Monday, November 28, 2016

This Time Last Year 3

If it wasn't obvious from the title, this marks the third year of my "This Time Last Year" series! If you're curious, these are the last two: 2015 and 2014.

Normally, I look forward to writing these posts. I enjoy thinking back over everything that has happened to me in the last year, comparing where I was to where I am. Marking progress is something that helps me a lot, because it's so easy to feel like we're stuck in a rut, even if we're not. It's simply difficult to notice change on a day-to-day basis over several months, or even a full year.

This year, I'm not looking forward to it, but probably not for the reason you think. 

I'm turning twenty-two. It seems a little surreal to think that. Why? Because this time last year, my eldest brother Michael had flown from Indiana to visit us here in Idaho. He'd done so every Thanksgiving or Christmas (alternating between his family and his girlfriend's), and he had always said he wanted to spend our twenty-first birthdays with us more than any other one. "Our" birthdays being my 25-year-old brother, me, my 18-year-old sister, and my 16-year-old sister. Here's a few pictures from my 21st last year, of which I have tons of fond memories. (I've never been a party person, so my family took me out for dinner and drinks.) 

Not pictured is my 25-year-old brother, because he doesn't like his picture being taken.
Being the middle child of five had always been a source of pride for me. I love my family, through thick and thin, and having two older brothers and two younger sisters had always been one of the best parts of it. And you may notice that I've been speaking in the past tense. That has to do with these tweets:

I hated being so silent on social media following the election of the soggy cheeto, but I couldn't help it. I was in a state of shock, and denial, and trying to keep it together so I could still go to class and meet my deadlines. Why? Because on November 8th, my brother Michael (the black-haired dude up top I'm totally not holding my battle ax over) was rushed to the ER after being found in his bathroom, passed out. By the time he was found, he had been without a pulse and oxygen for half an hour. His girlfriend performed CPR until the paramedics arrived. The paramedics had to restart his heart, which took longer than it should have. Then, he was rushed to the ER.

On November 9th, my mom flew out there to be with him and his girlfriend, as he'd been in a coma and had yet to wake up or respond to stimuli. When he didn't seem to be getting better, my mom began to fall apart (which, I'll be honest, is where I first began to really worry. My mom is one of the strongest women I know) so my dad flew out on the 10th to be with her.

On November 11th, my brother was declared legally dead. At thirty-two years old. He had signed up to be an organ donor, so the hospital was able to harvest several organs for people in desperate need of them. My brother had been a blood donor for as long as I can remember, as he has B- blood. He actually saved a little girl's life when he was able to donate his blood several times to help her fight cancer. So, I know he would be proud to have been able to give his organs to people in need, and the hospital even put this flag up in honor of him:

I don't think it's insensitive of me to say I'd rather have my brother than a flag.
Death is such a strange thing. I've lost people before (two of my grandparents died last year), as I'm sure many people have. I put the characters in my books through trials and tribulations, many times forcing them to have to let their friends and family go. Even so, it always seemed like such a distant thing. Death happens in books. It doesn't happen in real life. I remember joking to my sisters that this sounds like the start of a YA novel: my brother died, we don't know who killed him, time to drop everything and hunt his killer down.

And that's why I've been so absent lately. My eldest brother is dead. He never got to propose to his girlfriend (we found his notes on how he was going to ask her father for permission to marry her; she found the engagement ring in his bag after his death). He will never get to celebrate my sisters' twenty-first birthdays with us. It's those things that hit me the hardest: the things we will never have again. I won't hear his laughter outside of videos. We won't hear him call us by our nicknames (he loved giving us nicknames). He'll never be there to make goofy faces at us or tease us over what our sneezes sound like. When the rest of us have kids of our own, they will never get to meet their goofy, laughing uncle.

This time last year, my brother was alive.

# # # 

Of course, that is not the only thing to have occurred in the past year. My books and I are represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary, and I couldn't be happier with our team. I have new critique partners. I've mentored a new writer through Pitch Wars (if you're curious, check out her entry! I devoured her manuscript in a single day). I'm interning in the museum on campus, and by the time I graduate in Fall 2017 (I'm a senior, but decided to spread out my schedule over two more semesters) I'll have worked there for two years. I've read so many amazing books, met so many amazing people, and watched so many amazing things happen for my friends.

I've even written another book. I wanted to write three new ones in 2016, but this year has been ten kinds of crazy, so I'm lucky to have gotten even one in! Here's the Pinterest board for it if you're curious--and please ignore the title. That was a joke between me and a friend and I've yet to change it, though it's far from its actual title (but actually gives you a good idea of its content--for a YA book, anyway).

I pitch it as a mash-up of King Arthur and Mad Max: Fury Road if Mad Max had airships instead of cars. It also has a sprinkling of circuses, pirates, time travel, friendship explorations (forming and falling apart), and lots and lots of sand and stars and dragons. Hoo boy are there a lot of dragons. And I'm so proud of one aspect of it that I'd love to tell you about but I fear it's a little hard to describe out of context. I will say this, though: it's a fantasy world dripping with magic, so I decided to have fun and do whatever the hell I wanted.

This year has been hard, and stressful, and difficult. I've lost things and won things. I've done things and not done things. I've learned a lot and taught a lot. I've laughed and I've cried and everything in between. And if there is one thing that this year has taught me, it's that I'm a survivor. I know hardship, and I know that I can overcome it. Maybe not immediately, maybe not easily, but definitely.

So, as is often the case with my posts, I'll end with a piece of music. This song inspired so much of the manuscript I wrote this year, and fills me with life every time I hear it. I hope you enjoy, and I'll see you all in the new year!


xo,
Katie

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