Well, there will be no bells and whistles. No marching bands or giveaways. But I am quietly delighted to be celebrating the fifth anniversary of Lost in Arles, most certainly for one reason...you.
We have been through a lot together, n'est-ce pas? And yet time has passed within the blink of an eye.
I have been mulling a post over in my head for the past two months now. Its working title has been "Go Big or Go Home?" and this seemed the right time, a good a day as any, to talk it out.
Remi, my handsome, smart and funny companion, coaxed me into starting this blog. After a year full of confusion and heartbreak, it was a means to start building a pathway forward. "Be true to yourself," he would remind me, especially when readers other than my immediate friends and family started to appear, much to my complete surprise. "Don't try to please others."
And so that is what I have tried to do - with the occasional wavering, it happens - in the over 600 posts so far. Slowly, you have arrived - one by one usually - and many of you have stayed. Some amazing bloggers were kind enough to talk about Lost in Arles very early on and that was an enormous help. Recently, I had a big influx of new readers, as two of my friends with very popular blogs were kind enough to mention me. Amazingly, it seems like I have lost most of them. Did that hurt? Kind of but it made me realize that just maybe this is a space that you need to randomly stumble upon and think, "What is this? I kind of like what she is doing...I just might belong here."
As a blogger, there is massive pressure to constantly expand your readership and your presence in social media. "Don't you want sponsors? Don't you want a book deal?" (Um...oui?) At some point in 2013, I could feel the wave of what I was making here rising, that a wave was coming. There were a few people that I have an enormous amount of respect for who gave me concrete advice about what to do next - change platforms, build in SEOs, create a selling space, consider the possibility of controlled advertising, launch and keep updated accounts on Facebook, Twitter and the rest...it was all right there and very clear cut.
Except that I couldn't do it.
I just didn't have it in me to do this blog in my own way plus all of that too and so the wave rolled back out. My friends who have very successful blogs - some of who have built them up in the same or even less time than I have been writing and photographing here - can. They work incredibly, incredibly hard every day of the week. We are talking definitely beyond the realms of a full-time job. I love them precisely because they are so motivated and ambitious but I am not. I wonder if those years of acting auditions just sucked the drive out of me. It's entirely possible.
But a slow pace can be a good thing too. I remember the exact day when I started to pick up my camera with an aim to do something beyond simply illustrating. Remi was in the midst of a long project of photographing the Romanesque churches of Provence, while using a complex technique that would at times require an hour to create each photo. How I would fidget and fuss amidst the pockets of too long until, out of nowhere, came the idea to start exploring on my own through the lens and not just with my always racing mind. And it became pretty clear to me immediately that what I was interested in most was to focus on the world of the little.
When we moved out of Arles over a year ago, Remi told me, "This will be great for your blog." And how wrong I thought he was, for months. I really floundered, stumbling without the constant energy and sparks of city life to inspire me. I didn't know what to say. Until finally, I gave up and let the little win. Because there is so much that is important within the minutiae of everyday.
Sometimes, the answers really are right there in front of us. Recently, I took an online personality test. It seemed smartly done and I was curious. Little did I know how illuminating it would be (for many aspects of my life). It turns out that my personality is extremely rare, an INFJ, what this site calls "The Advocate." The traits assigned ring true - I have a high sense of idealism and a real need for integrity above all, qualities that I hope to use to help people that I care about. I need to have a purpose.
And what I have been wondering is, "Do I?" Is this blog with its incessant repetitions and variations on a theme, enough?
It took me a few weeks to find the answer, which is, "I think so...Maybe I am an Advocate for Beauty." And oh, how I really hope that doesn't sound as pretentious as I fear because guess what? You all are too.
Of the nearly 3,000 of you that follow along here through various sources, there are about twenty, maybe thirty who leave comments on a regular basis (merci!) and yet I feel like I know all of you and are connected to you somehow. Does that sound crazy? But it is true. And I have even been lucky enough to have met some of you in person or shared walks through Arles together - which only confirmed that suspicion one hundred percent.
Because we are of like minds and hearts. A little community but a really good one.
And while our advocating may not be anywhere near as far-reaching as what former INFJ's such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Theresa brought to the world, a-hem, I still think that it is really needed in our demanding world.
It isn't that I am determined to keep the blog from growing or that things will never change around here either but to answer my original question of "Go Big or Go Home?" Well, Lost in Arles may not be big, even after five years...but I certainly feel right at home.
Thank you, thank you for doing so much to make it so.
I am happy right where I am. I hope you are too.
With much Love and profound Gratitude from Provence,