When I published my very first blog post on this date four years ago, never in my wildest dreams could I have foreseen that every aspect of my life would change beyond recognition. Not only that, if you’d have told me that it would turn into the most exciting, wondrous adventure and that all of my dreams would come true, I’d have accepted it as little more than a whimsical thought and moved swiftly on. But, that’s exactly what has happened and I can’t quite believe it.
This post is celebratory, it’s about how my blog has shaped my life, so I debated whether or not to include the next paragraph because it revisits old ground, but I do feel I need to include at least some of my “back story” to give my current and incredibly happy status some context. (And rather than cluttering the post with the links to the relevant posts to which I’ll refer, I’ll list them at the end).
My Harder Times
To those that have followed since the early days, you might recall that three years ago, on my blog’s first birthday, I wrote about the life-changing events following my discovery eight weeks earlier of my former husband’s long-standing infidelity, (with a woman I had considered a friend). The divorce that ensued was brutal, horrific and exhausting and within eight months, my children and I moved from our large country barn conversion into a new build in the centre of town. To say my emotions were tumultuous at that time would be one almighty understatement. Fear, humiliation and shock took it turns to occupy my mind day and night, but I chose to swim, (although my natural optimism and positivity meant sinking was never an option), and slowly, with the unwavering support of my parents, brothers and sisters-in-law and my friends, I came out the other side, stronger and with a greater understanding of life and its priorities and free from the abusive marriage that I had chosen to stay in for the sake of my children. That chapter is something I plan to write about one day in depth, not because I wish to wallow in self-pity, far from it, but because I am proof that time heals, that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that, most, most importantly, though it’s nigh on impossible to believe at the time, happy ever afters do happen. I received so many wise words and learned so much that I want to pass on. I want to share what really helped me to get through it.
Throughout those hard months, I realised that the career break I was taking needed to come to an end so I could take steps to become financially independent but I wasn’t of the right mindset to return to optometry. I’d always wanted to write, so I tentatively emailed the managing director of Aspire, a Skipton-based magazine to see if I could get some work experience and included a link to my blog. She read and liked it and offered me a monthly fashion feature. Three months later, I was offered the role of copywriter, editor and journalist, a position I accepted with relish and still hold.
My Blog’s Evolution
Once settled into our new home, I found myself wanting to improve my blog. It was still a hobby but one I was becoming more and more passionate about. I look back and cringe at some of my early posts; the photography was poor, I didn’t understand the technicalities of writing it such that search engines would find and like it and I had no concept of the importance of social media or how best to promote my posts. Slowly, though, I learned on the job, (I’m still learning every single day), and in February last year, I attended my first blogging conference after realising I would need to run my blog as a business, so time-consuming was it, to sustain it. This proved to be a life-changing weekend because there, I met six other bloggers, only one of whom I’d met previously. Such was our connection that we kept in touch and one year later, launched The Over 40 Collective, (which I’ve written about and mentioned on many occasions). Next week, we are invited guests at a very special event which I am considering to be the pinnacle of my blogging career so far. The itinerary we have is incredible and I can’t quite believe that it has all come about because of my blog; that it’s actually part of my job. We’ll all be sharing snippets next Friday on social media with full blog pots to follow. I can’t wait to share it because it truly will be an awesome day.
The Over 40 Collective
This year I’ve worked with more brands than I could ever have hoped for. It’s a privilege to wear clothes from little known brands and to make a difference to a start-up company by wearing one of their tee-shirts on Instagram. It’s an honour to have been named the blogger expert for certain brands and to be invited to press days. My blog is constantly and organically evolving. I’m doing more restaurant reviews and beauty reviews and the boundaries between style and lifestyle are increasingly blurred. I am, (very happily), writing more sponsored posts, but must reassure that every single one is authentic. I wear and use everything that appears on my blog and I turn down more than I accept. I speak and write from the heart with integrity and honesty and that will never change. My goal now is to keep on building my blog, to work with more brands and to improve my photography skills further. I also want to write some more personal posts as mentioned above, those that are both emotional and emotive; I’ve been through a lot and I have a lot of things to share that might help. I’ve also made my share of mistakes but I’ve learned from them; I’m not afraid to hold my hands up to them.
My Dream Come True
And now onto my happy ever after. I’m the world’s most romantic and sentimental person and always hoped to find my prince, but after kissing a few frogs, I had almost reached the conclusion that I’d be better off on my own, because nobody seemed to tick all of the boxes. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t looking for perfection because I can’t offer that in return, but there are some fundamentals that are incredibly important and my experience of dating throughout the last two years has taught me not to compromise on them; things simply won’t work out otherwise. Experience has also taught me to trust my gut instinct. Listen to it, ask it if it’s not forthcoming and believe what it tells you because whether or not you like what you hear, it’s always right.
It was indirectly through Michelle, The Barefaced Chic, (also in The Over 40 Collective), that last October, I met Ian. From the first moment, I knew he was everything I have ever hoped for. Caring, sensitive, romantic, kind, intelligent, cultured and… tall. Yaaay! Tall enough for me to wear my highest heels and still have to reach up. It’s difficult to use the words I want to use without sounding overly sentimental or gushy, but he is the most wonderful man and I can’t imagine life without him. It’s not been plain sailing. It isn’t easy for my children to see their mother as a romantic partner, rather than as just their mum and I have been accused by them of behaving like a giggly princess in his presence, but his patience, understanding and personality shine through and everything is falling into place. He supports me in all of my work, is a very patient photographer and is the best Instagram husband this blogger could wish for. I’ve waited my whole adult life to feel like this, to be treated this way and to have a relationship that is not only exciting but is grown-up and firmly underpinned by mutual respect, understanding, equality, honesty, a shared go-getting, positive attitude and a lot of fun and laughter.
There have been times when things have been unbelievably difficult. There is so much more to say about several aspects of this post and at times, my life has seemed like a soap opera. Friends have suggested that I write a book about it but I honestly think that it would seem too far-fetched to be true. Some things have seemed almost beyond belief and certain behaviours, especially those of my former husband are incomprehensible, indefensible and unforgiveable. But I look at my children and I couldn’t be prouder. They have shown resilience beyond their years. Poppy is sixteen and is in the throes of her GCSEs. She’s bright, conscientious, beautiful, honest, unpretentious and kind. Harry is a sports mad, intelligent, spirited fourteen year-old who despite being horrified that his friends discovered my Instagram, tells me almost daily that he loves me. He doesn’t need to tell me that he’s proud of me because I can tell. They both have an excellent sense of perspective and they know I do my very best to be both parents to them, a role supplemented in bucket loads by my own wonderful dad and my two brothers and my mum continues to show unstinting love and support towards each of us.
As I sit and type, I can’t help but believe that this was always the plan. It feels like I was destined to write for a living, that I was destined to live a sociable and fulfilled life in the town and not a rather isolated one in the country. I was destined to meet new friends that I wouldn’t have met in my old life. I’m so thankful that I had the courage to start my blog four years ago, that I was brave enough to put myself out there. I am thankful I emailed the MD of Aspire which led to my writing work. I am grateful that my parents looked after my children so I could go to the blogging conference which led to the formation of The Over 40 Collective and indirectly to Ian and I finding each other. I am so glad that the woman I once called a friend gave me a definitive reason to end my marriage. As crazy as it sounds, I want to thank her because it resulted in me regaining the freedom that had been taken from me throughout my marriage in a controlling, insidious way. I got myself and my sparkle back.
Thank you for reading my blog and for the support, comments and feedback which mean the world. If you are thinking of starting a blog, then go for it. It’s a lot of hard work and is quite addictive but it is the best way of expressing oneself and if you’re going through tough times, keep on believing in yourself and I promise, you will get through it. Talk and allow yourself to feel every emotion. From then on, make the most of every opportunity; grasp it with both hands. Have the courage of your convictions. Be honest, be true, be authentic, be brave and most of all, be yourself.
Love Lizzy x