Happy Birthday, Baby

This time last year my life was about to change in ways that I could hardly imagine. At twenty years old, my view of the world was still fairly naive and sheltered. I was lost. Bouncing from one place to another, without making much sense of life, I found myself constantly dizzy and unbalanced. I knew what I wanted, but I wasn’t sure how to get to where I needed to go. I had a complete manuscript, sitting on my desktop, just waiting to be discovered. I knew the odds, and I thought I knew the work that it would take to achieve my goal. I wasn’t sure that I would ever manage to reach my goal. That is, until I received the email of all emails.

It was a Saturday night, and I was helping my twin sister get ready for a date with the man who within a few months would become her husband. I was just as stressed as she was, both of us pacing around the house, searching for loose bobby pins and a missing tube of mascara. We danced around the house in a crazy attempt to calm down, which obviously, it only heightened the excitement and the tension. At that point, we were all unsure how things would end up, though we all secretly hoped that it would end positively. It worked out beautifully, and today, my sister and her husband are married six and a half months and as happy as can be. It was on that night that I watched my life split off entirely from my sisters, yet I had no idea which direction it would take.

Four days earlier, I had sent my manuscript for the fourth and final time, and the grief and stress of ‘what ifs’ were gnawing away at my stomach. I knew that rejection was part of the process, and that without it, I would never develop the thick skin I needed in order to succeed in this business (A year later, and I still have much to learn from the negative remarks and down right nasty words of reviewers and friends alike. But, that is a different story all together), but it didn’t help ease the unnerving feeling digging its way into my stomach. My AP Literature teacher once told me that he framed the first rejection he ever received, because that meant that it was a real writer. I am yet to hang the rejections and the negative feedback on my wall of shame, but I have learned a bit more about myself and the type of person I want to be with every piece of feedback I have received. Still, I had hope. During our first conversation, Barry, my editor, told me that it would take him at least six weeks to get back to me with an answer. As much as I tried to push the thoughts out of my head, I nervously checked my email six or seven hundred times a time, hoping to see some news.

In the midst of the chaos that took hold of my sister while she prepared for the date, I sat down at the computer to check my email. And there, in an inbox littered with rejections and spam from possibly every online magazine in the world, was an unread email, from Barry Sheinkopf. Positive feedback. Very positive feedback. I wasn’t sure how to react, and so I did the only logical thing I could think of doing at the time. I began to weep, with a mixture of overwhelming joy and unbelievable anxiety. My reaction went almost unnoticed, for a few moments later, my sister was rushing out the door for her date.

I left the room in the chaos it was in, and went upstairs, hoping that a cup of tea at the dining room table would ease my stress. A family friend was staying with us from out of town, and when I shared the news with her, she could not help but comment on the hint of devastation in my voice. ‘How am I going to do this?’ was what I repeated over and over again, until I broke into hysterical sobs. How was I going to let my sister go and form a life for myself was really what I was asking, but the mask of the book’s pending publication made the pain swell in size and intensity. My friend, thinking that I was speaking of the novel alone, told me that I was to keep my chin up high, and march through this like a soldier, and come out on the other side with a great accomplishment to add to my title. Leigh Hershkovich, the author. I had to admit, it had a nice ring to it. It would take a lot of hard work, ups and downs that I was not prepared for, but I would take hold of this challenge and own it, and come out on the other side a stronger, happier person.

Looking back on who I was at the beginning of this and looking at who I am now, less than four months to the publication date, I cannot help but laugh in shock. Who was this young, scared little girl, crying in the face of such fears? Apparently, that girl was me. I have become much stronger, more refined, and much, much happier than ever before. Through this process, I learned to stand up for myself, to open my mouth and voice my opinions. I learned how to have fun, and to stop sweating the small things, because the aren’t worth it. For the first six months of this process, my life was a juggling act. I was learning to disconnect from my sister, and at the same time, I was preparing to send my novel, my baby, into the world. I was learning that being happy wasn’t based on material things, that my life could not and would not be determined on the outcome or success of my novel. I realized that my life wouldn’t end at my sister’s chuppah, and that the day of publication would be the very opposite of Armageddon. Those things all took a lot of time, a lot of patience, and a lot of meditating. The strangest thing in all of this was that I actually allowed myself to change. I gave myself room and permission to grow into someone else entirely. The strangest things in life are often the most beautiful.

Putting myself out into the world as an author helped me meet so many new and wonderful friends, all of whom have aided me in my drive to succeed. But most importantly, it taught me to be thankful. I learned to see the good in everything, the positive spin on all types of strange occurrences. Life isn’t a straight path, and though this past year has been incredibly bumpy and at times, very difficult, I have reached the near path to the finish line with much more gratitude and a heart of happiness.

And so, on the occasion of this ‘birthday’ I wish you all the strength to find your true passion, and to cultivate it lovingly. Build your dreams up like a garden, give it all you’ve got, and in some time, you will find a blooming, beautiful garden in all its glory. It doesn’t matter what your passion is, it could really be anything, but find it, and build it to its highest potential.

With that, I would like to end off by thanking my family, friends and readers for joining me on this journey and sticking it out, even when the going got tough. You’ve grown with me, and your listening ears and eager eyes have made all the difference. Here’s to beautiful, meaningful living.