The pattern was The Professional Tote by designer Laura Martell of The Creative Thimble. And unlike most other patterns found online — which I really wasn't "in the know" about at the time anyway — her pattern is on old-fashioned paper, delivered by regular snail mail (or found at your local sewing shop).
Anyway, I took the plunge on September 23 and made the purchase, thereby committing myself to this huge undertaking. I guess I was inspired by the popular thought of "go big or go home". I was either going to make a big splash and prove to myself that I [still] had what it takes to sew or I was going to crash and burn in a big way.
In the meantime, while I waited for the mailman to deliver my pattern, I started the work of gathering up materials. Luckily I have a friend Colleen who, as a former seamstress, was able to source out most of what I needed in terms of notions and fabric.
On September 26, I found this last yard of a discontinued Robert Kaufman design called Polar Party on Etsy.com. (And that simple sentence manages to convey three things that I previously didn't know: the existence of Etsy, the fact that fabrics have "designers", and that fabric designs have names.)
I snatched it up, determined to craft my bag around it. It was thus that I committed deeper to the project; there was no turning back now.