10 Things I’ve Learned Over The Past 10 Years

10 years ago this week, I sat down at my laptop and clicked on WordPress.com. I didn’t think much about my handle and template, as I set up a blog. Within an hour, I wrote my first post about getting asked out by a younger man and pressed publish.

The act of blogging was simple. My emotions at that time in my life were anything but. At 35, I had ended my on-again, off-again relationship with Lawyer Boy a month prior. My head knew that was the right decision, but my heart had yet to get the memo. Combine that feeling with the effects from post-concussion syndrome and my disdain for Christmas since my mom died, and blogging provided an entertaining diversion.

Back in 2008, I couldn’t have imagined how much my blog would change my life. Here are 10 things I’ve learned over the past 10 years:

  1. For years, my friends had told me to write down my dating stories. In 2000, I had started a book about my earliest relationships, but didn’t continue with it. I joined Yelp in 2007 at a time when there was small, but tight-knit, Yelp community in DC. Several of the DC Yelpers had blogs, and some of my Yelp reviews referenced my dating adventures. I began to think that blogging about my relationships would be a good fit for me, too. I shared my site link with friends, but reached a broader audience when I signed up for Twitter in 2009. I think of the many people I now regard as friends who I met through Yelp, my blog, and Twitter over the past decade. I’m grateful for being a part of that time in digital culture since it led me to so many wonderful relationships.
  2. In 2008, I enjoyed being public about seemingly every aspect of my life. That worked for me in my 30s. My private life was anything but. Now, I read my old dating and sex advice posts and blush at just how much I put out there. At 45, I’m in a very different place in my life. Aside from the occasional schmoopie Tweet, I am protective of my relationship. Like so many of us in 2018, I curate what I post, which sites I post on, and why I post online.
  3. I bared my heart and soul on this site – with all of my flaws and mistakes. The guys who I hurt rarely stayed around, and I kept going back to the guys who treated me poorly. My dating life was a train wreck, which made for good reading. Schadenfreude – or others’ pleasure at my misfortune – led me to develop a thick skin. Through the blog, I grew to accept criticism and figure out what issues were mine to own and what weren’t.
  4. Digital media is inherently social. There’s the expectation of engagement and two-way conversation. When we post online or send a text or email, we typically anticipate a prompt response. I didn’t think about that 10 years ago, when I started blogging. As my site’s popularity grew, I expected – and at times, craved – likes, views and comments. Was an experience  legitimate, if I didn’t blog about it? As an early adopter to social media, I was very attached to my laptop and cell phone. I question how my relationships were impacted by how focused I was on building my site and my brand. I wouldn’t say that blogging impeded me from living my life, but there was a time when it altered how I lived my life.  Again, this was right for me then. It’s just not where I’m at now.
  5. Actions speak so much louder than words. Over the years, I’ve given a lot of good relationship advice. I just rarely took my own advice. I ran in the opposite direction of those guys who treated me well, preferring the intrigue and challenge of some smooth talkers. Since cancer, I have zero tolerance for games or drama, and I want to model healthy relationship choices for my daughter. It took me until my 40s, but I’ve finally learned.
  6. Back in 2010, I commented while on a date that the daughter I planned to adopt would be the love of my life. I had an idea as to how I would approach motherhood. I just didn’t realize that I would carry and give birth to my daughter, rather than adopting an older child. (And, yes, Roya is living proof of miracles.)
  7. After my diagnosis, I wrote a lot about preventative breast health. I don’t want to discredit the importance of early detection and monitoring. But, I’ve been reading a lot more about metastatic breast cancer (MBC) and urge you to do the same. Nearly 30% of early-stage breast cancers return as stage IV cancer — through no fault or control of the patients. There is no cure for MBC, and the median survival is three years. Despite all the advancements in breast cancer treatment and research, mortality rates have hovered around 40,000 people per year since 2000(!) with less than 7% of research dollars going to metastatic breast cancer. This needs to change!
  8. My blog’s success dramatically altered my professional path. As my site’s reach grew, I began to receive more and more relationship questions from readers. I decided to join the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists as a supporting member, attending sexual health workshops and trainings through the association. My involvement with AASECT led to several freelance writing clients, and I contemplated fully moving from my career as an immigration attorney to work as a sexuality educator. Then, I got diagnosed with breast cancer, and my life took another turn. Toward the end of treatment, American University students who had been reading my blog reached out to me to speak at the Social Learning Summit, the first student-run social media conference in the US. That panel led to me guest lecturing at AU on modern feminism and activism. After my talk, I sent out a Tweet with an idea to teach a class on Sexuality and Social Media at American. Within a month, I was on the books as an adjunct instructor in American Studies, and I became a full-time instructor in 2014.  I never imagined when I began this blog that it would lead me to my calling and connect me with so many inspiring faculty members and students.
  9. My 30s were a roller coaster. I had always envisioned my mid-40s to be a time of stability and maintenance. I was so very wrong. I never imagined that 45 would find me this exhausted and working this hard to get a seat at the table professionally. (Yes, there’s an article on The Fortysomething Hustle on my to-write list!)
  10. My blog changed as my life changed. In four years, my posts transitioned from sex advice to my experiences during chemotherapy to parenting difficulties. Through all the ups and downs, I kept writing my truth at that time. I came to this site out of heartbreak and loneliness, and now, I ironically don’t have time to write because I’m so busy. I keep this site up because it is my past, my own digital archives. I see not only how far I’ve come, but also how blogging led me to a life I never imagined. For that, I have no regrets and much gratitude.
stef woods, city girl blogs

           Photo Credit: Drea Goode Studios

To those who followed along and supported me online and offline, thank you from the bottom of my heart. xoxo

4 comments

  1. Just beautiful. Your authenticity has generated scores of admirers….like me. I never knew you well, but I felt like I did. When you took off your wig at Fashion for Paws runway, I cheered. I show pictures of your little girl to my mom. I believe it is what made her and my parents, in some small way, embrace the choices I am now making. You may have had bumps and bruises along the journey, but there are probably many, like me, who would wish to be all that you are!

    -Aastha

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