It was late December when I got a message from some woman named Ileia.
I had happened to be looking in my "New Message Requests" section on Facebook Messenger and the words "Editor-in-Chief" and "publication" caught my eye. This young woman was recruiting me to join the Odyssey Online community and commit to weekly articles. A few messages, phone calls, and weeks later, and I was introduced to a whole new world.
I had to write a short bio and kept sending drafts to my sister, quite possibly annoying her to no end. I was so excited.
My first article was a listicle on reasons to watch my favorite show, "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." Over the past year, I've been able to write articles on varying topics. Some fandom-related, some not.
I wrote during my last semester at UCF, through graduation, and into my seven-month-long "sabbatical"—AKA when I was working through some things with Jesus, trying to find my footing and hear directly from Him. Eventually, He showed me my next steps and led me to a job I love.
Unfortunately, with this new job and the writing projects He's put on my heart, I will no longer be able to write for the Odyssey.
This past year will always be near and dear to my heart, mostly because it was one of the worst ones I've ever experienced.
Let me explain.
Last year, I almost bled out on the operating table during what should've been a routine gall-bladder removal. Learning that I had almost died sent me in a tailspin. I realized I had wanted to, that I had been depressed for quite some time and just put my energy into anything other than dealing with it.
I sought help, but eventually, more hurts resurfaced. Grappling with all of this, this year—my mental health, the surgery, losing friends, more health problems unrelated to the surgery and other traumas—was extremely difficult. But through it all, I had the chance every week to turn my pain into something worthwhile.
I was able to write on topics I'm passionate about, such as coping with depression and anxiety, the importance of representation in media, body positivity, tearing down toxic masculinity, exposing and dealing with sexual abuse and assault, valuing singleness as much as romance and deepening one's relationship with Christ.
And when getting into more emotional and complicated topics was too much, I could switch gears.
I wrote about underrated friendships in the MCU, "Stranger Things 3" predictions, typology, tips for dying your hair a unicorn color, my favorite Jim/Pam moments, what it's like to be a homeschool alumnus and essentially an ode to "Legally Blonde."
Having another responsibility on top of everything I was dealing with might not seem like the ideal situation, but it was for me. It gave me an outlet to express myself and reminded me of my greatest passion: writing.
When everything happened, there was no way I wanted to write or create. But having weekly deadlines set by someone other than my pushover self (who would never hold myself to self-imposed deadlines) forced me to keep doing something I love, something I probably would've otherwise given up on.
Now I have new writing projects I can't wait to start on, new fiction, script and nonfiction ideas waiting for me that I wouldn't have discovered if I hadn't been faithfully writing something every week.
And now, more than ever, I'm confident in my ability to write for any future potential publications because I know what it can be like.
I'll always be thankful for my experience with the Odyssey Online and for my #OdysseyOrlando team in particular. It's made this year, as hard as it was, not just bearable, but rewarding.
I'm looking forward to this new year and new season the Lord is bringing me into, and hopefully, you'll hear from me soon on my personal blog (or if these ideas are brought to life and published).