I am crap at celebrating personal milestones.
Birthdays, anniversaries, (blogoversary?) – I am happy to let them slide by, without fanfare.
Most of the time my friends are the ones who insist on celebrating my birthday. I am more than happy to celebrate others’ milestones, just not my own.
I don’t like being in the lime light and certainly do not want to be the centre of anyone’s attention.
Lately, there have been a rash of celebrations in the personal finance community. Lots of blogs I follow have turned one, two or more and quite a few bloggers celebrated birthdays.
I am conflicted as to whether I too should celebrate these milestones publicly. Aren’t people tired of reading another blog post about a blog turning one? Would non bloggers be interested? Is it self indulgent?
Upon reflection, I decide that I should at least acknowledge that my blog is past the one year mark – yes we are now 14 months old!
Why did I start a blog?
Here’s the truth … I did not read any blogs before May 2018. Sure, I have looked up the odd recipe online and been directed to someone’s blog.
In May last year, I discovered FIRE while researching traditional retirement strategies and literally stumbled on the infamous blog post, The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement by Mr Money Mustache.
I rapidly went down the rabbit hole – from link to link – from blog to blog. When I found an article I liked, I would read previous posts as well. I suppose, much like when I discover a book author I like, I end up reading as much of their work as possible.
But a lot of these folks I read were young, some very young. Their life circumstances did not reflect my own. I am female, in my late forties, single and childless. I have a paid up home, no other debts but oh so anxious about not being able to retire well because I am starting so late.
So, my first ‘why’ of blogging is to add an ‘older’ voice into the mix. I figured if I struggled to find older voices, maybe others did too. Perhaps this is where I can add some value.
My second ‘why’ is that I want to encourage and support other late starters – others who start on the FIRE journey in our 40s and beyond. I have no idea if I can make it to retire earlyish; I certainly haven’t made it yet. We can all trundle along and learn from each other.
My hope was (and still is) that as I write about my struggles and wins along the way, maybe that will encourage one person in their 40s or beyond to take the plunge and take control of their finances. And to know it is never too late to start taking control.
Now my third ‘why’ is more selfish – I want you to keep me accountable. I know myself pretty well. And was afraid I may quit my FI journey when the going gets tough.
I know that the path to FI can be a long hard slog, particularly in the middle when the excitement wears off. When I think the hard decisions have been made, but really even in maintenance mode, I still need to make conscious decisions to spend less or be more mindful about my expenses.
First stage of blogging - Honeymoon
Remember when I said earlier that I didn’t read or follow blogs until May 2018? Three months later, I was writing my own blog.
Did I know what I was doing?? Absolutely not!
But my ‘whys’ were important enough for me to try. So try I did.
I was so nervous as I clicked “Publish” – and just like that, the blog was born! Days after I turned 47 years old.
The feeling of elation and achievement! I am technically challenged at the best of times ie not tech savvy at all. So the fact that I set up a website by myself and published a post was an incredible achievement. Especially when I have never ever done anything remotely similar.
I look back fondly on this period – it is bliss not knowing what I don’t know. I was just happy that I pressed Publish once a week.
Second stage of blogging - Overwhelm
The honeymoon period lasted about 3 months.
It was now November. Christmas was fast approaching. Traditionally it is the busiest period at work. And I knew I had family visiting from overseas soon. Plus all the craziness of preparing for Christmas – the baking, shopping etc.
My blogging is inextricably linked to my FI journey.
At this time, I had just returned from a holiday in Uluru and was absolutely dreading tracking my expenses. Because I knew it was expensive. I was wrestling with wanting to be frugal and wanting to experience all that Uluru offered.
Self doubt and impostor syndrome set in. How can I blog about being on the FIRE journey if I can’t even bring myself to record my expenses? After all, I’d written a post earlier, extolling the benefits of tracking my expenses.
The pressure was just mounting up. I was really time poor and mental exhaustion set in.
I was not coping with posting once a week on the blog. It takes me ages to write one post – I am not a natural writer. So I reduced it to posting once a fortnight. Kudos to those who can write 3 posts a week!!
Among all this turmoil, it dawns on me that blogging is not as easy as some big bloggers make it out to be. No one was reading my posts. I had no idea how to promote them, let alone find readers or my ‘tribe’.
I was happy (in the honeymoon phase) to just be able to publish.
But now the expectation is that somebody should be reading my posts. Where are all of you?
Enter doyouevenblog – Pete is a lifesaver! I enrolled in his courses and he suggested I join Twitter as that is where the personal finance community lives. He was not wrong! The thriving community there welcomed me. And suddenly I felt I wasn’t so alone on the blogging and FIRE journey.
Third stage of blogging - There is so much I don't know how to do but apparently I must do
As I engage on Twitter, I discover lots and lots of people to follow (and some even follow back!). There is so much awesome content every day from new bloggers and some that I never knew existed. Down the rabbit hole I go again. I can barely keep up. I am not on social media in my personal life so all this is very new to me.
This stage is overwhelming too. I learn there is so much I should be doing – SEO, Pinterest, Facebook groups, attending conferences, guest posting, email lists and so on and so on. So I dabble in some, encounter roadblocks in others and just plain give up on others.
I read of bloggers who do their tasks in batches, who can write a post in two hours and who seem so effortless in reaching out and engaging with their community.
Me? Not so much. My biggest task is still to produce weekly posts. And attempt to write faster. Besides all the technical stuff I must learn ….
Glimpses of light at the end of the tunnel
This is where I am at now.
I accept that every blogger is different and that just like being on the FIRE journey, we all start from a different place and have different resources, talents and skillsets. Everyone’s milestones occur at different stages of their journey.
What keeps me going is that every now and then, I glimpse a light far away. I am rejuvenated when I receive an email from a reader thanking me for ‘putting myself out there’; another telling me that they resonate with my posts. These emails mean a lot to me – thank you for taking the time to give me feedback, support and encouragement.
And a big thank you to all the curation sites and other blogs that have featured my posts. It is such a thrill when I open an email and see my article featured that day. I appreciate all your support.
I also wrote a guest post for The $76k Project’s Finance After 40s series – FIREstarting after 40 – Latestarter – thank you for sharing my story.
What did I learn from blogging?
Blogging is therapeutic. I would never have guessed that this is a benefit of blogging. Or that I would enjoy the process of writing. It is easier to find clarity as I write, mulling over concepts or ideas or problems.
You can argue that perhaps I should write a journal instead. I do. Sporadically. Not very consistent.
Blogging teaches me discipline. And consistency. And accountability. I have to ‘show up’ and ‘do the work’. Real life does get in the way 🙂 I apologise if I haven’t kept to a posting schedule consistently.
Blogging can be lonely. You can feel like you are just typing away and releasing your work into silence. Once again, I am especially grateful to those readers who have commented on posts or emailed me directly; or connected through Twitter and Facebook. Being part of a community is what sustains me. And encourages me to keep going. Thank you for your support.
This brings me to resilience – ‘the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness’. Blogging teaches me to be resilient – that there are ups and downs but nothing that you cannot recover from. Tasks that seem insurmountable can be broken down into smaller steps and tackled.
Blogging’s steep learning curve satisfies my need to learn new things – teaches me that I can figure things out, that I can still learn new skills. Skills I didn’t realise existed. Or that I needed, haha!
I am not one to set goals.
I knew my ‘whys’ when I began writing this blog.
But I did not set specific goals of achieving anything in a certain timeframe. I had no idea what was achievable, what metrics to measure and did not want to set myself up to fail.
Because quite frankly, I have always been afraid to fail.
And finally, blogging teaches me to face this fear – each time I press ‘Publish’, releasing my work into the silence.