Blogging has come to mean many things to me over the past year: a platform for reflection, a creative outlet and an opportunity for social connection. It has also helped me to slowly discover the writer inside of me and has forced me to accept my failures and my imperfections and to see both of these as gifts, rather than reasons to give in.
I started this blog on a whim one morning in May last year. While my newborn was sleeping, I wrote my first few posts in a notebook with no intention of every putting them online, but purely because I felt compelled to pick up a pen and write. In a conversation with one of my sisters not long afterwards, I told her I had done this and she suggested I start a blog. It wasn't actually the first time she'd encouraged me to blog - at the beginning of 2012, I started a book blog called The Year of Reading Dangerously. That 'year' only ended up lasting three weeks and a total of just three posts as I got too busy with my day job to keep it up.
I took up my sister's advice in earnest the second time round though and typed up those words I had written in my notebook. Being impulsive and impatient by nature, I didn't give any thought to the direction my blog would head in and I thought up my blog title in about three minutes. I've wondered many times over the past twelve months about what I would have done differently had I invested the time to research exactly what a blog is and how to actually go about blogging - two things I knew very little about this time last year. I would have made it easier for myself if I had, but I also think that if I'd spent too much time deliberating on how to create the perfect blog, I would never have started at all!
Tonight, to mark my belated blogiversary, I want to refect on what I feel has been the good, the bad and the beautiful aspects of blogging for me so far.
* Blogging has cured me of my inclination towards perfectionism. If I allowed myself to wait until I was satisfied that a post was perfect, I would never once have pressed that publish button.
* Since I failed at Mothers' Group and was living, for the first nine months of keeping this blog, in a situation where I was very isolated socially, blogging became not only my surrogate Mothers' Group, by also my book club, my writers' group and my place to focus on the good things that I had in life, so that I wouldn't drown wallowing in the bad. Only when I removed myself from that situation and that isolation did I realise how much blogging had helped me through that period.
* The opportunity to connect with bloggers from all over the world has been amazing. I feel so lucky to live in the era that we live in and to be able to develop friendships with bloggers not only in Australia, but also in the US, the UK, Canada, Italy, Germany, New Zealand, Tonga, Malaysia, Dubai, Singapore and Jamaica.
* Reading other parents' blogs has inspired me to become a more creative and energetic parent myself. I'm still not crafty, but I have challenged myself to go about being creative in my own little way through The Alphabet Weekends.
* Food. Over the last year, my desire to cook and to learn everything I can about food has increased exponentially. I have a lot of very accomplished cooks in the blogosphere to thank for that inspiration.
* Instagram. A year ago I was connected to a grand total of zero social networks. I never thought that I would be interested at all in something like Instagram; I've just never really been into social media. But last Christmas, I was staying for a little over a week with family and had no opportunity to blog and was really missing it. So I created an instagram account. It instantly felt like 'micro-blogging' and I have loved it ever since.
Okay, now for the bad. Although the positives I have encountered through blogging outweigh the negatives a hundredfold, I want to be honest - it hasn't all been roses and rainbows.
* Bloody Google Plus comments. I swear that thing is like a jealous lover. It just messes with my head. Some days, readers will go to comment on a post and won't be able to. Other times, some or all of my comments just randomly disappear altogether, only to return as if nothing has happened a day or two later after I've already ripped my hair out and sworn I'll never blog again. Once I made the mistake of thinking I could break up with Mr Google Plus once and for all and go and get myself a nice new domain name. But no, he decided that if I did that, he would take all my comments and hide them and never give them back. So I had to go back to him, with my tail between my legs, because those comments were too precious to me. I know he was there plotting away and thinking to himself: "Ahuh! So she wants to get rid of me! We'll see about that!" So here I am, married to Google Plus till death do us part.
* Sometimes I've sensed that there are some blogging cliques floating round the blogosphere and I'm just too much of a dork to be let into their circle. But there have also been other times when blogging groups that were clearly well established already have welcomed me in with open arms, so it's not something I dwell on too much.
* There have been occasions when I've been super excited to find a new blogger who I think I have a lot in common with and have reached out several times to try to make contact and been ignored every time. These experiences have taught me a valuable lesson though: do not chase people. Just keep doing your thing and your tribe will find you.
* The few times I've encountered some negative feedback. When I first started browsing other people's blogs and read about trolls, I remember thinking to myself: "If that ever happens to me, I'm going to quit writing straight away". I just thought it would be something that I would not be able to handle. Funnily enough, when it did happen, it affected me so much less than I'd thought it would. I guess in the scheme of things, rude or stupid comments are just that - rude and stupid. At the end of the day, it's not like I have to have the writers of them come round for dinner at my house.
And now, for ...
* Finding people through the blogosphere who I have really connected with and whom I hope to meet in real life one day.
* Those bloggers who really went above and beyond what I ever would have expected in terms of support when they sensed that I was going through a really difficult period. Even if I never get the chance to meet you in person, I will be eternally grateful to you Linda, Kristi and Rita.
* Reconnecting with some long-lost friends who have found my blog through a mutual friend or through social media.
* Being able to use blogging as a platform for expressing my love, appreciation and admiration for special people in my life, especially my mum and my best friend.
* Writing something that was daringly honest and then having many readers respond by being honest and open themselves about their own pent up feelings.
* Without a doubt, blogging has helped me to cultivate a frame of mind where I am constantly on the lookout to find beauty and beautiful stories in my everyday life.
* This last one is very personal and very close to my heart. Several weeks ago, I was in a pretty bad mood with my blog. I was feeling that it was a complete waste of time and was very nearly ready to press delete and boot the whole thing to kingdom come. Then I got a call from a friend who was going through some very seriously stressful stuff in her life. She had read some of my early posts when I first started to write, but had been too busy to keep up with them as the months went on. She told me that she had come home from what had possible been the worst day of her life, sat down at the computer, started to type in the URL of an unrelated site and the URL of my blog popped up because it started with the same letter. She opened it up and started reading. "I must have read for at least two hours", she said. "And do you know what I saw in your writing?" "What?" I asked a bit hesistantly. "Knowing you personally and knowing everything you were going through during those months, I saw how positive you tried to keep yourself during that time. It made me realise that I can do the same. It probably saved my life". I was speechless. I never would have dreamed that this little space that I created could have achieved something like that. So I didn't press delete and I realised that it was my own negative self talk that was a waste of time, not my blog.
So tonight as I ask myself for the umpteenth time what I would do differently if I could start my blogging journey all over again, the answer is nothing. Nothing at all. I have made mistakes, but those mistakes are my own and they have been my greatest teachers. The words that poured out of me in every post over the last twelve months have been genuine, spontaneous and imperfect. They remind me of just who I was the day I wrote each one. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
What are some of the goods, the bads and the beautifuls you've discovered through blogging?
Would you do anything differently if you could start again?