What You Mean to Me

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Today I want to just take a moment to share something I’ve been thinking about with you… Not a tutorial, a recipe, a trip or a part of our English life– just me and part of my journey. I don’t know if everyone will “get” it, but I hope you can relate in some way. It sometimes seems more acceptable to tell tales of woe, rather than sharing what we are learning, how we’re growing. So today I want to write a letter to you, all of you people in The Internet who have shown up here. The Internet is a huge place, but each of you are very real, and I want to talk to you a little bit about my experience.
IMG_1447You could have hardly found someone more reluctant to start a blog than I was, 9 years ago. My siblings, cousins, mom and eventually even my grandma all had blogs, as a way of keeping in touch while we were spread all over the world. I was the last one to give in and start one– the idea of putting myself out there, of talking about my life and sharing my thoughts… was kind of mortifying. I felt silly. But I eventually went for it, mostly to make my mom (living thousands of  miles away) happy. And then I kept going.

When we moved to Germany four years ago, I was seeking some community, and began this blog mostly to network with other bloggers– mostly from design blogs. My readership grew little by little, and it was such a strange feeling to know that people were interested in my stories and pictures of our life there. Having so few people that had visited us (three, to be exact) it was important to me to be able to share what our new, expat life was like.

And then when we went through our super-crazy series of events, living in all sorts of places, it was this blog that brought me a sense of belonging and security, and the knowledge that at least a few dozen people out there knew where we were, and were sometimes checking in on us and wishing us well. That meant so much to me.

I have had to learn so many new skills in order to keep blogging– photography, writing, social media, website design, graphic design, how to write recipes, marketing… The list of what I still have to figure out is never-ending. But I am learning every day! I am improving, and continually challenging myself. And that is a gift.

Blogging has opened my whole world up for me. It has challenged me and given me so much confidence in exchange for courage. Not everyone gets to have a big audience and put out there into the world what they believe, what they care about, and what they want to see happen in the world, in the same way that most bloggers do. The discipline of articulating my views regularly in the form of blog posts has really helped me to crystallize who I am and what I believe about the world. What an incredible gift!
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I started out being very shy, and honestly feeling pretty silly and wondering if I was being narcissistic by even having a blog and assuming that there were people out there who would want to read whatever I had to share. I got a pit in my stomach every time I put a picture of myself on The Internet.

I never imagined that I would have so many readers, that you would be so amazing and feel like a real community to me. That I would connect with so many other incredible people who are doing the same thing. That I would make real friends this way.

Writing my ebook was a serious leap of faith for me– if I’m completely honest, I felt embarrassed about doing it. I had the same doubts as I did about starting a blog. (Who am I to write something other people would want to read? And to ask that I be paid for my work? Scary!) It was a really emotional experience to put it out there and see whether or not anyone would buy it. And how my own community would respond. It was such a huge step for personal growth, and I am so glad that I did it. I had so much fear, and now the world feels so much bigger because I stepped out into it that much more.

Now, more than ever, I wake up thinking about the things I want to share with you. The projects I want to take on, and the readers who have taken the time to tell me that they value what I am doing. It’s a total thrill to hear that someone picked stinging nettles for the first time because they read about doing it on my blog. That I have encouraged someone, or that I have shown them that their dream of moving overseas could be a real possibility for them. I love hearing from readers about what they are working on or thinking about, and consider it such a privilege to be let in on these things.

Because of all of this, I have developed so much more confidence in the greater world. I feel like I know what I am all about, and how to communicate that to others. And I feel so thankful to have a little space of my own in the world to talk, share, and get to know people– it feels like a community to me, and I’m thrilled that people are showing up every day. I genuinely love sharing articles and thoughts (yes, and jokes) with “my people” on Facebook— it feels like such a privilege. You are an incredibly thoughtful, respectful and inspiring group of people.
So this rambling post is kind of a love letter to you. Thank you. Thank you for coming here and participating, and reading, and listening, and letting me know that you value what I am creating. For following our story, and cheering us on from the sidelines when things are dicey. It sincerely means the world to me. My life is so enriched by being able to use this space to share and connect with you.

And now… I also want to ask you– do you have an outlet for sharing what’s inside (your passions, your interests, your thoughts, your talents) with the world around you? Do you have a space to create something? What brings you joy? What terrifies you in a good way?

Thank you for being here. It matters to me, and having this blog is an incredible privilege that you have helped to shape.

17 Responses to What You Mean to Me

  1. Kimberly Montgomery March 28, 2014 at 3:31 am #

    I enjoy all the different types of posts you write. I like reading and seeing pics of what it’s like to live abroad. And I love how inspirational you are. 🙂

    • ariana March 31, 2014 at 9:34 am #

      Thank you Kimberly! And I am glad you enjoy the variety of posts– it would be hard to stick to just one thing!

  2. Joanna March 28, 2014 at 7:16 am #

    Thanks for your blog, I enjoy reading your thoughts and ideas. I too have a blog, one of the outlets for my passions and thoughts and ideas. The other is within the academic world where I move at the moment as I am studying for a PhD. This both inspires and terrifies me at the same time. It terrifies me that people may actually take me seriously and incorporate my ideas into good practice, that is a huge responsibility to get things right – well at least as far as I am able. I just need to work a little on the work, balance side at the moment and find time for some creativity.

    • ariana March 31, 2014 at 9:36 am #

      Joanna, I really respect the gravity with which you approach sharing your thoughts, knowing that it could really impact someone’s actions. That would make me trust your ideas more, I think. I too hope you can find some time and space for creativity. Thank you for being such a faithful reader/ commenter.

  3. Jessica March 28, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

    Thank you for sharing … this post and in general. I very much enjoy reading what you write.

    • ariana March 31, 2014 at 9:37 am #

      Thank you, Jessica!

  4. Naomi March 28, 2014 at 5:45 pm #

    I’ve just discovered your blog, but I’m an ex-pat too 🙂 I just started a blog and I have those exact same doubts – “there are a gazillion blogs out there, why would anyone want to visit mine?” I really enjoy food photography, and while it can be tricky to take photos with small ones, I can also feed my family at the same time. I am enjoying blogging, although it doesn’t have it’s own community yet.

    • ariana March 31, 2014 at 9:39 am #

      Naomi– just checked out your blog, and your pictures are gorgeous. I love the dark and light drama in those images. And about community… It has taken a long time to get there. Keep sharing and reaching out to others.

  5. Emily Swezey March 28, 2014 at 8:39 pm #

    aww <3 I feel so special now, not even kidding! I started blogging randomly because I was bored over the summer. It's amazing how quickly it took on a life of its own and gave me a sense or purpose. I really do enjoy your blog and following your story, keep it up Ariana!

    • ariana March 31, 2014 at 9:43 am #

      Thank you, Emily– and glad to hear that your blog has been a source of fulfillment for you!

  6. Nepu March 29, 2014 at 10:24 am #

    Ariana, I loved this one! I’ve just started reading your blog and following the Facebook page. I’m an expat too, a Finnish woman living in Bosnia, running a mountain guesthouse with my Bosnian husband. We have a small family, a girl and another baby on the way, and lots of animals. Though I love where we are, a tiny village at 1300 meters, our bohemian, out-of-the-norm lifestyle isn’t exactly how our neighbours, or Sarajevans some 15 km away from here, live 🙂
    I share what you expressed about blogging. I only started just over a year ago, but it’s already helped me to ‘lean in’ to the world. I’ve always been an extrovert, but experiencing such huge lifechanges (leaving Finland for Slovenia and starting a new business 2010, having my first baby 2011, getting married 2012, moving to Bosnia, swapping the citylife to the mountains, taking on the mountain inn, and getting pregnant again 2013) in a short period of time, I’ve really felt the need to write about all this – to stay sane and keep contact with family and friends. I feel that it’s a way for me to find my tribe – whatever that will be.
    I truly appreciate what you are doing with your blog, it’s beautiful, interesting, and has a lot of warmth in it.
    I wish you all the best from a mountain in Bosnia! Love, Nepu, http://www.mountrewild.org.

    • ariana March 31, 2014 at 9:50 am #

      Nepu, thank you so much for introducing yourself to me here! I just visited your blog, and it is so lovely– beautiful pictures, and I love what you and your husband are doing there in Bosnia. I do think that blogging can be a great way to find community when you are in the midst of change. It’s not the same as sitting down to dinner with old friends, of course, but it can be amazing in other ways. Wishing you well!

  7. Caterina B March 30, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

    Yes, Ariana, I have noticed a change in you. You definitely are more self confident now and more (I hesitate to say it because I
    certainly am not a blogging expert) professional. Or rather, your blog is more professional, more sort of “glossy.” That may not be the correct word for what I am trying to say, though, so please overlook it if it’s offensive. I usually avoid blogs where they are selling things but find myself coming back to see what you’re up to. So…..more power to you! What you have just told us is very nice, thanks.

    • ariana March 31, 2014 at 9:53 am #

      Hi Caterina! I agree– things are looking “glossier” around here. About a year ago, I realized that I was pouring such an incredible amount of energy into this blog. I came to a point where I had to decide to cut way back, or to use it as a legitimate livelihood. It’s been so much hard work, but I am happy with my choice because I do love writing and sharing here so much. Yes, I have to sell some things and make some money– but hopefully doing so while bringing inspiration, beauty and some practical things to the table at the same time. Thank you for continuing to read, even though things have changed a bit here. It’s still all me!

  8. Elaine R. March 31, 2014 at 6:05 pm #

    Ariana: I particularly enjoyed your “Breaking Down a Pig” blog, complete with photos; in particular, the photos and their graphic detail and explanations. I enjoyed it all, because it reminded me when I was a child living on a farm. Butchering was a large part of our survival and my growing experience. Because I was such an inquisitive child, my mother gave in to my curiosity and allowed me to participate. Dear mother asked me to turn the handle on the meat grinder while she would guide the casings and determine the length and size of the sausage and links. I am sure Mother gave in to me just to keep me busy and out of the way; but Ariana, to a child this active participation is important. I felt I was contributing to the well being of our large family. I would, from time to time, sneak a peek at the hanging sausages to ensure my work was still intact. Then I heard “Keep that door closed; don’t let the warm air in.” The sausages were hung to dry in the cold room and the larger cuts were either hung in the smoke house or taken to a commercially run freezer. It was wonderful, and so is “Breaking Down a Pig.” Thanks Ariana.

  9. Gretchen May 3, 2014 at 12:27 am #

    Ariana, I discovered your blog at just the right time for me. I was in a very difficult situation and was inspired by your descriptions of overcoming struggles, yet finding joy along the way. While I knew that time was a learning experience, I’m glad it’s over. Your ebook has helped me get some perspective about difficult times, and your posts about managing uncertain futures and anxiety were very helpful. I just wanted to thank you and wish you happiness. I’m looking forward to trying some of your fermented beverage recipes, starting with rhubarb soda very soon!

    • ariana May 6, 2014 at 9:14 am #

      Hi Gretchen,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to write this note. I am so happy to hear that my ebook and my posts have been a source of encouragement to you– that makes my day. I am glad you found my blog, and am wishing you well in your journey.

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