Letting others define you comes at a cost. My final bill was $1,468.34.
It’s the total I charged to my credit card as I bought back the domain name for a lifestyle blog I had killed off years ago at the “career advice” of a trusted college professor.
I still remember her words vividly. I was in my senior year of college, sitting in her office with my resume and portfolio material spread out across her wooden desk.
“No one is going to take you seriously as a fashion blogger,” she had scoffed, brushing aside the printed case study I’d proudly prepared to showcase Coffee and Cardigans.
Her words stung, but I took them as gospel. Eager to fit neatly into my preconceived definition of post-graduate success, I deleted my Blogger account and scrubbed the project from my resume the very next day.
It was the first step into a decade-long journey of people-pleasing assent.
In the years to come, the symptoms flared up in every part of my life. From the stiff, corporate jobs I added to my resume after graduation, to an on-again-off-again abusive relationship, someone else was always in control. I lived those years under a fragmented identity, cracking off brittle slivers of myself so I could be neatly filed away under a definition of perfection that was anything but my own.
I don’t know what Coffee and Cardigans would look like today if I had kept it around. When I shut down the blog back in 2013, I had grown my readership to almost 15,000 subscribers, partnered with brands like ModCloth, and lent my voice as an expert to USA Today. What would that passion project have become if I didn’t care what other people thought? Who would I be right now if I hadn’t let others define me?
The first question is almost impossible to answer.
But I can take a guess at the second. There are some truths that can only be made clear through experience. Mine was realizing that I could write my own definition of success. But more important than the definition of success is the definition of happiness. That is something you get to choose for yourself.
Who could I be right now if I had known that? Maybe she wouldn’t be too different… but I don’t think she’d be as strong, tenacious, or steadfast as the woman typing out these words.
It was never just a domain name. It was my voice and perspective. It was my passion and happiness. It was the person I was before I let someone else tell me otherwise. But that’s all mine again—and I have the fucking receipt to prove it.