Last Friday was my dog's birthday. It was also the release of Taylor Swift's latest album, evermore. Oh, and my first book, Summer Twilight, came out.
In the weeks leading up the the release, I was terrified and thrilled in turn. I felt simultaneously like a kid the night before Christmas, too filled with anticipation to sleep, and like it was the night before my SATs, stomach churning with nerves. It was a weird conundrum, an emotional dissonance. People asked me how I was and my natural answer was "Oh I'm so excited!". But was I?
The last time I felt this way was senior year of college. That's the year everyone starts asking you what you'll do when you graduate (as though you have any idea). You give a polite smile and come up with something short and catchy to say, from "thinking about grad school!" to "I'm moving to Wyoming!". Pretty much anything but admitting you have absolutely no idea. That you don't know how you feel. That you want to talk about anything else.
I've been talking about my book for so long, nothing feels real anymore. I've been thinking about publishing, about sharing my writing with the world, for over a decade. I'm filled with pride, and also imposter syndrome. So when people have asked me how I'm doing, of course I said I was excited. Because that's how you're supposed to feel.
Now that my book is published, I am still proud. I am happy, and I feel accomplished. But I also feel sad, like a piece of myself is missing. Summer Twilight has been in my life for so long, and the last year has been such a whirlwind, it's hard to know how I feel about it anymore. You know those moments when life happens so fast you don't really figure out how you feel about it? You just keep putting one foot in front of the other, taking steps until suddenly you're across a giant chasm, or have summited a sky-scraping mountain.
I'm at the top of that mountain, wondering how I got here.
There are an endless number of people to be grateful for, who have cheered me along the way, held my hand when things got tough, and celebrated my successes. And this post is not to say that I don't appreciate them, because I do. I will never be able to say thank you enough times for all the people who have believed in me, who have supported me, who have helped me get where I am.
But I'm also grieving. It's the end of an era; Summer Twilight is out there with the world, in print. I can't make any more changes or adjustments, I can't rewrite the ending or layer in more foreshadowing. It's done. And that is impossible to wrap my mind around.
Yesterday, the day after my release, when I had a flood of lovely messages from loved ones telling me they'd picked up the ebook and were enjoying it, I was numb. I curled up in the same chair I sat in editing my heart out, and stared straight ahead. That's when it hit me: this is really happening.
Too often, we continue pushing on with our lives, oblivious to how things actually make us feel. We keep going and going, taking on the next challenge, checking the next box, making the next decision. Emotions get locked down and tucked away into a corner, never to be dealt with or discussed. We tell everyone that we're feeling the socially appropriate way: excited, maybe a little nervous. Certainly not sad or confused.
I think it's important to memorialize how I'm feeling right now in writing. For me, the written word has always given a finality to whatever I'm dealing with. Writing it - or, in this case, typing it - makes it feel real. And it also makes it okay to feel whatever I'm feeling.
This doesn't just apply to writing: think about the last time you finished a big project, one you were personally invested in and proud of. It's weird to leave it behind and transition to something new, even if you're excited about what's next. That weirdness is okay. It's normal. And, in my opinion, we should talk about it more.
So, for the moment, I'm grieving. I'm incredibly proud, indescribably happy, and overwhelmingly numb. And this too, shall pass.
Soon, I'll move on to my next project (book 2 is around the corner y'all). But for now, here's to the blood, sweat, tears, late nights, anxious phone calls, complex outlines, exhausting edits, endless searches for synonyms, and complete and absolute love which made Summer Twilight what it is today.
Bridget is the author of Summer Twilight, available for purchase now!