10 years ago I was 24. In July 2006 I was approaching my second anniversary of London living (although I had been commuting to London for another year before that). I had completed 2 years of law school and another year of my first corporate job. I was overqualified, bored and broke. One day on a whim I joined the Fulham WI, shlepping down to Parson’s Green from North London on a Tuesday once a month, meeting some amazing women, some of whom I am still in touch with today. And then, one wet lunchtime in July, I registered a blogspot address and started writing.
“The seeds of inspiration to start this blog were first sown a few weeks ago in a Fulham Women’s Institute meeting – Lucy, the President, had invited the director of a blogging site to speak us about the new Fulham Women’s Institute blog. On the tube on the way home, I began to formulate the idea of starting my own personal blog, a diary of my life, that would also enable me to keep in contact with my gorgeous sister, Alexandra, currently living in a campervan somewhere south of Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. So, in typical Rachel style, I thought about it for a while, talked about it for a while and then did nothing.
Then, one wet lunchtime this week, my usual plans were foiled. On an average lunchtime I take my sandwiches and the paper plus the all important picnic blanket, and head for Regents Park. There, I spend 45 precious minutes with only myself and my so-duko (and all the rest of the people who work nearby – but I pretend that they don’t exist). Anyhow, back to the subject. I started reading the bbc news website, which in turn led me to a blog by another Rachel. I’m not sure why I felt compelled to read her blog – perhaps it was because she was also a Rachel – but reading her account of her year following the London Bombings of a year ago today made me start thinking of my earlier promise to myself to start writing again. Through a blog.
So, here we are. It’s harder and easier than it looks. My life seems fairly mundane at the moment. But its a start. I’ll keep you posted.”
My blogging life carried on consistently through the next decade. I recorded the mundane, and thoughts on what I’d been up to. I wrote about books I had read, places I went. I reflected on Blair leaving Downing Street (interesting timing, giving Chilcott this week) and I definitely wrote more about politics than I do now. I wrote and wrote, and very few posts had any photos at all. I shared (and overshared). I celebrated starting my training contract and then two years later mused on being made redundant on qualification. I thought about children and whether that gave more meaning to life. I got engaged, and started a new blog about wedding planning where I chronicled every decision about the wedding. I made new internet friends who were also getting married. I got married. Stopped considering the minutia of what was essentially a massive house party. Worked a lot and then had two children.
As I wrote and wrote, I also read and read. My outlook on life diversified and the people I read, and who commented and engaged with my thoughts, were not just other white heterosexual middle class people like me but a whole variety of people that make up the world. I challenged my assumptions and my learned behaviours and discovered that I was a lot more liberal, open minded, tolerant and passionate than I thought I was. I started the decade with some views that make me feel quite uncomfortable now (I was quite black and white in my ethical outlook, not ever realising that it was only privilege that allowed me to think like that – and I don’t now) and I can’t believe 10 years ago I had to think twice about whether I was a feminist.
And somewhere along these 10 years, I created a space from which I could make a small amount of money. It is interesting to look back at my various pieces of the internet how things have changed. What started with a blogspot free template without even images has evolved to a self hosted site with a bespoke template, working with a designer on a new header and graphics (coming soon…). I have taught myself coding, photography, business skills and without a decade of blogging behind me wouldn’t have had the marketing skills to change to my current job. I have forged a brand out of my words somehow and now work with some amazing companies, engage with an amazing core of readers, some of whom have been reading and commenting and sharing my decade long journey with me. I won’t embarrass them by mentioning them by name but I appreciate every view, every comment and every discussion we have had over the years – even the ones where we disagreed!
It really is hard to believe that when I started blogging, pressing “publish” was the end of the process and engagement literally was finding other blogs organically through other people’s blog rolls and occasionally through SEO, leaving comments and entering into discussions. Twitter and Instagram didn’t exist and I was only on Facebook because my sister briefly dated someone at an American university (it was invite only, and there was no-one I knew on there for *ages*). Now, pressing “publish” is only the start…
Starting a blog was one of my better decisions. It has connected me, grounded me, forced me to consider my viewpoints and my principles, and try to address them – justifying some of them, and learning to change my opinion with what I hope is grace. It has given me the space to write and think and created some amazing opportunities and some life-long friendships. I have chronicled in some detail my most life changing decade – it started to the flaming embers of New Labour and ended with the most volatile week British politics can remember – against the back drop of which I didn’t come of age but finally grew up.
So, 10 years on, what now? As we move into a new era of politics (we are, after all, about to get only our second female prime minister, and I wish with all my heart that either of them stood for anything I believed in) I fear we are moving backwards not forwards. We too move into a new era, as Pip starts school in September, and I hope for her sake that I am wrong. In blogging terms, I’d like to have the time to write more, or more posts about my thoughts rather than just what I have been up to (much as I enjoy writing those). I miss the more academic side of my blog writing although writing this over a feeding and wriggling baby with a stop to change an explosive nappy I should perhaps just be thankful for what I have, and endeavour instead to finish this post and his thank you cards.
Last of all, thank you. Thank you for reading. Thank you for commenting, for encouraging, for debating and for challenging me. Here’s to the next 10 years!
PS. To any of you who either clicked on the feminism post above, or have read my blogs long enough to remember that particular Ms/Mrs debate I would like to say that whilst I do use Mrs Hislastname as my usual title if forced to give a title, I have long made peace with my outdated view on Ms and would indeed use Ms as my default position when addressing a woman now, if indeed I had to use a title at all. The questioning of ideas and traditions I learnt at home and ascertaining my own position on them has been one of the greatest things I have learnt through blogging, and something I value hugely from my readers. Lastly, from having children, I am pleased that we did choose one name for our family as I very much enjoy hearing Pip happily declaring our family name but given the variety of nationalities, cultures and religions making up her pre-school class, she would not have had any issues at all had I kept my name or passed it to her. From my point of view, I found my old name hard to say, and I prefer the one I have now.