My 2017 in review

fireworks

As I type this, it’s just after 9pm on New Year’s Eve. There are plenty of places I could be, but I opted to go out to dinner with my family, then head home for a quiet one. New Year’s Eve often brings back unpleasant memories for me, and while I’m sometimes able to brave the hoards of drunken revellers and have a good time in spite of those memories, part of effective self-care is knowing when it might be too overwhelming to handle. This year was one of those times.

Nevertheless, 2017 wasn’t actually that bad for me now that I think about it.

Writing highlights

In February, my short story “Aiden’s Flowers” was published in Issue 1 of Flash Fiction Magazine. It’s now available from Amazon in both eBook and print. You can buy Issue 1 alone or get the book bundle featuring Issues 1, 2 and 3. If you do purchase a copy, it would be awesome if you could also take the time to leave a short, honest review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. 🙂 (You don’t have to, obviously… it would just be a nice thing to do for everyone involved in the publication.)

I wrote four theatre reviews and one film review for Perth Walkabout over the course of the year:

Between my various commitments, I didn’t end up pitching my first manuscript (I didn’t want to half-arse my pitch to an agent or publisher) or working on the second as much as I wanted to, but hopefully I’ll pull my finger out in 2018.

Personal milestones

I finished my Diploma of Library and Information Services in 2017, which means I’m now qualified to be a library technician.

In July, I had a four-hour tattoo session on my ribs to get a black and grey koi fish and some coloured cherry blossoms down my side. It was probably my most painful tattoo, but only by a little; it wasn’t unbearable or anything like that. However, it’ll probably be my last for a while because I want to start donating blood next year, and you can’t if you’ve been tattooed in the last six months.

I sang Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” in front of a live audience in October, which was my first ever non-karaoke performance but hopefully not my last. I was very scared. But on reflection, I think it’s less scary than public speaking and not that much scarier than regular speaking. 😛 (Your mileage my vary, of course. I also practised the hell out of that one song so I knew on some level that I was prepared.)

In November, I attended the Perth premiere of The Disaster Artist and met Greg Sestero. For the unitiated, there’s a movie called The Room, which has been dubbed “the best worst movie ever made” and “the Citizen Kane of bad movies” but has attracted a cult following around the world. Greg, who played Mark in The Room, wrote a book called The Disaster Artist about the making of this infamous movie, as well as his friendship with its mysterious star/director/writer/producer Tommy Wiseau, and their struggles to make it in Hollywood. The Disaster Artist book has now been made into a movie starring James and Dave Franco; James Franco also directed it.

I also reaffirmed my commitment to teetotalism. I’ve never been a big drinker, but I’ve gone through phases where I’d have one or two when I went out with friends. I’ve now cut back to zero and intend to keep it that way. I’m trying to be healthier in general, and while my sugar binges are probably more of an issue than the occasional drink, not drinking alcohol is easy for me, so it made sense to start there. The only reason I ever drank was to fit in, and I no longer care what people think because I no longer care about people.

(Just kidding. I threw that in there to hopefully get a laugh out of anyone who might actually be reading this. 😉 But seriously, your life gets so much better if you’re able to let go of the constant need for others’ approval.)

Other highlights

Other highlights (for me, anyway) of 2017 include:

  • The release of the polarising latest instalment of the Star Wars saga, The Last Jedi. I liked it, but I’m still trying to figure out where it ranks for me.
  • The release of the similarly polarising Star Trek: Discovery, the first Trek TV series since Enterprise was cancelled in 2005. I wish they hadn’t completely redesigned the Klingons for no discernible reason (unless it gets explained when the new episodes premiere in 2018?) but overall, I’m enjoying it.
  • Seeing some awesome concerts, including Bruce Springsteen (for the 7th, 8th and 9th times) and my favourite Aussie band, 1927 (for the 17th, 18th and 19th times).
  • My friends (and others) in same-sex relationships finally being able to have legally recognised marriages in Australia. (But it came with a lot of vilification and heartache.)

So all in all, a pretty good year for me personally, but I know it was awful for many others. It’s now almost 11pm, so here’s to a happy 2018. I’ll see in the new year with this song by one of my favourite bands…

New Year’s Day – Bon Jovi:

Wearing my heart on my sleeve

Stack of books, rose, ink pot and quill tattoo by Dayne

I say words to this effect a lot, but I’ve been pretty poor with my blogging commitments lately. Although I have been ghostwriting blog posts for clients, so it hasn’t been a complete productivity fail.

In terms of my actual writing, I’ve mainly been trying to get my novel ready for submission. I made some significant structural changes in my most recent redraft, but I think it’s now a lot stronger than it was before.

Last week, I also added a new tattoo to my collection — this one is for my love of reading and writing.

It’s actually a cover-up of an older tattoo; I can still see the original but I don’t care because I love this one. Which is good, seeing as it’s the most visible of my six tattoos (The others are almost always hidden under clothing or jewellery).

I may need to wear long sleeves to cover it when I’m looking for work. I’m studying to be a library technician, and I personally think having a stack of books permanently inked onto your wrist is a mark of dedication to the job, but I know not everyone would agree with me. 😛

Talking about self-harm and self-injury #SIAD

Snapchat: leeannkhoh

A little over a year ago — in the lead-up to Self-Injury Awareness Day (March 1) — I wrote a blog post called Breaking the silence on self-injury.

My orange ribbon tattooIn February this year, I was asked by some of my classmates about the meaning of the orange awareness ribbon tattooed on my wrist. It was the first time anyone had ever asked me what it meant in the 14 months I’ve had it.

It was an opportunity to actually break the silence, instead of just writing about it.

I only had a few seconds to decide whether or not to tell the truth. When I first got the tattoo, one of the appeals of it was the fact that the orange ribbon represents several different causes, and I could decide later if I was comfortable with telling people what it meant. I could’ve said my tattoo was for Harmony Day — after all, I love its message of cultural diversity and inclusion. It’s a very worthy cause. But it’s not the cause I got inked on my wrist.

So, I told the truth: That my tattoo was for self-harm and self-injury awareness.

It’s a topic that tends to make people uncomfortable, and I get terribly anxious over uncomfortable situations. But I’m also a writer. I’m writing a novel about someone who engages in deliberate self-injury as a coping mechanism. And that comes with responsibilities that I don’t take lightly.

Here, I had an opportunity to speak up. An opportunity that had been fortuitously dangled in front of me. And not taking that opportunity — after I’d promised to myself and the world that I’d break the silence on self-injury — might have been my way of reinforcing its stigma.

The stigma of self-injury ultimately discourages people to seek help, because they feel like they’re all alone, doing something shameful that no one can ever know about. It’ll be a long time before I see my novel in print, and in the meantime, the least I can do is play my part in ensuring self-harm becomes an okay thing to talk about it.

For what it’s worth, when I told my classmates why I got my tattoo, they demonstrated empathy and didn’t freak out at all. Obviously, not everyone in the world will react in a positive way, but I shouldn’t necessarily assume that all people will react badly.

Anyway, that’s all I really wanted to say today… I didn’t manage to blog for all of February (even though I had an extra day to do it) but hopefully I’ll get some posts done in March. I’m now a full-time student again after five years away from the classroom, which has taken some getting used to. But I’m enjoying the course and the new routine. And I think my time management has improved (albeit through sheer necessity, since I’m continuing to do work for clients and revise my manuscript).

P.S. LifeSIGNS is my favourite resource on self-injury. Whether you self-injure, are trying to help someone who does, or just want to know more about it, there’s some really good information on their website.