Join me as I ask a Fun Question that’s been on my mind. I’ll give you my take, but I really hope you’ll jump in with your answers too, since I’m really curious to know what my fellow readers and bloggers think! So today’s question is…
Why did you start blogging? How has it changed (for) you?
I’m asking this question for two reasons: (1) I’m always curious about how people got started blogging and (2) I’ve had a recent epiphany about why blogging has changed for me, and it stems from where I started. I think this epiphany came from reading over some tweets from a really cool twitter chat I missed today (well yesterday now) – it was #BookNerdBoost and the detials are here. It got me thinking about how I’d rather spend an hour (honestly it’s usually more like three) on the phone with a blogger in NJ I’ve never met in person than anyone else. When anything happens in my life, she’s the first FRIEND I think of to tell. And we’ve never met! It got me thinking about how I ended up here and why I’m struggling so much with keeping blogging the same as it’s been the past two years when I clearly still love the community so much (not to mention books!). And BAM! Epiphany!
So I started blogging on a whim. I had no real plan or even understanding of how book blogging works. I had a name, a desire to get free books (LOL yes, NetGalley was part of why I wanted to blog), but most importantly – a desperate need for escape. What I don’t think I fully understood until now, was that I was very depressed. Functionally depressed, if there’s such a thing. Kinda like a functioning alcoholic or drug addict. You can lie to yourself and say you aren’t because you don’t have the classic identifying marks. I did not sleep a lot, cry a lot, feel physical pain, a loss of desire for life – I did well in school, had a happy relationship, etc.
But that’s why I say I was functioning. Because looking back I realize I MADE MYSELF not be those things – and a lot of that was because of the books I escaped into. (Note: I am by no means suggesting that people can escape depression by sheer will power. I am not a doctor, but I do believe that if someone is feeling depressed they should seek medical help. I did see a therapist during this time, though I don’t think it clicked how unhappy I was until now.) But in July of 2013 I was looking for more. And looking back I think book blogging saved me from falling into a severe, debilitating depression.
See, in 2011 I had the best spring semester I think a girl who never dreamed of even going to college could ever hope to have. Starting in January, I began getting phone call after phone call and email after email notifying me that I had been accepted into grad programs. Not just any grad programs either – Northwestern, Rutgers, UT, USC, WashU to name a few. These were good programs. Of the 16 schools I applied to (yes, 16, because I was SURE no one would accept me) I got into 11! And every single one of them offered me a full ride – as in, they’d pay my tuition, give me health insurance and pay me a generous living stipend. For a girl who’d just spent 5 years working 2 jobs – 1 40 hours a week, the other 25-30 hours a week – while attending full time classes just to make it, this was a dream come true.
I spent that semester visiting universities, where they treated me like royalty. They wanted ME and we’re spending money to convince me to come to them. I also won a ton of all awards and a local news channel did a spolitlight on me. I graduated summa cum laude and my estranged family even came to the graduation.
I’m not telling you all this to brag, but to try to paint a picture of how amazing I felt. Life had really been making me fight up til that point. And finally it was MY TURN. Finally life was going to be good to me.
Then I went to grad school. I probably chose my grad school poorly – I had a lot of choices and was overwhelmed. I chose the one that offered me the most money, was closest to home, and SOUNDED best. Needless to say, it wasn’t my turn after all.
My boyfriend and I moved 600+ miles away – thank goodness he came with me, he’s been my safe place all these years – and more than a week before my semester started the work came flooding in. Everyone had told me grad school was hard, so I just buckled down and got to work. I went to my first class so prepared. I’d read so hard. And then I felt so lost, Elle from Legally Blond had nothing on me, I was so clueless. I got home and cried my eyes out.
I’m not a quitter though, so I kept trying. I’m finishing up this August (assuming they give me my masters, that’s still uncertain, honestly) after 4 years with a 3.92 GPA. Sounds like I did well, but not emotionally. In the three years I lived there (I’ve been finishing up from back home – though I’ve been done since before this year started. This year has been the fight for the master’s degree year…) I made ONE friend. ONE. And we weren’t close. Hung out maybe 5 times in the entire time I lived there. I have never been SO ALONE in my life. Never felt like everything I AM was so wrong in all my life. And while I’m only talking about school – school was everything. I’d moved away from friends, jobs, and famly to go here. The only piece of that I had was my boyfriend who came with me and supported me through it all.
I think my blog saved me. I started it, like I said, on a whim. It was summer – for a grad student that’s not technically summer vacation, but I had more down time. And I used EVERY ounce of down time on my blog. I woke up super early excited to read comments and reply back. I stayed up super late writing posts and visiting blogs. At a time where I felt SO ALONE and like something was essentially wrong with who I AM, y’all became my friends and saved me. I gradually wasn’t so sad all the time. And eventually, I stopped caring what the pretentious snobs I associated with thought of me. I even let them see what I was reading and didn’t care that I overheard them talking about how uneducated my reading tastes were. Because y’all got me. I wasn’t alone and didn’t need their approval anymore.
This year I finally made the decision to leave that world fully. Instead of getting the PhD I was accepted for, I let them know I was unhappy and didn’t want to continue. “You have what it takes” and “you’d be such a great professor” they told me. I told them, “I know I can do it, I just also know I don’t want to.” I think I found the strength to say that, to be okay with that, here too.
I enrolled in an alternative teaching program and got hired as a 5th grade teacher almost immediately. I start in the fall and I’m so excited. I also started writing and even had a short story published. Hell, thanks to the blogging communty I’ve gotten the motivation to get fit, run several 5ks and lost a ton of weight (still have a ton to loose, but who’s counting?) I’m finally comfortable being me and going after what I want in life!
The surprising, somewhat negative consequence? My blog doesn’t have the same role as it once did. I don’t need it to save me like I used to. And I finally understand my blogging slump. I’m figuring out what my blogging life looks like when I’m not dependent on it. When I’M HAPPY.
Point is, I started blogging because – whether I knew it or not – I was depressed and heading someplace really dark. My blog – and more importantly the blogging community saved me. My BEST FRIENDS (I started to do a shout out and then realized I was so going to miss someone that way, so y’all know who you are!) are in the blogging community. I’m not going anywhere, this blog is way too important to me for that. But it’s changing, because I’m different. I’m not struggling. I’m not fighting. I’m happy. Thanks to all of you for helping me get here 🙂
So that’s my Saturday night epiphany. Care to weigh in? Why did you start blogging? How has it changed (for) you?