I often feel homesick for many things. People, places I've never been, memories, moments in books I've read. You might think that sounds heavy or sad but I assure you it's not. It's actually a wonderful reminder of what it means to care for something or someone. A testament to what it means to hold things near and dear to your heart...
Not that anyone has truly asked me to explain myself or my blogging absence lately (although I appreciate those of you who have checked in with me in recent weeks), I do feel a certain responsibility, perhaps to myself, to understand why I needed this break. Or better yet, why I still need this break.
If you happened to read this blog post from a few weeks ago, you know we recently lost my sweet dog, Elvis, to lymphoma after a year or so of chemotherapy treatments. Personally, I'm still reeling from this loss, as anyone who has lost a beloved pet will understand. It's a pain that, no matter how much I tried to mentally prepare for, I still felt blindsided by and quite honestly, may feel for quite some time.
What punched me in the stomach even further after losing Elvis was the cold realization of how much of our attention, time and energy is necessitated on social media, specifically Instagram. Speaking as someone who makes her living solely online, largely on the aforementioned app, I quickly realized that my week-long social media break to grieve the loss of my dog resulted in severe account reach limitations, making it next to impossible to reach even a small portion of my audience, let alone prove to my current and potential brand partners that our collaboration was a worthwhile investment.
In short, my mental health break was damaging to my "social" presence and earning capability, because Instagram rewards the accounts who are the most active, the most consistently engaged and the most willing to forgo personal boundaries 24/7, and punishes those that are not. If you're willing to burn out on this app and dedicate all your time to it, you might get ahead. If you value some sort of offline life, you'll have an increasingly harder time marketing anything very successfully online, unless you can afford a team of people to run it in your absence, which yours truly, like many other small businesses, cannot.
I won't bore you with my long-winded complaints. Again, you likely already read them here. Let's talk about the aftermath of it all.
In the weeks that followed, I found myself spiraling in a lot of self-doubt, a lot of negative self-talk, a lot of imposter syndrome. Suddenly, I felt all my time being sucked back into this app that I fully knew didn't have mine or yours or anyones's best interests at heart, and yet, I was beholden to it. My livelihood depended on how well I could "suck it up" so speak to try to "stay relevant" in the ways I could stay relevant online (whatever that means). And when you have thousands of dollars to pay off in chemotherapy bills, work isn't exactly optional.
I felt stuck, and perhaps still feel stuck, in a cycle of diminishing returns. That's not a fun place to be for anyone, but especially a creative who's constantly being told to create content that fits an "algorithmic mold." I understand these spaces evolve quickly and rapidly — it is the internet after all, that's the name of the game — but I've been feeling particularly drained more than I ever have in my 12 or so years of doing this. That's certainly enough reason to give me pause to re-evaluate.
I suppose you could say, in some ways, I've been feeling homesick for a version of our internet lives that didn't need to be 100% online, all the time, 24/7, 365 days a year, regardless if your mental health was feeling up to it or not. I feel homesick for a time when you could maintain an online community sharing the part of yourself that you felt comfortable sharing, without having to share every other bit as a marketable commodity.
As such, I took a somewhat conscious step back from a lot of the content I typically create, including the longer format content here for the blog. I felt exhausted. And largely still do.
Now, I don't share any of this looking for sympathy or pity. A lot has happened in the past two years of this pandemic to give anyone reason enough to re-evaluate what's truly important in their life — my problems are not unique or even newsworthy in the scheme of things. But they're my problems just the same, and since I started this space over a decade ago to largely share just that — my thoughts — I figured you all, those who still visit me here, deserved an update of some kind.
Thankfully, December is typically a busy time of year for work and this time around, it's proving to look up compared to December of 2020. And with my mom now in town for a visit, I'm trying to be extremely mindful of how much of my energy I spend online and for what reasons. Not just from a creator standpoint but also a consumer standpoint. My hope for you all, is that you can do the same, in the ways that make sense to you.
Over the next few weeks, I may be somewhat present here. I may not. I'm trying to take it day by day, week by week, and whether or not I have something worthwhile to say/share. Please know, my lack of posting here should not be a reflection of how much I value this community. You've seen me through a lot of changes, good and bad, and selflessly supported me through it all. Hell, you all afford me the ability to do this as my full-time job for the better part of the past six years. I owe you a great deal for that. I just want to make sure what I'm sharing here is coming from a place of unforced honesty and lately, I've been dry on that. I hope with a little further reflection and self-internalizing, I'll be able to change that to figure out a new path that makes sense for me. One that hopefully doesn't feel as beholden to the trappings of social media whims.
Until then, I love you all. Truly.