Mar 29, 2012

And Now We Are Five

birthday cake with five candles
Photo Credit

It’s hard to believe that a whole half a decade has passed since my first post here at things mean a lot went up. Blogger tells me that in the past five years, I’ve published over 1100 posts and received around 31000 comments (though I imagine that a good chunk of those were actually replies of my own), which is absolutely flabbergasting to me. I really regret the fact that for the second year in a row I’m not in a place where I can celebrate my blogging anniversary the way I’d like, with a big international book giveaway, but I also know that free books are not really the reason why you are still here.

The other day I happened to reread my fourth blogging anniversary post from last year, and it struck me immediately how close to burned out I sounded. That feeling actually lasted the better part of a year, but I’m happy to report that I’ve now reached a point where I’m truly comfortable with what I’m doing. Yes, perhaps I used to be better at this whole blogging thing, but that isn’t to say I was ever in a place where it meant more to me. Chances are that this feeling will change again in the future, but for the time being I seem to have reached that elusive balance between too much stress and complete detachment: I blog how I want and when I want to, and try not to let things like self-induced pressure, anxiety or feelings of failure get in the way.

As my friend Aarti was wisely telling me the other day, “a sense of self-worth is so often tied to the ability to do good work”: I’ve been unemployed for five months now, and no matter how aware I am of the fact that the current economy is dreadful, it’s very hard not to eternalise the constant rejections and end up feeling useless and like I have nothing to offer to the world. This is where blogging comes in: now more than ever, my blog allows me to experience a sense of achievement and fulfilment that is absent from other areas of my life.

It may be a bit of a stretch to equate what I do here with actual meaningful work – I have no idea whether all this reading and writing on the Internet has ever had any sort of tangible effect in the world – but I try to believe that people come here for a reason. If nothing else, discussing books and all the ideas they contain is extremely satisfying for me personally. It gives me an outlet for my passions, and a venue where I can make sense of my thoughts and hopefully grow as a human being in the process.

All this to say: thank you so much for reading. Whether you’re a regular comment or a “lurker”, whether you’re a new reader or someone who’s been with me from the very beginning, whether you’re a casual visitor or a loyal one, I wanted you to know how very much I appreciate you – lately more than ever before.

68 comments:

  1. I am so glad you're still around Ana. And you know your blog is one of the most inspirational around for me, as are you. <3

    Happy blog anniversary!

    As for the sense of self worth you feel blogging gives you in between the stress of unemployment, I completely understand that. Now more than ever, I feel that in writing a blog post I can at least create something, discuss something, employ some of what I miss about academia, etcetera.

    *hugs* I hope this sixth year of blogging will leave you feeling even more balanced and happy.

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  2. Congratulations on your blogiversary!

    I am so glad to read that you have reached a new level of contentment over the last year as I always enjoy coming to visit you!

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  3. Happy blogiversary Ana. I always find it difficult to work out how much this writing and reading on the internet of mine is worth, but if I think about that too long I end up in the spiralling black hole of 'why do we do anything' arguments. What I do know is it feel much more worthwhile than anything I'm employed to do and it sustains me through times when I wonder what the point of all this paid emplyment is (beyond the money/industry things of course).

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  4. Happy five year bloggiversary Ana! That's quite an achievement and I hope you do continue for many more years to come. I love your blog and your insightful posts and hopefully, you will soon find success in the pursuit of your career. I'll be cheering you on from London:)

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  5. "I have no idea whether all this reading and writing on the Internet has ever had any sort of tangible effect in the world" <---I realize that I'm not the world, but in my little piece of it, the tangible difference you make is so enormous it defies words. The most important way to me, of course, is through having found a friend who means as much to me as anyone else in the world. But there's so much more. I am grateful to you and your blog soooooo very much for the way it makes me think about things I hadn't thought of before, for the way it helps me grow as a person, for the way it reminds me that I'm not alone. Honestly, if you ever decided to quit blogging, most importantly I know we'd still forever be friends, but I would still feel such a loss in not having your blog to read.

    Btw, any chance you can teach me how to do this:
    "...I seem to have reached that elusive balance between too much stress and complete detachment: I blog how I want and when I want to, and try not to let things like self-induced pressure, anxiety or feelings of failure get in the way."
    I don't think I've ever been so close to just throwing in the towel--deleting my blog, deleting my twitter account, etc. It's mostly about self-imposed guilt over not being able to do it "right." Thing is, I *know* there is no "right." But somehow "my best" at the moment just feels pathetic...and that makes it so tempting to just run away.

    I am so grateful for those 1000+ posts, and I so look forward to the next several 1000. And you can bet the bank that I'm not alone in those feelings.

    Happy Blogging Anniversary, dear Ana!!!! I love you. So much.

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  6. Iris: Thank you so much <3 And yes, that's exactly it: that feeling of having created something (even if said something is of low quality) is so essential to me. I'm glad to have an outlet for that.

    Marg: Aww, thank you and likewise!

    Jodie: Thanks. You're right, those kind of thoughts can easily lead to an endless spiral.

    Sakura: Thank you so much!

    Debi: First of all, thanks <3 Secondly, I wish I could give you some handy tips on how to carve a psychological space where you feel comfortable blogging, but the truth is that I can't always do it myself and don't think there is a formula. I just take it one day at a time. I've been trying to understand my limits and to accept what I can and can't do. The way I think about this blog at the moment amounts to accepting that no one is obliged to visit it, and that if I fail in this space I created and that others only ever engage with voluntarily, I'm not letting anyone down but myself. That takes the pressure off somewhat. Over the past year or so I've had many, many moments when I was close to throwing in the towel, and so I think I understand the feeling. But one thing I'm trying to learn is not to make final or radical decisions I may come to regret. You can always wait it out, see how you feel a few weeks or months down the road, come back or not according to your needs without there needing to be an official and irreversible announcement or deletion. I understand craving the feeling of closure and resolution and maybe even release that comes with giving up, but... when you do it, it usually doesn't feel like the positive step you imagined it would in your head. I'm so, so glad now I didn't ever hit that "delete" button, that I didn't post the final goodbye post I actually wrote and scheduled on more than one occasion, that I stuck it out through my ups and downs. Anyway, I'm making this about me as per usual, but the bottom line is: I would hate to lose your blog just like you'd hate to lose mine, and if you ever want to talk about any of these worries you know where to find me.

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  7. "my blog allows me to experience a sense of achievement and fulfilment that is absent from other areas of my life." That's how I feel too. I bet other bloggers also feel this way. It allows us to stretch our brains . ;)

    Happy Blogiversary!

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  8. Five years, wow! It's not long enough.
    My family likes to talk about all the "imaginary internet money" I make from blogging, which is a phrase from a South Park episode about why anybody does anything on the internets.
    I think about it in terms of what a recent article by Peter Lawler for Bigthin.com (Feb. 7, 2012) said about "Liberal Education for the 21st century" which is that "It's find out who we are when we're not working for money or our country (or even our family) that liberal education is all about." I hadn't made this connection before, but I guess I equate blogging with liberal education, to some extent.

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  9. Happy blogiversary! I am in the 2007 club too - I celebrate 5 years this November. :)

    I know exactly how you feel about creating that balance between being way stressed out and totally detached. I'm there too, I think. I love blogging but no longer panic at the thought of not having posts scheduled. I do the best I can, but I have other things going on in my life and if the blog falls to the wayside for a bit, that's completely OK.

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  10. Happy anniversary! Your blog is meaningful to me, anyway. :) Your thoughtful posts have made me think a lot about topics I was never particularly interested in before, especially feminism. I've also discovered so many great books in the past couple years I've been lurking here, and I'm sure you know how meaningful a book can be! So thank you for Dorothy Sayers, Jerome K Jerome, Ursula Le Guin, and so many others! I hope you stick around. :)

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  11. Happy Blogversary to you, Ana! I've been very much a lurker in the last few months, but trust me, I'm still around. A lot of people started blogs in 2007 and 5 years is a long time.

    It is difficult to hit that "sweet spot" when dealing with feelings about blogging or it seems to be. So many of us swing between the overwhelmed side and the content side, sometimes over and over.

    In any case, I've enjoyed reading what you share with all of us and plan to continue on. Good luck to you and thanks for still being around.

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  12. Of course we come here for a reason! You read fascinating books and write wonderful reviews of them. Happy blogiversary!!

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  13. Congratulations! Five years is quite an accomplishment. Visits here always add to my day - something to think about, books to add to my wish list...

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  14. Happy Blogiversary! Well done and five years is a very long time especially in internet years.

    Always enjoy reading your blog posts, they are always insightful and beautifully written. I hope I'll still be reading this for another five, ten, many more years to come.

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  15. Ana, if it's personally satisfying, then it is meaningful work. :)

    I do come here for a reason; you're thoughtful, clever, and I always walk away with new ideas and new books to read. You're an absolute delight.

    <3

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  16. It is no stretch at all to equate what you do here with actual meaningful work - you make a huge difference in people's thinking, going beyond just reviewing. I am so glad you are you and you are blogging and you are changing the world!

    Happy Blogiversary and I hope many more!!!

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  17. Happy happy blogiversary! You are one of the book bloggers I most admire; I often wish my posts could be as deep and meaningful as yours! I'm just not as analytical, I guess. I always enjoy reading what you have to say, even if I don't comment as often as I could.

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  18. I waver between casually visiting, loyally visiting and lurking.

    Just want to say I love your blog voice, your depth and that you continue to blog.

    Here's to a fantastic five years, may there be many more! :-D

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  19. Happy blogiversary, Ana!

    things mean a lot is one of my absolute favorites among book blogs. :)

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  20. Happy blogoversary!

    Blogging is definitely something meaningful, and you should feel proud of your work. Your reviews are thought-provoking and insightful. Keep up the good work!

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  21. Happy Blogiversary! I am glad you are still at it. I think anything that makes you happy is worthwhile and you can also feel good knowing that I, for one, always enjoy your thoughtful posts and book talk. I hope there are many more posts and many more years to come!

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  22. Happy Blogiversary Ana and congratulations!

    yes, what you do here matters and you just being you matters a lot, too. You are much loved!

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  23. How extremely exciting on a monumental milestone! I've been piddling along with frequency that tends to change depending on the weather, it seems. I blogged uproariously in January, then slacked off as work became more intense and I wasn't enjoying my reading experience at the time. I go through the banter with myself quite frequently on maintaining this balance (or at least attempting to). My main goal is to never allow this to not become fun for me, and if it does, I need to take the time to relax and not burn out. Regarding memes, regular posting on specific days wears me out, so I participate when I want to; if I miss weeks of that particular event, my new thought now is "Ah, well." I participate in what I enjoy and blog about books that I read when/if I can.

    I enjoy your reading journey; it's motivated me to remember that brand new books are not always the most joyous. My library card now gets a hefty workout because of you. So for that, I thank you for your wonderful reminders on extending my reading boundaries and I applaud you on this great day! Cheers!

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  24. So happy you continue to blog! I am struggling to find my new blogging identity as I transition to whatever my new life will be, and I have slunk back to "lurker" status for much of my online presence, but so glad you are here, reading and writing and sharing.

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  25. you're the opposite of useless, Ana! And so much more. I do wish you find a job you enjoy soon, but don't ever let your job or lack thereof define who you are, because you're wonderful regardless. Hugs and congratualions on reaching five years of successful blogging!

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  26. Happy Blogiversary~ :)

    I know what you mean about feeling like your accomplishments are tied to your self worth, and since I left the workforce over 6 years ago, I have felt this often. I can also agree that the blog satisfies some of this for me, and makes me feel like I am actually doing something worthwhile.

    I am so happy you are here, and I hope that you continue to be for a long, long time!

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  27. 5 years, that's just wonderful! Blogging can be hard, being unemployed can be much harder. Hang in there and know how much this little corner of the internet loves you!

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  28. Congratulations on five years Ana. I vividly remember your post from last year as I was having some of the same struggles and I'm thrilled to hear that you are now feeling more comfortable in your place. You have created a beautiful spot on the Internet where you have brought people together, made them think, made them smile, laugh, and cry. I know you know how truly special you are.

    To many more. xoxo

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  29. Congrats and very best wishes to you, Ana. I find your posts here incredibly thought-provoking. That, to me, is definitely "good work." :)

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  30. Dropping by to wis you congratulations. I'm quite a new reader of your blog and looking forward to finding out what it has to offer.

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  31. Happy anniversary Ana! I enjoy reading your posts very much.

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  32. A very Happy Blogiversary to you.

    I believe that the best way to be happy is to do what you love. If others enjoy it too, then more's the better.

    And others do enjoy your blog. I'm glad you chose to continue.

    As far as the unemployment, I hear you. I graduated with my teaching credential just in time for the economy to melt down. That was the first year of massive teacher layoffs. And more have been laid off eery year since.

    I tutor and end up working part time for about 6 months of the year. No unemployment. No disability (my degree was disability retraining).

    But it could always be worse. That's my motto. So many people have it so much worse than I do.

    When you begin to feel down, remember, there are people who've never seen your face, whose lives would be much drearier without you.

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  33. Congratulations on five wonderful years!

    I can most definitely relate to equating blogging with meaningful work. I struggle with some similar issues, and when I despair that no one will ever want my stories, I take comfort in my blog.

    I suppose the need for connection and self-worth is one of the reasons so many bloggers become stats-obsessed. Stats and comments are concrete proof that other people are out there, reading and responding to what we have to say. They show us we've made a difference, even if it's just a small one, and that's a lovely thing indeed.

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  34. Congratulations on five years!

    I fully understand the idea of your blog being meaningful work to you, and as you can see from the comments here, you are making an impact. And perhaps even more important, it's meaningful to you, which is enough reason to keep doing it. I've come to the conclusion that earning a salary, while necessary for life, is not what makes work meaningful.

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  35. Happy Blogiversary, Ana! I hope you have many more wonderful years!

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  36. happiest of birthdays! You remind me that my 5th birthday is coming up in eleven days' time...

    I'm glad you're feeling positive about blogging now - it really should be fun, primarily.

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  37. Happy bloggiversary, Ana! I doesn't seem like it's been that long, does it?

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  38. Wandered here from books without pictures. So glad I did! What a great blog!! I'll definitely be back in the future!

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  39. A very happy blogoversary to you.

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  40. Happy 5th anniversary, Ana! I remember reading your posts about this time last year and thinking you were a woman in need of a holiday! I began blogging when I was off work ill with chronic fatigue and it certainly gave me a sense of purpose and achievement that I was sorely missing. But then as I got better and life got busier, it was much harder to blog as effectively or as much as I had before. The proof that your blog is still cherished is to be seen in the way your audience reappears instantly you do!

    I'm really sorry to hear about the job situation, although as you know, it IS bad out there at present. But I believe in the idea that when we are stuck in stasis, it's because we have something to learn before we can move on. There's probably a reason why things are panning out as they are, and although it's very hard to see it at present, it will become clear over time. I have no doubt the perfect job is waiting for you and will arrive when it's ready.

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  41. Happy 5 years, Ana! Since you are one of the ones to meet new people, and whom I consider both a friend as well as one of best bloggers (the way you take books apart and analyze them is fabulous) out there, I hope you know now much I enjoy knowing you and having you part of my life. Somehow blogging makes our world bigger, so that even if we can't see one another, we still touch one another.

    I'm am so sorry it has been 5 months without work, Ana. That is so difficult to get through. I've been through it, and it's awful. I will say though, that it does end, and you will find work. Sometimes not where you think you should be, but a stepping stone. I do agree with Litlove too - something is changing inside you, and when you are ready, it will be there. This I know from experience! Hang in there, and don't ever give up.
    *hugs*

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  42. Happy Blogiversary, Ana! Your blog continues to be my top reads and I just want to say, you're a real inspiration to us fellow book bloggers! :)

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  43. Happy anniversary, Ana! Five years is a fantastic run so far. :)

    And I totally get what you say about the blog being a place for achievement and fulfillment. I feel the same thing. Being a stay-at-home mom is what I want to do right now but at the same time, it's hard because I don't feel like I accomplish anything most of the time. I don't get to do any critical thinking and not much socializing either. So the blog is a great place to exercise both of those skills. I'm almost to my four year anniversary and what I am most proud of is being part of a community of fun, intelligent people -- like you!

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  44. Aw, thanks for quoting my email! I reflected after sending it that maybe I came off sounding more negative than I meant to, and so I'm glad you understood the intent. I'm obviously glad you're still here blogging. Even more than your blog, I've really enjoyed our intermittent emails and buddy reads and really in-depth conversations on fairly touchy topics. It's really added a lot to my experience of many books that I wouldn't have gotten otherwise :-)

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  45. five year is stunning Ana you were one first blogs I found ,here is to five more ,all the best stu

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  46. Happy Bday! I've been reading your blog for, heh, years!

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  47. Happy blog anniversary, Ana! I am so glad you're still here and that you've found a balance in blogging. And I can relate to that need for a worthwhile outlet, as even though I'm working I often feel I'm working in a vaccuum for things I don't care about. But writing about books - that's different.

    Thanks to you for writing - you are very appreciated by all of us who are here reading.

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  48. Congratulations on reaching the 5 year mark! It's good to hear that you've finally fallen into the place where blogging doesn't make you feel guilty nor does it make you feel disengaged. I think I finally stopped feeling guilty, but I'm swinging too far to the other side lately. It's so hard to land right in the middle!

    Here's to blogging letting you give voice to your passions even when your job or lack thereof doesn't give you that outlet. That's one of the reasons I started blogging and for continuing to blog as long as I have - it makes me feel fulfilled in a way that my day job no matter how hard or successfully I work at it, will never do.

    I hope that a job turns up for you soon, and I hope that you blog keeps giving you tons of encouragement while you're going through the job search process. It's been a pleasure to 'know' you all these years, and let me assure you that you have plenty to offer the world even when the job search is getting you down! =)

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  49. I always think you must have been blogging years and years longer than me, because you seemed so entrenched in the blogging community when I first started blogging. But you are not much older as a blogger than I am! Just goes to show that you are the awesome-est and it did not take the blogging community very long to figure that out. <3

    Happy happy happy blogging birthday! I know everyone who reads your blog wishes you many more happy years of it. :D

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  50. I honestly believe that what you are doing here - what we all are doing here actually - is meaningful work. We are the front lines in the fight against illiteracy. :) And you enrich my life.

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  51. Congratulations Ana! I too started my blog when I was unemployed and totally understand what you mean by it giving you a purpose.

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  52. Thank you so much, everyone. You're all so incredibly nice and encouraging. I look forward to many more year's worth of bookish conversations with you.

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  53. Congratulations Ana! I love your blog. You have a way of pulling out interesting insights from almost everything that you read, and of articulating thoughts that some of us were also thinking but could not quite explain.

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  54. Happy Blogiversary, Ana! :) I'm glad you found a pace that you're comfortable with when it comes to reading and blogging - I think most of us struggle with that from time to time. I love what you said here:

    "If nothing else, discussing books and all the ideas they contain is extremely satisfying for me personally. It gives me an outlet for my passions, and a venue where I can make sense of my thoughts and hopefully grow as a human being in the process."

    That's how I feel about blogging as well.

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  55. Thank you so much, Christy and Chachic!

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  56. Happy blogiversary and congrats on a major accomplish. Hope you stick around for years to come. :)

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  57. Hey Ana! Happy blogiversary. I'm sorry to hear that you've been having such a hard time lately. Just want to say that I truly appreciate your blog and I know you have SO MUCH to offer! I'm sure you'll find the right thing eventually, and we're all here for ya in the mean time.

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  58. I've been off-line for a few days and missed your 5th year anniversary so now I am wishing you 5 more. As for "meaningful work" what you do here is, for me, very very special. Your posts are always smart and well-written and some of them have started amazing conversations.

    I am so glad I found your blog and even though I am not on the computer as much as I used to be you are often in my thoughts. Thanks so much for "things mean a lot".

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  59. Congratulations! Im so glad that you are still blogging! more power to your family! Enjoy every little thing in life and im sure that your family will be very happy

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  60. I was just boggled trying to imagine your blog not being meaningful, important work. Your blog has, for my little brain, been one of the most meaningful, important places I go, for the last several years.

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  61. Congrats! So nice to see you are still around ;) I somehow missed my 5 yr blogging anniversary, probably because like you last year, I was in a blogging slump for a while. Now I'm much less hard on myself, and just blog when I feel like it! Glad you've found your sweet spot too.

    And do not internalize the job situation. It is very, very tough out there and no reflection on you personally. (I know exactly how you feel, though, and it can be tough. Remember to care for yourself throughout!)

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  62. Happy five years Ana!! I have to say that your blog is definitely meaningful, and at the very least you have an impact on me and my reading, therefore I can't imagine it not impacting others as well :) <3

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  63. Congratulations (a few weeks late) on reaching such an impressive milestone! You are a fantastic blogger, Ana. It kills me that you still don't have a job; those people do not know what they're missing out on. Know that your work here HAS had a tangible effect on the world because it has had an effect on us, your readers. Thank you for all the time and effort you put into your blog! Here's to another five (or more!) years!

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  64. Congratulations on five years!

    I was struck by your statement: "I blog how I want and when I want to, and try not to let things like self-induced pressure, anxiety or feelings of failure get in the way." This is way blogging is meant to be. Kudos to you for finding that balance.

    Here is to another amazing five years!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.