Happy birthday to Me
Happy Birthday to Me
Happy birthday, dear Whatever-your-name-is!
Happy birthday to You!
Yes, I know it’s technically My birthday today,
but I wanted to take this opportunity to ask you if you:
Wanna tag along on my last big adventure?
Oh, great, you’re here! Hi, I’m Evalena, in case you were wondering, and I’m the one who’s currently moving in on this building site. I hope you’re here about the last great adventure flyers I’ve been posting all over social media lately. Maybe you’re wondering if it’s really true? If I’m actually crazy enough to believe I’m about to sail the seven seas in a pirate ship I built with my own two hands?
Yes. That is exactly how crazy I am.
Today, I embark on my last big adventure and, if you wanna tag along there’s plenty of space of me ole ship. Be warned, though. This is not one of them all-inclusive fancy schmancy Caribbean cruise ships. I’m building myself a proper old pirate ship and I fully expect my voyage to be tough, difficult and even gut-wrenching at times. But sometimes you just have to brave it and jump. Because if you don’t you’re nothing but a speck of dirt.
At the moment, I’m still all wrapped up in boxes that need unpacking and the great dilemma of where to put my stuff. I suppose it must sound a bit weird to begin a big adventure by building a sodding ship, but here’s an idea:
There are boxes, paint buckets and building material all over the place here. I’ve been working on this (in secret!) for quite some time and now I’ve finally reached that stage where you can at least begin to picture what it will look like when all is done. I need to keep going, but if you pop the kettle on, pull up a chair and stay for a cuppa I’ll tell you what this is all about.
If you stay around, you can find out all about my last big adventure (what it is, why I’m doing this, how I’m going to make it work etc.) and exactly what kind of adventure I can offer you should you decide to board my ship.
WELL, I'VE NEVER HEARD ANYTHING LIKE IT!
There are boxes, paint buckets and building material all over the place here.
Before I start telling you about the adventure, I want to be very clear in saying this is not a sales pitch. I’m not here to make you buy anything (not even a ticket!), and I guarantee that you’ll never see any badly disguised “free” rip-offs here. I can’t stand that kind of asshattery.
I don’t know about you, but I seem to be drowning in all sorts of bogus offers these days. In targeted social media ads, emails in my inbox or pop-ups and links on pretty much every single site I regularly visit I’m offered free stuff and once-in-a-lifetime offers. I find it downright offensive! I don’t mind people trying to make a living out of their own hard word. Hell, I don’t even mind people straight up asking for donations! What I cannot abide is people assuming I’m dense and trying to get one over on me.
That’s just not on!
The other day, for example, I received a rather sweet email from a blogger I’ve followed for quite some time. Chill, it was a newsletter kinda thing, nothing clandestine! So, in this email, he wrote that I would get a free copy of one of his books. All I had to do was to click on a link and fill out a form with my address details. Now, I kinda knew where this was going (they look pretty much the same all these
offers scams), but as I had already started writing this post I decided to follow through. For edumacational purposes donchaknow.
Sadly, as this is a person I really like, this so-called offer turned out to be even more of a scam than I had expected it to be. I had to click my way through a maze of optin-pages with infantile writing, weird pop-ups with even weirder video ads. And, of course, each of these pages featured another “special offer.” I was told in no uncertain terms that I could become rich, more productive and more successful than a mere mortal such as myself could ever dream of. If I would only click those links and add all the gracious offers to my FREE book order.
In the end, having forced myself through what felt like an endless, soul-destroying, self-pub e-book marathon (see what I did there?) I reached the actual order note. And I nearly fell out of my bed when I saw the cost of the book was $o.oo. It was actually a free book! All I had to do now was to fill out the form so he would know where to send my book. Correction. Fill it out and press OK. And it was at this point the real trickery of this particular scam was uncovered.
Yes, the book would, indeed, be mine for FREE. (Why do they aways write that in boldface capitals?) It was my “gratitude token,” as the blogger in question put it, for having been a loyal fan for all these years. I would, however, have to pay for the postage. Which would cost me more than buying any of his books from Amazon and have them shipped to me for free. And, which actually galled me more, more than the pre-order of Brandon Sanderson’s next Stormlight Archive instalment!
Well, I’ve never heard anything like it! When self-published “authors” of non-fiction print-on-demand or e-books that never saw an editor’s eye charge more for postage our most successful authors, they’re taking the piss!
So, it was all four nought. I didn’t get a book and the blogger lost one of his “loyal fans.” I’m not following someone who think they can dupe me with sweet words and make me pay top dollar for some cheap rubbish. How about waving a free stuff card in the air only to shower people with all sorts of crazy scams wrapped in sweet words. As if I’m stupid and desperate enough to part with my money like that. You best take your book and your lousy “offers” and and stick them where the sun doesn’t shine. I’m done with you!
I’ve spent most of my life swimming upstream and going my own way; and I don’t think age is a good enough reason to stop doing that. Rather the opposite, actually. If anything, I’m even more inclined to go my own way, and do my own thing, now. And guess what? I don’t care if every single social media marketing expert says you need funnels and optins and special offers to make it. I will never, ever, send you spam. I will never, ever, write about shit I have no interest in or think may benefit you. I will never, ever, try to trick you into buying something you don’t want or need.
AND THIS I KNOW I MUST DO
Maybe we can meet the spring in Paris?
Right, now that we’ve discussed what I won’t do, I also want to be very clear on this: The reason why I’m building this pirate ship; and making myself a home base here on this domain after 25+ years (!) of free portal blogging, is that I need to make money. Yes, that is the bitter truth about the state of the nation.
To put it bluntly, Brexit and other misfortunes have shaken my foundations and made my future anything but safe. I’ve had to accept that I’ll never work again, at least not in any sense that we normally think of as working. This leaves me with four options:
- I could stay in England and hope that things don’t get even worse after we leave the EU for good at the end of this year.
- I could become a freeloader and move between my five adult children. I may be able to talk them into taking turns housing, and caring for, me one month each on a rota until my dying days.
- I could go to Sweden, couch surf at my kids’ and some of my friends’ houses, for God knows how long, and hope the Swedish welfare state takes pity on me. If that succeeds, I may be able to spend the rest of my life as a “benefit scrounger” in an accessible little flat in some suburb.
- I could adopt an (even more) alternative lifestyle and try to find ways of monetising my assets. This could give me the freedom to live where I want, to travel when I want (with my dog!) and to spend part of my year in Sweden without having to jeopardize my access to medication and specialist healthcare.
Status quo, i.e. option one, is not much of an alternative. We are very close to the real Brexit, and there are no agreements in place. And, to be honest, I’m not entirely convinced there were ever meant to be any. I am, however, certain that poor people can forget about finding any raisins in this cookie. I wouldn’t mind being able to spend at least part of the year somewhere else, but as much as it kills me to admit it I see no full-time future for myself here.
As for option two, I know that at least one of my kids would welcome the opportunity to “adopt” me. But if you know me, you will understand why this is something I can’t consider. Caring for family members is hard and it puts enormous strain on the relationship(s). As spoonies, we have a kind of boss – employee relationship with our carers, which also means we have to take great care to remember that our home is their place of work. With the best and most professional carers, it’s a balancing act to find ways of being professional and personal without having to give up the private. With a family member it is a million times harder! I want to be able to hang out with my (grand)kids knowing that none of us has to put their own needs and wants away. And that’s why it’s imperative that I have some kind of control over my own existence. That I have both the ability and the resources to go where I want and make my own decisions. No life (none!) would be worth the price my kids would have to pay for option two, so it really isn’t an option.
Option three, trusting the Swedish welfare system to “rescue me,” appeals to me about as much as pitching a tent at the nearest IKEA parking lot and be a squatter there until I die. I have seen far too many Swedish spoonies stuck in a system that largely resembles ours. Which means you’re only ever deemed worthy of help if you’re already dead. Almost dead? Nah, not good enough, you scrounger. Get a job! I deeply resent the fact that we as spoonies have to give up our autonomy and accept a life that literally locks us in a cage. I’ve already been locked in a different type of norm-breaking cage that it took me years to break out of. I have no intention of allowing that to happen again if I can help it. Which means there is no option three either.
So. Option four it is. And this I know I must do:
Just so. Nothing more nothing less. Happy we could iron that little detail out. All that is left to do then is to decide what to capitalise on. Which actually raised a new dilemma for me: If I have nothing of value, and I am a relatively useless human being, what on earth do I have to monetise? How am I supposed to make any money?
It took me quite some time to find the answers to those questions. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I felt that I only have one asset that could potentially be turned into “a service” and that’s my survival instinct. I have an extraordinary ability to survive all sorts of disasters and misfortunes and I have a zest for life that few can beat or crush. I guess you could say that I’m good at inspiring and motivating people to hang in there and believe in tomorrow.
This is actually an ability you can wrap up and sell wholesale in this (digital) day and age. Unfortunately for me, I hate that idea. It feels wrong to me to try to sell kindness. Not in the least because those who would need my skill set the most would be the ones who could least afford it. So no. I just couldn’t go there. But it was this realisation that would eventually lead me to the solution I needed. My breakthrough.
MAYBE I'M NOT COMPLETELY USELESS AFTER ALL
Maybe we’ll trade boujie trad life for the freedom of #vanlife?
I found my catalyst after a routine check-up at my GP’s. (That’s your local Doctor, or physician, for any non-Brits in here.) This happened shortly before my 50th birthday. The meeting took an unexpected turn when my doom-and-gloom GP, having looked through my latest round of test results, turned to me and said I had to make peace with death. I don’t think he was trying to tell me my death was imminent. It was more of a philosophical statement. I mean, it stands to reason that you cannot be riddled with disease and expect to live to be a hundred. So I came away from my appointment feeling a bit like you do when your car unexpectedly makes it through the MOT, but with a long list of advisories. You know it’s time to start saving up for a new car.
Only, there is no new car option when it is your life that is on the line.
I knew right away that it was the thought of leaving my little frog prince too early was the hardest for me to deal with. I lost my Nan far too early and the wound that left in my soul never fully healed. What would I have wanted? What would I have asked of her, had we understood, and been able to deal with, her death (which was impending btw = fuck cancer) in a better way?
By the time I had my personal MOT result unceremoniously handed to me, I had lost both sets of grandparents and a great aunt. I had had ample time to reflect over that kind of loss and what, other than the person, you actually lose when your elders are no longer with you. It was as clear to me as if it had been written in fluorescent capitals across a night sky. What I had lost was not just the people that were so dear to me. I had lost all those who came before my parents. All my ties to the past were severed. There was no one left who could bear witness of the time before my family existed. And I knew that the one thing I wished I could have had was access to their memories. A way to listen to their words and benefit from their knowledge.
Which kind of brings us to the catalyst, or the inciting incident if you will of this particular story. I suddenly realised that I had been wrong. And stupid. I DID have something of value!
Once this place is shipshape and ready to sail, I will have things for sale in this (and my other) blogs. I’m thinking of adding a little webshop too, but what I would sell in there I’ll keep to myself for now. I will also be adding affiliate links to products you could buy if you felt so inclined. These types of links would give me a small compensation from the seller if you decided to buy something from them, but it wouldn’t cost you anything.
Personally, I suffer from a severe ad allergy and I use ad blockers where it’s possible. If I could choose, I would probably have stuck to the free blog portals and never even considered dabbling in ad spaces or affiliate marketing. Ah, well… If wishes were horses beggars might ride, right? And seeing as I have neither a horse, nor a choice, here we are. We will have to give in and accept that there will be ads. And, in a way, that is the way it always was.
For more than 25 years, my texts have been available for free. Yet they have been making money. For the site owners. My ad allergy didn’t free my texts from ads. It only freed me from having to deal with the flipping things. This means that for those who tag along, and continue to read my posts over here, only the domain name will change. And for the newcomers, I suppose we just have to pray they’re not all like me.
I know some people really like to see ads and have products and services recommended to them. This actually made my decision a little lighter. Nevertheless, I promise I’ll be selective and only showcase products and services I believe in or can see the use of. And I promise to strive to find some kind of balance where you can continue to enjoy your stays on board and I can keep writing without feeling too embarrassed.
Maybe we can talk about it and try to work this out together?
COME CHECK OUT MY PIRATE SHIP
Ohoy, matey! Just hop on board and let’s sail this beauty wherever the winds take us!
The third, and final, thing I need to make crystal clear is that I do not expect anything from you. I will never write any whining posts about how I’ll stop writing if you don’t show me the money. Or sufficient deference. There will be no hare-brained videos about how my creative juices will dry up unless you put your money where your mouth is. (Seriously, the way some of these
influenzas influencers whine and moan and berate their followers baffles me.)
I don’t demand any payments or purchases, and you don’t need to feel obliged to click on any links to help me out either. My writing has always been my life’s oxygen, as important to my survival as my heartbeat. It has never been about money. And inasmuch as I now have decided to try to monetise my words, I will never stop writing and putting my content out there. For free. This will never change even though I’m now stepping up to become a professional blogger. One of “those people” I’ve been ridiculing for all these years.
Something I never really thought about before was how much money these free blog portals are making. But if you take a good look you’ll see what a genius business set-up they are. Each portal has an owner (or a group of owners) who, simply put, opened a shop online. The shop is empty bar the shelves. It has many empty shelves. And on these shelves they offer people to come and display their stuff. For free. They can show off their cooking skills, their parenting ideas or, perhaps, how best to apply an eyeliner. The only thing they can’t do is to sell something. At least not overtly.
Genius, I tell ya!
All the owners need to do is to keep the shop clean and the shelves filled with new and exciting things for people to see. In other words, they need to keep attracting a steady stream of new exhibitionists aka bloggers. People are fickle and easily bored, so there needs to be constant variation.
But Evalena! How are they making money if it’s all for free and no one is selling anything?
I’m glad you asked, hun. They make money by charging other shopkeepers (aka business owners) top dollar for the ad space on the walls, doors and windows of this virtual exhibition shop. These ads can be seen not only by the bloggers, but also by all of their readers/viewers. And there are plenty of marketing people who would pay big money for ad space in a shop that is always full of customers. And this is why so many of the free blog portals pay through their teeth to get celebrities to come blog with them. The right celeb can raise the standard of the blog portal, raise the ad prices they can charge and rope even more hopeful bloggers in.
Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching!
When I realised that my texts were making money even though I wasn’t getting paid for them, I started thinking, And counting. An audit of all my free blogs and social media accounts showed me that I had written and published thousands (yes, really!) of texts over the years. And some of them, if I may say so myself, are easily on par with anything I’ve seen a professional blogger write.
But that’s not all.
On top of the blog posts and articles, I have a vast catalogue of educational texts I’ve written over the past 40 years. Yeah, I’m a word hoarder. These are anything from texts and work sheets on British holidays to textbooks supporting course modules I’ve taught or written. Most of these are also rather good and could be useful for other people. I don’t know if this makes you think what it made me think (other than that I’m sounding bloody boastful), but for me it was a proper aha-moment.
Maybe I had the solution to my problem, the problem that had worried me for so long, in my hard drives? Could it be that I had the solution not to one, but two problems?
Today, with my blog All of Me, I embark on my last big adventure. An adventure that, quite frankly, scares the hell out of me. Granted, I’ve done similar things before, but I was young then. Young, strong and driven by an all-encompassing need to teach my kids to jump. To show them it’s ok to try your wings, That you can think, rethink and always decide to do something completely different in case what you’re doing right now doesn’t feel quite right anymore.
Today, I’m no longer responsible for any kids.
Today, if we’re going to be completely honest, I can’t even take care of myself. I’m written off as useless for the job market, I’m a wheeler spoonie and I spend almost all my time inn bed. I have no money, no assets and I live in a place where I no longer feel safe. But I am no speck of dirt, so I guess I have to jump. Again.
Are you still interested in this big adventure?
Great! I was hoping you’d say yes. Then how about you pop the kettle back on and make us another cuppa? Because you can’t really tag along on an adventure with someone you know nothing about, can you?
Grab our cups and come with me to the next post (out next Friday) and we’ll keep talking in there.
Does it all sound a bit messed up? Or maybe just a bit messy? Yeah, I know. I’m being vague on purpose as I want to draw the story out a little. Like all epic voyage stories, this one requires a certain alement of artisticc freedom too. Bear with me and I promise it will all be as clear as mud before you know it.
No, I’m not planning to die yet, but this is my last big adventure.
Okay, maybe the heading was a tad clickbaity, but give me a break. I’m going to be a professional blogger remember? It’s more or less expected of me now isn’t it? 😉
MEET THE AUTHOR:
After 25 years of anonymous blogging on a variety of free platforms, Evalena Styf decided to go pro and put all of her writings on a private wall. In this personal blog she primarily writes about personal and professional development; about living the dream; and about how to keep on living and loving when everything seems to be falling apart.
Evalena’s ambition is for All of Me to become a source of inspiration, motivation, joy and love; but she would also like to see the blog become a space where we can talk, teach and learn together. Using her knack for storytelling, Evalena dives into her pool of personal and professional experiences to bring a wide range of difficult and diverse topics to the surface; e.g. funkophobia, social exclusion, chafing societal norms, mental & physical health issues, racism, poverty, identity, creativity, nerdiness, lusting for life and longing for death.
FINISHED READING? RIGHT, WHAT DO WE DO NOW THEN?
FANCY A CHAT?
What is your best (or worst) adventure memory?
I talk a lot about myself and my life in this blog, but I’d love to get to know more about you. If you have a minute, please slide into my comment sections and let me know what you thought of the article you just read, ask me anything, and let me know if there’s something else you’d like me to write about.
Please, let me know about your best, or worst, adventure memory in the comments down below. What happened? What did you do? If you don’t want your response to show up on the site, just start your message with the word ANONYMOUS and it will be our secret.
CAN YOU HELP?
If you want to share posts or quote parts of them in other contexts, remember to add me as the source and make sure you include my name, the title of the article, where and when it was published.
Here is an example of what this could look like:
Styf, Evalena. 2020. Article Title. All of Me. [Blog] 1 januari. http://evalena.styf.co.uk/YYYY/MM/DD/title-of-article/ (Accessed YYYY-MM-DD).
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As I transition into professional blogging, I'll happily accept any offer of help and support to get wind in my sails. Most of all, I need help growing this blog. I'm well aware of the difficulty getting blog portal readers to tag along to a private domain, but with your help we may be able to grow the numbers enough for google and the other search engines to recognise me. And that is something of a requirement for pro bloggers. It's a "without google's spotlight you don't exist" kinda thing.
When you read, share, like, comment, follow and subscribe, you make me ridiculously happy and grateful. A frame of mind that makes me work harder, which in turn means I churn out more blog posts. Winner, winner chicken dinner! =)