March 16, 2020 – the day I left Ukraine. It’s been one year since I said a painful and sudden goodbye to my life in Ukraine: my friends, my colleagues, my community, and my university. It was all gone within seventy-two hours. I left my job unfinished, my goals unchecked, and my apartment abandoned.
When I returned to the United States one year ago, I was in a strict two-week quarantine in an Airbnb in Jersey City. It was isolating, depressing, and lonely. My thoughts spiraled into a tunnel of uncertainty and darkness. While there was much darkness in this place, there was one glimpse of hope. That glimpse of hope was the idea of writing a collection of short stories and publishing them into a book called Blue Skies.
Each morning, I started writing one-page short stories. When I was writing, I felt like I was back in my host city, back with the people I cared so much about, and back to the lifestyle of traveling that I fell in love with. With each story, I was honoring myself and the people that made my experience in Ukraine so rich.
After two weeks in quarantine, I had ten short stories. It was a far cry from a book, but I was hooked and determined to keep writing. I spent the next five months diligently writing one story a day, slowly piecing together the narrative of my life in Ukraine.
By August, I felt the weight of my father’s loss more than ever (he passed away in June 2020). Summer was over and with it the reality of a new season of life, a season without my father. Finances were tight and I began questioning my decision to write Blue Skies. I fell out of writing and into applying for more traditional jobs. I thought it was a silly idea to believe I could ever write a book and bring it to life. I would get a “real job” and let Ukraine be in the past.
Around November, I was grateful to receive a full-time job offer. I felt relieved yet, at the same time, I knew if I accepted the job I wouldn’t have any time to return to Blue Skies. I had to make a decision: accept the security of a salaried position or take the risk of finishing a book people may not even buy.
I wrote and wrote and wrote. The way my time ended in Ukraine was out of my control; Blue Skies wasn’t. Some mornings, the words flowed effortlessly onto the page. Other mornings, I stared at a blank screen for hours.
Months passed and by January, I had written over 67,000 words. When I scrolled through my manuscript, tears filled my eyes. I didn’t give up on myself and I didn’t give up on the goal I set out to achieve. I wrote a book.
Over the last few weeks, I have been working with an incredible team of editors, cover designers, and interior format designers to transition my book from pages on a screen to pages of a physical book. We are SO close to finishing. Yesterday, I received my author proof copy, the first time I saw my book in real life.
By next week, my book will available as a paperback on Amazon and an ebook on Kindle and when it is, I can’t wait to say the words, “I did it.”