I’m Dani Kelley,

and I do lots of things.

The Process of Being.

Content note: mention of suicide and rape.


This Saturday, April 22, I will turn 30 years old. (Want to help me celebrate?)

Frankly, this terrifies me.

All my life, I never envisioned myself living past the age of 28. I figured that either the rapture would have occurred, or I would have killed myself. So you’d think 29 would have been my all-out panic year, but I spent 29 dealing with a lot of other things.

Now, with 30 at my doorstep, I’m caught in its headlights, awaiting its impact with an ever-increasing sense of dread.

Before I get into how I’m approaching Stayin’ Alive at 30!, here’s a few life updates.

Employment, marriage, and impending name-change.

I’m currently working 2 jobs. I’m freelancing almost full-time (need a designer?), and I’m really pleased to be teaching a graphic design class at my local community college. I guess I’m doing okay, since I’m slated to teach the follow-up class in the fall. Teaching feels odd, but I’m also really enjoying it. There’s so much to learn.

My divorce is almost finalized, and I’ve decided to go back to my unmarried name: Dani Ward. Once I have the money to spare, I’ll be updating my website and all that good stuff, so stay tuned (it’ll likely just auto-transfer, so no worries). If you want to help speed up that whole process, there are links to my Patreon account and my PayPal account in the sidebar.

#HaikusWithDani and more.

I recently compiled all the poems I’ve written as an adult (at that time) into a digital booklet, entitled Process. The main set of poems fall under the same title, describing the process of my grieving and coping after my marriage ended. That section is in the midst of the rest of the structure of the book, which hopefully illustrates the process I’ve been going through from despondency to hope. Be warned that topics include domestic violence, internalized fat hatred, rape, and intense depictions of mental illness. You can purchase the booklet from Etsy for $12.95.

Breath of the Wild = Breath of Fresh Air.

Screenshot from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The main focus is of a very large black horse with orange mane and tail, with Link (the main character) standing in front of the horse. The horse is so tall that Link is only as tall as the horse's legs.

I TAMED THE DESCENDANT OF OCARINA OF TIME GANONDORF’S HORSE. His name is Reshef, named after the Canaanite god of plague and war. And yes. Yes, Link really does only come up to almost the horse’s shoulder.

Back when I had some disposable income, I pre-ordered Breath of the Wild for the Wii U. I’d forgotten about this by the time I went to GameStop to see if I could afford it. What a pleasant surprise. This game is everything I could have wanted in a Zelda game, and I am obsessed. Way to go, Past Me, for thinking ahead! My brief (ish) particular thoughts on the game:

  • Cooking. Omg, I love cooking. I love experimenting with ingredients and seeing if I can get that really awesome sound that happens when you cook something particularly useful.
  • Grinding. This game speaks to the part of me that loves repetitive actions and hyper-focusing on seemingly mundane tasks. I absolutely love that there are so many things to collect. Gems, insects, monster parts, food, plants, gear, fairies…I’m obsessed.
  • The sidequests. I haven’t done anything for the main storyline for quite some time. I want to explore every inch of the world first — and it’s so rewarding to do so! There are animals, enemies, people, ruins, guardians, and Yiga all over the place. You never know when you’re going to stumble upon a settlement or a Bokoblin encampment or a miniboss. The world is full and vibrant and you’re not punished for not carrying on with the main quest as quickly as possible.

I won’t say much more for fear of spoilers, but speaking of thinking ahead when I bought this …

A studio all my own.

As an early birthday gift, my parents worked together to help me transform my old office into an art studio. My mom purchased most of the organizers, and my dad and I spent a couple days putting furniture together and rearranging the room. My ex had reworked this room a couple of times for me as an art room, but … much like most of the rest of the house, it never felt like it was mine. It felt like I was allowed there, but it was never meant for me.

But this … this is everything I could have ever wanted.

And now that I have this amazing room at my disposal, I have plans to use it.

Stayin’ Alive at 30!

As I said in the beginning, I never intended to be as old as I am. I never envisioned myself being 30. Ever. That in and of itself is making this particular birthday difficult. But there’s more going on.

My depression meds are undergoing some change, which always means a bit of upheaval in my life. I’m stressing about money since I won’t be teaching over the summer (if I pinch my pennies hard enough, I may make it). There are some relationship things I’m sorting through (polyamory can be hard, y’all).

Then there are the much heavier things.

In January, a friend of mine killed herself. This was in the midst of the year anniversary of kicking my ex out, followed quickly by the year anniversary of being raped, and honestly — I just haven’t been the same since all of those tragedies and traumaversaries dropped so quickly. I’m becoming more and more agoraphobic — and less and less able to do more than work and kind of exist.

Frankly, I’m desperately looking for ways to convince myself to stay alive. I have this internal Survival/Suicide Inconvenience Scale, in which I try my hardest to make sure that suicide will always be more inconvenient for others than survival. I know that’s a miserable way to live, but that’s just it — it’s a way to live. That’s what it’s like with the kind of mental illnesses I battle. I have to make constant plans to keep myself alive.

So I make goals.

I have lists of things I want to buy to continue to make my house Mine. Curtains, media, a portable pantry, dishes, plans to reorganize and renovate various rooms and sections of my house. (Like the art room above.)

I’m making goals for myself with my teaching and with a new YouTube channel I’m starting in my friend’s honour. Before she died, she told me she loved the idea of me starting a YouTube channel addressing all the various and sundry parts of my life. I’ve begun work on that, and it’s a way to help me feel closer to her.

Even “stupid” “little” things, like looking forward to upcoming movies and games. I can’t die before I see Chadwick Boseman play the Black Panther again! I need to see how some of my relationships grow and deepen or change. I want to feel comfortable in my own skin, in my own house. I want to teach my students so many things.

And that’s where one particular strategy has come into play, specifically to keep me distracted, alive, and active during my 30th year on this earth.

I plan to simply draw every day.

I know it’s not very original, but I kinda don’t care. I want to learn new techniques, new styles, work with media I’ve never worked with before, approach many topics and objects and subjects. Even if what I create sucks, even if it’s just a quick sketch or some hand-lettering/calligraphy exercises. I want to keep creating and learning.

#DailyDrawingWithDani has begun already, a bit ahead of schedule, largely to get me in the practice of doing it. On days when I don’t have energy to draw, I’ve been indulging in colouring my beautiful Johanna Basford colouring books. This, too, is helping me learn, as I’m using coloured pencils. I’ve never been good with them, and I want to learn how to blend and use them effectively. Johanna’s books are perfect for this, as there’s so many small controlled spaces for me to fill and test.

Already, it’s been really hard to keep up with this practice. (See that big ol’ list above as to what all I’m battling currently.) But I’m pursuing it. I’m working on it. It’s a goal with a tangible manageable action attached that will create a body of work and allow me to expand my knowledge and experience in ways that will enrich my life and my career.

It’s a process. I guess that’s my One Word of the year. My brain is constantly thinking about the mere process of Being. And I’d love to know what it’s like to want to keep on Being, rather than distracting myself from the tantalizing prospect of Not Being.

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