I can remember a time, not too long ago, in the midst of my depression, when all I could think about was "getting back to normal." I talked often about wishing I could "go back to the way things were," or "be myself again." I was thinking of myself as a completed picture - a set object, already ordered and organized and fully designed and produced. Packaged neatly in a pristine box, I sat for years on a pretty shelf. Depression, it seemed at the time, had yanked me violently from the box, pulled me apart, and left me broken in pieces. Somehow, I had to get back into my box.
But ten months later, I find myself now seeing things different. I see me now in motion, constantly growing and changing. I'm not sitting stagnant in a box - I'm moving forward on the timeline of my life. Going "back" to anything from before the depression would be just that: a step in the wrong direction. I can't go back to the way things were, and I shouldn't want to.
That doesn't mean nothing is the same or similar to the way it was before. There are pieces of this newer me that look unchanged - I still love to dance, I still love little kids, I still love my amazing friends. My family is still by my side, as they always have been. I haven't moved to a new country, though I did move to a new apartment. Many things are the same for me.
But all that means is that I'm still me. It means I'm growing and changing, not disappearing entirely. I'm different, but not gone.
I was talking to my mom last night about some of the ways in which I've grown the most over the last year or so. Some of these changes can actually be seen in how I think about blogging - in general, in others' blogs, and in my own. For example, most of you know I keep stats on my posts, and one of the stats I record is the number of comments I receive on each post. These numbers used to cause me no end of stress and obsession. I used to hover by my mail, just waiting for comments, and often I would skim the comment itself only to get to my file and add one to the number of comments and see where that put my average. It was kind of disgusting, frankly.
These days, I appreciate the comments, not the numbers. I watch the numbers because they're interesting to me - sometimes I notice trends about which kinds of posts are most interesting or thought-provoking, or which days of the week tend to get the most comments, etc. But I do that because I find it interesting, not because I need to have the numbers. And when I read your comments now, I read them to see what you have to say, what you want to contribute to the conversation. Some of you may have noticed that I've taken to responding whenever and wherever I feel like it too, instead of routinely responding to everything at a pre-appointed time. It suddenly feels like what it should have been all along: a conversation. I don't need a number on an Excel spreadsheet to determine my worth as a blogger - I can do that all on my own.
Similarly, I don't need to be loved by the blogging celebrities anymore. For one thing, I realized that we really are all just people. The women at the top of the blogging game, they're just doing what they love, same as I am. Back in the beginning of my career as a blogger, I would hope desperately for a visit from Mom101 or Her Bad Mother or Mocha Momma, and on the rare occasion that they would leave a comment, I suddenly felt worthy. No offense to any of those ladies, but I now know that that's complete bullshit. Who are they to determine my worth? They'd be the first to answer, "Nobody." I value their opinions as writers and thinkers, definitely - I'm not trying to say they have nothing important to contribute. But I've come to better understand that when they don't comment, it doesn't mean they don't think I'm a good blogger. It means they're busy, and they don't read me every day, and that's not a poor reflection of me. Hell, I've had the chance to spend a number of hours now with Mocha (and sea monkeys, as can be clearly seen in the picture above), and I did not come away from our time together feeling like she thought I was a lame, worthless, wannabe "cool" blogger or anything like that.
My blog is going to be reviewed Monday by Diva Dee of Review My Blog. Honestly, this post isn't for her. If it were, what kind of growth would that be? No, I'm interested in her opinion too - if not, I wouldn't have submitted my blog for review. I'm curious what an objective observer, especially one familiar with many different kinds of blogs (from doing so many reviews), would have to say about my site. But I already know that her review won't make or break my blog. I seriously doubt any of you reading out there have been reading on condition of "No bad reviews!" If one bad review scares you off, then frankly, I'm not sure you were ever all that interested in my writing. Her review won't make me a good or bad writer - it'll just be one person's opinion about whether this blog is interesting to her or not, in writing as well as design, content, etc. I'll listen to what she has to say, and if she has suggestions for improvement, I'll consider them, just as I would from anyone. But I won't do them automatically just for approval - the only one whose approval I really need is my own.
So if I've grown this much just in how I think about my blogging, can you imagine the leaps and bounds I've made in my personal life too? Quality over quantity, understanding other people better, and seeking my own approval first and foremost: It's a big step forward.
There's no going back from here.