Five years ago I quit my job. It was the first time I had ever left one job without having another one lined up, and it still defines how I think about that summer. I had worked for more than seven years as an overqualified office manager at a nursery school, and when it came time to sign contracts to return in the fall, I didn’t sign a contract. My last paycheck came late in August of 2015 while I stared at the uncertainty of not knowing what came next.
I needed something to mark time while I looked for work. I needed a way to keep writing. And so five years ago, I started First of the Month.
What started as a monthly meditation on time, nostalgia and spiritual growth became a way to share stories, practice writing memories I had always wanted to write down, to make connections between where I had been and where I am now. I didn’t expect to have the loving audience that I’ve found; I didn’t expect to still be writing these five years later. At that moment in time, all I knew was uncertainty, and in that uncertainty I could try new things.
It’s been humbling to think about that touchstone of fear mixed with faith from five years ago. When everyone I knew went back to school, I spent the early fall applying for more than thirty jobs. I made money writing book reviews and summaries of math videos for a random educational website. I was filled with worry and fear that I had majorly screwed up by quitting my job. That October, I was about to take a part time job baking pies for $10 an hour when I was offered a job with a literary nonprofit, the job that spurred me along to where I am now.
Five years later and my life is radically different once more. As the summer winds down and the university I work for plans to open up, I’m struck once more with uncertainty. There’s a tremendous amount of anxiety in being asked to go back to the way things were, when it is obvious that our world is now forever altered. I’ll do what I did five years ago: I’ll keep writing and I’ll see what happens net.
Reading back over five years of monthly newsletters, I can see patterns, themes, weak spots, stories I want to give more depth to. It also shows me how a body of work emerges just one essay at a time. Thinking about the future of the First of the Month, I’m thinking about what other forms could live here - a serialized memoir; a case study of old photographs; a series of dispatches from this new, uncertain world of ours. If anything, I’m grateful to have this way of marking time, of greeting each new calendar month with the practice of writing, no matter how small. Most of all, I’m thankful to begin each month anew with all of you.
Here’s to five more years. <3
The first issue of First of the Month came out September 2015, so stay tuned for info about a special five year anniversary zine in next month’s newsletter <3
Thank you to everyone who is a First of the Month subscriber! Starting in September, the annual subscription will be $50/year or $5/month. Subscriptions allow me to focus more on writing and less on other things, but as always, First of the Month is free to read and enjoy!
August is #TheSealeyChallenge, which is reading 31 books or chapbooks of poetry in 31 days, started by the incredible poet Nicole Sealey. You can read more about it here. I’m taking the challenge this month, starting with Ada Limon’s Bright Dead Things (so good).
It has been 141 days since Breonna Taylor was killed by officers Jon Mattingly, Myles Cosgrove and Brett Hankinson in Louisville, KY. In the last 141 days there has not yet been justice for Breonna Taylor. Standwithbre.com has info about how you can help make calls to demand justice. Follow @BLMLouisville to support direct actions in Louisville to demand justice for Breonna Taylor, including donating to the Louisville Community Bail Fund.