It’s funny how everything can change in a day.
How you can wake up one morning feeling happy and inspired and yet go to bed that night feeling as though everything has changed. It’s funny how you can go from feeling that you know an industry inside out to fearing that you know very little at all; from feeling a sense of trust and belonging within a community only to realise that, ultimately, you are incredibly alone.
Last Friday I travelled to London to attend Britmums Live 2017, held the following day at the County Hall, and hailed as the UK’s largest blogging conference. Although I had my doubts about travelling to London alone, even more so in light of recent events, I pushed my anxieties aside and told myself that it would be a great experience, that the information I learnt would be invaluable, and that it would be lovely to spent time with other bloggers within a community I have come to know and love.
Within seconds of setting foot inside the County Hall last weekend, I felt completely out of my depth. Although the venue was undoubtedly beautiful, I couldn’t help but feel that it exuded hostility, that the echoing halls and sterile floors were a far cry from the loud, friendly chatter of BlogOn just one week prior.
I would love to tell you that the sessions at Britmums more than made up for my initial disappointment, that I came away feeling as though I had learned something important, that I felt inspired, motivated, empowered, but I didn’t.
I would love to tell you that that despite the fact the brands were completely irrelevant to my blog, or that the afternoon sessions left me struggling to stay awake, I still had a great time, but I can’t.
I would love to tell you that at no point in the day did I feel disheartened by the blogging community, nor did I feel alone or inadequate or completely irrelevant, but I’d be lying.
Because as the day went on, and every hour felt as though time had stood still, I felt my love for blogging slowly draining away, and I battled with the overwhelming urge to grab my bag, jump back on the train and go home to my babies.
That evening I boarded a boat on the Thames on autopilot, feeling as though the life was slowly being sucked out of me. Part of my reason for attending Britmums this year was due to being a finalist in the category of most “inspirational blogger”, an award which, although I knew I didn’t stand a chance of winning, meant a lot to me for what it represented. And although it had never even been on my radar that I could possibly win, such is my defeatist attitude, when the winner was announced and it was not me, I couldn’t help but feel as though I had failed the one person I had worked so hard to make proud. Joseph.
I felt really sad that night returning home to an empty hotel room, ringing Gaz, speaking to Lewis, wishing more than ever that I was back at home with the five of them, cuddled up on the couch watching The X Factor and Jonathan Ross. I wished that I could rewind back to that morning, when I had got out of bed so sure of where I was heading, blinkered to the bitching and back stabbing I had witnessed that day, oblivious to the suffocating realisation that I was still very much a little fish in a big pond, unaware of the unyielding truth that whilst I had thought I could change the world by raising awareness of babyloss, I can’t.
Because the big thing about Britmums was the under lying message that to be a successful blogger you need to eat, sleep and breathe blogging. You need to be putting in the hours, pushing yourself to the top of that ladder, bringing in the pay cheques and pulling no punches.
It was implied that to be a real blogger we must be striving for success, making sacrifices, working tirelessly, never taking our eyes off the ball. It was insinuated that those of us who weren’t prepared to work for it, to give up our evenings, our weekends, our Christmas days, our holidays, every moment of every day, would never find success.
But the saddest truth for me is that Britmums opened my eyes to the fact that, actually, the blogging community isn’t always a very nice place to be. I realised that there are far too many bloggers just waiting to tear each other down as opposed to building each other up, so quick to criticise each other for their choices, making judgement and assumptions, focusing on the path that others choose to take ahead of their own. I realised that everything you see isn’t always as it seems, that the friendliest of faces don’t always have your back, and that ultimately, when it comes to the crunch, its a blog eat blog world.
And that left me in a pretty strange place.
Over the last few days I have done some serious thinking about the future of my blog, about the reasons why I started it, the direction I had hoped to take it, and my motivation for still writing it. And ultimately I realised that as wonderful as it would be to make a successful career through blogging, there are certain things that I am not willing to sacrifice to get there – my happiness, my integrity, and certainly not my time with the children
This week, having debated quitting blogging altogether, three events happened on the same day.
The first was a message from a lovely lady on Instagram who messaged me to tell me that sadly she had miscarried for the third time, and for some reason I was the very first person she thought to turn to.
The second was an email from Mumsnet to say that they would like to feature one of my posts on Babyloss on their website as part of a babyloss awareness campaign this month.
And the third was a parcel which arrived in the post, from two of my best blogging friends, to remind me that in this crazy world of blogging, they will always have my back.
And those things, those are the ones that really matter.
To know that I have given comfort to someone going through the hardest time of their life, to know that I have helped them through a loss or inspired those who are struggling to see a way forward. To know that I can raise awareness of the subjects close to my heart, that I can help to knock down barriers by sharing my story, that I can normalise the topics which are still so taboo. To know that without my blog I would not have met the most amazing group of ladies who have become some of my very best friends, and who I can trust whole heartedly.
In that way, I have been hugely successful.
Because whilst I may never make it big in the blogging word, whilst I may never win awards or top the charts, that’s not why I write. I do it for you, for those reading this right now, with empty arms seeking comfort; for those desperately wondering if their babies will make it here safely; for those who are looking for support after a bad day with the kids, those looking for confirmation that they are not the only one’s to ever feel this way.
I realise now that success is so much more than numbers, more than stats, more than winning. I realise that success is more than big houses and fancy holidays, more than having money in the bank. I realised that I shouldn’t have to feel that the things I want to write about aren’t important simply because they don’t pay my bills, or that the awareness I raise doesn’t matter simply because I didn’t take home a trophy.
My success isn’t defined by how small I was made to feel in a room filled with bloggers, or by how foolish I felt to discover that so much of blogging is smoke and mirrors. Success isn’t about working the hardest, shouting the loudest, playing the game the sneakiest; success doesn’t stem from making other people feel bad about themselves in order to make yourself feel better.
My success comes from being real, from being honest, from doing things at my own pace, in the right way, in a style that works for me. My success comes from my own acknowledgement, and my own sense of pride, at writing a blog that so many of you have taken into their hearts.
Britmums may not have inspired me in the ways I had hoped, but it did remind me that I am happier, and healthier, to continue on my own path. Britmums may not have reaffirmed my belief that the blogging community is a wonderful one to be part of, but it did remind me that the friends I can trust are worth holding on to with both hands. Britmums may not have made me want to be a better blogger, but it did reinforce my belief that I am the best I can be on any given day, and that’s okay with me.
It’s funny how everything can change in a day.