Privacy online

Privacy online

Privacy online for authors (and ordinary entities)

Online privacy sometimes seems a bit like the Fountain of Youth: everyone wants a piece, and no-one really knows how to get there because it’s at least partly alchemy.

Not so.

We’re coming up on Data Privacy Day, so here are a few really-to-relatively simple things you can do, as an absolutely standard-model human being, optionally one who writes, to improve your online privacy without doing anything drastic, like trying to delete your online footprint. No mermaid tears required.

Disclosure: Who died and elected me privacy god? I work in data privacy and compliance, BUT nothing I say here represents the company I work for.

The concept of TANSTAAFL, first

For them as haven’t read their Heinlein, I’m going to introduce you to a really key concept around ‘free’ services (online or anywhere else).

That concept is TANSTAAFL (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch). Facebook is not free. Facebook is suctioning up your data and selling to anyone who’ll pay. That airport ‘free’ WiFi is not free for broadly similar reasons.

‘Free’ apps that promise to give you marvelous selfie filters and want access to your location, your contacts, and everything else? Nope! They’re not free either. You’re just paying them in data – yours, and if you give them access to that coveted Contacts list, your friends’ data, as well.

Get a VPN

Yes, really. A VPN (virtual private network) basically gives data moving to and from your device Star Trek shields as far as the unauthorised are concerned. It’s the go-to for some additional privacy online.

In slightly more technical terms, it encrypts your data. It slows data transmission down slightly, which is why people with slow Internet to begin with aren’t huge converts to VPN, but it means that no one can see what you’re up to. This is especially worth it in situations like mobile phones and those oh-so-tempting ‘free’ WiFis in cafes and airports. Put a VPN from a reputable provider on your cell phone. Put it on your home computer. Put it on your tablet.

Techradar’s Top 10 VPN services (I personally disagree with the inclusion of NordVPN, which had a breach a few months back, but I guess there’s nothing like publicly-bitten, really paranoid thereafter…)

You don’t have to give up Netflix or Fitbit. Better VPNs work with Netflix, and if you don’t want to shell out but do want Netflix, you can take the dumb-but-practical route and switch the thing off while you binge on The Witcher. Fitbit throws the occasional shit-fit about VPNs, but switching regions is a simple fix that takes all of a few seconds.

Use Multi-factor Authentication

Also known as two-factor authentication, 2FA, MFA…just for the love of all the squishy, squirmy deities, DO NOT use the text message option for 2FA unless there really is nothing else. (Reason: SIM card jacking, among others.)

Basically, humans are fallible. If you can remember a password, someone else can break it. If you happen to be dumb enough to use login: admin, password: admin, you end up shelling out billions in ‘we fucked up’ money. Multi-factor auth means that someone needs your login, your password, AND something else (that’s where that ‘multi’ comes in).

MFA comes in many forms. You can use an app on your phone, like Google Authenticator. You can buy a physical key, like a Yubikey. Your fingerprint can form a part of MFA. It can, gods help us all, be a text message with a code in it.

Because MFA is an extra step in the login process, a lot of people moan about it. Feel free to moan all you want, just use it. Use the method that makes the most sense for you, that takes the least time and effort (for me, that’s my phone and Google Auth. For you, it may be a Yubikey on your keyring. Whatever blows your skirt up).

Get a password manager

You remember how, just up above, I said humans are fallible, and if you can remember it, someone else can break it? Yeah, that. Well, newsflash, that 123qwerty password isn’t secure. Keeping your super-hard-to-remember password on a Post-It under your keyboard isn’t secure. Keeping an Excel sheet on your desktop with your logins and passwords isn’t secure. Setting all your favourite shopping sites to keep you logged in until the world ends, no, is not secure.

But remembering all those symbols and numbers and upper and lower case passwords is hard! Yes, it is. Sometimes adulting sucks. Sometimes, you can find a really easy easy way around the suckage. Password managers are suck-avoidance. A lot also offer a ‘free’ option. (Yes, I do remember what I said about TANSTAAFL.)

PC Mag’s Top 10 Password managers for 2020

A semi-decent variant, like LastPass, will plug into your browser of choice, have an app, let you add logins and passwords, auto-launch sites for you, generate secure passwords, and auto-update your settings when you change a password.

A password manager, effectively, means you need one decent password that you put the brain sweat into remembering, and use MFA with it, and the password manager manages all the rest of them. Awesome, right?

Don’t auto-accept cookies

…most places in the first world, with the exception of the USA, have laws that say you aren’t obliged to. Large companies, for the most part, aren’t big fans of those laws, which is why when you go hunting in ‘select options’ in cookie banners (assuming there even is an option to select or decline), you’ll often have to dig down to find the options, or decline with each third party site individually. (Hint: a lot of those companies will have hidden any options they offer equally thoroughly.)

WTF are cookies anyway? Cookies are tiny files (we’re talking bytes here, not MB), that a site drops on your device. Some of them are harmless, the equivalent of ‘we want to remember you prefer the French-language site so you don’t have to tell us every time’. Some of them sit there and do nasty things like tell every other site you land on where you’ve been, what you did, what you’re interested in buying today (ever wondered how you can look at a new kitchen whisk on Amazon and get hit with adverts for domestic appliances everywhere for the next six months? That ain’t alchemy either).

So now we’ve covered why companies aren’t keen on laws that say they shouldn’t track you and market shit to you without your actual consent…how do you exercise those anti-cookie rights? Well, unfortunately, cookies are such an established part of the internet that in a lot of cases, and especially if you deal with a lot of US sites outside California, the answer is ‘you can’t’. In the EEA, companies are obliged to provide you specific information about what cookies they want to place and get your active, specific, and informed consent to any marketing cookies. A lot of them don’t, either because they’re trying to figure out how, can’t afford a good solution, or just don’t want to and hope they don’t get a DPA land on them before they get set up.

Three simple things you can do that will help:

  1. Use incognito browsing. You’ll encounter a lot of shrieking from sites that can’t identify you on sight, but that can be educational too.
  2. Delete your cookies periodically (say, at least once a week, if you can’t be bothered to do it after each online session. There’s security consciousness and there’s masochism…)
  3. There’s a browser app called Consent-O-Matic developed by a team of privacy researchers in Denmark (after they found out all about the shadier cookie practices out there), where you install it, tell it you want to let people see which pages you spend time on and don’t want to be tracked by online advertisers for the rest of your life, (for example) and when it comes across a cookie tool it can handshake with, it sets those options for you. I recommend it.

That’s all, folks…

So, hopefully I’ve now scared the shit out of you and you’re off to investigate the wonderful options for trying to keep people from peering through your online windows. It’s a brave new world.

The good news is, 107 of the world’s 210(ish) officially recognised countries already have some form of privacy law in place as of 2019, and more are looking into one, so things are improving. We’re just in that lovely Twilight Zone where legislators take a couple of years to consult, draft, and pass laws protecting you, and a good hacker team can get into a system in under 18 minutes (yes, that’s minutes, with an ‘m’.)

In case after reading all that you feel in need a good, solid dose of escapism (here’s the TANSTAAFL in action part) – my sci-fi box set is on Kindle Unlimited, featuring interstellar mercenary cults, pretzel politics, and enough dirty fighting to bring a tear to your eye. Fund a starving author to write more escapism.

J I Rogers, Galaxy of Authors

J I Rogers, Galaxy of Authors

J. I. Rogers

‘If you don’t like what you’re reading then write something that you’d want to.’

Buy the books!

In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

I can’t remember a time where I didn’t have concepts for stories; as an artist, it’s difficult not to create them while you’re working on a project. I did my first concept art for “The Korpes File Series” in 1985 as I was thinking about heading off to art school in Vancouver. I did, I took film animation (pre-CGI) at Emily Carr College of Art and Design but didn’t complete the degree. I spent the next couple of decades working, raising a family, doing the sci-fi and fantasy convention circuit as an artist, and running ‘pencil and paper’ role-playing games for my friends.

When I moved back to the small town my parents live in my gaming outlet ended, and the voices in my head got bored.

In 2012 I did a bit of world-building / concept art for a game designing friend of mine, and everything fell into place. Two weeks after that project concluded I signed up for NaNoWriMo, and I haven’t stopped since.

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

I read many genres, and as an artist, I appreciate a lot of styles. Indie or traditionally published?

Traditionally published: Jaime Hernandez, H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffery, Orson Scott Card, D. C. Montana, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. J. Cherryh, R. A. MacAvoy, Arthur Conan Doyle, Iain Banks, William Gibson, Spider Robinson, Neil Gaiman, Mercedes Lackey, George Orwell, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Barbara Hambly.

Indie: I plan to publish a list of indie authors that have influenced me on my website later this year – and give them some well-deserved recognition. Releasing names now would act as a spoiler.

Tell me about your series.

“Genetic throwback seeks kindred souls for illegal antics that will‘transform’ the existing corporatocracy; voices in my head need not apply.” ~ Nash X. Korpes

The closest definition I could come up with for “The Korpes File Series” would be that it’s a blend of dystopian and science fiction elements. There’s a healthy dollop of space opera mixed in as well; I’m a fan of character-driven plot. Summing it up, the story is set against a dystopian sci-fi backdrop, and told from multiple point-of-views, and centers around the main character’s experiences as a genetic anomaly. The protagonists and antagonists each offer clues that ultimately reveal the dark machinations behind the scenes. It contains everything from Aliens hiding in plain sight to a toxic, sentient Jungle that’s inexorably encroaching on the known world.

The Korpes File – Book 1

“It’s dangerous to be Diasporan, and Technician Nash Korpes knows this only too well. As a ‘throwback’ he was coveted by the shadowy Korlune Military Research and Development for his genetics, and he’s spent more time in Med-Bays than he has at work. When he’s torn from those he loves by an act of war he seeks to make sense of it all and uncovers a nemesis that threatens them all.”

The Korpes Agenda – Book 2

“Something dark is stirring in Korlune, and there’s only one person who sees it; brilliant, but haunted, Master-Tech Nash Korpes. Freshly escaped from the clutches of Korlune Military Research and Development he finds safety within the ranks of tech giant Harlo-Fyre. As the line between friend and foe blurs and friction between Korlune’s military factions reach boiling point, Nash is forced to act.”

I’ve just started work on the final draft of book three.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Seven, but there are more flitting around in the belfry. There are currently ten planned for the world of Tamyrh.

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

I don’t believe in either banning or burning books. I prefer having the option to read or not read work based on my personal assessment as opposed to having it decided for me by a government or a mob, and I believe that others should enjoy that same right. I trust my moral and ethical judgment. Enlightenment comes in many forms, and even the worst books can serve as a caution, lest we forget where we’ve been and what we’re capable of. Our fiction is just as valuable as a time-capsule of an era and should be treated as such.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

I went the indie route after researching my options.

My why is simple; I have plans for my work and wish to maintain creative control. There was a time when traditional publishing was the only course outside of vanity presses, but that’s changed. Social media, the ability to create personal websites and use POD services that are credible have placed a lot of power in the hands of the authors.

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

I absolutely agree. Read multiple genres, traditionally and independently published work, comics/graphic novels, go attend plays and watch a plethora of movies (I suggest International films as well as classics). All of it is fuel for the Muse.

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

Worst: Waiting for reviews.
Best: Writing something that someone else loves as much as you do.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

I am both. The overarching plot has been set, certain key events are set, but what the protagonists and antagonists do in their free time is somewhat fluid.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Oh yes. My beta-readers and Patrons all have things to look for.

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

I’m a professional artist, and my Muse happens to love mythological, sci-fi, and fantasy themes. I explore them through illustration, sculpture, and painting.

What are you writing at the moment?

Two more interviews and book three “The Korpes <insert an appropriate word here>” are the other open Word documents on my laptop right now.

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

“You’re an author? Who reps you? Oh… You’re self-published? How cute. You’re not a ‘real author’ though, it’s just a hobby.” ~ Something someone has actually said to me.

I’ve encountered a few ‘unreadable’ books by those that hold they can produce a finished product in one draft, but they are not the majority. Everyone has had to up their game with the rise of the ‘indie author’, and I can’t honestly say I know an unprofessional author.

There’s still a snobbery surrounding being traditionally published, but that’s losing its shine as the advantages once offered are dwindling. Now we can access the services of professional editors, formatting software, and cover designers. Social media has made it easier to create and maintain a fanbase. What about the glamour of being offered a book deal and an advance? For myself, I’m not certain money would mollify the control freak in me regarding my current project… Perhaps the next? 😊

What is your favorite genre to write, and why?

My Muse is happy writing science fiction right now – probably because my office walls are covered in maps and sketches, and my laptop is filled with story ideas based in my world.

If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?

If I were to there would be caveats, so I guess I’d have to say no. Why? The water is caustic, the jungle is toxic (and sentient), and humanoids require special equipment to survive for longer than a couple of days ‘topside’.

In the Northern country of Korlune, if you aren’t Korlo, you’re Diasporan (refugee) and a second-class citizen. While the Korlo inhabit the larger more modern cluster cities and have access to the best of everything, the Diasporan do not. They live in the rundown stations and mini-cities the Korlo set aside. Trains connect all of the population centers via an elaborate tunnel network, though airborne transports fly between cities.

The Southern country of Ankoresh is on a high desert plateau and receives almost no rain, but sandstorms are a problem. Though they are not as technologically advanced as the Korlo, they have greater numbers and a fine martial tradition. The Ankor and Diasporan populations are more integrated and while things appear better on the surface, underneath there are still elements that still resent the refugees… even after a couple hundred years.

If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

Keep your metadata consistent across all platforms!

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

I create soundtracks for writing, and I’ve found downtempo psybient electronica, industrial, and angsty bands from the late 90s and early 2000s inspire my dystopian Muse.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I was surprised and delighted to learn that people like my work.

Tell me three unique things about you.

– I lived in Kenya and Tanzania for a total of six years.
– I’m ambidextrous.
– I’m a bit OCD when it comes to clover patches and find a lot of four-leaf clovers as a result; I suspect I’m an honorary Leprechaun at this point.

J. I., thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

Indie author: it means we do all the hard shit as well

Indie author: it means we do all the hard shit as well

Indie author versus traditional publishing

I’m honestly not certain which annoys me more some days: the traditional publishing industry, busily running down indie authors and anything they produce and making noise about how they’re the gatekeepers of publishing (otherwise pronounced those that ensure that very little that’s actually new gets published), or on the other side of the coin the (fortunately rare) indie author stating loudly that just because they can’t edit and drew their cover art in MS Paint, it’s still, to nick a Pinocchio line, ‘a real book!’

Yes, I annoy really easily. 

So here’s the thing, publishing princesses and buttercups: suck it right the duck up. (Dear auto-correct: it really never is ‘duck’.)

Trad publishing is a great way to go if you have the time and stamina to send out fifty to hundreds of letters, teasers, synopses, and pitches to agents, publishers, and every stripe in between, and then let someone tell you how to write your story and all future stories (and when to stop writing them) for what adds up to about 5% of the actual profits on the book while you still mostly end up doing your own marketing.

Indie publishing is a great way to go if you happen to be able to write a story, edit the shit out of it (and please, get that part right, or pay someone competent to), figure out either how to make a professional-looking cover or research how to get a reliable and affordable professional to do it for you, and then figure out how to get the whole written, edited, and covered shebang out in front of the public – because you are still going to have to market that shit. Oh yes.

The hard truths

Trad publishing is not a free ride once you sign on the dotted line. A lot more regimented and much better connections, but at the same time your agency in your own book goes way down, and what’s more, if your Precious doesn’t sell sufficiently well, your publisher can choose to yeet that thing off shelves so fast your head will spin.

Indie publishing, and once more REALLY LOUDLY for those in the back – indie publishing is not a great excuse for putting a shit product out there because you didn’t pay attention to where the commas went in school. Indie publishing is where you get all the agency in your own book – and that means if you put a shoddily-edited, badly-covered, indifferently-paced compost heap up on Amazon, you have no one else to point the finger at. That brown smear down your ass was all, completely, start to finish, you.

So, trad people – congratulations, I look forwards to seeing your stuff when I get time to do something I enjoy and browse through a bookstore. If it’s badly paced, the tenth take on the same story I’ve read this year, or there are still editing mistakes in there, after pro dev, copy, and line editing, I am going to call that out come review time.

Indies, being an indie author is not a free ride. Independence, which is what the ‘indie’ in our name comes from, doesn’t mean you get to put a stinking pile out there and then stand on your soapbox and wail about how editing is hard and your book is still just as good as those where people put the actual brain sweat in. Independence means that your end product will reflect exactly how much effort you, and only you, were willing to put into it.

I’ve read some excellent trad books. But, and here’s the but, folks of both stripes – I have read equally well-written, equally well-edited, equally well-presented indie books. It’s possible. And from me, at least, the latter case gets more respect, because that indie author didn’t have a full publishing company corralling their plot holes, trimming their dialogue tags, and making sure they had a cover that might attract eyes-on. That indie author had to do all the legwork themselves, and either learn how to do everything themselves or do research and hoard money to pay other people to do that good a job on their work.

Do I think I’m perfect? Hell no, I do not. I read stuff I think is better than mine from both indie and trad folks on a regular basis. However, I also read much worse from both. I don’t think I’m some kind of ‘artiste, darling!’ because I didn’t jump on the trad wagon when I had the chance. I don’t think choosing to go indie gives me a good excuse not to hold my books to the highest standard I can. 

Available for pre-order: The Gaia Solution

Available for pre-order: The Gaia Solution

The Gaia Solution releases 8th November!

I’m always happy to have a friend’s book to boost, and today I’m excited to find out more about the next and final book in Claire Buss’s dystopian trilogy, The Gaia Solution, which is coming out as e-book and paperback on Amazon next month. This series has already proven to be solidly popular with readers, up to and including a Raven Award for the first book, The Gaia Effect, in 2017, and The Gaia Solution looks set to continue the trend.

So, without further ado…

The Blurb

Kira, Jed and their friends have fled New Corporation and joined the Resistance, but their relief is short-lived as they discover how decimated the human race has become and learn of an environmental crisis that threatens to destroy their existence. Kira and Jed must travel up the mountain to the New Corporation stronghold, City 50, to bargain for sanctuary while Martha and Dina risk everything to return to City 42 and save those who are left. With the last of her reserves Gaia, the fading spirit of the Earth, uses her remaining influence to guide Kira and her friends but ultimately, it’s up to humanity to make the right choice.

More about The Gaia Collection series

The Gaia Collection is Claire’s hopeful dystopian trilogy, set 200 years in the future after much of the planet and the human race have been decimated during The Event, when the world went to war with high-energy radiation weapons. In The Gaia Effect, Kira and Jed Jenkins – a young couple who were recently allocated a child – together with their closest friends, discover Corporation have been deliberately lying to them and forcing them to remain sterile. With help from Gaia, the spirit of the Earth, the group of friends begin to fight back against Corporation eventually winning and taking over the governance of City 42.

In The Gaia Project, Corporation fight back under a new, more terrifying organization called New Corp and Kira, Jed and their friends end up fleeing for their lives trying to find a safe place to live. They travel to City 36 and City 9 in vain and must go further afield.

In the final book, The Gaia Solution, the main characters have ended up with the Resistance and not only do they have to deal with surviving against New Corp but an extinction environmental event is looming on the horizon and they’re running out of time to save what’s left of the human race.

About the Author

Claire Buss is a multi-genre author and poet based in the UK. She wanted to be Lois Lane when she grew up but work experience at her local paper was eye-opening. Instead, Claire went on to work in a variety of admin roles for over a decade but never felt quite at home. An avid reader, baker and Pinterest addict Claire won second place in the Barking and Dagenham Pen to Print writing competition in 2015 with her debut novel, The Gaia Effect, setting her writing career in motion. She continues to write passionately and is hopelessly addicted to cake.

I was also lucky enough to have Claire over for an interview a little while ago, and she confessed to me that she usually has multiple writing projects on the go, so fans shouldn’t be concerned about the series finale: I’m pretty sure there’s lots more coming soon from this author.

You can confirm that with Claire in person wherever you like to hang out online:

Chrysalides, cusps, and changes

Chrysalides, cusps, and changes

And just what the hell do chrysalides, cusps, and changes have to do with one another, or indeed the next book in the Cortii series?

All right, but they’ve got lovely alliteration. Which is author-y stuff in its own fashion. And they’re sorta-kinda relevant. Read on if you want to gather your arguments with that statement.

So, the chrysalis

I’ve been living in a bit of a chrysalis the last few years, and although one of my pet hates is fluttery things dive-bombing my head, which are on the whole what tend to emerge from chrysalides, I have hopes that I’m on the way to breaking out of mine. 

Maybe to dive-bomb someone’s head. Probably not, though, because although lost idiots who can’t work their cell phones seem to find me utterly irresistible, I prefer to avoid my own species for the most part.

I’d been steadily withdrawing into my chrysalis for most of the past decade. I had stuff to deal with at home, and it was eating increasing amounts of my energy. Add to that a demanding job in less-than-optimal conditions, and my energy dropped through the orange right into the red and started drilling through the bottom of the tank. The idea of going out with friends was enough to make me want to pull a cushion over my head, lock the door, and hide. Going for a walk, with the inevitable human contact, and then having to drag myself back again, wasn’t a relaxing prospect. Doing the groceries was a marathon that I gritted my teeth and got through. Writing was about the only thing I really still found fun, and even that was pulling down resources that were basically dry.

Mix in that I’d been sleeping on a sofabed for the last four – five years, and I wasn’t even doing much for the purely physical side of my exhaustion.

The cusp

Side order of glitterIt became increasingly clear over a period of years that, like so many things in life, no one was going to swan in and wave a wand and make everything better (with a possible side-order of gratuitous glitter, for reasons). If I wanted to not spend the rest of my existence trying to parse out dribbles of energy to deal with the absolute bare minimum of shit that had to get dealt with while being permanently stressed and irritated, I was going to have to bloody well find  some energy, get off my ass, and change something myself.

As most people don’t get a Classical education, some of you may not be familiar with the Greek myth of the fate of Sisyphus. Basically, he was a bastard in life who spent his afterlife doomed to push a big bloody rock up a steep hill – except when he almost had it to the top, it would roll all the way back down again. The Wikipedia version’s a bit less abbreviated.

I had a very visceral understanding of how Sisyphus felt.  Day to day shit was bottoming me out until all I wanted was to find a nice deep pit and pull the top in after me, and I had to come up with enough energy and motivation to make major life changes?

I’ve never had a lot of patience for weeping or screaming as a response to situations. Like thoughts and prayers, it may make you feel briefly better, but it’ll do absolutely bugger-all in any practical terms.

The changes

I therefore got off my ass, put my game face on, or what passes for it, and found a new job. With a boss I like, in a nice office, doing something I actually quite enjoy. That was April. I’d been planning to up sticks and leave town altogether, but was foiled by the fact that unless I wanted to move to Toronto or Montreal, there was basically very little going in terms of jobs I could do that I wanted to do outside Vancouver.

However, that still left my home situation. I was less stressed at work (and given the stress levels in the first three months of any new job, feel free to draw conclusions), but I pretty clearly wasn’t done. I was still hemorrhaging energy, because coming home was not, as it is for most people, relaxing. I was going from my employment, to more stress and no small amount of frustration, to sleep on a sofa, and then going back around again the next day.

In May, I started looking for a pet-friendly rental, in Vancouver, that I could afford. Anyone who’s spent time in Vancouver will be laughing hysterically at this one.

However, at this point I got lucky. There was in fact somewhere available, that had no issue with a pair of cats, it was in an area I wanted to live in, it was possible to get to work from there without spending three hours stuck in traffic each way, and I could even afford it, if I sucked in my spending a bit. It wasn’t available until July, but given Vancouver, hell, I jumped all over it.

What I hadn’t factored in was my complete lack of ability to hurry up and wait. I’d’ve made a very poor soldier. I wanted a change; in fact, given an increasing number of stress-related side-effects that, among other things, put me on steroid inhalers, I needed a change – but it was a tough change to make. I was going to leave a situation that was familiar and take a leap into the unknown. But I couldn’t even take that leap for another two months.

I spent a lot of time the past few months staring that that old line about those who give up freedom for safety deserve neither. I spent even more time staring at the fact that much as I couldn’t go on the way I was, getting somewhere I could cope with was going to involve a lot of upheaval, and not just for me. 

The kicker was that I was also leaving my 18-year relationship, which as anyone who’s been unfortunate enough to have to will tell you, is tough on everyone involved.

I sucked it up, carefully didn’t hit the liquor cabinet, compartmentalised busily, and finally made my move. I’m now, for the first time since I was nineteen, in my own place, on my own (well, with a pair of Siamese cats, who actually own the place and let me pay for it), only cleaning up after and shopping for myself, only organising my own life, and my Fitbit tells me that month over month, my resting heart rate has dropped ten bpm.

It’s going to take a while to build my energy back up, and probably just as long to figure out what I want to do with the freedom I scraped rock bottom and fought to find. The point to the mammoth post is, I guess, that I’m damned lucky. I have that freedom. I have choices. I’ll fight to keep them, and now I know that what looked impossible in the beginning is perfectly doable if I really have to.

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