I have changed, a lot, and I really miss the person that I used to be.
When I started this blog I did it because I wanted to speak out for the normal girl. I don’t know who the fuck I thought I was, some sort of feminist Gandhi probably, but I saw this as a platform from which I could be a voice for the downtrodden; those not represented in the media, those struggling with their mental health, those exhausted of a size zero society that reminds them time and time again that they weren’t good enough.
And for a while that’s what I did.
I made fuck all money doing it, but every day I got up, sat on the Daily Mail website for all of two seconds, found something to be furious about and would spend my days exploding words onto the little corner of the internet that I had carved out for myself.
It was an incredibly fulfilling job, (hobby?). I was constantly writing and talking and shouting and screaming and thinking and after a while people started to listen. I was having my pieces bought by newspapers and was getting thousands of hits to my own blog every day.
In June 2015 I was asked by Simon & Schuster to write a book and I jumped at the oppotuniay with renewed enthusiasm.
Having previously only shared my work on Facebook I decided it was time to get an Instagram account and start taking Twitter more seriously. Prior to this I had pretty much just lived in my own little online bubble and, as the year progressed and I started to explore more of what the other social media channels had to offer, I began to realise that I was not, as I’d first thought, the only person doing this.
There were millions of people out there, who, like me, had started something with a laptop and a dream and were working, working, working towards something more than what they had.
And if I’m honest, I think it was at this point, that everything changed for me.
I don’t know what I thought the rest of the world was up to, whilst I was busy tapping away at my computer, but it had never really occurred to me that there would be others out there doing the same thing that I was, and doing it better.
By the time my book came out, in July 2017 I was beginning to understand the blogosphere; a community for those, like me, who had created their own corner of the internet and who were dedicating it to the things that they cared about; beauty, fashion, travel, fitness, lifestyle and so, so much more.
If I’m honest, and I can’t explain why, but I always felt like I entered the blogosphere through the back door and as anyone who has ever tried to enter a party without an invitation will understand, I’ve spent most of my time, since then, feeling about as awkward and out of place as it’s possible to feel.
I am Lily Allen circa 2008 showing up to a black-tie event in a pair of trainers (iconic now of course, but a total faux-pas at the time).
And I became blindingly aware of the differences between me and everybody else.
Y’all know I love a cheesy catch phrase by now so trust me when I tell you: comparison is the enemy of contentment.
Things that had never mattered before began to really matter; how many followers I had, what my photos looked like, what my blog topics were, who I hung out with, how often I was posting.
Somehow I went from publishing fiery and passionate blog posts as often as twice a day about anything and everything that pissed me off or made me happy or inspired something exciting, without a thought for what people might think of me, to being someone that was becoming frightened to be different for the fear that people wouldn’t like or want me.
I changed myself and I changed my blog and somehow, I changed my entire ethos.
It had become less about fighting for the normal girl and more, just, about being one.
I hadn’t cared about Instagram before, or about the aesthetics of my blog in general, but as I looked around I realised that others really did, and because I was feeling alone and confused and very much on the outside looking in; I did the only thing I could think of and that was to copy them.
Of course they say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery and whilst that might be the case, it is also the single biggest murderer of creativity.
And so whilst I might have massaged the ego of the four million people showing off their leopard print midi skirt in an entirely ~candid~ photo by trying to be one of them, I accidentally murdered my creativity. Awaiting sentencing on a manslaughter trial as we speak.
Before all of this, I always thought that the ways in which I changed would be positive.
When I compare myself to the girl I was ten years ago, I see that I am entirely different and I know that the ways in which I have changed have made me, ultimately, a better person: I’m more confident, driven, and self-assured, I’m more positive, less selfish with higher self-worth and, crucially, much better clothes.
I have evolved, like a tadpole into a frog (a bit of a grim comparison, but I couldn’t bring myself to whip out the cliched caterpillar-to-butterfly analogy, least of all because I’m not entirely sure I’m out of the cocoon yet) and I know that I’m not done yet, I’m changing and evolving all the time.
But not every change I have gone through has been a good one.
The rhetoric surrounding working women right now is such that I think it’s hard for us to admit when things aren’t going right. We are supposed to be slaying all the time, being bigger and better all the time and owning not just our successes but our failures too; safe in the knowledge that they have made us into the people we are today.
We are told to love ourselves unconditionally, that we are queens and that if people don’t like us then they can get fucked.
And that’s fantastic and totally great and true.
But what that doesn’t equip us for, in the slightest, is what to do if we don’t like us. Or at least, what to do if we don’t like some of what now makes us, us.
I miss the person that I was two years ago. I miss creating without a care and writing what I wanted to and doing my own thing without worrying, all the time, that I was getting it wrong.
I don’t like the part of me that let the passion dwell and the fear take over; the part that changed herself entirely to fit into a mould, the part that let a group of collective strangers dictate what her career should look like. I don’t like that I allowed that part to win over the rest of me.
I want to change back, I want to be who I was before I snuck into a party via the back entrance that saw adapt and change to appease a group of people who, actually, most of them, found just as sneaky a way of entering the gathering as I did.
I want to go back to not giving a shit.
I think the speed at which everything happens now means that we constantly feel that we ought to be moving forwards and so, to now admit that I *want* to go backwards, feels strange, counterproductive, like admitting failure somehow.
But what I am coming to appreciate is that just because I’m looking backwards, it doesn’t mean I’m not moving forwards.
Please, we live in an era of self-driving cars; can’t a girl do both things?
Of course there are elements of the person I used to be that I don’t want back again; I don’t want to go back to working in the back of a fireplace shop just to fund the dream, I don’t want to be living a life with dead hair because of my obsession with bleaching it, I don’t want to welcome back body insecurities, friendship dramas, crisis’ of confidence surrounding what blogging even is. I’m looking back with rose-tinted glasses on, and I know that.
I don’t need, or want, to morph into exactly what I was back then.
But what I do need to do is take inspiration from my past.
It’s okay to look at the highlight reel of my life thus far and cherry pick the elements I want to bring back; else, why bother making a highlight reel in the first place?
I don’t dislike the person that I have become, but I think there are elements of what I was before that I want back; namely my hunger, ambition and my focus.
And so, in homage to the girl I used to be, I would like to welcome back certain bits of the old me to create the em.24 (my name, should I ever become Black-Mirror-esque computer software one day), at least in my working life.
This blog is going back to it’s roots and that feels like one hell of a step forwards to me.