpop when Leftover Princess was still featured on the trendsetter lists on the front page. Only the images didn’t all load, so I had to hover the mouse over the link to see that it was my book.
Anyway. I ran into plot issues and never really did anything with Leftover Princess, but that rapid rise in the rankings was a huge confidence booster for me. I think in the end I reached rank 75 or so.
Also, Wendy Higgins, the author who ended up making big, liked my book. I remember her saying so once, in one of the forums. So that was super cool.
(And oh, yes. The 10-year-old blog post about the incident can be found here)
4. Being in a real play (Fall 2011)
I have a deep love of theater in the core of my soul, which will become very evident by the time this list concludes. But in the fall of 2011, I had the chance to, for the first (and only, so far) time in my life, be part of a real play.
The play was A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, only in this version, Scrooge was a woman instead of a man. I played Scrooge’s nephew’s wife, and Scrooge’s younger sister, and dead-Scrooge-in-the-bed, and a member of the chorus. There was a real backstage, and real dressing rooms. I learned how to project my voice, and how to run across the stage without making clomping noises.
It was glorious. I posted about it, in the very scattered way that was typical of my early 2010s writing style, here.
5. Winning the “Biggest Bang for your Buck” award at a robotics competition (June 2013)
One of the best, and strangest, things I did in the 2010s was join a robotics team. I wrote a whole series of blog posts about it at the time.
- Robots are Cool
- Traveling with Robot Boys
- Wendy Darling
- Narwhals Always Win
- Pictures with Words on Them
- Fifth Place and Frugal
I didn’t join the team until three weeks before the competition. I didn’t code the robot, or screw the parts together, or drive it, or troubleshoot it, or anything. I mostly just collaborated with this guy named Nate on editing the tech report and putting the poster together. But it was enough to make me a team member, and so I went along to the big competition.
It was a big moment, however, because it was me discovering that I had diverse interests. I could be the girl who writes princess books, and the girl who likes robots.
6. Seeing NYC for the first time (April 2014)
I traveled a decent amount in the 2010s. I went to Thailand twice, and Kenya once. I took many trips within the USA, to weddings, and Bible school, and of course the whole living-in-a-different-place-every-month thing. And I made numerous visits to Washington DC after Matt moved there.
And yet, out of all that travel, the five weeks I spend doing Mission training in New York City stands out.
Ultimately, I think it was because of all the books I’d read that were set in NYC. Not just books–movies and TV shows too–but mostly books. There’s something phenomenal about reading something in a book, and then going to that actual factual place. Like the world of the book, the world you blissfully escaped to, is real now.
I never blogged about that trip, because it was during my year-long blogging hiatus of 2013-2014. But I still vividly remember flying low over Manhattan Island. The skyscrapers were brick red in the golden hour of the setting sun. And there, right there in front of me, was the Empire State Building.
I had the strongest sensation that a piece of myself had always existed in New York City, and now I was going to find it.
Now, that Fall term had been pretty brutal for me, and Winter term was a continuation of that brutality. I did not remotely fit in at UO. There was this weird, cutthroat culture in my program.
Then I went to my first lab, and I was supposed to set up all this stuff, and I just had no clue what was going on. So the guy next to me was trying to help me out, but I accidentally downloaded a virus and my computer went crazy and I started crying and he awkwardly patted my arm.
It was a mess. I posted all about it here.
However, once I started learning it, I got oddly hooked. For two reasons.
First, it was like doing math with words. This was much easier for my brain to grasp than math with only numbers.
Second, it was possible to get a perfect score.
Let me explain: Say my professor gave me an assignment to make a page where you click a button and it generates a random number. If I wrote the code wrong, when I opened it in my Internet browser, it would just show a blank page. So then I’d go back and try to figure out what I’d done wrong. If I spent enough time fixing all my mistakes, I would get to the point where it worked. And if it worked, I’d get 100% on that assignment.
Because of this, I got perfect scores on all my assignments. And I did all the extra credit assignments, just because they were there. And the tests were short, multiple-choice ones, and I was allowed to bring in a page of notes.
In short, I got the highest score it was possible to get in the class, including all the extra credit points possible. This was a great triumph for me, especially after being so helpless and lost and weepy at first.
8. Eating Hot Pot in China (December 2015)
In December of 2015, my brother Ben and I were traveling to Thailand when we got stranded in China.
Not only were we stranded in China, but we were stranded in city that only got cold, like, once every three years. So our hotel had no heating. But we happened to be there on the day it snowed.
It was a bizarre sequence of events which you can read in full here. We were eventually able to communicate with my sister Amy, who gave me the phone number of her friend Felicia, who was a missionary in the city we were stranded in.
Felicia took a taxi to our hotel. We had several hours to kill before our shuttle left for the airport, but we told her we were cold and hungry. So she took us to get hot pot. Felicia, and me, and Ben, and the taxi driver, huddled in a little shop around a brazier full of hot coals. Eating delicious hot pot. Sipping barley tea.
The cold wind blew on our faces, through the open door.
I knew everything was going to be okay, after all.
That was a fantastic moment.
9. Seeing Howl’s Moving Castle, the Musical (December 2017)
Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones, is a very special book to me. I found it in the library at Bridgewater College, read the first chapter, and was blown away by the sheer cleverness. Subsequently, Diana Wynne Jones became my favorite author. And that book, goodness. It takes me to a very fanciful, very beautiful place, every time I read it.
Also: I love theater, and am deeply moved by musicals.
So. I found out, thanks to a Diana Wynne Jones fan page on Facebook, that someone had created a Howl’s Moving Castle musical. And what’s more…this is what really blew me away…it was happening in Seattle. Seattle! Like, within-driving-distance Seattle!
Mom, Jenny, and Amy were all willing to come with me, which surprised and delighted me. We made a whole trip of it.
And the musical was just wonderful. It wasn’t like I expected. It wasn’t like a typical adaptation, it was like the book come to life. Seriously, it followed the book so closely, it was like watching a book the way you can listen to a (audio) book.
Only, there was music. Music!
That was a really good moment.
10. The 2019 Pioneer Christian Academy School Program (December 2019)
This wasn’t a big, flashy, epic moment like some of the others were. But one thing that’s been really special to me this decade is the way I’ve stumbled into writing and producing plays.
It started in the summer of 2017, when we started using a different Vacation Bible School curriculum at our church. I volunteered to direct the drama, thinking that the VBS kit came with one. But then my cousin Justin, who was in charge of VBS that year, said, “we didn’t think the curriculum was deep enough, so we thought we’d have Emily write a play based on the life of Paul. You can do that, right Emily?”
“Um, sure,” I said.
That fall I wrote another play, for the school Christmas program. And the next summer I wrote another VBS play. And the next fall I wrote another play for the school Christmas program. This has become a thing now.
However, I feel like each time I write and direct play it becomes a bigger and better production.
The school play I did this year was only 15 minutes long, but in many ways it was my biggest production yet. It for sure had my largest audience yet, for one thing. And the costumes and sets were more elaborate than anything I’d done previously. And there was a real backstage area. There’s something so official about having a real backstage area.
What a decade it’s been, come to think of it! But I’m ready for 2020.
See you next decade!
P.P.S. I started writing this in 2019, but now it’s 2020, so I guess my “see you next decade” joke doesn’t work anymore. Oh well.
P.P.P.S. I’m tired. Please ignore spelling mistakes, just this once. I want to go to bed.