The past two years have been painful.
So painful, in fact, that I recognize it has changed me as a person. Oddly enough, the most stable thing in my life is my marriage – Ed’s my backbone, the thing that keeps me standing tall when I’d otherwise want to dissolve into a pool on the floor.
My life has shifted at breakneck pace ever since I started the blog. I married a great guy, moved to easily the fastest-moving city in the US, went from almost losing my mother to almost losing my daughter, and though I haven’t reached the goals I’d originally set for myself and my fitness yet, the one thing I haven’t done is give up and go back to my old life, no matter how hard I tried. For that, I have a small amount of pride. (I’m lying – it’s not small at all.)
What it all has taught me, mind you, is to talk less. Not in the way that means my ultra-long blog posts will be shortened (Sorry.), but in the way that allows you to listen more – to listen to myself, to listen to you, to listen to “The Universe.” The silence is welcoming – it requires vulnerability. It requires that you be willing to listen, not think about being defensive, or spend your time thinking about the next thing you’re going to say. Listen, take it all in, process it later.
As many of you know, I spent a weekend in September with the UN Foundation at the Social Good Summit. This is an incredible space to be in – representatives from the largest countries in the world telling stories of what is happening in their native homeland, organizations sharing what they are doing to support local economies in big ways, and how we can all be a part of their success by doing something as little as amplifying their work. A single retweet can mean nothing to us, but if the right two people retweet support of a fledgeling business, that could mean two new customers for them, one of them lifelong. A retweet can make someone starting out on their own business a few hundred dollars. What’s that worth to them in their country?
The Internet has made so much possible for so many people. It is changing the way we think about money, about business, about employment, about health care. That last bit is where I think I come into play.
I have had lots of opportunity to think about what I do. I started out so simply and so selfishly – I wanted to practice my writing, and chronicle what I was learning on my journey towards a more fit version of myself. And, like everything else, my goals evolved. I originally wanted “to be skinny enough to fit in a Bebe dress!” Now, it’s a little more complicated than that.
And that’s part of my problem.
I’ve been lucky enough to build an incredible community by accident. I’ve received incredible opportunities because of it. People come to me and lean on me to help guide them through healthy living. A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss has been supremely successful in building a name for compassionate, thoroughly-researched, and insightful information devoid of gimmicks, tricks, and trends, and it has all been done by one person – from the coding to the carefully-crafted-and-sometimes-hilarious choice of stock photos. I don’t always get it right, but my heart is always in the right place. And even when people disagree with me, they still understand where I come from and respect my position. Do you have any idea how hard that is to cultivate on the Net?
The accidental nature of the blog means that I’ve not had to consider much about its growth. In fact, the sheer thought of it brings me anxiety, and we all know how I feel about that. There are hundreds of thousands of you. Hundreds of thousands. You are in Nairobi and Atlanta and on the elliptical next to me and Sweden and Kansas City and London and Dallas and around the corner from me and in Jackson and everywhere. And you contribute here lovingly, and it makes me want to keep going and growing. But how? And where?
Recently, I attended the FOCUS100 conference here in New York. Amazing people coming together, determined to help one another advance in the tech sphere, think more creatively, and ‘disrupt’ the way we look at real life problems and how we solve them, as well. The experience was amazing – taking a new kind of look at what I do, who I help, the business aspect of it, and how to do better business without compromising my integrity has not only been humbling, but exciting.
In all honesty, the thing stunting growth the most here is the fact that I do it all alone. The photos, the research, the video filming, the writing, the editing, the sharing? That’s all me. On top of traveling for work, a husband, a kid, and two very spoiled dogs. And, whereas we’ve discussed Ed quitting his job to work full time in helping me better fully develop the different arms involved with what I do… we both like the stability of having more money. (Who wouldn’t?)
Running a site like this isn’t easy. There’s being bombarded with comments that can’t help but be blatantly racist, but there’s also the reality that advertising dollars – those which largely sustain sites like mine – start to dry up for sites that are very black. If it’s not McDonalds or CocaCola, two companies that I most certainly cannot partner with, companies become incredibly cheap with the coins. That’s fine – while I won’t sacrifice my integrity, I will get what I need another way. I have to expand. I have to build out.
After FOCUS100, I desperately needed silence. Not because I spent the entire weekend listening to people talk, but because I needed time to process. There’s always a message waiting for you in the silence – soft yet ever-present – and, if you listen closely enough, it brings you closer to the answers. It brings you relief, progress, it outlines a path. It reveals, and revelations are always necessary for growth. They show you how to do it better.
It has become clear to me that I have to continue investing heavily into the site if I want it to do what we all so desperately want it to do. Eddy and I have to change how we live. The energy has to shift. Everything we do has to be of value to the site. That means much more focus on properly developing the Clean Eating Boot Camp, maybe less energy put into doing “daily video logs” of my training (which, by the way, if you’re wondering why I stopped doing them, it was around the time that Mini-me needed me most. It’s hard to do daily logs of something that may or may not happen when your life is that unpredictable. Not to mention, they’re simply boring.) It means more time invested in getting out and meeting more of you, learning about your challenges and your successes, and finding ways to help.
And, yes, it means it’s time to develop a mobile app for A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss – not just one centered around blog posts, but one centered around helping you outside of the blog. Videos that teach training tips, cooking techniques, training diaries, a community forum, something that’s of much more use than me sitting and talking about how many miles I hit that day, like I couldn’t save that for Twitter or something. I want to write books. I want to have my own TV show where I go to people’s homes and help troubleshoot their fitness problems. I want to do cookbooks. I want to write a major series on how poverty affects wellness. I want to start hosting events, teaching training techniques that people can use at home, and hosting group fitness classes. Basically, I want it all. Brand new socks and draws.
All of this is to say, that while I know I haven’t been posting much lately, this silence is golden for more reasons than one. And, while I spend the next few months trying to figure out the next steps for this space, don’t be afraid to share with me what you’d like to see here, too. What do you want covered? What do you think we should explore? How can I better help you? I recognize how helpful this site has been for me and how helpful it is for others, and I want to keep the momentum going. I may be choosing to sit in [some relative] silence, but the louder you are, the better we’ll all be.
So holla at me, alright?