I know, I haven't blogged for a long time, so let's just get that out of the way now. Warning: It’s a long post. What can I say, I’ve got several months’ worth of blah-blahs to make up for.
The practical reason for it is that I was, honestly, just incredibly busy. I work a full-time day job for 40-50+ hours a week. I’ve been spending a lot of time studying, taking workshops, and even some exams – at the end of last year, I obtained my qualification as a fitness coach, and this year’s focus has been on the mind, from NLP to psychology. I started writing a graphic novel, which turned into a 3-part actual novel with some graphic artwork interspersed within it. And because I’m apparently a glutton for punishment, I’m now also trying to complete a screenplay for a short film idea that my sometimes-better-half dreamt up, and also figure out how to film a short documentary about a hopefully life-changing trip that I’m embarking on this summer, which is going to be more complex than any of the simple video projects I’ve ever taken on before. I also spent a considerable amount of time travelling, going to Thailand, Romania, Georgia, Azerbaijan, South Africa, and Egypt, within the span of 6 months. Trying to figure out how to fit this all in, while still making it to the gym regularly, still maintaining the quality of your friendships and relationships, looking after one extremely needy cat, and being a functional adult who does their laundry, cooks most of their own meals, and keeps a clean home, is no easy feat. You can understand how easy it has been, then, for several months’ worth of well-intended blogging to vanish into thin air.
But that wasn’t all. Beyond the practical reasons, there was also an emotional one causing a sort of writer's block, if you will. After having spent more than a decade working as a journalist, on publications from (primarily) lifestyle magazines and customer titles to newspapers and more, I had moved on to a job in content management at an agency. Whereas my previous job as the Editor-in-Chief of the regional edition of one of the biggest women’s mags in the world involved not only writing but also styling, organizing and directing photoshoots; commissioning work from freelancers and syndicated content and editing that; shooting and editing video; designing simple pages and working with art directors on complicated ones; handling social media accounts; attending events to represent the magazine as part of my job, and more – where with each passing year and the increasing responsibilities that came with my seniority I would actually get to spend less time at the very core of my work as a journalist, actually writing – my main focus had now become writing, all day every day. It was the writer's equivalent of a formerly high-level athlete having eschewed training in favour of other related-but-not-as-physically-demanding work over the years, who was suddenly trying to train for competition again by hitting the ground not just running but sprinting, without any proper warm-up, prep, or transition time. The result? I started feeling like a human typewriter, and after essentially spewing out words nonstop with little else to give my brain a break for months on end, it became increasingly harder to remember what differentiated my "off-duty" writing from that of my 9-6 job, and why I loved it so much I was still willing to do more of the same work after I'd finished the work that actually paid the bills.
I had also started feeling some discomfort about the state of the publishing industry, and questioning my place in the world as a writer, whether as a journalist, as a agency's content specialist, or as a blogger. It wasn't that I had an issue with it per se – I just I knew I had some unanswered questions playing below the surface of my mind, and I had to figure out what they were before I could even try to answer them. All I knew is that I felt unsettled, somehow.
I saw an Instagram post by Tara Stiles, a woman I considered a friend even though I’d only met her in person once due to our strong and instant connection and the immensely similar way we both viewed the world (and the changing shape of media), that gave me clarity and summed it up perfectly. To me, she’s always been one of the OG fitness/health influencers, before influencers became a thing. The model-turned-yoga instructor and businesswoman – she’s the founder of Strala Yoga, a style that I very much enjoyed due to its focus on finding what works for your body rather than simply conforming to what you think yoga is supposed to be, or look like – not only starred in the first-ever instructional online yoga videos, she also launching her own series of online classes, uploading her yoga and lifestyle content on YouTube and gaining a large and dedicated following there long before YouTube channels became such an ubiquitous part of our lives. I still remember seeing her plastered all over my hotel room TV when I visited Singapore back in the early 00’s, through her partnership with W Hotels. In her post, Tara confessed that she had temporarily lost interest in sharing much of her life on Instagram, if at all. She had been too busy living that life offline, and with the utmost respect to her followers, she eloquently expressed how much she had come to value the importance of privacy and reality, and savouring the “moments of our lives that goes [sic] missing when it’s all filtered and shared constantly.” She said there was “so much pressure to over share and dramatize that I really don’t want to add to that pressure for people. I don’t feel the need to and my hope is that feeling of needing dissolves collectively. You can be successful, happy, and full of love without exposing every moment of your life on Instagram. You are more powerful as you are.”
It was as though she’d taken the words right out of my mind. She extolled the virtue of our nostalgic use of the internet, where we would share things that were “hopefully useful” and stated how “Sharing every moment of life seemed silly then and it’s become expected reality now. This has got to change. It’s very unhealthy and we can’t wait for platforms to change. We can only control what we do.” I couldn’t have agreed more. That feeling of being unsettled was because I had begun to feel the same. What had once been a space in which I was happy to share the parts of life that I thought were worth sharing, either because they were useful, interesting, or particularly exciting, had become a place in which I felt like people felt increasingly obliged and pressured to fabricate so-called perfect lifestyles around – and often, at the expense of – happiness within their actual life, both offscreen and onscreen. I had seen it happen to many former friends of mine – people who once used to actually look you in the eye and value real, human connection, and now struggled to tear their eyes, mind, or thoughts away from not just their phone but the roaring hunger of social media’s social pressure, and transformed as a result, by choosing to relinquish the important parts of our friendship in favour of what would garner them more Likes and Follows from strangers across the internet. It was scary, and even if I didn’t choose to partake in that type of behaviour, I had been struggling to figure out how to continue sharing content, writing, and blogging, without ever crossing that line. But Tara pretty much nailed the essence of that too: “I’m creating space here to post when and what I feel inspires me,” she said, continuing: “Hope to meet you in the real world and get to know you unfiltered. Anyone else feelin this vibration about to change? It must.” Well, obviously my answer to that is a resounding yes. And just like Tara, in that space that I created for myself, I found the lines that I was comfortable between. To continue posting content that inspired me, that I found interesting or useful or worth sharing, but to do so at my pace, and one that feels right and honours what is being shared, rather than simply doing so because I feel like it’s what “should” be done. After all, if this is a passion project, it needs to be led by passion, doesn’t it?
I thought about naming this post, “Did social media kill the journalism star?” but that’s another topic entirely – it certainly was an aspect of this period of mental space, but it’s a debate that deserves its own post. I am one individual, not reflective of an entire industry, and as a journalist, I also know that story needs to be supported with different viewpoints and some solid facts and figures, so I’ll save that one for another day. For now, I’m just glad to once again feel inspired to put words to the digital page – and remember that my Macbook should be used for more than just Netflix (ok, well I’ve been using it for my book and some other writing work as well, but you catch my drift) – and in a way that once again feels right to me. And as always, thank you for reading!