Why I Haven't Been Writing Lately
First, the boring stuff. Since going full-time with my business, Tall Hair Creative, I’ve had less time. Yes, that’s a very boring reason. And it’s an even weaker excuse. But let’s just start here.
Exactly one year ago, I was one-month into my unemployment, just back from a trip to Europe, and had just received my first unemployment paycheck. That was the life. Around this time, I decided I would take as long as I needed to in order to recover from my 9-5 bullshit life. For the past four years, I had been told by bosses, but mostly coworkers, how I was not professional, I was abrasive, lacked interpersonal skills, and every time I might have hurt someone’s feelings. I had been changing for years, disguising it as professional growth. It wasn’t. I was manipulated.
My parents were understandably frustrated af when I told them I would not be diving into a job search. I didn’t want to rush into another terribly emotionally abusive job. Having done a fair amount of job searching in Cleveland, I already knew there wasn’t a lot of job opportunities. I knew there were even fewer prospects of finding an organization that I would actually like to work for and would truly accept my personality, work style, and the work I do here on this blog. Because I should also mention at this point, I had started my blog just a few months before I was given the axe; my writing on here until this point was, while still authentic and vulnerable, but pretty safe. I didn’t write about dating or sex. I definitely had not mentioned my family or past abuse. What started out as a HR consultant/executive coaching blog, quickly evolved into something much more ‘me’, unapologetically. This trajectory was happening before my unemployment, but I didn’t make the decision to fully dig into it until almost exactly a year ago.
So, to recap: May 2018, I found myself unemployed with a lot of free time, a newfound sense of peace, but also a desire to explore the demons that have been holding me back for decades. I spent my days reorganizing my apartment to something that I loved and truly worked for me, and I spent my evenings getting drunk on rose on my back patio or at the pizzeria attached to my place, furiously typing into the MacBook Air I just purchased weeks before with the entirety of my savings account. It wasn’t a savings account for purchasing a home, but more for travel and buying laptops when you get fired.
I would write for hours every night. I got into a rhythm. I started refining my writing and I felt like I was on to something. Then I started publishing my good shit. Then I started to get some really amazing feedback from readers. Mostly friends, but some strangers, either way – it was affirming. People were telling me how relatable my writing was. How they loved my openness. How my raw honesty spoke to them, made them feel less alone. And I was hooked.
I spent months doing this. Until I realized I had about 3 months left of unemployment cash coming in and I knew I had to come up with some plan to make money. This is the point when I started to conceptualize Tall Hair Creative. What I was thinking my business would look like at this point, was pretty different than what it is today. It’s gone through multiple iterations since August 2018. All of which I love. The most surprising has definitely been my selling my photography.
Another big thing I did when I lost my job was get a boudoir shoot. This was a big moment for me for a lot of reasons, which you can read about in this post. But I should mention here, that it was a turning point for me that I didn’t want to work anywhere that would disqualify me or judge me based on my sharing of these beautiful photos of myself. This photoshoot also sparked an interest in photography. Sometime in July of last year, I purchased a Canon Rebel, which if you don’t know is the cheapest DSLR camera you can get, and I started teaching myself photography. My original goal when purchasing the camera was to be able to capture pretty photos for my Instagram, in order to get more followers, and drive my traffic to my blog, which would obviously enable me to get a book deal in no time. It was all writing related. But I quickly learned that it was hard (impossible) to take photos of myself, especially if I didn’t know how to use the damn thing in the first place. In order to teach myself, I started offering free photoshoots on Instagram to anyone that would let me practice. This was one of my best decisions I ever made. I made a lot of cool friends this way and it turned out to be a great way for me to learn the art of photography. I distinctly remember texting Kate Kaput, while editing her photos and confused af, telling her that I had spent hours that day trying to learn how to edit photos, even though I needed to do other stuff, like look for a job. I followed that up with something like “That probably means I should be doing this for a living.” I was fucking right Anyway, all of that to say, I have been very surprised that my photography services were really the only thing that took off in Cleveland; and it changed the scope of my business quite a bit.
After blissful unemployment ended and my business (mainly, photography) was picking up, I stopped writing as much. Not only was it less time available, but it was less creative time and/or space in my head. I was putting all of my creativity into launching and marketing my business. To make matters ‘worse’, I was ghosted by someone I adored, and lost my interest in dating completely, which was fine, but made for less writing content. At that point, I had been really into writing about dating, and even became a top writer for Medium in the category of Love.
Suddenly, I was left with little time to write and no content to write about. And I’ve been riding that ever since. I’ve come up with a few things and I’ve reworked a few existing essays and put them up here, but as I’ve been saying for months now, I have not written anything I am especially proud of in SO LONG. Maybe six months. I’m not sure. This move didn’t help much either. It fucked up my writing and it fucked up my business. Moving to Denver, meant losing all my photography clients, i.e. the most profitable part of my business, but it also meant a total mindfuck. When I got the news from my best-friend-at-one-point/landlord, I was devastated. And when my mom said I could not move in with her, I was…I don’t even know what the word is. It’s something like almost being dead, but not quite dead, but kind of wish you were because it would be easier. Something so much deeper than depressed. I was depressed when Brian ended my lease/our friendship. But when my mom said I could not live with her, I felt my whole world end.
It wasn’t a surprise to any of my close friends that my mom said no. And they’ve all expressed, at least at one point, that they are glad I did not move in with my mom because they knew it wasn’t good for my mental health or our relationship. They’re not wrong. But that didn’t stop the life-crushing depression I experienced for two weeks after speaking with Brian and my mom. I couldn’t leave my bed. This has happened to me before, in rare instances of depression, but only for a day or two – MAX. Never have I experienced depression this bad for two weeks. I was tired all of the time. I slept a lot. Even when I wasn’t sleeping, I was in my bed. When I got up to go to the bathroom, I was exhausted by the time I was walking back into my bed. When Erin invited me to live with her, it was a god-send, and amazing, but it didn’t really end my depression. The anxiety and trauma of trying to figure out where I would live was gone. But the loss of my relationships with my best friend and my mother remained very present in every breath I took.
Moving to Denver gave me something to reach for. I now had stuff to do for something that was happening. I worked on selling 90% of my belongings. I started texting my close friends what was happening and telling them about my move to Denver, letting them know before I announced anything on social media. My dear friend, Colleen, said something that really caught my breath at the moment and stayed with me, even now. When I told her what was happening and I was moving to Denver, she said, “Aww Steph! I wish you the best and am here for you if you need anything. The mountains are beautiful and I hope they bring you what you need.” I loved that she said ‘I hope the mountains bring what you need’. I’ve always been a big believer in the healing powers of water, specifically bodies of water, and to be honest, the lack of ocean or lakes in Denver made me nervous, but Colleen got me thinking about stuff differently. I started to get excited.
I had a plan, I was getting excited, and then I went to Japan, which only made me more excited to move to Denver. It just wasn’t good for writing. I did write about my travel experiences to Japan, here and here, and an essay about dating, and the trip did give me a lot of healing and clarifying, and opportunities to write, but when I got home I had to hit the ground running when it came to the cross-country move.
I was so overwhelmed and my depression started to kick in again. In one of my greatest moments of vulnerability, I asked my greatest friend, Brittany, to help me. But not just help me like a normal person. I asked her to come over and make a to-do list with me and then run errands with me. I was so overwhelmed I couldn’t handle everything I had to do, so I just didn’t do anything. Brittany didn’t even hesitate. Actually, she was really excited. When I told her exactly how I was feeling and exactly what I needed from her, her reply: “OMG YES! Can we make lists and cross stuff of as we do them?” I had never been so grateful to have such a nerd for my greatest friend. She came over, we did shit, and we started crossing stuff off the to do list. She came over a total of 9 times, in the two weeks between coming back from Japan and leaving for Denver. Sometimes just to literally sit in my passenger’s seat and drive with me do errands. It sounds simple, but I could not have done it without her. She also did really big stuff too. She packed boxes (and somehow tapped them perfectly). She dropped things off at MULTIPLE donation centers. She did so much. I will never be able to express my gratitude to her for everything she did for me during this time. Even before the moving stuff got rolling, when I was deep in my depression, she would check on me every day.
I have loved Brittany since the day I met at her; on her first day at work at Cleveland Metropolitan School District. She was so cute and polite. I was so jaded and broken by that point. Our first interaction: we were in an All Team meeting, someone (one of our terrible bosses) used a yellow dry erase marker on the whiteboard, it obviously didn’t show up and Brittany sweetly said, not quite to herself, but not to anyone specific, “Oh, I’ve never seen a yellow dry erase marker before.” No one else was listening to her, but I heard her and I snarkly responded with “There’s a lot of things here you’ve never seen before.” And she laughed, like a lot. A laugh that was real and told me we would be friends. At the very least work friends. Almost four years later, I can safely say she is my greatest friend. I tell her this often, either directly or in writing, that I’ve never met anyone like her. She is the kindest soul I’ve ever had the pleasure of interacting with. She is patient with me. She asks questions before judging. She always focuses on the positive. She has never told me I’ve done something wrong. It’s mind boggling to me, because we are so so different, but other than my brother, I’ve never felt closer to another soul. She is truly the greatest. I truly hope everyone has a Brittany in their life. If not, please go find someone. And a side note – check out her executive coaching business because she’s an extremely gifted coach, and she also just got a super amazing prestigious job that she 100000% deserves.
Ok, so this isn’t a love letter to Brittany. Although, I have been trying to write her a letter for over a month now, so maybe this is the start I needed. But to go back to where is started, it’s been hard to write lately, so even though I started writing Brittany a letter several times, I couldn’t ever get through the first few lines. And even though I have tried writing Brian a letter, and have a lot on paper, I can’t seem to get it right. And even though, I haven’t even started the painful process of writing a letter to my mother, letting her know how I feel, because that might literally end me at this point (not using literally figuratively), it’s still on my to-do list. But to recap: I don’t have the time, I don’t have the creative space in my brain, and too much is going on – that’s why I haven’t been writing.
I shouldn’t say, I haven’t been writing. I have been. I have written a lot in notebooks. I have a lot of shit typed into my phone’s Notes app. I have thousands of words of shit right here on this laptop. Because I never truly STOP writing. I’m always writing. Every single day I write something, whether it’s on my phone, laptop, notebook. Here is where I struggle lately: Among the reasons I just listed, I have been having a hard time writing/publishing my writing because I can’t seem to write something without feeling like I’m just complaining. Everything that’s been going on and everything I am feeling lately, I feel like the victim and everyone else looks like a villain, and that comes out in my writing. Much of my writing has been about how other people have been shitty to me; but it’s also how that made me feel, the shitty things I’ve done, and about how I’ve worked through that. I don’t feel any of that with the shit I’ve been going through as of late. At least not when I write it and read it back to myself. When I read it back to myself, it sounds like I’m complaining. A LOT. And for some readers, that’s what this whole blog might sound like to them. But to me, and avid readers, it’s not. It’s about how I’ve dealt with shit, worked through or am trying to work through some shit, and most importantly how this is all a part of the greater human experience. Much to the chagrin of my parents, my writing has never been about putting other people on blast. It’s really not. I don’t write shit with the sole purpose of embarrassing people. But I do not let the fact that a story might embarrass someone I love prevent me from telling that story. That’s not reason alone. And where I’m at right now, with my life and my writing, it’s just not enough. I don’t have a point of view. I don’t have a message. I don’t have much to say other than bash the people that have hurt me, even if that literally means just recapping events from my perspective. It’s not enough. So I’ve been withholding my writing. Until today, when I saw my Instagram traffic data and realized that my profile views have gone down a lot lately (because I haven’t been posting anything new on the blog or Instagram) and I felt inspired to explain why I haven’t been posting much the last six months, especially the last three.
Yes, I want to tell you more about how I am adjusting to Denver. How my call to my dad on his birthday in march went. And how his call on my 30th birthday went. About how I feel about my mother and I’s relationship. How frustrated I get with my Instagram growth. How I annoyed I am that for every 10 followers I get, I lose 7. How jealous I am of people who get 270 likes on a post, when I rarely get past 40. How anxious I feel about my finances and next steps and what my goals are now. And how every day I have at least one moment of screaming inside my head, “WTF DID YOU GET YOURSELF INTO GIRLFRIEND!!!! YOU FUCKED UP BIG TIME!” YES, I want to tell you all of that. But I can’t figure out how to tell you all of that without sounding like I’m complaining, or gossiping, or just throwing people that have hurt me under the bus. That’s not my goal here. Ultimately, this isn’t a diary, it’s a blog. My only goal for this platform, which I’ve said for the last year, is to let you know you’re not alone. I’m glad I could share this, while maybe it’s not exactly how I pictured it, it’s what I needed, and I hope to god at least one of you needed it to.
You are loved,