“You feel the pressure? Man, I know the pressure.”
— Drake, “Views”, Views (2016)
If 2015 was the year with the world as my oyster, indulging in travel and extravagance to keep the brand growing, 2016’s the one that brought me back to Earth, life with two kids completely changing the way I do my hustle.
It’s been one helluva year, though—alongside the new addition to the family, the blog’s been booming with new opportunities, not to mention the full-time job that rarely kept its hours to 9-5. I’ve veered away from my comfort zone with series like Tales from the 2.9, broadening my world in a plethora of ways, and though I didn’t see it coming in January, it was shaping me up to become a very different Casey Palmer by the year’s end.
But the clock’s ticking—though enough bloggers are in denial, thinking the gravy train’s running forever, the #BloggerLife’s only got so much of a shelf life, and soon enough it’ll be time to move on to the next thing.
Life with two kids is a whole lot busier than I thought it’d be. I remember thinking my hands were full with onewhen he first arrived in 2013, but it’s clear to me now that I hadn’t the faintest back then of how complicated things can get!
“You can’t knock the hustle.”
— Jay-Z, “Can’t Knock the Hustle”, Reasonable Doubt (1996)
It’s a whole new ballgame the second time around. Some things are familiar and actually improved with baby two—you play better, console better, and generally do everything for your second that you just fumbled around with for your first—but there’s plenty that wasn’t part of the picture: a toddler craving attention, whether through refusing to sleep at night or testing his boundaries and limits to see what reaction he’ll get; the daycare drop-off and pickups mixed in with a schedule growing ever more complicated; and a little more age that’s seeped into your bones, making things a little harder to do than they were the first time.
But you don’t just quit because something’s hard—though I’m weeks deep in unfinished stories and lapsed deadlines, I do what I can each day to keep moving forward, trying to connect the dots in what feels like a complex puzzle of my life I’ve only but begun to solve. But I have to keep realistic about my pace—we only recently got Little Man sleeping through the night again after weeks of sleep regression; I’ve teetered on the edge of burnout with a fierce creative block forcing me to dig truly deep for content; and after a year of planning, training and configuration, the system I’ve shepherded at work is finally live to 350+ users, and as the first point of contact, let’s just say that my work life is busy.
Many would see all this and say I’ve got more than enough to manage already. Many would tell you that I’m just too hard on myself—I’m already “living the dream” with my wife, two kids, and stable employment to pay for the clothes on our backs and the food in our bellies—society would call me successful; what more could I want?
But that dream isn’t enough to sustain me—that dream does not a legacy make. If we live striving for the bare minimum, I wouldn’t call that “living”—I’d say we’re simply participating in the lives we’re given, never really figuring out what we’re capable of because it’s too hard. Or we’re scared. Or any of a million reasons that I’ve simply no time for—life is for living, and I’ll keep testing my limits until I’ve made the most of mine.
So all this to say… what? Sorry I haven’t been posting like I used to? Sorry that my ideas aren’t as timely as I’d like them to be, the unexpected twists and turns of parenting young children whittling away at the time and energy I once had for the craft? Or sorry that this journey will take a bit longer than expected, with life trying to show me what I can handle at this point in my life, not where I think I should be when I keep comparing myself to a bevy of peers?
Or maybe it’s just learning not to say “sorry” at all, realizing that there aren’t many bloggers writing with two kids under 3 to look after, and that the trips away, tasty dinner events, and most of what previously kept me busy in my #BloggerLife have to go on hold ’til we’re slightly more stable. Or remembering that this blog isn’t my full-time job like many of those who’ve made a success of themselves, and that I’d benefit more from expectations that let me maximize what time I can offer the craft each day, not ones that keep me pushing myself too far, winning some short-term battles, but winding up too exhausted to be in the war.
It’s accepting that my reality isn’t one that many share, and accepting that is something long overdue in my life.
The State of the #BloggerLife, March 2016: Still Getting that Blog On Between Diaper Changes and Piggyback Rides
So that’s what’s up—who I am and the world I live in today. The grind to create work that challenges blogging as a medium, not simply follows the beat of the bloggers who came before. I bare my soul, revise without end, and fight with every fibre of my being to reach my potential. This is but another paragraph in the story I’m still crafting, but with every sentence, the path’s a bit clearer.
That said, it’s time to get back to the grind—these incomplete blog posts won’t write themselves, and I have a number of commitments I intend to keep. Some may doubt me, and some may think my time has passed, my various obligations keeping me far too busy to post as frequently as some of my contemporaries… but I see the vision in my head and remind myself there’s much yet I have to share with the world—and I look forward to every last word!
Until the next,
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands:
It’s been more than a week since I finished the month-long Tales from the 2.9 project, and there’s plenty I’ve wanted to say—there are conversations that need to be had to further explore the Black community, seeing what we can do to elevate and not denigrate its people within. It’s not as if I’ve lacked for ideas—I write a little every day, teasing out the words I’m really trying to say, no matter how buried in my subconscious they may be. What’s really holding me back are the expectations I have for myself and the work I put out into the world, and they’re far from realistic.
Return to Form: Getting Over Myself and Finding a Way to Get Back to Doing Great Things
“Long as we continue to have that dream, it’ll never be too late.”
— Trevor Craig
Good parenting tells us not to compare our children to other kids—to expect the best of them individually with the skills and abilities life allows them, not pressure them to work beyond their means and keep up with arbitrary standards that do them more harm than good.
I’d be wise to apply some of this thinking to myself, remembering that there’s only so much I can do in my life, with a wife, full-time job and two kids under 3 commanding enough of my attention to put any other priority far behind in the running. But despite the fact I won’t take trips and leave my wife on her own with our two little monsters; that most events in the #BloggerLife cut right into the thick of our bedtime routine, counting me out unless it’s especially special; and the fact that most opportunities are for families with kids older than mine, or the bloggers without any kids at all, I still want the things the other bloggers have. Traffic in the hundreds of thousands. Staggering follower counts on my social media channels putting local celebrities to shame. A life where I don’t even have the time for boredom with my brand partners constantly throwing new and lucrative experiences in my direction.
But as much as I want to become the next Oprah 25 years from now (not even joking), I need to grow comfortable with baby steps and the fact that not every day will be an amazing one. I need to create amazing stories and not rely on the world to give me things to write about. I need to work hard to find the purest way to express the thoughts I want to share with the world—not feel trapped by the blogging medium. Every time I feel worn out and that I’ve accomplished all that I can with my brand, I need to straighten up, redouble my efforts, and show everyone what I’m really capable of—creating a blog so engaging that even the most casual readers can’t help but click to see what’s going on.
So after my unintentional hiatus—largely due to a lovely case of pinkeye laying me flat while the rest of my life continued pummeling me from every direction—it’s time to get back to the hustle and handle my biz with the #BloggerLife and get my house in order. I’ve made my list—checked it twice—and if nothing else, I have the beginning of something that could turn out to be marvelous if I can suss out the momentum to keep on moving.
Thanks for your patience, everyone—2016’s shown me it has no intentions of being an easy year, but with enough focus and a heckuva lot of determination, maybe I can still make it the best one yet for this #BloggerLife!
Thanks for reading and until the next,
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands:
I’ve wanted to change the game for a while, but find my mind running in circles when I try to think of something new. I love creating, sure, but at times I find myself creating without soul — creating because I’m “supposed” to, and I hate it. I’m not a pawn. I’m not a writer who follows orders, doing the bare minimum or copying and pasting just to hit a quota. When I create, I want it to mean something. I want to go back and look at my work some years from now, knowing I left a bit of myself in my content with readers still checking it out because it means something to them. I knew I wasn’t going to get there singing the same old song — I had to look at my ideas with a fresh set of eyes, pouring everything within into something that’d stand out from my peers.
I’ve been told that if I want to be a PR-friendly blogger, there’re three things you never talk about — race, religion and politics. Politics I’m fine with since I’ve never delved deep enough to get really stirred up about it, and while you’ll find me at church every Sunday, I find my ministry best done through intimate conversation than the cold landscape of the Internet. But I’m frankly shocked that I haven’t tried tackling race before now.
It’s not like there’s a lot of bloggers of colour in the Great White North. Though it’s hard to believe if you live in Toronto, where literally every other person is a visible minority, there aren’t a whole lot of us in Canada, relatively-speaking. Making up little more than 20% of the population in the last census, it leaves few of us around to tell stories from our viewpoints. The Canadian blogosphere’s shrinking as it is, but all things considered, even if we’re a force of 100,000 strong, with 95% of blogs abandoned by those not determined enough to grow them1, we’re left with 5,000 bloggers who have anything to say. Then, with demographics holding true, that’s 1,000 people of colour actively trying to share their stories. If the 2.9% of the Canadian population that’s Black translates to a mere 145 Black bloggers who are putting words to their experiences for the world to see… it leaves you with a sense of responsibility to share your insights — even if it’s not the most popular choice.
That in mind, in late January I came up with Tales from the 2.9 — a way to showcase other Canadian content creators who look like I do in a world where I fear people don’t know that we exist. With the time I’ve invested in the #BloggerLife so far, I’m not naïve enough to think it’ll catch on from the start. Still, lifetime achievement awards aren’t given to the people who give up after their first mistake — this is but the first step in a very long journey ahead. The world needs more things it hasn’t seen before — even when everyone wants to tell you it’s already seen everything under the sun.
The Best Content is Often Not the Easiest to Write.
I sat here and tried to write a post from the soul, but nothing was coming. To put my predicament into words, knowing that my second son’s birth forever changes my world and how it’s shifted my priorities to make sure my family comes out stronger for it. I tried explaining that I wasn’t here to apologize for my absence from the #BloggerLife — that few bloggers out there juggle a growing family, blog and a full-time job… but I’m not one to whine, and a pity party does nothing to push me forward. All I was doing was wearing myself out by constantly looking behind me, trying to make sense of a mish-mash of thought that was getting me nowhere. I had to look ahead at the fresh new ideas, figuring out where the half-formed thoughts from my past would fit best — if I wanted to keep growing, the ideas from the Casey who once was would need to grow up with me.
So I hope you’re ready for the month ahead — I’ve let too many Februarys come and go without taking a good look at a part of me that’s so prominent, yet so often left unmentioned. If I want to create a brand I can proudly show to my kids when they’re older, I can’t focus on the fluffy topics alone — I have to stand for something more, and this first attempt at really examining my life as a Black man is but scratching the surface of a much larger story I know is waiting to be told!
That said, thank you for your patience. It took me a bit to wake up and start looking to what the future might have in store instead of muddying the mind with clutter that’d confuse me. There’s so much out there one can write about — it’s time I stop limiting myself and take a few chances; because the only thing worse would be forever wondering what would’ve happened because I didn’t.
Thanks for reading, tout le monde, and let’s all expect great things from the times ahead!
Until the next, I remain,
1 “According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled.”
— Quenquajune, Douglas, “Blogs Falling in an Empty Forest”, The New York Times, June 5, 2009
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands: