Warning: Very personal post coming up so if y’all not into that sorta thing then clear off. The other day (haha I say the other day but it was literally a month ago now) I had a bit of a rant / vent on Twitter. I mentioned that although I love lifestyle blogging and writing about a whole bunch of different topics, I feel sad sometimes that I’m not known solely as a “book blogger” anymore. For those who might be newer readers and followers of mine, my blog started as a book blog and only after a year or so did I venture into other topics. I was constantly reading, reviewing and in contact with authors and publsihers. It was wonderful. And although I still am to some extent (aside from my blog touring business which literally revolves around books), I can’t help but feel a bit distant from the book blogging community now.
So today I wanted to talk about my blogging story. The reason me and Jenny in Neverland are even here and how books really did save me at a time when I didn’t know what else to do. Like I said, this is a very personal post – some of you may be familiar with this story if you’ve followed me since the beginning but for those that aren’t, here is why I owe everything and I mean everything to books and book blogging.
I started blogging in March / April 2013. I know, I can’t believe it’s been so long either and perhaps that’s another reason why this makes me sad, because it feels like only yesterday. I had already been diagnosed with anxiety by then and already I was struggling with this new reality I had to face daily. My life had been turned quite literally on its head but maybe my anxiety diagnosis was a blessing in disguise? Who knows.
I had started a college course to become a teaching assistant in a primary school which also involved a voluntary placement too. I had quit my previous job to do this – believing that it was something that was 100% for me. Something that I would enjoy and feel safe and comfortable doing. Something that would help my anxiety, not hinder it. I was very, very wrong. As we so often are when we try to predict the future. About 5 months into my course and placement and I couldn’t hack it.
The actual college side wasn’t fulfilling me. The work was boring and too simple and it wasn’t challenging me in the way I thought it would and I wasn’t enjoying it. I was so excited about going back to college and to start learning again that this was devastating for me. I didn’t like my teacher either and she wasn’t sympathetic towards my mental health. My placement however, kept getting worse and worse. I didn’t know how to handle the kids and gradually and gradually I was resenting them more and more.
What on earth was I thinking, working with kids?! The day that was the last straw for me was when I had an argument with one of the teachers because his classroom was way too hot. My anxiety focuses a lot on heat – I hate being too hot and it sends my anxiety sky rocketing. This classroom was sweltering. I couldn’t think so I walked out because he wasn’t listening to me. I brought it up with the head of teaching assistants and she looked into and like me, she agreed that it was way too hot and that I should sit out the rest of the lessons from that mans classroom.
As well as that, my confidence was nowhere. I felt I had no authority over bloody 9 year olds because I didn’t trust myself and I couldn’t handle it. So I left. I lost over 700 quid in tuition fees in the process but I had to get out of there. I was gutted – after such a promising start I was back to where I was.
After a while if doing absolutely nothing – and I mean nothing – I was feeling low and down and completely helpless. I didn’t know what to do. But I poodled along just surviving. At this point, I was still a fiercly passionate book lover – as I always have been. I was reading a book and decided to search for reviews of it to see what other people thought. I still remember what book it was – The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson. Then I found a book blog. I read the review and had a look around and loved it – I didn’t know book blogging was even a thing! I spent hours finding other blogs and reading them and searching through them when I thought that this was something I could do. I love books just as much as these people. I can write reviews of them. I contacted the owner of the first ever blog I found and she ever so kindly helped me set one up. I am forever grateful to her.
From that moment on, I had something to work for. Although it was unpaid and I had virtually zero followers, I was starting on this new, exciting adventure. My passion for reading grew and grew. I enjoyed writing my book reviews so much and the occasional comment I got made me ecstatic. I was new to Twitter, too and I barely knew anyone. But meeting more and more people and finding more book lovers helped me find a sort of clarity. I remember the first time an author replied to one of my tweets too – it was again, Dorothy Koomson and I remember screaming to my mum and screen-shotting the tweet to save.
From then on, amidst all my mental health problems, worries and difficulties, not to mention relationship break-ups, friendship break ups, money troubles, arguments and family tragedy, my little blog was always there, always growing. I continued to work on it (albeit with a couple of blogging breaks down the line) and transform it into what it is today. I question whether had I not developed any form of anxiety, would I be here with Jenny in Neverland? Probably not. Would I have been given the opportunities I’ve had through blogging? Nope. And would I have met so many lovely people, friends and authors along the way? Definitely not.
So although Jenny in Neverland is 3 and a half years older and hopefully wiser, I will never, ever forget what got me here and what helped bring me out of that, what was looking to be, very, very deep and dark hole. Books. Writing. Words. Stories. The simplest and most time-less past-time. And to any authors reading this, I hope this can be a reminder for your down days that your words matter. Every last one of them. They can change lives. They can change the world. They changed my world. And don’t forget that.