This week has been the culmination of so many things in my life: the publication of my book, The Sunny Side Up!, the beginning of the end of my senior year at UCLA, and the preparation for my year as a Chi Omega National Consultant. But as I’ve celebrated this week, it also brings me back to how it all began—with the book that started it all. Let me take you back to my freshman year of college…
It was at a family birthday party for my cousin. After eating homemade cake it was present time. She opened a book. Simple enough. “What book is that?” I said. “Oh, it’s Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project.” I commented, “I would love to write a book like that.” I remember I was mildly rebuked—Gretchen was a prestigious bestselling author…she had something to say. Her life, her age, her wisdom had something to offer. At 19 years of age, did I not have anything worthwhile to say? And if I did, would anyone even listen? Even though my cousin blew her birthday candles out that night, my candle had just been lit up. It was on.
I got a copy of Rubin’s book for myself (no birthday necessary) and I practically painted the book with highlighters and pink pen marks while eating salads, waiting for class to start, and before falling asleep in a loft bed that practically touched the ceiling. In essence, wherever I went, that book went. This book was my starting point and I wanted to make sure I understood it not just like the back of my hand, but like the birthmark on my left leg. By the time I got to the last page, I was convinced that I had to write. And I wanted to write with Gretchen—a teen edition to The Happiness Project. What a brilliant idea! Or so I thought at the time.
Now I’ve always been thankful for my courage. Sure, there have been times when I’ve been stung by it but it’s left me with no regrets. When there is someone I want to connect with, I reach out. Why not? Even if they say no or ignore me outright, I can still know that I have done my part. So I wrote Gretchen and told her my bold plan to partner up and be a New York Times bookselling team. And she wrote back, which I greatly appreciated. The answer? Thanks, but no thanks. I felt like the kid who got rejected to go to prom.
But it was okay. I don’t mind dancing alone. I simply decided that I would write my own book. Gretchen wrote from the standpoint of having a midlife epiphany to turn her life around—to shift her perspective. I wanted to take a different stance. As a 19 year old at the time, I wanted to help my generation find happiness now so that we could have fulfillment all along and not have that wake up call of dissatisfaction at a later point. Of course, times of trouble are inevitable but if you put positivity at the forefront of your mind, it will carry you through.
Fun fact: My best friend of 21 years, Lauren (we have the same name), has done all The Sunny Girl photography the past four years–including the cover of the book.
So I got to writing. And blogging (this post here is my 607th blog post). And interviewing. I wanted the book to be a commentary on my generation. I knew that people would critique me by saying—“You’re 20, who are you to say what makes for a happy life?” So I got my people to back me up. Or say it how they saw it. I asked my peers about what exactly made them happy and they gave me the honest answers. The most inspiring part of the writing process was seeing how happy young adults really are. Even though older generations like to tag us as entitled or lazy or dissatisfied, we are actually quite happy and we want to contribute to the community, give and receive love, and achieve our goals. My hope is that this book will give people of all ages faith in the Millennial generation.
I decided to self publish. Some people would have a semi-puzzled look on their face when I told them that—no traditional publisher? What do you mean? I was hard pressed to break out of the traditional mold myself. Sure, it would have been nice to have a literary agent and a publishing company eager to sign the dotted line. But ultimately, the road of self publishing made me a more independent, confident, and creative author. I had to do everything. Shoot and design the book cover. Find an editor I trusted (and could afford) and promote the book with all my might.
But I loved the process, I delighted in it. And more than anything, I wanted to self-publish because I wanted to get the book on the market as soon as possible. Part of the reason I wanted to write the book was to be a real and relatable young adult myself—not just as an author but as a peer. If the book didn’t come out till I was 25…well, mission not accomplished.
So now, after parsing through hundreds of interviews, writing, re-writing, and re-writing again, countless editing rounds, and cover designing, the book is done. Fin. You can buy it online—there it is on Amazon! Just like I imagined it. I think it still hasn’t hit me yet and I’m not sure if it will for awhile. I don’t want it to. Because the real work is only just beginning. Yes I have written a book, but now the new goal is getting people to read the book—on their own volition. The pen is out of my hands and the paper is in theirs.
While it would be great to see book sales summit (one can dream!), my real goal is that for the people who do pick up the book, they find a friend within the pages. Yes, young adults as a whole are happy but we have our tough days—just like anyone of any age. This book is to show you you’re not alone, even if it feels like you are. Sometimes it can be hard to have a real conversation with people about what you’re facing but this book has the answers that aren’t always said aloud. I hope my book is comforting yet I also hope that it inspires young adults to find their own dreams and follow through with them.
We live in a world now where anything is possible. You don’t have to wait for people to tell you “yes,” the only person you need to say that to is yourself. Give yourself the go-ahead to follow through on your goals and don’t give up on them, even if others doubt you. You can do what you dream. After having my book published on April 25, 2013, after four years of hard work, I did.
The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook