"The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate."
~ Oprah Winfrey
When I doubt myself it's usually in the midst of success. Am I really doing enough? Can I do better? Am I the right person for this? Am I still allowed to have my own thoughts about disability when I am involved in the disability community? Am I really a writer? Am I really chronically ill enough? Is my appearance defining me?
(Do other writers feel this way? Or people with chronic illnesses and disabilities? Do you feel a bit fraudulent, that one day someone will discover that you're really just winging it?)
And then I tell myself to toughen up, Princess. None of this would be without hard work. And sometimes it takes another's perspective to make you see your worth. To make you see a different picture to what you've come to know of yourself - like that gorgeous picture above.
Lots has happened in the past few weeks - more writing, more recognition. Being published on The Punch and JustB, modelling on Mamamai and the Best Blogs finalist announcement. Wow. I can't say I haven't enjoyed it. I'm living my dream of being a writer. But there's always that niggle, that doubt that I am not good enough.
And then I realise - after reflection on why I blog for my thesis and a chat with two very smart creative friends - that, as I wrote here, I am running my own race. And, because I want to pack the most into life, I'm putting on some proper running shoes.
I've been worried I talk myself up too much. I mean, I am modest, but I want to speak about my achievements so they are more real. I've been reading this in literature about blogging for my thesis - that some people blog to record that their lives are actually happening, that they are really living. I'd say that's true of myself. One thing I have learnt to do though, is to only speak about my achievements to those who matter, to those who care.
My friend (one of those creative, smart women above) and I went to the RMIT SEEDS public lecture this week - it was a discussion among women in social enterprise. It was so inspiring, and I took a few things away from the conversation. Three things that I will employ in my own career.
"People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it" ~ Hayley Morris - founding director of Sustainable Table
This statement reinforced to me that it's ok to be myself and do what I am doing, and that's why my readers come back. And it reminded me to keep being passionate. It doesn't matter that not everyone is passionate about blogging or appearance. What matters are those people who share my passion and enthusiasm, and get excited with me.
"We can't sell out to the corporates! Well yes we can! Take their money and do good!" ~ Sally Quinn, co-founder of Green CollectI'm going to do take up some advertising offers - but I won't compromise my values. When I'm done writing my thesis, I will be more confident and submit my writing to publications that pay. I don't need to only write about disability and appearance either. I'm going to write about what matters to me.
And finally, a question I asked at the lecture...
"When do you know when to jump from the job that pays you to your passion?"
When? I like my day job. It pays. But what I really love, and my managers know this, is all the stuff I do outside of work. I registered myself as a 'professional artist' with the Tax Man so I can start earning some proper money from this caper. It's no longer a hobby - how can it be when I put in 20 hours a week in writing outside my day job? I've sent off my media kit to five companies this week, and enquired about some payment that I should receive for an article that I wrote last year. Like Eden, Zoey and Veronica wrote about recently, I want to be valued more as a blogger. I want to be a Blogger. Maybe even a BLOGGER (to quote Eden). Maybe I'll be able to make that leap, rung by financial rung.
There are no certainties. But there are opportunities. I received the draft academic program for the Appearance Matters conference in the UK this week. The topics look so interesting. I have already printed off the program and highlighted the sessions I want to go to. My trip is becoming real now.
Today I think I'm in my local hometown newspaper - the one I did work experience at when I was 16. My supervisor back then interviewed me earlier in the week. It may be online, so if it is I'll link to it, and if not, I'll see if I can get a PDF copy and upload here. For now, clickety click for the pic.
When I read the copy of the story - which was really nice, celebrating my finalist place in Best Blogs - don't forget to vote for me in the People's Choice! - I thought about this: Would I really have a story if it wasn't for my appearance and chronic illness? Perhaps. I don't know. And I thought, there is a tough balance between telling the story of my achievements and telling the story of my appearance and illness. Maybe. But it's inevitable. I am always going to prefer telling my story about my appeance out of choice rather than being asked about it by a stranger. But people are going to ask questions. That's inevitable too. And lots of people are going to see that I'm doing great things, that I am celebrating my life and mention my achievements alongside my appearance.
And all I can do is tell my story the best I can. With honesty, integrity and humour. My (day job) manager (I can't afford to have a writing manager yet - but god I'd love an intern to make calls and sort emails!) held up my business card today, when I was telling her this, and pointed out that I am, after all, an appearance activist. I make people think about what it's like to look so visibly different, and I don't really have a choice in that.
Sometimes it takes a conversation or a thought from another person, or even someone else telling your story, to make you see that different picture of yourself.