photo by Amelia
“It takes courage to grow up & become who you really are. The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”
Can I get an a.m.e.n. for E.E. Cummings?! What brilliantly inspired words! I love this quote so much that I bought a bracelet with the quote etched into it to serve as my reminder, one that I have needed through the years.
I want to tell you the story about my online experiences over the past 5+ years.
These experiences have taken me on a circuitous route right back where I started, but wiser- so it’s a journey I could never regret.
It began as a simple blog hosted on blogger titled “The Desert Dirt” (I live in Phoenix). The purpose of my blog was to keep my family up to date on my children and our lives. I used a simple format, no bells and whistles. I’ll even admit that I wasn’t aware of such concepts as SEO and tagging posts etc. Quite frankly I had made a rather naïve assumption in thinking that one would need my direct url to even find me on the internet and if you didn’t have it, you wouldn’t even know I was there.
Looking back on this I see what a lovely shade of green I was as a newbie. Yet there was something so remarkably wonderful about my “invisibility” … I wrote like no one was watching! Forget that quote about dancing like no one is watching, I was blogging like no one was watching! There was such beauty in not knowing, there were no expectations and consequently, I put my whole self out there, every silly, ridiculous, heart breaking, frustrating moment that I experienced in life I published on the world wide web assuming that the only people watching were my intended audience.
I went along at this pace for more than a year when my brother mentioned in conversation “everyone in the office loves your blog, we laugh about it every day, we’ve bookmarked it!”
I don’t remember the rest of our conversation because I was too distracted by how hot and red my ears had become as I remembered all of the personal content I had published (nothing x rated but still)! There were ample stories of being bloated, having gas (I had 2 pregnancies during this time!) and various other “personal” info I’d inadvertently published for the world to read and see (it was also a photo blog!) while I was apparently busy existing under a rock. I have no doubt that somewhere a village was looking for their idiot while I was lost in the blogosphere describing bodily fluids to what I thought was an intimate audience. This is what prompted me to explore behind the scenes of my blog platform and discovered that I could actually “see” how many visits my blog was receiving. I became completely mortified when the number of people reading daily exceeded the number of my family and friends. So, I did what any freaked out person would do! I made a hasty, irrational decision in an emotional state! I slammed the door shut on that blog so quickly and abruptly that to this day I consider it to be one of the worst mistakes I have made as a mother and writer- I didn’t save the blog post before bringing it to a grinding halt! All those tales of pregnancy, babies, life, marriage and gas were gone! Gone! Gone!
I stayed away from the blogging world, briefly. Admittedly I was addicted to publishing and was now curious about this notion of reaching a broader audience. The problem is, when I returned I conducted myself as though I were in a Petri dish being observed. I’d write, erase, write, imagine others responses, write, compare myself to others etc etc. This is not conducive to authentic connections, thoughts etc. I’d publish a post then I watched the numbers, checking SEO and looking to see how man “hits” I was getting- it deadpanned. I had filtered my writing to the point of being about as noteworthy as a baked potato. I pulled away again, stumped and confused. Not only was it no longer enjoyable for me, apparently it wasn’t enjoyable for others.
So, I essentially committed blogging suicide; I left the blog out there with no fresh content for nearly a year, despite everything I had read about “publishing fresh content for readers several times a week.”
During this longer sabbatical I worked on my doctorate and continued in my career teaching in higher education. Eventually though I began to have more and more ideas for an online business. I am an ENTP and the “N” in me doesn’t sit still long. I was interested in re-entering with a web presence but felt I had outgrown the look and feel of my site- so I redesigned and relaunched with a new blog and a purpose. I like to call this phase of my online presence as the multiple personality years, I was all over the map, still trying to be everything I thought I should be based on what I saw others doing. Is there anything worse than this particular brand of self-torture? Honestly, discovering the world (or at least my brothers co-workers) had read about my especially wretched bout with gastroenteritis (fancy word for diarrhea) just before delivering baby #5 suddenly felt like a day at the spa. This would not be the last time I would pull away, fine-tune and relaunch. You see with each attempt I was getting better and better at owning me and what I’m about. I was getting better at reclaiming the person I abandoned in the Desert Dirt. As my professional life as a consultant working with women grew my personal life experiences slowly delivered me to my roots of writing and photography. All of my years of dark room developing, video editing, script writing and revising and working as an aid to my father as he worked to publish his first book found themselves fresh in my thoughts and occupying my every free moment.
As wonderful as this return to roots was for me, it created yet another quagmire, how to share my professional services with my love of the creative. Again I was holding myself to some self-imposed limitations and comparing myself to others as I attempted to blend my hobbies with my consulting work. Not only did I feel like I was experiencing an identity crisis trying to blend such a broad range of interest but ‘m sure my blog looked equally confused. I pulled away yet again as I began to wrestle with such notions as “am I giving people what they want? Expect?” “What if people think I’m some sort of blog multiple personality with all of this content jumbled into one place?” “I love this persons blog- I should be doing it this way.” The self-doubt became consuming- time off was needed. This time, my sabbatical led me back to where I started.
The one persistent theme in this experience was the desire to have an online presence but it was time to ditch all the “should’s and shouldn’ts,” and get busy simply being me- doing what I do, with my own thoughts, ideas and interests. I needed to have the courage to be who I am, where I am. Consequently, I launched two sites, one professional, and the other personal. Now, I live by the rule of not comparing my services or my sites to others but to maintain them as a true reflection of me. I’ve learned to visit other sites without questioning what I am doing myself but to instead appreciate what others are doing. We are all so unique- each bringing something needed to the table. So now when people ask what I do I simply respond with I’m an MBTI professional working with women to discover their true selves and I’m an avid writer/photographer. I can’t help but reflect with fascination that my original business idea years ago was to use the MBTI to help women discover their true selves. No doubt I needed to do that for myself first. Once again, I am blogging like no one is watching and loving it!
The beauty of being kind to myself in this way is that kindred souls are watching, encouraging and supporting me! Another amazing outcome has been my results. Because I am being authentic, I’ve enjoyed better results. Makes sense, no? It’s so much easier to promote your true self and interests! Learning to be kind to myself has been far more than an evolutionary experience, it’s been revolutionary!
|Amelia is a wife, mother, professor, writer, photographer and lover of all things chocolate. As an MBTI® professional who works with women, Amelia’s goal is to help women to “live your life, you way” by discovering their true selves and to apply this knowledge to her personal and/or professional life. Amelia offers her professional services at Mother Lode and publishes her photography and musings at Black House Studio. You can also find her on twitter and facebook.|