Recently, at an event, someone suggested that I celebrate my 15th year anniversary as a blogger. My brain stopped functioning for a moment, then I nervously answered, “Maybe this year will be my last year too.”, in a half-joking, half-serious manner that may or may not have caused the awkward laughs that followed.
I went home scurrying for some records about my oldest accounts, because my memory fails me at my age, and apparently I trust the Internet more than I trust myself…? Kidding aside, I just wanted to make sure how long I’ve been doing what I’m doing, hoping to find some explanation for my current situation (which I shall explain later in this post).
I was on Livejournal as early as 2003, and deviantART as early as 2004. It’s 2018 now, and to give you some perspective, here are some early 2000’s pop culture trivia to make us all feel old:
1) Apple’s iTunes was first launched (bye Winamp). “TheFacebook” was launched (bye Myspace and Friendster).
2) J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” was released. And so were Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, and Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven.
3) These iconic movies came out – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Kill Bill Vol. 1, Pirates of the Caribbean, Finding Nemo, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban (favorite HP book), Mean Girls, 50 First Dates, 13 Going on 30, The Notebook, Love Actually, School of Rock, and Big Fish (my favorite movie of all time).
4) The Bleach anime series started airing. Naruto had been airing for 2 years already. Other noteworthy titles you might recognize – Full Metal Alchemist, Samurai Champloo, Gundam SEED, and Gantz. Meanwhile, some famous video game titles were Call of Duty, Devil May Cry, Final Fantasy X-2, Silent Hill 3, Metal Gear Solid 3, Halo 2, World of Warcraft, Fire Emblem, and Suikoden 4.
5) Cargo pants, low-rise elephant pants, trucker pants, velour tracksuits, spaghetti strap tank tops, boho skirts, platform flip-flops, arm warmers, colored stockings, and airbrushed shirts were in fashion.
6) FRIENDS, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Dawson’s Creek ended. One Tree Hill, Lost, Veronica Mars, and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy started airing.
7) The Nokia 3200 and Motorola Razr were the “it” phones.
8) Some popular songs were Eminem’s Lose Yourself, 50 Cent’s In Da Club, Beyonce’s Crazy in Love, OutKast’s Hey Ya!, Evanescence’s Bring Me To Life, Linkin Park’s Numb, Matchbox Twenty’s Unwell, Christina Aguilera’s Beautiful, Justin Timberlake’s Cry Me A River, John Mayer’s Your Body is a Wonderland, Coldplay’s Clocks, Audioslave’s Like A Stone, Maroon 5’s This Love, Usher’s Yeah!, Britney Spears’ Toxic, Avril Lavigne’s My Happy Ending.
Let’s end it here, lest I trigger some heart attacks from the “dark ages” of thin eyebrows and scene kids.
Fast forward to 2017, I started having mixed feelings about this bubble of a blogging world that I knowingly put myself in. As a teen who wanted to belong to a community, I once found comfort in this bubble. As an adult, I became aware about the negative effects of social media to mental health, and was disheartened to know that for a lot of people, one’s worth is validated by the number of their following, the number of work you put out, and the number of friends you have.
(You could be the most irresponsible and ignorant person in the world, but as long as you have a lot of followers or were born into wealth or power, suddenly you’re excused? You can go on with your life without ever apologizing? Without suffering from the consequences of your actions… as long as you have the latest things? As long as you have a nice house? As long as you hang out with other “important” people?
I asked myself a million times, “What makes someone truly influential?”)
And so I discreetly removed the word “blogger” in my profiles last year.
I felt like I was doing a disservice to actual bloggers who were working their asses off to post useful information everyday. I went through a work paralysis of sorts, and stopped posting as often as I used to. God knows about the hundreds of unwritten blog posts I created in my mind but couldn’t articulate into words. I didn’t find my own posts particularly useful, so I decided not to contribute to the noise altogether. I’d rather not churn out any content if I was only going to do it half-heartedly.
On Instagram, I’d disappear for a few days to get my mind off creating content for relevance, but guilt would often haunt me and I’d end up posting some random filler photo just to make my presence felt, in case some brands would chance upon my feed. My relationship with social media became rather toxic, and I constantly blamed myself for allowing it to reach this level.
I corrupted my own mind, telling myself everyday that I was a lazy, privileged person who could actually afford to think twice about her current situation. People would send me messages about how they love my work, often asking me how they could also start blogging as a profession. I felt horrible about myself because it seemed like I was being ungrateful every time I had negative thoughts.
At one point, I started feeling guilty about EVERYTHING, including simple off-the-radar non-IG-worthy moments with my husband, family, and friends. Whenever I’d watch a movie or play a video game, I’d beat myself up for not using that time to do something productive.
I kept telling myself that I was a failure, because all I ever wanted was to contribute something useful and inspiring to the world, and I wasn’t living up to expectations by still posting the same things that I’ve been posting for the past 14 or so years. I detested myself for not fulfilling my potential and continuing the momentum that I had.
Last quarter of 2017 – I was depressed, with a back injury that put me on bed rest and muscle relaxants for a week, and contact dermatitis that lasted for 3 very dark months. My anxiety manifested physically, and I remember crying everyday until I ran out of tears. You all know what went down after that.
One day, I woke up and decided that I didn’t want to be a slave to my situation anymore.
And so I decided to quit blogging for work.
And decided that I’ll start over by blogging for myself again.
I pictured myself back in 2003, way back when I was perfectly happy even if I only had about 10 active readers and no sponsors.
When I finally let go of my shackles, the words started coming back to me again. I couldn’t stop writing. Typing on the keyboard started to feel like second nature once more.
I realized, that for a huge chunk of my life, I’ve been doing the bare minimum.
In school, even if I didn’t study, I’d still pass. I never had to exercise and diet because I don’t gain weight easily. Whenever people would ask me about my skin, hair, etc., there was a sense of pride in saying that I never do anything special. I never sought out clients because they reached out to me first. I didn’t actively make friends because I was already comfortable with the people I surrounded myself with. I never studied photography but still got praise. I didn’t find the need to reach out in person because messenger apps existed anyway. I stopped becoming eager about learning, and just became a recluse.
This exact sense of pride in doing the bare minimum was exactly what destroyed me and led me to my spiraling depression. I started to question why I ever glorified this definition of effortlessness, and why I let myself be swallowed whole by the idea that seeming “hungry” is uncool and desperate, that no amount of effort can ever beat one’s innate tastes and abilities.
My arrogance got the best of me. And it was staring at me right in the face. I guess I got too comfortable, after 15 years of just “going with the flow”.
Here’s a weird analogy: The bed isn’t going to fix itself if I don’t put in any effort. Our clothes aren’t going to clean and iron themselves out if I don’t put in any effort. The floor isn’t going to sweep and mop itself if I don’t put in any effort. I wouldn’t have anything to eat if I don’t put in any effort to feed myself or find food. Basically, nothing would happen without any effort. I wouldn’t survive without it.
I wrote my own narrative in such a way that I didn’t really mean for things to happen this way, that I just got into blogging (professionally) accidentally, and that I only happened to be a byproduct of good timing and good luck. I stuck with this narrative for 15 years, thinking it was the only one.
Life presented it in such a mundane way; I chuckled and almost cried of happiness when it came to me as a lightbulb moment.
I was used to having my needs anticipated, that when this privilege was suddenly unavailable, I was rendered absolutely powerless. In a split second, all my problems suddenly felt so trivial.
The past 1 1/2 years have been humbling. The shift was difficult, but it needed to be done. It was daunting at first, but I knew I had to get over my own feeling of helplessness if I wanted to be happy.
Earlier this year, I watched Juuni Taisen Zodiac War on Netflix, and found it to be an unusual source of inspiration.
(Spoilers for episode 10 ahead.)
Tiger asks Ox, “Is it possible to just do the right thing?”. Ox says he never gave the thought any serious consideration before.
He then asks, “Do you want to do the right thing?”. Tiger nods. Ox agrees to express that from time, to time, it can be beneficial to express one’s motivations verbally. (I agree, lol)
“First, I try to do the right thing. Then, I do the right thing. That is all.”, he says, swinging his sword dramatically.
Tiger muses, “What kind of overly genius philosophy is that? If it were that easy, I wouldn’t be suffering like this.”
“What I mean is that you can’t do the right thing unless you consciously try. People’s mistakes happen in the most offhanded ways. Swept along moment to moment, they fall into evil. Without reason, without consideration, without dedication. The next thing they know, they are on the wrong path, as if it were the only one.”
Ox states an example, “I was doing the right thing without realizing it. The next thing I knew, I was doing good deeds. In a moment of carelessness, I helped someone.”
He continues, “You never hear those things. You surely never will.
Righteousness cannot exist without intent. Righteous action requires righteous intent. You can’t do the right thing unless you try to. If your inability to do the right thing is causing you to suffer, it’s because you don’t feel that you’re trying to do it.
There are many reasons one may not try to do the right thing. Mountains of things may cause hesitation. Stews of things may inspire fear. It’s fine to blame it on another. It’s fine to blame it on society too.
You can blame the age we live in, or on the cards you were dealt. But those who are not doing the right thing should acknowledge that it’s not that they cannot, but that they will not.
There’s no need to force yourself to do the right thing. But you must not forget that it isn’t because you can’t, but because you’ve chosen not to. All righteous people. One, they decide to do it. Then two, they do it.
The steps must be taken in that order. Worrying about the second step while you’re still on the first is the height of foolishness.”
After Juuni Taisen, I watched Your Lie in April and Violet Evergarden. I’ve never cried so much over anime until I binged watched these 3 consecutively. Anime always has its way of drastically changing my life.
I know my blog suffered for the past year and a half, and I apologize for all the strangeness in 2017.
In order to grow, I needed to go through the process. No more delaying putting in the work. I needed to take a step back, redefine what success truly meant to me, and appreciate life for all its dreariness and madness. Happiness is not a constant state of bliss, but it is impermanence that makes life beautiful. (Just look at cherry blossoms!)
I pressured myself to stay the same, but it’s been 15 years since I first started. I was afraid that people will stop following me if I did, but I also knew I wouldn’t ever learn or grow if I stayed the same person as I was 15 years ago. (Just look at Magikarp – so much effort to become Gyarados!)
Grounding your core on short-lived elements like numbers and the illusion of power and fame will leave you with nothing when we’re all stripped down to the bare essentials. What will endure, if you keep your values intact, is a psyche that can’t be easily be swayed and broken by external elements. I’m not completely there yet, but I’m working on it.
For the first time in 15 years, I allowed myself to take a break from work so I can reintegrate into real life, and redefine my own meaning of success with genuine experiences. For the first time in 15 years, I allowed myself to live, and it all began by treating myself and others with more kindness.
I don’t want to be that person who skates through life doing the bare minimum. I want to be the person who shows up at important life events, makes an effort to listen, and does her best even if she makes a fool of herself.
I’ve been trying to keep fit since the year started, and it’s been doing wonders for my mental state. I found freedom in small, deliberate decisions to change my situation. Working on something, little by little, is better than nothing at all.
I don’t want life to go through me. I want to be the one to go through life, through all its ups and downs, and enjoy every moment while it lasts.
I’ll try my best.
I’ll do my best.