Eight years ago I skipped college graduation because I was determined to move to New York and become a writer. I was so naïve, so lonely, when I first arrived to Manhattan I remember sitting on the steps of the New York Public Library when a man came up to me and complimented me on my beautiful hair. One thing I know is that while I have some qualities, my hair is not one of them. It’s thin and usually dry and stringy and copper colored from the highlights that were once blonde. But this was New York and maybe someone was seeing something I couldn’t. And besides, why would someone say something that wasn’t true?
So I entertained the nice man and he went on to tell me that he owned a salon that only specialized in ‘beautiful women with beautiful hair’ and did I want an appointment? I did need a haircut, and he was so complimentary, so I told him sure. He then told me that the salon was extremely exclusive and you had to book and pay for your appointment in advance. ‘Kind of like a guarantee,’ he said, holding out a credit card machine.’ ‘Well,’ I said, becoming suspicious, ‘I need to look at my calendar.’
‘No problem,’ he said, just pick a date. So I picked one and he said they were open and so I gave him my credit card and he gave me a business card with a number for the salon and I walked away happy. Only when I looked at the card there was no address, just a number, so I figured this was some exclusive New York thing and I would have to call the number to get the address to get to my appointment. Only when I called a few minutes later the number was disconnected.
Years later, when I’d walk through Times Square or Bryant Park or Union Square and men with clipboards and credit card machines would come up and scream, ‘You have beautiful hair!’ I know to scream, ‘Not falling for it!’ But I didn’t know those things then.
All I knew back then was I wanted to write and if I could just get to New York, I’d figure it out. And when you throw yourself in the deep end like that, a fire, an energy, a fearlessness inhabits your body and eventually that fearlessness landed me a job writing fart jokes at a kids magazine. The only catch was the job was unpaid. But I’d saved up enough babysitting and Christmas money to believe it was worth it for the experience and in four weeks, when the money was almost out, I’d find a paying job.
Four weeks later I still hadn’t found a paying writing job so I found myself walking in and out of restaurants in midtown, looking for a waitressing position to hold me over. In between the hunt I went into a coffee shop. The only thing I could afford was a hot tea. But in this coffee shop I met Marco, who worked at a new website that needed writers. He could pay me $400 a week.
$1600 a month was just enough to keep me in New York and the dream alive. So I showed up the next day to a basement office with ten other dreamers like me, willing to work hard and write.
Three years and 1,200 articles later, the website and now two hundred of us, sold to a bigger, more legitimate newspaper and after all those mornings of waking up at five a.m., writing things I didn’t want to write, seemed worth it. I was verified on Twitter. I had friends. I had respect of colleagues. I had met the love of my life. I had a boyfriend. A real, grown-up relationship and we were moving in together. I had everything I wanted when I was young and dreamed about life in New York. Only, for some unknown reason, I was miserable.
Maybe miserable isn’t the right word for it. Agitated. Irritated. Sensitive. Whatever it was, I was not the woman I thought I would be. Somewhere along the line I’d lost myself. My joy. My spontaneity. My joie de vivre. I was no longer that carefree girl who arrived off the bus. Happy to be there. Happy to do anything. Happy to just have her life in front of her.
You don’t notice something until you start living with someone. I mean, really notice. When I moved in with Jay, my life, my quirks, my way of being was magnetized. Something was always wrong. Or I was always stressed. When I was happy, I felt like myself again, and I could tell Jay felt it too. But it never lasted long. A few days later something would happen and I’d be in a funk again. The subway commute. My new boss. The plane delay on our first trip together.
So I started drinking. A lot. And on one of these nights, alone in a bar, I met a woman. A beautiful stranger who changed the course of my life.
She wasn’t beautiful in a traditional New York, supermodel way. I don’t even remember what her face looked like. All I remember is that I couldn’t stop wanting to catch a glimpse of her. She had what people describe as ‘an aura’. She was one of those women you pass on the street and momentarily transplant your consciousness to and imagine going home to their world. Their beautiful house. Their handsome husband. Their perfect life. I bet she never feels like this, I thought. I bet she goes home to her boyfriend and lovingly asks how his day was, gliding through the apartment, unfazed by the work emails pinging on her phone. I bet she lets things go with ease. Comments, texts, thoughts rolling off her like drops of water.
After two drinks, we had gotten to know each other in this dimly lit bar and she started asking more personal questions. Like where I’d met my boyfriend. What my favorite book was. And why I was drinking two double whiskeys on a Monday night alone in a bar. She told me she was treating herself to a celebratory cocktail after closing a client. I took another sip and told her I was avoiding going home. That I just wasn’t feeling like myself. I told her it was too difficult to explain. When she asked me to “just try,” I couldn’t hold it in anymore. Maybe I could try to explain it to myself. So I told her how the past few years I’d gotten everything I wanted—an apartment, a partner, a career in New York—yet I couldn’t stay happy about it. How no matter how hard I tried, I kept breaking down, lashing out, ruining things. How it felt like the older I got, the less control I had over myself. How I was angry even when there was nothing to be angry about. Stressed even when I didn’t need to be stressed. Annoyed, irritable and tense even though life was good. And I had no idea why.
When I’d finished, my drink untouched, hers half-gone, she was just sitting there, looking at me. My mind began to race. Did she think I was crazy? Had I shared too much? Was I scaring her?
“You feel it too,” she finally said.
“Feel what?” I asked.
Is that what these were? These feelings I couldn’t shake? These moments of tension, sensitivity, and despair? She didn’t tell me I was stressed. Didn’t tell me I needed a new boyfriend or a new job. She didn’t tell me I was crazy. She had what I had. She felt it too.
I have moods. It was declaration more than hypothesis. I didn’t care if what she said was right or wrong. Didn’t care if she was crazy, if I’d just happened to catch her on a good day. It wasn’t about her. It was about what she represented. Hope. Possibility. Change. There was something to measure. Something to observe, alter, and control. Walking out of the bar, dizzy from the whiskey and the revelation, I decided, then and there, that I would dedicate myself to figuring out these moods that ran through me.
The most liberating part of our conversation was learning there were other women who felt how I felt. And that was the first thing that made me feel better. The first part of the healing process. So I went home and started Words of Women. It was supposed to be a place to put down everything I was finding. Any words that helped me. Any funny stories that soothed me, made me feel less alone. I started the newsletter to write about moments that caused moods, and things I found that helped alleviate them. Science. Philosophy. Psychology. Hollywood trivia. It was all for the good of the mood. Of finding something to help.
After a few years I started thinking how this journey should really be recorded. An account of one woman’s journey through every bad mood, every awkward encounter, every uncomfortable feeling, and the things (quotes, phrases, psychology) that helped me through it. It could be called The Book of Moods.
There it was. The book I needed to write. Of course, I couldn’t get an agent. And without an agent I couldn’t get a publisher. Fuck it, I thought. I’ll just self-publish.
So years went by. Writing, blogging, analyzing, quoting. Years where I forgot about finding an agent and a publisher, and just wrote. Just researched. Just threw myself into this experiment. And then, an agent came to me. She came to me through a Words of Women follower actually. Someone who knew an agent, liked my writing and liked what I was doing.
And once I had that agent, I had a publisher. Not right away, of course. Four out of the five big publishing houses rejected me. The last morning of the last meeting, I woke up and cried. Jay rubbed my back and told me to just go to the meeting and regroup from there. So I put on Frank Sinatra’s ‘That’s Life’ (I’ve been up and down and over and out, and I know one thing…Each time I find myself flat on my face…I pick myself up and get back in the race) on repeat all the way to midtown where I had my last meeting with the last publishing house. And they, in that last meeting, said yes. They would publish it.
So I guess this is my official announcement. After four years, countless bottles of wine, hundreds of stories and quotes and personal anecdotes, I’m excited to share something I’ve been working on all this time. This December will be the launch of my first book, entitled The Book of Moods: How I Turned My Worst Emotions to My Best Life.
It’s a book filled with rich anecdotes and personal stories that take you down every bad day I’ve ever had. Every trigger – aggressive email from a boss, weird comment from a friend, anxious thought about my future. Every feeling – loneliness, stress, anxiety, depletion. And how I learned to not just handle it, but transform it. Sail through it. A subtle mix between self-help and personal narration that I can honestly say has changed my life.
Of course I am still moody, and at times I feel lonely and annoyed, but those feelings only last for a few seconds. I am still emotional, because I always will be, but now I’m in control. I have learned to latch onto the stories and phrases and mantras in the book, and Words of Women, and it’s changed not just how I respond, but the energy I transmit. And since changing my energy, my moods, everything around me has changed. The world is lighter because I’m lighter. Things and people come to me. Opportunities and work. My relationship with my parents is better. Neighbors come over.
As a reader, I never understood pre-orders, but as an author, I now understand why they’re important. They tell the publishers how many copies to print, and the stores how many to order. It’s hard to get attention as a first time author and pre-orders give us that backing we need. But whether you decide to order or not, I want to thank you for being on this journey with me. It’s not ending, just starting a new phase, and I hope you’ll be there with me.
Good moods created a radiance, a magnetism, an aura that attracted people with the same strength and propensity that bad moods repelled. I found that life really is better when you’re in a good mood. – Lauren Martin, The Book of Moods