The Not-So-Big 5 Year Anniversary

At what point did you start to “forget” about your age? At what point did you start to “lose track” of how old you were? When you would think about it and your brain would be like “thirty-schmen”?

No, I don’t do that either.

As I am about to celebrate my thirty-schmenth birthday, I got a notification from Word Press recently that scared the bejesus out of me.

In my mind this blog has been 3 years old for about, oh, two years now. So when I got the notification from Word Press the other day that this blog was 5 years old, I had the same thought I had as I approached my 30th birthday: “What the hell do I have to show for my time here?”

I’ve always had a hard time defining what success looks like for me. Success for an artist is an ephemeral thing. You can’t rely on external success, say, awards and money. While these things are all fine and grand, they are out of your control. You can work your ass off and make amazing things and never receive a moment’s recognition for it. (Great life, huh? Still want to be an artist?)

So you have to define success some other way and on your own terms that don’t depend on external conditions. And what it really boils down to is the fact that I’m still here, still standing, not discouraged or broken, is a success.

It conjures something Ta Neishi Coates said about the journey of being a writer. You can watch the whole clip here, but around 3:10 he says this:

“If you are a young person, then you should keep going, because as a young person there are a lot of people who want to be writers, but what happens is the older you get, the path is so tough and you get beat up so much that those people eventually go to business school, and they go and become lawyers. And if you find yourself continuing…you will have a skill set, because you have worked on it for a certain period of time…and the competition will thin out.”

That’s a cynical way of explaining how to be successful, but he’s right. Writing anything is a grueling journey, and you get beat up a lot.

Some writers quit their blogs, if their heart isn’t in it and they’re not getting the promotion they hoped for. Those are sound reasons not to blog.

I am still here, despite being my own worst enemy. My biggest weakness has always been consistency, writing several good posts over the course of a few months and then going missing for a few months more. I’ve lost count of how many periods I’ve had like that in the past “three” years.

When the path gets tough and you get beaten up, you need a bigger reason than number of followers and likes and influence to keep you going. Those rewards don’t last very long, and they aren’t something you have control over.

The question “What the hell do I have to show for my time here?” comes from a gap between where I think I should be and where I actually am. That gap doesn’t seem so unnavigable when I remind myself what I’m in it for.

Working with the end in mind is what kept me coming back – to create a body of work that I can be proud of and connect with my readers on a personal level. The success of still being here and still standing is something I can be proud of.

Five is a good year and so is the thirty-schmenth (okay, okay, I’m 34), because these aren’t the only years. They neither define nor summarize who I am or the body of work I’ve created. Too much has come before and too much is still to come to hang it all on one number, whether an age or size of an audience.

It’s for that reason that I know that 5 is going to be a good year. Thank you, forever and always, for being here. You make it all worth it.

Photo from Unsplash, by Brooke Lark

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