Today I turn 40. I have put off writing this post for a long time, but I have seen first hand my own experience, plus the responses I have gotten in my community in my FB Group about how intensely challenging this period has been and I know that what I am about to write will help someone. So, this is why I am sharing how starting a blog saved my life 10 years ago and how blogging continued to save me during the 10 years hence.
I am going to be ultra vulnerable here. It’s important. I am not looking for clicks. I am looking to connect with people who are hurting and give them hope. Even as I hold on to hope for myself.
How starting a blog saved my life
- As one who grew up with entrepreneurial parents (a farmer and fishmonger’s child), I have been entrepreneurial ever since I was a child. In high school, my artist friend, Raul Dunkley taught me calligraphy and I took what I learnt and started drawing people’s names artfully on paper and selling them at profit.
- I got my first job at 16, on national TV as a presenter in the longest running teen TV show, “Rappin.” I had cheques coming in my name before I could legally open my own account. I don’t even remember how I got them cashed. Probably had something to do with a joint account I had with my mother.
- I started my first blog in 2014/15. I always wanted to write and I felt I needed to find my voice. It was a personal blog. Then I started a blog about being a girl boss in PR.
- I was named president for 14 countries for the International Association of Business Communicators, IABC Caribbean Chapter at 27. The youngest at the time.
- I registered my first legal company at age 27. It was a Media and PR Agency. My first client was Red Bull. I earned my first million (Jamaican dollars) within 3 months- what I would usually make in a year.
- When I got married, I applied my entrepreneurial leanings to my approach to marriage. I thought marriage was not only the merging of people and passion but also of purpose. I built a brand- this brand- from scratch.
- I gave up an executive job at the deputy Permanent Secretary/Under Secretary/Deputy CEO level, with the Turks and Caicos Public Service, to which I was seconded from my company to create a Public Relations Unit for their Public Service and to train their staff as part of the succession planning. That was my first expat posting and it was a very lucrative position for a young, unmarried , 28-year-old and I used the first year to wipe out all my debt and actually save so I could invest in buying media and photography equipment.
- I left Turks and Caicos to go to Dubai to get married. One of us had to move. It was 2009, the recession had hit Turks and Caicos and there would be no place for him to work on Grand Turk with me and the Ritz Carlton project we were eyeing in West Caicos crumbled as Lehman Brothers folded. I decided that it would be better to allow the man to keep his job so as not to disrupt the power dynamic and simply to get creative about my own employment, applying for jobs as well as using the equipment I had bought. I felt I was more resourceful and resilient and so I packed up and went.
- I married my friend. A gentleman I knew since I was 15. I married a chef and wrote a mega popular post about it, and he was a junior sous chef at the time. We lived on 1/3 of what I had been making on my own in Turks and Caicos, not including other expat perks I got in a family contract. His position gave him no such benefit. But I would learn to work with what he made and build a life and a home from it.
- I thought that it would be cool to merge our talents and create a food and lifestyle blog. There was a dearth of people of colour represented in the blogosphere then and I couldn’t find any other Jamaican. I tested, re-tested, polled names, then posts, got feedback, incorporated feedback and then I still waited. Until tragedy struck.
- I lost a baby I didn’t even know I had.
What started out as feeling like just a bad period and spotting was actually a miscarriage that I worked through. I did freelance work in Dubai, did my friend’s dreadlocks and did photography to earn whenever I could. After an intensely painful day on the beach on the Palm Island in Dubai for a company sports day where I had signed up as an extra set of hands for one of Dubai’s top training and development companies to facilitate team building for their German client, Stryker, I went to deliver a CD of photos to my friends Claudia and Winston.
Winston had hired me to shoot some commercial photography for him. As I sat around Claudia’s kitchen table with my face covered in angst, she asked me what was going on. As an older woman, a mother-figure, when she heard of my symptoms, she asked, “Are you sure you are not having a miscarriage?” As she spoke those words, she echoed something that my spirit knew but my brain was slow to confirm. It clicked.
My heart broke. It shattered into a million pieces.
I called my husband and told him to meet me at home. I was having an emergency and I didn’t want to talk over the phone. It was right before dinner service at Al Muntaha at Burj Al Arab and he said he would come after dinner. Claudia took the phone like a mother and told him with authority, “You must go home and meet your wife. This is an emergency.”
It was an awful night and I cried my way through it. The next day, we went to the Iranian Hospital in Dubai. I got tested. I was pregnant based on my blood levels. But then the ultrasound showed there was no baby. It was labeled as a “spontaneous abortion.” I sought clarification because abortions are illegal in Dubai an punishable offences. But I was reassured that it had nothing to do with actively seeking an abortion and everything to do with the body aborting the pregnancy on it’s own- what we know to be a “miscarriage.”
That was no comfort.
I lost a baby I didn’t even know I had.
I named her “September” because that was when she would have been due.
I knew it was not a boy because I knew before I got married that our firstborn would be called “Eiljah.”
I was devastated.
I mourned deeply. I was enveloped in so much pain. You see, the irony is that at ages 19 and 21 I did indeed have abortions. I got pregnant not once, but twice while I was in university and thought that I couldn’t bear the disappointment of being the black sheep in my family yet again and terminated because of the stories I told myself. All of that pain came rushing back. I gave up two babies who were healthy and viable and here I was now “married” and I lost the baby.
I was processing all of this, while my husband was trying out with a Michelin chef at the iconic sail shaped hotel in the sea in Dubai to move from Jumeirah Emirates Towers to the flagship restaurant at Burj Al Arab.
So I decided that I would deal with my pain alone, so that I could give him the creative freedom to express himself and shine so he could get the job. It. Was. Hard.
But I had an anchor. And that was my faith. And then I looked for my own outlet. I dusted off the tests for the blog and decided to go live. We didn’t even have a stove when I started. Yes, I started a food blog without a stove.
I needed an outlet. I needed to take the mess that I found myself in and compost it and make something useful and beautiful out of it. This blog has always been dedicated to September, I just never said it publicly. She visited me for a brief moment and left so suddenly I never even got a chance to say hello. But she also made me bold enough to stretch myself even in pain and use the creativity that God gifted me with from before I was born, to fuel something beautiful.
This blog allowed me to hone my skills.
Starting a blog really saved my life. It allowed me to take pain and process it, while creating joy in the same moments. So the same circumstance that was death to one dream, brought life to another.
Despite all of my qualifications and experience, I couldn’t find a job in Dubai. By that time, the recession finally hit the UAE and I just could not land a job. I applied for everything from posts at my level to secretarial. And nada.
The blog gave me hope. People loved it. People were reading it. I found community. I made friends. I got support. And I even got a food and lifestyle column in the oldest English paper, which I went on to write for 7 long years, even after I left Dubai. My Editor, Sushmita Bose will always hold a special place in my heart.
Starting a food blog has helped me to sharpen my food photography skills and food styling skills so that I have been earning as a food photographer and securing well-paying clients since 2015.
It helped me to secure a job to direct the online efforts of the largest fine kitchen and table store in the UAE and 6 Gulf Countries (think of it as the Williams-Sonoma of the Middle East). I started off as a social media consultant and then was invited to a full time job within 6 months. I was responsible for the content and launching of their website and creating policies for the company’s digital marketing. I even got to host a live tweet up of Martha Steward having a book signing in our flagship store in Dubai!
This blog has anchored me as I moved from country to country, helping me to create a lasting international network which still stands to this day.
It’s been my creative outlet when I found myself literally moving hemispheres and living in 3 countries within a 6 month period with a kindergartner – just for a marriage.
And yet the husband left anyway.
My high school friend, fellow entrepreneur, and CEO of Yaad Trendz, Stacia Alicia Davidson wrote a Jamaican proverb recently on her social media. “When John Crow want to leave, any breeze take him away.”
The benefits of starting and maintaining a blog
This blog has been an outlet as I now walk through a horrible divorce, having had my equipment that I worked hard to save and invest in maliciously destroyed. And that is why you have not seen him on my blog nor on my social media. Nor will you.
This blog forced me to be resourceful. I could no longer create new photos so I learnt to repurpose old content.
This blog taught me to use what I have. To find opportunities instead of focusing on the challenges. I used a 5-year-old phone to do all my work in the pandemic, because I learnt to use what was already in my hand.
This blog showed me that in the 10 years I focused on my building my marriage, family and business together, I neglected myself and my own calling and I am happy that I still have this space to bounce back to in a period in which I did not earn in 4.5 months.
Because I self-host, I can join ad networks like Google Ad Sense, which pays me around $100 every 3 months right now and not enough to cover my blog expenses but that is why I am working hard to build, grow and scale.
This blog has given me an opportunity to rebuild. As I pour in all the hours I can squeeze as a mother who is sole caregiver and sole breadwinner, I know that my labours will not be in vain. I am on a mission to reach 50,000 monthly page views on this blog so that I can get on the Mediavine Ad network.
This blog has allowed me the ability to be invited to prominent affiliate networks such as me being an Amazon Influencer and carefully curating my own store. When you shop through my link, I earn commission on sales at no extra cost to you. I have also partnered with Farmbox Direct (as seen in Forbes) so you can order organic veggies through my link and Enjoy Organic & Natural Produce at Farmbox Direct! Plus FREE SHIPPING in the Continental USA . I will have more partners coming soon.
When I did my two coaching courses 5 years ago, this blog allowed me to find a way to add that to my portfolio… “enriching people’s lives and businesses through food, lifestyle and coaching.”
This blog has helped me to hone my own entrepreneurial skills as well as help others who are also on their entrepreneurial journey and by helping entrepreneurs find and hone their voice and message and get comfortable with sharing themselves online without fear, so that they can connect with their audience and scale their businesses.
I want to help as many talented people I can release the burden of the creativity that is shut up in their bellies, facing the fear and disapproving voices in their own heads and transition to earning digitally when so many face to face brick and mortar income streams are drying up.
This blog will allow me to become financially independent, pay my mortgage, keep a roof over my son’s head, send him to school and pay for his much needed, critical surgery for a condition he was born with.
I am giving my gifts to add value to people’s lives and businesses, knowing that my gifts will make room for me.
This blog gave me a community, a movement people to love and to share with, people to learn from. This blog gave me you.
I wrote all of this today, spending the first waking hours of my 40th birthday because I am so grateful for where I am in my journey and how starting a blog has saved my life not once but several times along the way. It has kept me out of deep depression, finding something to build, to grow., to nurture and expand beyond the containment of my immediate circumstances.
So if you are looking for something to do to help you cope with the stress of these times, as well as a way to earn an income, please start a blog. Find niches that fit you and go from there. Share your expertise. Add value. God gave you your individual fingerprint in a world of 8 billion people because there is a mark that ONLY YOU can make. Start making it now. Write your legacy. Start a blog now. And if you don’t like to write, go to Youtube and talk. But please. Let it out. We need you. The world needs to hear your voice. That’s why you are here. Please take a seat at this table. It is reserved for you.
Wanna give me a birthday gift? Share this post and shop until you drop in my Amazon Influencer store. Or you can become a monthly patron. I want to be able to help and reach as many people as possible and your support is invaluable.
<a target=’new’ href=”https://click.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/click?id=arkhKayxKv8&offerid=768827.8&type=3&subid=0″>Enjoy Organic & Natural Produce at Farmbox Direct! Plus FREE SHIPPING in the Continental USA.</a><img border=”0″ width=”1″ alt=”” height=”1″ src=”https://ad.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/show?id=arkhKayxKv8&bids=768827.8&type=3&subid=0″ >