This isn’t the post I was planning to publish today but I couldn’t let the moment pass without expressing my sincere and heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you, and to share some of the story of how HowToGYST came to be.
On Thursday October 5th 2017, the annual Irish Blog Awards were held in The Academy on Dublin’s Abbey Street. I was honoured to be a finalist in the vlog category for my YouTube channel. However, after much consideration, I decided not to attend for various reasons: it would have been costly for me with taxis, flights, tickets, hair & make-up, etc.; I didn’t have childcare to cover the time I’d be away; I would have been exhausted flying transatlantic twice in the space of about 2 or 3 days; and I just genuinely didn’t think I’d win.
More fool me.
HUGE thanks to Norma from interiors blog 'The House That Will' for capturing the moment for me, and for collecting the award on my behalf. I actually nominated her blog for the 'interiors' category and was delighted when she bagged the bronze. Please go check out her site.
To say I was overcome would be an understatement. I shouted and shrieked and basically just bawled my eyes out for about an hour.
The truth is, I hadn’t even set aside any time in my schedule to follow the Awards but, as the hour got closer, I started stalking Instagram and Twitter. At first it was just to see what the set-up was like and how everyone was dolled up (the dress-code was ‘movie icons’). I knew a few fellow bloggers in attendance so was following their tweets and Insta-stories.
Then, as the announcement for the vlog category grew nearer, I decided to abandon any semblance of getting work done and just devote myself to following the results. By this stage, I was stress-eating a bag of Wine Gums and risking repetitive strain injury with the amount of refreshing I was doing. The tension!
My Twitter feed froze two categories before mine. I was simultaneously outraged at the interruption and also secretly impressed that somewhere in the Twitter universe, some algorithm or other decided I’d had quite enough for one night and cut me off. That’s what good friends do.
Or maybe it was just our shit internet connection. Who can tell.
And so I waited, still completely oblivious to the fact that, 5,000 miles away, my (channel’s) name was being read out. And then my Instagram DMs went insane and I lost my mind a little bit and calls and comments were coming through quicker than I could reply to them.
There’s a very particular warm and fuzzy feeling that comes from having your work recognised and appreciated by your peers, but it’s the messages of congratulations from, basically, complete strangers that make it all the more special. It’s the idea that there are people out there who actually wish you well, for no other reason than they’re just decent human beings.
The vast majority of you don’t know me in real life. I may have chatted to you online, and you may have left comments on my blog or YouTube channel or across social media, but you don’t owe me your kindness, or even the time of day.
Yet you still give it, and I could not be more grateful.
At a conservative estimate, I spent about 15 total hours in the 2 days after the Awards replying to each and every message I received. I was honoured, humbled, and quite frankly gobsmacked, and I sporadically sobbed heaving, happy tears.
In short, I was overcome.
I try so hard not to be concerned with the judgements of others but, when I left a legal career to pursue blogging, it was difficult not to feel that it would be viewed as a major step in the wrong direction.
Even in this digital age, lawyers are still lauded while bloggers and YouTubers are barely spared a second thought.
It’s hard to forge a path when you believe, rightly or wrongly, that everyone feels you’re walking it backwards.
And it’s hard to admit that.
It’s hard to admit that I felt like I’d let my parents down. They were so proud of me when I qualified as a lawyer.
How do you tell someone who views that type of career as the pinnacle that you’ve jacked it all in to share your opinions with people on the internet?
Can I tell you why I did it? I warn you, it will sound strange.
Many of you will know that I struggled quite a lot after having my daughter. It was a dark, difficult time for me. I didn’t know who I was anymore outside of ‘mother’, and I didn’t like it.
When Scout was one, we took a family holiday to Cape Cod. On our last evening there, I wanted to be alone (I always wanted so desperately to be alone) so I took a stroll along the beach. At sunset, I sat down and tried to get a firm grasp on who I was and what I wanted from life, two things I felt had eluded me since the day I gave birth.
Sitting on a rock, scanning the horizon, I asked myself a simple question: “What do you want to do with you life?” Surprisingly, from somewhere deep inside, I actually got my answer: “I want to write.”
Its clarity caught me off guard.
I’ve always written to some degree or another throughout my life, whether it was essays in school, college assignments and theses, random poems or songs I scribbled down, short stories I penned purely for my own satisfaction, or even a column I used to write for a local newspaper.
And yet, in all that, it never occurred to me that it was a passion or something worth pursuing.
I’d like to say I got home and started my blog straight away. The truth is, I held off another four months before I finally stopped letting excuses like “I don’t know how to buy a domain name” suffocate me.
I’d also like to say I happily shouted it from the rooftops.
The truth is, I never officially made the announcement because I was afraid.
There, I said it.
I was afraid of being judged and being perceived as a failure. I mean, why would I throw in the legal towel if it was working out well for me?
If you’re not in the blogging world or aren’t closely connected to someone who is, I can’t explain the sense of freedom and flexibility the job offers. (And yes, it’s a job. Nay, a career.) I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to sit and carefully stitch together a sentence that can inspire someone on the other side of the world. Or to share your thoughts and ideas in a video and have someone say it changed their life, even if it was only in the smallest of ways.
The smallest of ways can reap big rewards.
And it’s just the same when I read a message from you that says I made you laugh, or cry, or think, or re-evaluate, or be proactive.
Each message, no matter how “small”, takes up a big place in my heart.
I’ve cried many times since I found out I won. I’ve cried many times while writing this post. I’ve cried while reading your comments. And I know I’ll cry again in the future when I look back and remember it all.
I guess I'm a bit of a sop that way.
I can’t thank you enough. No amount of posts or videos or tweets or insta-stories could even scratch the surface of how much I appreciate each and every one of you.
I wish this post were perfect for you. I wish I could spend weeks and months polishing it up, but I could never do the job enough justice. Just know that you fuel me, you inspire me, you helped pull me out of the depths of post-natal depression, and you sustain me.
For me, blogging is not a hobby, it’s a “have-to”.
And you’ve made this blogger very, very happy.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh. (A thousand thank yous.)