Things I’m Afraid To Tell You

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This weekend, I spent some time poking around the archives of a few of my favorite design bloggers, and happened to come across this wave of posts that hit the blogosphere two years ago called “Things I’m Afraid To Tell You”.  It turns out that one of my favorite podcasters — Jess Lively — was actually the brave person who first posted on the topic, and then nearly a hundred other design and fashion bloggers followed suit.  (Just check out the #thingsimafraidtotellyou hashtag to see what I’m talking about.)

I’m not one to really get “lost” browsing around online, but I got completely sucked in and spent an hour yesterday reading from woman after woman — most of whom I’d never before known — as they shared everything from their fears to quirky secrets to insecurities and everything in between.  And I have to say, it was pretty moving and inspiring.  And it reminded me of the tremendous power of vulnerability to unite and encourage one other, if for no other reason to give someone a chance to say, “What, you too?!”

As I was falling asleep last night, I started thinking about what items would be on my list.  So without much editing or over-thinking, I thought I’d join into the little movement (albeit two years late) and share the random thoughts that first came to mind.  I wouldn’t necessarily say that they’re things I’m afraid to tell you — as I’m a big believer in vulnerability and feel like I’ve already been fairly open on this section of the blog — but they’re probably things I haven’t told you before for one reason or another.  And they’re all a part of my story.

So yeah, shout out to Jess and Ez and all of you bloggers who had this little wave of sharing two years ago.  I guess that’s the fun of the blogosphere — two years later, those posts are still published on their pages for someone like me to see.  Here are my 10 things to contribute to the mix.

Things I’m Afraid To Tell You

1. I pretty much only cook stuff nowadays for blogging/work.

I know, most food bloggers make it seem as though they’re just sharing the “highlight” recipes amongst the many, many others they make in a given week.  And that may be true for them.  But for the past few years at least, I have had to cook so many recipes for the blog each week (plus extra batches of each recipe for testing, others for freelance assignments, and other projects on top of those) that I hardly ever cook myself something extra for dinner anymore.  I still like to cook when friends come over.  But mostly I eat out a lot, probably much more than I should, although usually that is also an excuse to hang out with friends.  And most of my dinners at home usually consist of either cold leftovers, or (more often) just a batch of nooch popcorn or egg drop soup for dinner.  Not always the healthiest or the most glamorous, and they definitely don’t look like the pretty pictures on the blog, but that’s the real life behind the scenes.

2. I am self-conscious about having a (genuinely) terrible memory.

I’m not talking about the kind of “bad memory” people usually joke about, like losing your keys or conveniently “forgetting” that dentist’s appointment.  Alzheimer’s and dementia run strong in my family, and I have no doubt that some early string of that is  already present in my mind.  I have a noticeably terrible short term memory, and a much worse long-term memory.  So whether it’s almost instantly forgetting the plot of a book I read a week ago, to blanking on huge swaths of my childhood, my limited memory is something that is a constant source of embarrassment, frustration and anxiety in my life.  I’ve learned to swallow my own pride on it.  But the worst is seeing people’s letdown or confused faces when they ask, “Remember when [that fun thing we did happened]?” and I have to confess that I draw a blank.  Or when I took the time to watch a movie or read a book that I loved and want to discuss it with friends…and then can’t remember anything beyond the fact that I loved it.  Or when I somehow get stuck watching The Notebook, with the elderly woman (also named Allie) who forgets her husband and is basically the example of one of my greatest fears.  Thankfully my friends know this about me and now kindly help fill in the blanks without judgment and make memory (as my friend Michelle said) a “team sport“.  But I wish I could have the memories they have.

3. I began “full-time blogging” purely because I needed to quit my last job.

It wasn’t because I worked and waited and planned for months to become a full-time food blogger.   I kind of wish that was the case.  But no, it was simply because the work environment at my old job (which I had previously loved) had taken a very disappointing turn, and for my own health and wellbeing, I needed to get out.  My friends and family and therapist had been encouraging me to leave for months, but I couldn’t find another career or job that felt like a fit.  Finally one day a lightbulb went off and I woke up and suddenly realized that I could totally make it by on my blogging income for a few months.  Then a few days later, I had a small freelancing job unexpectedly offered to me.  So took it as affirmation and quit my job three days later, and planned to make the summer a 3-month transition period when I could regroup, process through some things, and start looking into grad school or whatever the next career path would be.  Two pretty incredible years of full-time blogging later, I guess I can attest that life has a funny way of surprising you.  :)  I’m not grateful for the circumstances that led me to quit my job, but I am incredibly grateful that they gave me the push I needed into something new, and that blogging was there to “catch” me when I needed a way out.  And I am so grateful for the stellar, life-giving, challenging, and awesome journey it has turned into since.  So if any of you ever find yourself in a similar difficult spot, I’m here to tell you that lemons can sometimes be turned into lemonade.  (Lemonade recipes, in my case.)

4. I don’t like ground beef.

This probably isn’t a big deal to anyone but myself.  But for whatever reason, I have always been worried to confess on a food blog that I don’t like ground beef, mostly because the rest of the country seems to be mega fans of it.  There’s no particular reason why I don’t like it.  I’m totally not a vegetarian, and love steak, chicken, bacon, pork, and almost every other meat out there.  But ever since I was a kid, I’ve always just passed on hamburger.  (Unless it is served to me by a friend, or maybe the three times in history that a burger has smelled so good I decided to try it.)  The majority of the time, I’ll stick with a veggie or chicken burger.  So if you’re looking for a ground beef recipe, sorry but you’ll have to visit another food blog.  :)

5. I fight back a little panic every time my back aches.

I was talking with some blogging friends about this earlier in the week, and realize I haven’t before shared my bizarre Dr.-House-worthy medical mystery on here with you before.  Very long story short — I had scoliosis surgery as a 14-yr-old, and they placed a rod and screws in my back and ground up a rib to help fuse it in place.  Fast forward 10 years later, I was running through an airport in Ireland with a heavy suitcase and felt something snap.  Two months, lots of pain, many doctor and physical therapy appointments, and finally a mysterious “bump” in my leg later, we discovered that the rod had indeed snapped in half and migrated all the way down to my shin where it was lodged in my calf muscle.  CRAZY.  (If you’re feeling brave, you can see it here and here.  And yes, somewhere there’s a medical journal that documents the story.)  The good news is that they surgically removed the rod from my leg.  The bad news is that they said it was too dangerous to go back in and repair the remaining half rod in my back, which they basically just hope will stay in place the rest of my life.  No guarantees though, and if it slips out of the screws holding it in place, there’s no telling if it would take the “miracle” path of the other rod and not wreak some probably life-threatening damage.  So that said, whenever I feel a twinge of pain in my back — which is pretty regular with the chronic back pain I still experience — I have to work through a brief moment of panic.  I’ve gotten better at dealing with that over the years, but I’m guessing it will never fully go away.

6. I totally watch “The Bachelor”.

My friends 100% judge me for this — and I often 100% judge myself — but “The Bachelor” is my total fluff reality show of choice.  Yes, I know it is undeniably overproduced and ridiculous and basically everything I can’t stand about modern dating.  But even though no one believes me, I mostly watch the show out of pure sociological wonder.  I mean, it is fascinating to me that these contestants go on the show and buy into it the whole thing.  And that literally millions of people in America love to watch.  And that no one blinks an eye nowadays at the ridiculous lines about how “this is working for them”, or that they are “falling in love” (now a Very Official Step before being “in love” and later “loving” someone), or are there “for the right reasons”.  And that people are surprised when 95% of the couples don’t stay together.  It is a total overproduced train wreck.  And I kind of love it.  (And I really love Farmer Chris who’s coming up next!)

7. I don’t enjoy social media.

Social media is a pretty crucial part of most bloggers’ jobs.  But I would honestly give it up in a heartbeat if I wasn’t a blogger.  Google+ confuses me, Twitter overwhelms me, and Facebook frustrates me.  And while I once loved Pinterest and Instagram, even those sites more often than not leave me wrestling with comparison and feeling “less than” after comparing my feeds to others’ seemingly perfect lives.  (Which I totally know are not perfect, but still, those photos sure paint a pretty picture.)  Still, I do believe that social media is a “neutral” in and of itself, and it’s all about how you use it.  So I’m trying to be more intentional with how, why, when, and how much I use it nowadays.  And also figure out how to separate back out some of my personal and business accounts, and make them more fun and “me” again, vs. trying to keep up with the social media Jones’.  But sometimes I long for the good ol’ days of…AOL instant messenger?  ;)

8. I don’t clean my own house.

This is a recent development, but it’s true.  I hired a really awesome professional to come clean my house twice a month, and I have decided it is one of the best investments I have ever made both work-wise and personally.  Yes, I know that I’m single.  And yes, I know that I just live in a 1-bedroom loft.  And yes, it is something that two years ago I totally would never have considered was an option for me.  But my friends and family can attest that I positively tornado the place while cooking and shooting multiple recipes a day.  And I already spend 30-60 minutes each day doing dishes and cleaning the kitchen, and work significantly more than 40 hours a week on top of that.  So I decided I would rather work during the time I could be cleaning and pay someone to help out, and it…has…been…amazing!  My house looks great, I don’t have to worry about scrubbing down the place for last-minute entertaining, and I even get to learn about cool natural DIY cleaners from the girl who cleans my place and makes it smell like eucalyptus.  Win-WIN.

9. I feel most alive when I’m singing in worship.

This isn’t something I’m “afraid” to tell you, but it is an important part of my life that I don’t talk about a ton on the blog.  To be sure, there are many, many things in life that make me feel alive — real conversations with good friends, that exhilarating feeling after a good workout, the smell of sesame oil, driving through the Kansas plains, experiencing life in a new culture, a good hug, falling asleep during a thunderstorm, beautiful harmonies, a homemade meal shared around the table, and a thousand other things that make this life so rich.  But it was in college that I discovered the thing that quite simply makes me feel alive like nothing else — singing in worship.  It’s the place that I believe I found and felt God for the first time.  It’s the place where I have come back to Him, again and again.  It’s the place where I’m challenged, strengthened, and where I often find hope.  But quite simply, it’s the place in life when my mind can move beyond focusing on me and focus most on God and so many other things that are really important in life.  It helps that I love music, so specifically singing in worship is my favorite spiritual discipline, especially at my church while standing alongside other friends.  But just like prayer — which, worship is simply a kind of prayer — worship is something that’s woven into my everyday life far beyond Sunday mornings.  And I love it.  So all that to say, it is definitely one of those things that I may not blog about every day, but is a very important part of my everyday life and affects how I blog.

10. I’m 31, and I still don’t know what I want to “do” with my life.  :)

This is not news to many of you who follow the blog closely.  (I think I may win the award as the most indecisive blogger ever!)  But I have to admit that I’m still on the fence about blogging as a career.  There are a hundred things that I absolutely love about it.  And I am immensely grateful for every single day I’ve had the chance to try out this blogging as a job, and for every single person who has ever clicked on a page and allowed me the chance to do so.  BUT, if I’m completely honest, I still feel like I haven’t quite found my balance or my “niche” within the blogging world.  So that makes me wonder if I need to (a) change my focus, potentially shifting a little more away from food and more into lifestyle posts or blogging coaching, or (b) turn this back into a hobby and take on a job with a local non-profit or go to law school or go live in Central America for a few years or… (c) stick with the path I’m on and just get through this busy season, and then let everything continue to gradually evolve and shift naturally just as it has the last few years.  I’ll probably stick with that last answer for now.  :)  But by contrast to so many of my blogging friends who are so passionate about this industry and see it as a long-term career, I still feel like I won’t be doing the exact thing I’m doing now 10, 5, or perhaps even 1 year from now.  Who knows!  I guess we’ll see…

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53 comments on “Things I’m Afraid To Tell You”

  1. I can totally relate to most of these (especially #6!) and unfortunately also might relate to #3 some day! Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to do this full time – but I can understand how sometimes circumstances can force that before you’re quite ready. I enjoyed reading this post, thanks for sharing! :)

  2. I like your list and totally resonate with the Bachelor one :) I have 3 young daughters and would never let them watch it. Plus it goes against pretty much everything I believe about how men and women should relate, etc. But I can’t stop watching it; it’s such a ridiculous train wreck! I enjoy reading the spoilers and find the whole thing hilarious and fake…but highly, highly entertaining :)

  3. Girl– I don’t know how you cook all you do just for the blog, much less for additional meals! And I’m totally with you– give me some good and loud worship music to belt out to, and my soul feels refreshed. It’s the best. (That, and your egg drop soup, which I’ve made multiple times in the last month now… :)

  4. Ali, I am totally laughing at #1, and can I just say ME TOO! I do love to cook when my family or friends come over, but after I’ve cooked all day just give me some snack for dinner and I’m good!

  5. What a wonderfully open and vulnerable post! Thank you for sharing. I totally relate to #10…I’m 34 and feel like I’m just figuring out what I want to do with my life. And I’m trying not to let it worry or stress me out. Because life’s too short for that.

  6. Hiring professional cleaners is hands down worth every penny. I hear you on that one!!! And you and I are in the same boat :) I totally cook solely for the blog, cookbook, and freelance work. We eat out on weekends and everything I make we eat for leftovers during the week. Love this post!!

  7. I can so relate to the bad memory, there are huge time blocks in my life that I have absolutely no memory of. It terrifies me, everyone makes fun of me because I’m constantly writing notes and I laugh about it but it really bothers me.

    I’m also single and have a cleaning service, without a doubt best gift I’ve ever given myself.

  8. Besides #6 ~ I like everything about you. Glad you quit your job…

  9. Love your honesty and openness in the post. You’re an inspiration, girl! But that metal rod thing – kinda freaky! :)

  10. So many of those things are my things too. Especially the ground beef. I used to eat it and enjoy it, but lately it seems to have no flavour, so I’ve switched to turkey,which is probably somewhat healthier anyway.

  11. I really enjoyed reading your post. My memory fails me often too – so frustrating. I hold on to the theory that it’s nothing to worry about as long as you remember what the keys are used for.

    Also, thanks for sharing your experience with scoliosis. My 18yo son has scoliosis and it’s almost 50%. Our doctor discouraged surgery unless it goes over 50%. So reading your experience makes me feel like we’ve made the right decision.

  12. I am so glad you shared all this; fascinating parts of you I don’t think we got to in El Salvador!

  13. I absolutely love your honesty in this post! I could relate to so many of your points, but mostly #10. I’m also 31 and still wonder what I want to do with my life. Sometimes I feel like I get a glimpse of what my career should look like and other times I feel absolutely clueless!

  14. I’ve been waiting for a juicy personal post!! I could seriously read your posts for hours. We have a house cleaner also and it is worth every penny. It doesn’t stay clean very long but it feels amazing for a good hour or two. ;) xoxo

  15. I love this! New reader here, and I feel like I know you so much better. I think people really like and appreciate vulnerability and honesty. I know I do!

    I have scoliosis too! I wore a back brace for years, which saved me from the surgery. That is crazy about the rod snapping in half!

    I am 36, and I have no idea what I want to do with the rest of my life either. :)

  16. Didn’t know it was possible, but this all made me love you even more :)

  17. Great post! I hate ground beef and social media too! I get that as bloggers we kind of need to use all social media outlets but sometimes I just feel forced and disingenuous. I also went full time blogger because I haaaaaated my last job and wanted to get out. My mom once told me that she at the age of 65 still doesn’t know what she wants to do when she grows up. Maybe some people just find things that make them happy and keep doing them until they don’t… I dunno girl. Thank you for being so open and honest!

  18. What a lovely and refreshing post! Such a wonderful idea! There are so many things I want to reply to, but feel like it would be a million words! You seem like such a genuine, sweet person, and I (creepily) feel like I personally know you. Thank you for being a constant source of inspiration!

  19. Love this, Ali. The cleanign house, worship, social media – LOL (same, Pinterest and Insta for me, too). The back thing is scary, girl. I did not know that about you. Love you so much, sweet friend! xo

  20. #5! I had anterior/posterior scoliosis surgery at 17 (11 years ago now), and it’s refreshing to hear about a similar experience. I fortunately didn’t have the migrating rod (whoa! those pictures!), but I totally relate to the fear with every back twinge. Love the honesty in this post, and I relate to almost all the others too :)

  21. Oh Ali. I read your words about your memory struggles and fears and tears filled my eyes as I felt like I was reading my own heart. I have those same struggles. And those same fears. I genuinely don’t remember so many things that it breaks my heart to have ‘lost’ when it seems to come so easily for others. Praying for your heart. For your fears to be drowned in peace and your mind to be clear and full of beautiful memories. Hugs!

  22. Let’s just hope that neither one of us are with the other when we are trying to remember where we put the keys, parked the car or what that one gal’s names is neither one of us can remember, because we’d be screwed! At least we could sit down and have a glass of wine and laugh about it. And ew, so sorry you had to go through that with the back and leg! Great post sweets!

  23. And BTW, I’m just a WEEE bit older than you and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up either. I’ve found the best thing is to make choices that feel right today, and they eventually shift into new opportunities that are completely unplanned and often remarkable. XO

  24. Great post. Regarding law school; Best decision you could ever make. With a law degree under your belt; you can pretty much do or be anything. The possibilities are endless. Highly highly recommend getting your law degree. You will never regret it.

  25. Love this post! Thank you for sharing : )

  26. You’re such an inspiration, Ali. Love your open honesty about everything from fears to ground beef. xo

  27. Ali, I loved reading this! I cannot believe that about that rod! Thanks for being so open and honest!

  28. This is a great post! I’m with you on the ground beef. I stick to chicken burgers tol! I had no idea about your back surgery & the fact tbe rod ended up in your leg?! God, that must have been so horrendous considering the surgery you’d already been through. I injured my back 4 yrs ago and am now stuck with chronic pain (can’t move today!) – it sucks so much that at such a young age you have to be so aware of any twinges you feel. Mine is by far not as bad as yours but I can totally relate to pain everyday, really gets me down sometimes. Mostly I try & grit my teeth and carry on working, but sometimes I really have to stop. Now that I know that, you’re even more inspirational to me! I’m trying to grow my blog & on the days I feel like crap as I’m in pain and keep comparing myself to everyone else it’s hard not to just give up, but seeing your recipes and how successful you are gives me hope! :)

  29. This is a fantastic post. As I was reading through, I kept thinking “That’s me! That’s me!” I recently quit my job after a year and a half of constant stress, and am currently trying out blogging full time. I don’t know where it’s going to lead, and I certainly haven’t planned far into the future, but I’m excited to see what happens. It’s stories like yours that make me hopeful for my own success!
    Also, I am obsessed with the Bachelor. This past season with Andi was the best yet. Bachelor in Paradise really sucked, though. Whatever. Can’t wait to see Farmer Chris find truu luv.

  30. I love this post as it makes me realize I’m not the only person who struggles with ‘I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up’.

  31. Great post!! I totally agree about the housecleaning part, once I hired someone it changed my life and the money is worth the extra time and reduced stress by coming home to a clean house.

  32. Ali, I loved this post and your honesty. Not only did I appreciate your vulnerability and getting to know you, but I really liked the things you posted! Yay for “rebelling” against the typical blogger system! And coming alive when singing in worship- YES. I’m not any kind of talented singer, but there is something so intimate with God about singing to Him in worship and being surrounded by music and voices raised in praise. I LOVE IT. Thank you so much for sharing this list!

  33. Hi Ali, I never leave comments usually (except on my sister’s blog :) but after reading this I just had to! The part about the bad memory, I can sooo relate! Too funny! And yes! totally annoying! As a hairstylist, I have finally worked this into part of my “routine” as it comes up so often with different clients. When I am forgetting something, instead of apologizing or berating myself, I sort of shrug it off and explain it can be a good thing. There is never a dull moment! Everything is always new and exciting! You can see any movie or read any book over again! Etc! Ha!!!

  34. I’m so glad #1 isn’t just me!! I’m totally embarrassed by the amount of takeout we eat.

  35. I was almost 40 before I figured out what I want to do with the rest of my life, and if needed, I will change my mind again, but for now, teaching community college courses in dental assisting makes me very happy. You’re never too old to re-invent yourself!

  36. I love this idea and may have to do it myself on my blog. There are so many points here I can relate to – the sesame oil thing, passing on beef burgers for veggie and chicken and loving singing in particular. And I’m also 31 and don’t really know what I want to do or where I’m going. So you’re definitely not alone there. I am also frustrated and bored with most social media, when I had loved it in the early days. Anyway, just wanted to say that this was a really cool blog post and that it’s always fun to learn more about the people behind blogs and what makes them tick :)

  37. Love this post Ali. You are not alone in a lot of these things. I am not sure if that brings comfort or not. Thank you for sharing!

  38. Ali–Thank you so much for writing this post! I was seriously inspired by your vulnerability and honesty. I love how freely you share your heart as well as your recipes on Gimme Some Oven–it is something that really encourages and challenges me in my own writing. Bravo, girl–you rock, and what you are doing matters.

  39. I love your posts, but I think you would make a GREAT blogging coach! You make it feel more “doable” then lots of other big bloggers I read!

  40. I love this honest, open and wonderfully written post, Ali! I found myself thinking, “OMG…me too!” an awful lot. I’m such a fan…now even more so.

  41. Oh my goodness. I thought I was alone with the terrible memory. I can relate that it’s plain embarrassing, too! The worst part is when I can’t recall moments at work from the day prior.

    That’s funny you mentioned The Notebook. I watched it with a friend a few years ago, and got all the way to the END before I realized I had seen the whole movie before, about 6 months prior.

  42. OK, Ali, #2 is SO me! Long history of Alzheimer’s in my family and some days I feel I’m halfway there. So if I ever see you at a blogger’s convention, I hope your nametag is huge so I’ll recognize you…and we can commiserate. Such a thought provoking list.

  43. Thank you so much for your honesty, Ali! I’m going to be 40 soon…and I feel so much more lost now than I did at 16.

  44. Pingback: Slow Cooker Chili | Gimme Some Oven

  45. A little late on reading this one, but nonetheless, thanks for sharing and for the honesty. I’ve always wondered about #1. :) And #7 is one that I can totally relate to! Oh, and #6. Totally not ashamed to admit it.

  46. I absolutely LOVE this :)

  47. Ok, so I NEVER comment on blogs…which is a shame because as a blogger I know how much comments mean…but one of my readers shared a recipe of yours, which I tried out last night and loved.  So I’ve been creeping around on your site, which is just lovely.  And found this page! Yeah, I could have written #2 word for word.  And I’ve been afraid to admit it to anyone–just barely told my husband and my mom (though I”m sure it’s obvious to everyone).  I just want to let you know this post inspired me to share my own ‘things I’m afraid to tell you’ on my own site–once I find my brave.

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  49. I’m a little late to the game here but I just had to comment. I was diagnosed with scoliosis at 14. They removed six discs and put in 7 screws and a long rod. Fast forward 14 years. This past March I started having horrible pain. After months of testing they found that the bones didn’t fuse in one point and the bones were grinding together. They moved so much the rod broke. I couldn’t believe it. But then I read this post and realized it wasn’t all in my head. They had to put in two more rods and eight more screws. I go in 2 days for my 6 wee post-op check up. I really hope you have no more issues with your back. I know what it’s like to have back pain your whole life and it’s something that’s really hard to describe if you don’t have it. You look fine, but you hurt so much. Fingers crossed you are done with all that.