15 Years

It’s been 24 days since the 15th anniversary of my mother’s death and I’ve had the draft of this sitting on my desktop since then trying to figure out what to say to convey how I dealt with my grief. I knew I wanted to acknowledge her anniversary somehow and, in my mind, the best way to do that was to write a post about how lately I’ve really felt like I’ve been working through my grief. In the simplest terms, what I originally anticipated this to be was a love letter to myself. Kind of like, HEY Guys, look at me, I dealt with my grief and now I want a pat on the back!

But that to me seems laughable now. It’s funny right that you can have such a clear vision of how you are feeling at any given moment and think you will continue to feel the next day and the day after that, but then just a few days later I’m like, “wait, did you actually deal with your grief? No, you don’t deserve a pat on the back.”

In all honesty, I don’t think I fully dove into my grief ever. I’ve been chipping away at it over the last 15 years as I found the strength. And that’s the thing about grief, right? It’s different for everyone. Mine was a slow burn and honestly something I probably won’t ever get over, but something I will learn to burden me and less and less so eventually it doesn’t affect my relationships and how I live my life.

In the past, I let my grief dictate a lot of how I lived my life. Some aspects made me, in my opinion, better. It made me want to grab every opportunity I could. A friend wanted me to visit her in New Zealand? Yep, doing that because I might not be able to do it ever again. Should I bungee jump? Yes. Should I skydive? For sure. I am really proud that I have literally lived my life to the fullest, but that does have its drawbacks…like zero savings in my 30s and packing on pounds because I should definitely treat myself to that milkshake because who knows if I will ever be able to experience a milkshake again. It’s a slippery slope.

My grief also was detrimental. It made me guarded. I felt like I needed to be strong. For whom? I’m not really sure. Maybe for other people around me so they didn’t have to be made uncomfortable around my grief? But that strength meant numbing the pain and that meant closing myself off to relationships that were scary. Scary relationships were ones that could be ripped away from me – particularly romantic ones. A lot of my “relationships” right after my mom passed were with people who were unavailable – they had girlfriends, they were long distance – in other words they were fleeting. They couldn’t hurt me because they weren’t going to be around long and I knew that.
I was watching Poldark lately, which if you don’t watch and you’re into BBC period dramas then you ABSOLUTELY MUST, and the main character said a really interesting quote to another character whose child had just passed away.

“To be strong is weakness. Tears must fall.”

The quote really hit me in the gut because it made me realize that I had been trying to be so strong that I was actually not feeling the pain. To feel the pain is actually the stronger action.

Since then I’ve tried to change in small ways to let that weakness and grief through. One is to be able to talk about my mom. Even 15 years later, talking about her makes me really emotional. Surface level things are easy to chat about. She liked candy apples. Her birthday was in September. She had a David Yurman bracelet exactly like that! It’s harder to go deeper. I’ve recently started dating someone and I find it especially hard to talk about my mom with him. I think I’ve realized it’s because I’ve really never met anyone since she passed away that I would have wanted her to meet and it’s really hard for me to come to terms with the fact that she never will meet him. Sitting with that grief and actually letting myself grieve the fact that she’s not here for that is something I probably would have grazed over in the past, but I’m trying to truly let myself sit with that sadness now.

Another small change is just having a year of NO. I know most people have a year of yes, but I’ve actually had probably too many years of yes. I am constantly overdoing it and I need to scale back. One way, in particular, is with friendships. After my mom passed I had a hard time of letting any friendships sort of fade and fizzle out. I didn’t want to lose anyone else so I kept people around that maybe I shouldn’t have. My goal this year is to maybe be a little less social, let those friendships fizzle that should have naturally fizzled a long time ago. Inner circles don’t need to be 50 people deep and that is something small I am working to fix over this year.

Also on the docket, spend more time with the people who do really matter and who have been there for me through it all. They are the people it would really hurt to lose and I need to remember that.

My journey with grief is far from over and may actually never be over, but I am proud of how far I have come. If you had known me in college, you would know things are a lot healthier over in this noggin these days. I’ve let the grief soak in below the surface more and I will continue to in 2019.

I guess I will take that pat on the back after all.

Let’s Get Real About Content Creation

Every once and a while, I will see some posts or stories circulate around Instagram that talk about #sponsored posts. The gist of these posts are the following:

  • As a non-content creator, you probably don’t understand that we don’t just do sponsored posts to be annoying on your feed. It’s actually, in fact, because we are trying to make money!
  • Please like and comment on my post so I can make more money.
  • Please and thank you!

Usually, I see these posts and I commiserate, I’m all like, “Yea girl, PREACH!” because I too participate in doing sponsored content with companies and brands and like these other men and women I want to do the best job I can for a brand and they determine my ROI by reach and impressions and likes and engagement. The better all of that is, the more brands want to work with you and the more you can make money.

Add in the drama of Instagram algorithm that might hide your post from your community and doing brand partner posts can be really stressful. Let’s not start on the algorithm. Another post, another day!

I saw a recent Instagram rant though that phrased her frustration a little differently. It basically said, you know those posts you see that look “a little too perfect with a product prominently displayed and the captions that often feel fake?”, you should like and comment on them, it’s how we make money. She went on to say some good points about supporting that person because this is their job and it doesn’t take long to like or comment on a photo if you enjoy their content. Then she goes on to say, “Sponsored posts can be annoying, but if you can look past the cheesy caption and awkwardly placed product you’ll see a woman working hard.”

OK, here’s my issue. We as content creators keep putting this blame of not getting enough likes or comments on the follower/our audience. What if instead of creating content that looks “too perfect” or using “cheesy captions” that might feel authentic, we decided to try something new? What if we took the fewer likes or fewer comments as a kick in the ass to be like, “You know what, maybe I need to try some new things (poses, locations, colors, angles!), see what content my audience wants to see more of, take it up a notch!”

Again, let’s take the Instagram algorithm thing out of the equation because I see really creative, unique content out there that is getting suppressed and unfortunately it’s an issue but it’s a different issue than the one I’m trying to address today.

What I’m trying to say is that we as content creators need to take responsibility for that content we are creating and then ultimately how it performs. Creating content and doing sponsored ads is marketing. Marketing is a lot of trial and error and then strategy and execution. As owners of our brand and content, we should be constantly testing out new things in small doses, see if it works and if it does implement that across our strategy. If it doesn’t work, stop doing it or adapt it slightly and see if that affects your follows/likes/comments.

If you look back in the deep dark depths of my Instagram posts you will see a lot of trial and error that I did. For a while, I took a lot of black and white photos because I liked that aesthetic on other accounts I followed, but I quickly realized it didn’t lend itself to my personality. I am color, I am loud, I am opinions and the community that followed me could see that and wasn’t really engaging as much with the softer, quieter tones I was playing with.

Too often I feel like I see bloggers or content creators doing the same thing when promoting a product. 20 different bloggers doing the same pose, the same background, the same colors, using the same caption. If our content looks like the rest of the content for that same campaign, then how are people setting you apart from the crowd? Why would they want to like or comment on it if it’s seemingly inauthentic, tired and fake?

I have a lot of blogger friends who I give a lot of credit because they are constantly strategizing with their photographers or sounding boards (aka boyfriends or friends or colleagues) about creative and unique ways to stand out from the crowd and trying to cut through the crowd with their own authentic voices.

 

Their product placement makes me intrigued and that’s the whole point, right? I want to see something and be intrigued enough to not just like a photo, but also to swipe up or click that link in that bio! We may be content creators, but we have to be marketers first. That means knowing your audience, engaging with that audience, figuring out what works and what doesn’t from your metrics and then course correcting if needed.

That’s not to say you can’t have AMAZING content and it still doesn’t get likes or views (bc algorithm but again another post, another day), or that you sign a contract with a brand and they have very strict guidelines that you have to abide by which might limit how you can talk to the product or pose with the product or style your photo so I do get those limitations. I’m just encouraging us all to think about this process from the viewpoint of the client and our audiences because sometimes I think we lose sight of that obligation.

And it also doesn’t mean that the woman who wrote the comments above isn’t right. I agree it’s not hard as an audience member to like a post and support another woman trying hard to compete for business. Support, support, support. But let’s also as content creators not become complacent and keep adapting and doing things to deserve that engagement and support.

NOTE: I am not perfect. This doesn’t mean I haven’t done the things mentioned above. I definitely have taken a similar shot as someone, posed in the same way as someone, used a caption that wasn’t that creative. We all do it! Sometimes that’s what feels most authentic to you and you always gotta do you.