I lost my voice. Not in the sense that makes my students celebrate. I lost my voice in the sense that for a long time, I wanted nothing more than to quit blogging. If I’m being downright honest, I didn’t lose my voice, so much as I allowed myself to be silenced. While I wrestled with this affliction for the better part of a year, I’m happy to report that I’ve made a full recovery.
Blocked by Dave
Last November was a roller coaster. In the span of three days time, I watched a country tear itself in two over an election, lost a long-time mentor and friend, and found out I was pregnant. While I kept the thrilling news of HP to myself for the first three months, I reacted publicly to the other two events.
In the very early morning hours after the election, I deleted my previously-scheduled relatively generic blog post. Twitter was awash in speculation, not just about the economy, but about human rights and so many other uncertainties. Still, for every person who dared to voice trepidation, someone else was quick to silence them. So I penned a reaction.
I also retweeted Dave Ramsey. In what can only amount to privilege, tone-deafness, a failed understanding of politics in general, or a dazzling amalgamation of all three, he tweeted that the results of the election didn’t matter. Neither candidate was going to fix or ruin any aspect of our lives. Since I turned 18, I have not missed a single election even when it’s just me and a handful of blue-haired women at our local polling place choosing the new forest preserve commissioner. Having voted across all party lines, I happen to believe that elections matter with the 2017 election mattering a great deal in particular.
When I reacted to the privilege of Ramsey’s comment, I thought I was pointing out the fact that people, including his legions of followers, would be impacted—either positively or negatively—by this election. Instead, what I found myself doing was getting blocked. (Sidenote: When you all tweet me that I should enter his teacher-of-the month contests, I truly have no idea what you’re talking about. I also think I’m disqualified. Hah.) Someone who considers himself beyond the sphere of influence of a national election was impacted by the tweet of a bumbling personal finance blogger with less than 3,000 Twitter followers. It slightly frustrating and largely amusing. While I quickly joked about starting a special brand of a personal finance club for money peeps who had been blocked by the guru, I also realized how easy it was to feel silenced.
Trolled by Somebody
While I rebounded from the Dave Ramsey blocking quickly, I also headed into the most difficult span of months that I have ever endured. Without admitting that I was pregnant, I tried to write about the colossal and constant feeling of being utterly overwhelmed. Then, after I revealed the happiest news I’ve ever received, I wrote more candidly about being pregnant and not being Beyonce (duh, I wasn’t having twins). In the midst of a bought with prenatal depression and after being confronted with the reality of an unpaid leave that would leave us unable to cover our expenses without dipping into savings, I made a decision to tell the internet about it. I had never felt stronger. At least at first.
Time and time again on Twitter and even in my blog comments, I was told that it was just the hormones. I would get over it eventually. I should be motivated by the fact that Beyonce and I have the same amount of time in a day. I wasn’t strong. I was weak.
Instead of calling out those comments for absolute trash that they were, I let them fester and rot inside of me. I contemplated revising one of the rawest posts I had ever written. I spent time off Twitter. I thought about writing artificially in order to appear stronger, unphased by difficulties of a high-risk pregnancy as my body and mind worked to create a life. I challenged myself to stop writing about the intersection of money and my life. I kept a tally of posts in which I never mentioned my baby. In short, I stopped telling my story. I lost the words. I gave up my voice.
And I’m never doing it again.
At both the one- and two-year mark since I hit publish on this blog, I thought long and hard about the direction I am taking She Picks Up Pennies and the purpose behind blogging for fun about money. Am I making things more difficult for myself by blogging the way that I do? Truthfully, both the Dave Ramsey debacle and the troll could have been avoided entirely had I kept my mouth shut. It would likely be much more profitable (When you make $0, anything is more profitable, amirite?) to tow the financial line, to stick to lists filled with solid money advice, to do away with the personal stories. But I’m not letting anyone steer the direction of this humble platform any longer.
When I see bloggers—of all sorts, not just personal finance—talk about staying on brand and removing themselves from the bigger picture, I understand. But I also can’t do it. Not only do I think that money overlaps with every part of our world, but I insist that there are certain things that I must say. If that means going off brand, so be it.
But when it comes to constructing a more purposeful life, can I really do that without kindness or emotion? Does saving half my income matter in a world without consideration of others? Is there a point in writing every week if my ideas never evolve or I don’t challenge my own thinking? If I truly want to be excited about my future, there is a lot more groundwork to lay than just picking up pennies. Sharing stories, finding my voice, and respecting the voices of others—even when we disagree—means more to me than building a brand. If that bothers anyone, I don’t care. I’m not staying silent anymore.