This month marks my 5th year as a blogger.
Five years. In blogging life, I suppose, that’s nothing. Especially when you think about how many people have been doing it for decades and decades. For me it feels as if time has flown by, except so much has changed and I along with it.
I think back at my very first post and though it is way longer than most of my posts today, written in the third person, and focused heavily on my adjusting to a new life as a stay-at-home mom, it still has elements felt in my blog today: I felt the desire to share what my neighborhood was like, what it had to offer, and what I loved about. It touched on my unease with the changing face of New York City, the gentrification of the same, and my inability to reconcile with it. And it touched on how out-of-place I felt in my new role when compared to others – though I was still very much trying to embrace it.
I remember, in my first year of blogging that people would ask me, “Where do you see yourself/your blog in five years?” I can’t even remember what I answered at the time, probably because I was insincere in my reply, mostly because I really had no idea. The fact that professional blogging wasn’t something I ever planned on doing and knew so little about made it even harder to envision what a future would look like. So I never have – which is so typical me.
Though I couldn’t envision the future, I am able to reflect back on the past and contemplate on the lessons I have learned over the years and man, there have been quite a few. Here are my top 10:
1) First big lesson I learned was that rejection and having my feelings hurt were the best things that ever happened to me. The hurt part (where a blogger was mean) happened only once. Not that other bloggers haven’t been rude since, but that it was the only time I was brought to tears and really affected by it. I remember it often not as a grudge, but as a lesson on how to treat others and how I can be a better person. It can go either way for some, but I think I walked away stronger and better for it. No one has ever brought me to tears again.
2) I quickly learned that popularity is relative. I learned very quickly to never let myself get caught up in praise and accolades. Of course I love them and of course they make me feel great, but pride and ego have a way of slowing one down from continuing to achieve their potential. It also has a way of stifling kindness and consideration of others. For all the people who say how famous you are, there is a whole world out there who doesn’t know, and doesn’t really care.
3) I learned that there will always be someone doing something better than me. There will always be someone who got an opportunity that I wanted, or recognition that I felt I deserved. And that’s a really great thing because it inspires me to work harder and get better as a writer, and as a person, it challenges me to be humble and give praise to those so deserving of it. If you ever have a hard time dealing with someone else’s achievements, take a step back and a deep breath, and come back and congratulate them. There is more than enough opportunities out there. One person’s success doesn’t hinder your ability to obtain your own.
4) I learned that it’s better to be a blogger who stands for something, than a blogger who stands for nothing in exchange for profit. It’s better to be the blogger who stands up for herself, than the blogger who wants everyone to like her and allows herself to be pushed around. Demand the respect you want and always seek to surround yourself with good people whether fellow bloggers or brands. It’s better to say no to a brand that doesn’t align with your values, than sell your soul for something you neither believe in, nor support – and then try to suck your readers in as well.
5) I learned that being controversial is not the same as being relevant or worth the read. As vocal as I am, I get no pleasure and have no interest in shock and awe. There are many successful sites who build themselves from click baiting and SEO manipulation. It’s a business approach that works for them. I chose, and am comfortable with, not pursuing that option and growing at a slower pace because of it.
6) I learned to really be proud of my blog and of being a blogger. I struggled at first with the lack of respect that I would often receive from those who didn’t understand blogging, or who painted all bloggers as being the same. But I quickly decided to get over it because I didn’t want to spend time trying to prove that I mattered to people who didn’t. Instead, I put all my energy and focus on my work and redirecting it all into something more productive and positive has been incredible for me. I am very proud of it and won’t ever treat it as having less merit or value than what anyone else chooses to do for themselves. I also respect that not everyone will respect what I do. I still get people who try to belittle what I do, sometimes bloggers who have been at this for a long time like to take a jab or two. I’ve learned to see it for what it is…which has nothing to do with me.
7) I learned to say “No”. I won’t deny that I sometimes question myself, but in the end, I know my family, my health, and my overall happiness are more important. Respecting that and demanding that others respect it as well has not, as I initially feared, negatively impacted my professional growth.
8) I learned how important it is to stay on course with what I love. Because I do what I love, it rarely ever feels like work – though it is. I chose to do something that I enjoyed, not for money or perks or benefits. But because I enjoy it. So much so that even after 5 years, I still remain oh so very happy to just be here. I am as excited about what I do as the very first time I did it.
9) I learned that people will remember me more for how I treated them, than for my blog or how many followers I have. I am always very appreciative of anyone who will share with me: be it their friendship, their knowledge, their time, their service, or their opportunities. And I never dismiss or assume that someone isn’t worth my time. Yes. I am busy, but only if you are cruel are you not worthy of anything I can offer in exchange.
10) I learned that it’s OK that I have no idea what I want to do in 5 years. Maybe because today makes me so happy. Maybe because I never envisioned even getting this far. Maybe because I don’t want to rush away time. I guess in the end, I’ve learned to not take any second of this for granted. I know one thing, it will be fun to read back on this list and see how much more I’ve changed.
Thank you to all my readers, many who have been here since day one. Thank you for believing in me, growing with me, and following me through it all. Really, my biggest lesson learned is that without you, so little of it would have been possible. Here’s to another 5 years!