Dear 2022: Fuck you. But also, thank you.
I’ve never sworn in a blog post before. But using it to address 2022 seems pretty appropriate.
2022 was a year of massive wins and massive losses.
We traveled, bought a new house, moved to an area we love, got pregnant twice and got a new puppy! But we also lost both pregnancies—one was ectopic—and had to deal with all of the pain and grief that accompanies miscarriages and traumatic pregnancies.
These losses came at a time when my mental health surrounding my work as a creator and blogger was suffering immensely. By spring 2022, I felt like I was no longer a creator but a wearied warrior, battling it out to top the algorithm over and over… even if it meant producing content that didn’t make my heart sing.
It’s funny, the night before I found out my first pregnancy was ectopic, Kevin and I got in a fight. What was the fight about? Well, my frustrations about the algorithm, of course. You see, social media platforms, Instagram in particular, greatly reduced creators’ “reach” in 2022. For non-creators, reach is the term used for how far our content travels—how many of our own followers and how many potentially new followers see it.
Before 2022, my reach was close to if not over 100K people per post—meaning, around 80-100K people saw every one of my posts. That’s HUGE. I mean, my following is just over 200K, so that means a ton of my followers and potentially new people were seeing my posts. I was growing and both my engagement (likes/comments) and views were high.
In spring 2022, Instagram changed its algorithm to favor their advertisers and new creators. You can’t blame them, we live in a capitalist country, and they’re out to make money and grow. By rewarding new or smaller creators with big views and more followers, Instagram was able to poach some talent that previously only TikTok had claimed. Those of us who have been on the platform for years, with larger accounts, were the ones who took the fall for the other groups being promoted. Our reach dropped dramatically. One look at the Instagram CEO’s comment section will show you how widespread this issue is.
And as validating as it is to see content go viral and do well (I mean, we’re only human), this issue of reach isn’t just a vanity issue. When my account grows and when my engagement remains high, I make more money. And when it drops, well…
I think a lot of people who do social media as a living think of themselves as creators first. But in reality, we’re salespeople, right? We sell our audience a product, an idea, a lifestyle to aspire to. And because of that, our income is subject to the same volatility as traditional sales. If outside forces like the algorithm make it harder for us to get our content seen, or if personal events like miscarriages make it hard to create, our income suffers. It’s just the way it is.
This is what I was explaining to Kevin the night of our fight. But it’s also an explanation he didn’t need, because he had heard me vent about the same issue for months. And his response?
“You can’t control the algorithm, so don’t think about it and worry about what you can control.”
It seemed like an impossible task. I didn’t want to obsess over the algorithm. I didn’t want to think about it. Hell, I just wanted to create, write and share on socials without the outcome plaguing me. I was desperate for a sense of detachment but didn’t see how I could get there. Especially when the stakes were high—my blog is a massive financial support for my family. And we had just bought a new house and had a baby on the way.
The morning after our fight, I found out I was likely ectopic. An ectopic pregnancy is one in which the embryo implants outside of the uterus (mine was in my fallopian tube) and is always nonviable. Further, it’s life threatening to the mother because the uterus is the only organ built to carry a baby. So as the embryo keeps growing, it can cause the fallopian tube to burst and result in massive internal bleeding.
It took a week or so to run all the tests/scans to verify I was ectopic. A week in which I didn’t leave the bed, create content or do anything. I couldn’t. I was terrified any movement would cause my tube to burst. And I was also grieving—I knew we were likely losing our baby and in the midst of that loss, I was worried about my own life.
The great irony is that as I lay in bed, afraid for my life, I didn’t once think about how my social media was doing—even though it had been at the forefront of my mind just days earlier. I didn’t wonder how many views my last video had gotten or how much I made from my links the day before. All I kept thinking about was how much I wanted to go outside. It was May, Minnesota was finally warming up. I only wanted the opportunity to enjoy the sun on my face, watch the bees buzz around the yard and listen to my neighbor mow their lawn. When I did think about work, all I could think was… “I should’ve posted the damn tree.”
In Fall of 2021—about 8 months before—I had had a conversation with my blogger girlfriend about how sometimes all I wanted was to post a photo of a pretty fall tree on my feed, but I worried about how it would perform. I mean, certainly the algorithm wouldn’t favor it, right? I post lifestyle content with me always in the shot, posting a random tree definitely wouldn’t be what the algorithm wanted from me. And who would like it? And obviously I wouldn’t make money from it. So I never posted it.
8 months later, the only regret I had when it came to my content wasn’t that certain videos weren’t performing as well or that my income could drop as a result, it was that I didn’t post that damn tree when I was well enough to do it. I didn’t create what I truly wanted when I had the chance. The realization that I had let an algorithm dictate my creativity and life was like a bolt of lightening to my heart. Not only had I let it dictate my life but I had, overtime, let the algorithm make me think that my work performance was tied to my self worth. I left my 9-5 to work for myself and where was I now? I was working for the algorithm and letting it shape how I viewed myself.
I carried that realization with me through the 6 weeks from miscarrying my ectopic to getting pregnant again my next cycle. I felt it changing me in slight ways—I didn’t feel the urge to check my numbers as often, and I let myself take more time than I normally would to grieve and settle into our new house. I don’t get PTO so any time I take hurts us financially. It’s part of the reason why I work through migraines, through holidays and vacations. Of course, I love sharing life with you guys, but it doesn’t negate the fact that I don’t get paid unless I work.
I miscarried my second baby in August after a string of complications. I had a subchorionic hemmorage (SCH) that caused a fair amount of bleeding. A SCH is a small blood clot stuck between the embryo and the wall of the uterus. They’re actually a fairly common and usually do not harm the embryo/fetus. And ultimately, mine didn’t. I miscarried for other (unknown) reasons. But until we determined what was causing the bleeding, and I educated myself about what the risks are with a SCH, I was again paralyzed in bed. I had bleeding with my first pregnancy and it was bad, like really bad. And I’m not sure if it was a form of PTSD or leftover trauma from that, but I was so anxious I literally couldn’t do anything while the bleeding persisted (about 2 weeks).
It was this second miscarriage and traumatic pregnancy that really made that realization I’d had after my ectopic sink in. After I recovered, all I wanted was to live. I wanted to live for myself, create and move by my own rules and, for the first time, I realized I could.
My income suffered over the summer because I wasn’t working as much as I went through my pregnancies, miscarriages and our move. But, we were fine. We are fortunate enough to have a healthy savings that we could lean on while I got back into a work routine and now we’re back to where we were before this all started.
But when I did get back to work? Everything had changed. At least, it had for me internally.
Suddenly, my gratitude outshone any vestiges of loyalty to the algorithm. My pregnancies and losses had made me extremely grateful—which seems ironic because they are some of the greatest losses I’ll ever experience. But those losses made me realize how precious and great my life already is. When I thought I was losing my life or my sanity, all I wanted was to get back to my normal life and enjoy it. To immerse myself in the everyday because I realized how lucky I was just to experience it. For so long my yearning for external validation in my work had been so great, I let it dim the light on all of the good things in my life. And now, anything “bad” that happened work-wise seemed to pale in comparison to what I’d been through and everything I had to be thankful for.
It’s not that I don’t care about my numbers or reach anymore—I have to, knowing how my business is performing is vital. But, the way I view them is so drastically different than the way I did before. I now see these numbers as indicators of what my audience likes and what other content I could create without feeling as if the numbers somehow reflect my worth or professional success.
And, this is important, I let my numbers help me create content but don’t allow them to dictate the only content I create. I will never create the same video type over and over without anything else mixed in simply because one type of content for me goes “viral” or does better with the algorithm. A majority of creators do this, and I used to. It’s essentially ingrained in us to do it. But when the algorithm dictated everything I did, it left me feeling worthless. It made me feel that I was only a worthy creator when I created the type of content that went viral when I know that’s not true. I know who I am. And what I have to share and create is important and can’t be contained into one content type. So why would I force it?
In 2022, I didn’t achieve many of my professional goals. I’ll be honest. I wanted to revamp my website, start a book club, grow my instagram and create a custom journal to name a few. But I did achieve an important personal goal I had set for myself the last two years.
For the last couple of years, I had noted under my yearly goals to “continue working on quieting my pride and ego as well as my tendency to equate my self worth with professional success.” Literally, that’s in my journal entry from 1/9/22. I realized a couple years ago that pride and ego are really the root cause of all my problems professionally and personally. Pride and ego are what make me equate my reach and engagement with my self worth, they are what make me only post one type of content because I’m too worried about my ego being hit with low engagement if I do anything else, they are what make me compare myself to other creators. And personally, they are what keep me from connecting to new people, from exploring new things and growing as a person. If I’m afraid of failing because I’m too prideful, I stop myself from trying just about anything.
This silencing is a lifelong goal, and I’m not prideful enough to say I’ve accomplished it yet (see what I did there, haha!). But this year, I made more progress on silencing my pride and ego than I ever have. And that’s a lesson I would pay my entire savings to receive because it is lesson that will repay me for a lifetime.
As I look to 2023, I have lot of goals and for the first time in a long time, I’m excited to work on them. Because now I know any work I’m doing is for me and nothing else.
Here are a few goals I’m working on this year:
Professionally, I want to grow my audience and business through consistently creating relatable content that I feel passionate about. I plan to create more of a community for us by restarting my newsletters, sharing journal prompts and creating an instagram account where we all can discuss our latest reads. I will be doing more blog posts again (even though traditional blogs are “dead”) because honestly, I want to. Writing makes me deliriously happy. And I want to use my blog to share thoughts on life and mental health as well as fashion and beauty. Lastly, a big goal for me is to create a guided journal for you all.
Personally, I’m keeping with my same intention from last year to “live well.” This is a word or phrase I use to guide everything I do in life. And for this year, it’s looking like a lot of the same as last year. I will continue to quiet my pride and ego to protect my mental health. At the same time, I will treat my body like a temple by continuing my regular work outs. In 2023, I really want to hone in on nutrition—eating what actually fuels my body v. processed junk food.
I made strides in 2022 with keeping a clean space. I actually stayed on top of my laundry (for the most part!), and my office wasn’t quite as messy. This year, I’m continuing to focus on keeping my space clean because when I do, my mind is less cluttered too. At my husband’s request, I will also be working very hard on time management and not taking on so much so I can be more on time (if you know me, you’ll know this is a big goal lol).
Lastly, I want to scroll less and see more. Scroll less and create more. Scroll less and live more. And for the first time since starting this whole blogging thing, I know I’m strong enough to do just that.
So, 2022, fuck you but also, thank you. Thank you for hardships and the life lessons. For the ups and the downs. For showing me how great my life is once I appreciated all the things I’d previously taken for granted.
And 2023, I’m ready for you. Whatever you throw at me, I know I can handle it. Because I know now my worth, resilience and strength.
Cheers to a New Year of creating, living and spreading love.
Love you guys!
Elena Ridley says
Truly so beautifully written.
Thank you so much Elena!
I love this so much! You are super down to earth and it’s so REFRESHING when someone “posts the tree.” 🙂 A lot of us are actually aware that we are following a whole person not an ad machine lol
As a fellow driven, career-forward person, I am also working on getting ahold of my ambition and ego… getting out of my own head, thinking more about others, and humbling myself.
I can also really relate to scrolling less and creating more, reading more, just overall living more. Excited for your book content!
Aw yay! Thank you Ashley! I agree – it’s super refreshing to see people’s everyday lives and their other interests! We can work together on being more present and not so in our heads this year! Here’s to a year of LIVING!!