Looking back... #AtoZ Challenge Reflections


Warnings:

1) I have poured my heart out here – so some bits maybe incoherent and unusually emotional (no research here people – just naked thoughts!)

2) This is a long post of 2700+ words 

I thought I would give a brief background about how I ended up taking the A-Z challenge. Then my emotions took over and I ended up writing 933 words on the background alone! So I have split this post into 3 parts. In case you wish to skip the background, and want to only read about my experience in the A-Z challenge, you could do so by skipping the first and moving directly to the second section.

The Background

The A-Z Challenge – Insights & Thank You’s

The Future

THE BACKGROUND

November end 2017 

I didn’t see it coming – then. Now when I look back, all the signs were there. Years of 12 hour work days that would often extend into the weekends as well. I had always taken pride in my work and always stretched myself to perfection. Little did I realize the harmful effects on my mind and eventually my body. The junk food and the obesity had been swept under the carpet. All I did was work. And then, suddenly one dark day - I quit my position as Head of Operations, Aadhyam ICS because I had an anxiety attack. 

December 2017 

I was still in shock. I had given up the career path that was on an ascent. What killed me the most was that I had lost face. I was still unwell – small things made me anxious and I would begin to palpitate. I had turned off my phone to keep all the client calls at bay as well the calls from well-meaning family members who could not fathom what had just taken place. On visiting the doctor, I was told that I was severely deficient in vital vitamins, particularly Vitamin D. Some of you may already know about the harmful effects of Vitamin D deficiency. I didn’t and I was shocked to know that the depression and weakness I had been feeling was all due to the lack of a vitamin! I started taking my supplements…but I was told that it would take me 3-6 months to get back to normalcy. I couldn’t help but kick myself for skipping that walk after lunch! Ditched the precious sunlight so that I could work some more! Yup. The guilt would not leave me. I knew I had to tend to my health. But I could not help but berate myself for not having been “strong”. Fortunately now I think differently. But then I felt I was too weak to just give up on my responsibilities without notice. My confidence had taken a beating. Being an introvert who is extremely sensitive and recovering from anxiety issues, I was not ready to face the outer world. But having worked for over a decade and having been completely independent, my ego would not allow me to wallow in self-pity. I didn’t know how or where to start looking for work. I could not think clearly and my mind was a mess. I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. I had no clue what the new year had in store for me and it scared the hell out of me. 

January 2018 

I stumbled upon a friend’s post that spoke about a seminar on Freelance writing that was being arranged by a popular women’s forum – Women’s Web. This friend would go on to egg me, motivate me and inspire me to write – thanks a lot Viji! (she is not an A-Z challenge participant but I hope she takes it up next year because the blog universe deserves to know of her – even more than it already does)I registered for the seminar knowing I had nothing to lose. I was going to meet people after a whole month! I had cut myself off from everyone and everything and now I had to face the world. I knew in my guts that this was a turning point for me. The seminar did not throw any magic insights in my face, but it gave me the confidence to pursue the one passion I had always neglected – writing. I decided to make this my backup plan. I met a few like-minded individuals…took some initiative and created a WhatsApp Group where we began sending each other some motivational stuff to push each other... to write. 

February 2018 

I began taking up some small assignments and started writing articles in the hope it would get published somewhere. I also tried Breaking up with Writer’s block’ but it didn’t really happen. My listless energy combined with the mess in my head to form an unfortunate cocktail that prevented me from even sitting still enough to write. My thoughts would run all over the place. That’s when Suchita Agarwal who was also a part of the WhatsApp group sent a message about the BlogChatter A-Z challenge. I was intrigued enough to find out more but too scared to even think about attempting it. Health issues prevented me from writing anything at all the rest of February. 

March 2018 

I had begun reading a lot of articles from the perspective of a woman on the Women’s Web. I felt at home. I not only enjoyed reading these powerful women's stories I also was beginning to find my voice and passion -without realizing it. Slowly things began looking up. A short story I had written got published: From Darkness To Light: A Fairy Tale While it had been a contest submission that did not make the cut – for me just seeing something I wrote on a website was the biggest thrill ever! It gave me a much-needed boost to write two more articles that eventually got published only in April 2018. Calling All #FeministHeroes: Patriarchy Dehumanises Men Too! Speak Up For Feminism NOW & Why The Queen Bee Should Go Extinct…Every Woman At Work Needs To Read This!

The Feminist in me was born! There was no looking back now. That’s when I remembered Suchita’s message about the A-Z challenge and began seriously contemplating participating in it. Confidence levels were on the upswing and I kind of knew what I wanted to talk about! I thought it would be the perfect way to explore Feminism from various angles. 

THE A-Z CHALLENGE – INSIGHTS & THANK YOU’S

I began thinking about topics and ideas around mid- March. Owing to some previous commitments, I actually got down to writing my first blog post only by the last week of March. But once I wrote it - Abort the Growing Sexism in You because Evolution Demands it I enjoyed myself so much that I was hooked! I wrote 3 more posts before the challenge began and I was confident enough (or so I thought!) Bring it on! 

April 2018 

The challenge began well for me. I had bloggers who would show their love (thanked later in this post) and support. And then panic set in when I had to take a 4 day holiday in the second week. It was a much deserved holiday since I had only been writing without a break for over 3 weeks now. For the first time I wrote on a holiday! But it wasn’t too bad. While I had eaten into my bank of posts (down to 2), I did enjoy myself and came back energized. Then a week later I feel ill. I barely wrote for 2 days. Mid –April I had exhausted my post bank and was down to writing a post a day! This was soul-crushing for the planner in me. But I pulled myself up and kept going. I think the only time I really wanted to give up was when I was down to the last 3 posts. I was really sapped. But owing to my real awesome blog buddies and their positivity I pulled through. Another highlight for me was when one of my posts got published on an upcoming news website - Batting for Equal Pay and Equal Say in Women’s Cricket

Here are some important personal insights from the #BlogchatterA2Z Challenge: 

1) If I can do it…anyone can. The challenge is totally doable. 

2) Commit and prioritize the challenge & importantly don’t let naysayers question your commitment 

3) Choose a theme – it helps you focus 

4) Choose a theme that you are passionate about – the passion will translate to words 

5) Soak in all the positivity and blog love– you will need it during dark times

6) Learn to share your positivity with others when they need that nudge to go on - visit read and share as many blog posts as you can - even if they never comment on your blogs. If you love it - show it! 

7) Be the right kind of curious – don’t count the comments let on other blogs – read what they are writing that is so impactful 

8) Learn every day and implement what you learnt – e.g. I did not even know what an Acrostic Poem was before the challenge. But when I did – I decided to attempt it. 

9) Be brave. I had never attempted #FlashFiction or a non-personal Hindi Poem. But I gave both a shot and feel great that I did. 

10) Be proud of everything you write – for it is your baby – your creation – irrespective of the comments you receive. 

11) A little bit of HTML coding goes a long way in improving the way your blog looks and works (I didn’t like the way my template highlighted the hyperlinks – so I learnt how to alter it.) 

Thank You’s: 

1) I thank the awesome writers of Women’s Web for having lit the fire of Feminism in me. A big shout out to Tanvi Sinha, Kasturi Patra, Rimli Bhattacharya and of course Vijaylakshmi Harish – my friend who supported me at my very lowest of lows. 

2) I thank Suchita Agarwal from the bottom of my heart for letting me know about the challenge. You don’t know how you have changed my life. 

3) A big thank you to my amazing husband and in-laws for letting me type away in my corner. I couldn’t have done this without your help and support. A big thank you also to my mom and my aunt Jayashree Neelakanthan or as I know her- Ambili Ammai for reading each and every blog post I wrote. I can’t thank you lovely ladies enough. 

4) I thank Priya Bajpai from PriyReflects to visit my blog and motivate me. It may seem childish but somehow knowing that I would get that one positive comment from her – nevertheless what I attempted to communicate –was so precious. And Priya... let me tell you I am a fan of your writing. Of course, I enjoy your sleuthing skills but your imagination stumps me. Your story – ‘Neil’s Shoe’ got my attention and I remember telling myself I will come back for more. Hope to see you turn an author one day! You have my prayers and wishes and you’d better make me proud! 

5) For the wonderful members of my DM group who are so talented and so so so positive - Thank you for all the Good Mornings! 

A special thank you to Masoom for being the energy bunny that he is. Loved your ode to your social media friends. :) Pooja – I look up to you and enjoyed reading your hard-hitting life lessons from Social Media. Tareque – your posts on Economics were something else. Who knew storytelling and Economics went hand in hand! And how! Rashmi, my fellow Feminist, thank you for being a great motivator and for speaking your mind on several important topics. Anshu, your tale of Tara kept me guessing- it was full of twists and turns but it was such an amazing coming of age story. Very relatable. Seema – you are supremely talented. Your integrity and talent seep through your artwork and your writing. I hope your travels are filled with many many great adventures that you will be compelled to share them with us often. I truly hope great things in the future for you! Thank you also for being a big supporter of my writing. Big Hug! Surbhi – your children stories are very innovative. I enjoyed reading them. Meha – your writing is very unassuming yet so thought-provoking. I enjoyed reading all your posts. Tamanna – I think you are very sweet. :) I dunno…but I felt your warmth! Of course, you are a great writer too. Will catch up on the posts you put up later soon. I learnt a lot from them. 


6) The writers whose talent I envy – 

A) CRD – You have such amazing range – humour, philosophy, erotica, horror, emotional depth. All your posts had so many layers. I will be a reader for life I think. Hope you give up your dual life and dedicate yourself to your writing soon. Thank you for all your encouragement and support. At least 2 of my posts are way better because of your guidance. 

B) Varadharajan Ramesh – A sucker for ‘Twist in the tale’ stories – I read each post with eager excitement. Again the research, the details, the delicious twists were very captivating. Will undoubtedly buy your book. For me ‘Epicharikaky’ was the post that I enjoyed the most and I know I will come back to re-read. 

C) Namratha Varadhrajan – Your poems are very very very special to me. I could relate to them instantly. I enjoyed the layers of depth to them. I loved your theme the most- so powerful. l know that I will keep visiting your blog to revisit old poems and new ones. You will always inspire my poetry. 

D) Tina Sequeira – I enjoyed reading all your stories. I envy your storytelling style. As a Feminist – I enjoyed reading ‘Lioness’s share’ and ‘Hush’ the most. 


7) Some special bloggers: 

Doc2Poet – I enjoyed your lyrical Hindi poetry. You have a fan in me for life. Will come back to read more. Thanks for your support during the challenge. 

Deepa – your writing is so honest that it is very refreshing. And I know for a fact that you are one of the most voracious blog readers amongst all of us! Thanks so much for your lovely comments and may your writing go from strength to strength. 

Kanika – My kindred spirit! Your writing style and view of Feminism is eerily similar to mine. :) Enjoyed reading so many of your informative posts. Hope to continue to learn a lot from you. :)

Neha – Thank you for your positivity. I loved the warm vibes I felt every time I read your posts. And I am glad for that one brief moment when I could return the favour. :)

My Blog performance 

I received almost 200 comments and ~4600 visits last month (compared to exactly that much for uhmmm the entire period from 2008 till March 2018!!) My best performing post is the one I had decided to write about first– because I was a victim of Gaslighting: Don’t let Gaslighting and other forms of emotional abuse make you forget your true self. It’s a post that is very close to my heart and I hope that it reaches as many readers – especially the younger ones so that we are able to protect them from emotional abuse. 


THE FUTURE

1) Get my health in order. Plan to take up Yoga and walking seriously. Will refer your posts religiously Neha for guidance.

2) No I will not be writing an ebook this year. But I intend to take all the confidence gained from this challenge and channel it into turning my passion into a career. Need all your best wishes! :) Maybe an e-book next year. Who knows! 

3) Yes I will continue to write about Feminism – but hopefully, you will also get to read my posts elsewhere – and not just on my blog. :) But will update my blog. 

4) I hope to also find new niches for me to blog and write about. 

5) I may decide to have my own domain – but not before I have at least a 100 blog posts in total. (That’s a target that I just set myself- hope I don’t regret this!) 

6) I hope to take part in the next year’s challenge but only if I have time to prepare at least 15-20 posts beforehand. Can’t do this 1 post a day thing again! 

7) I hope to also become a mother by next year. :) This is a plan that will definitely need a lot of support from another interested party ;) and may well turn all my other plans upside down – but I have a feeling it will all be worth it! Of course, will put to use all the advice I have learnt from awesome mommy bloggers here. :) 

A very big thanks to Team BlogChatter. I have never known any other team respond so fast to queries and assistance. You guys are awesome! No real feedback for the challenge except maybe a little more hand-holding to first-timers like me. E.g. – was not sure whether I needed to add the AtoZ badge on all blog posts or no….and also was kind of confused about which one to use. 

That’s all for now. To all my fellow bloggers that I have connected with through this challenge - hope to motivate one another in our tough times and celebrate our highs as well. Wish everyone best of luck – particularly those who are writing their e-books. Let’s dream big dreams people!! And do tag me in whatever you awesome bloggers write henceforth – would love to read. 

P.S. I am quite dazed and emotionally spent after writing this rather large post. In case if I have forgotten to mention you here…apologies. Hopefully, I will remember and update your name here.

In case you wish to read all my blog posts in the A2Z Challenge, here is the list:

A - Abort the Growing Sexism in You because Evolution Demands it

B - Blue Blooded Women who Whisper

C - Conversations about Gender Representation in Films and the Bechdel Test

D -What Women Don't Want

E- Batting for Equal Pay and Equal Say in Women’s Cricket

F- Financially yours, Thanking you with lots of ignorance, Your dependent wife

G - Don’t let Gaslighting and other forms of emotional abuse make you forget your true self

H- He Who Must Not Be Named or Shamed

I - I am an Incorrigible Feminist. When will you become one?

J - Jaane do nahin…Jaane do

K - Is Feminism killing Femininity?

L  - All are equal in the eyes of the law...or are they?

M - The Woman Who Cried Marital Abuse

N  - In the 'Name' of Gender Inequality

O - One for all and all for one: Feminists & the Queer (Poem)

P - Patriarchy's Deep Roots

Q- Are the 2 ‘Queens’ of our Entertainment Industry Feminist Icons?

R - Rape Culture Is Real

S - Why normalizing ’Sexual Objectification' is dangerous

T - Toxic Masculinity and its impacts on men and women

U - An Uncharacteristic Friendship #FlashFiction

V - Visage

W - Women's contribution to Patriarchy

X - Not much has changed since Xanthippe

Y - Only Yes is Yes

Z - ज़माने को चलो बदलते हैं (Zamaane ko chalo badalte hain) Hindi Poem







Comments

  1. A heartfelt post, that is both vulnerable and strong at the same time. Thanks for sharing your background - that's the best part. Knowing the struggles you have gone through to reach this point ... Wow. A hearty congratulations. You inspire me to continue pursuing travel writing.

    Wishing you good health and much success in your writing career. Do stay in touch.

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    1. Thanks Seema. I find it very difficult to open up to people. I think this post has written itself. I just poured out all my emotions. Feels good.

      Thank you for being your supportive self. :) If you ever decide to sell any artwork - do let me know - I will buy one - not just for sentiments but also because I truly admire your work. :) Enjoy your travel sojourns. Love seeing the world through your eyes. :)

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  2. Big hug Ashiwni!! You are doing great. We all try to do and be our best at every moment. What you achieved in your career is an aspiration to many. It didn't turn out the way you wanted but everything happens for a reason. I loved reading your thoughts on feminism. I am not a person who reads this genre of writing but reading your posts opened my mind. I look forward to read more of your work. I wish you good health and lots of success. All the best! -Surbhi

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    1. Thanks Surbhi! Hug back! Your words mean a lot to me. Hope to see you achieve greatness in your niche area of children stories too. :)

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  3. Wow! That's seems straight from your heart without any edition. Great to know about your experience, how you overcome your struggles and did such a wonderful job. Wish you happiness and success in the roads ahead 👍

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    1. Thanks Rashmi. I just channeled all the positicity I received from awesome pekple like you into my writing. Thank you for being you. :) And best of luck for your future too.

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  4. Anonymous8:54 am

    Thanks so much Ashwini for the mention and kind words. I loved reading your posts and writing comments. It is great to have met you through the challenge. Neil's shoe haunts me too. Last night I couldn't sleep thinking abt it. And was saying to myself 'Gosh ! What have I done! :D
    Thanks again Ashwini �� I am glad that we met through A2Z. I will keep reading your posts, you too keep tagging me in your posts.
    Having a kid changes your life completely, for better of course. Nayantara's posts will come handy. ;)
    XOXO
    Priya

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    1. So so glad to have met you through this challenge. Will definitely tag you in my posts.

      hahahah will turn to Nayantara and Tamanna's blogs for mommy advice. :)

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  5. Wow! What a heart-felt post, Ashwini! It didn´t feel long at all. Time just flew by when I got to the end of it. I choked when I read about the impact of Vit D deficiency on your health. It was devastating to read your back story. Please take care of your health and I pray you recover soon. I love the way you write and am impressed with the network of writers in your fold in such a short time. So glad we met via #AtoZChallenge! Will be closely following your writings. Love and Hugs :)

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    1. :) This is super sweet. Thanks a lot for writing this. I pretty much just let my heart do the talking or typing... I am already on the road to recovery and writing had a huge role to play in it.
      :) Super happy to have met you through the challenge too. Love your stories. Will visit often. Do tag me when you post something new.

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  6. Thank you so much for all your encouragement and praises showered. Also, thanks for sharing your story leading up to this AtoZ journey.

    Definitely do take up Yoga. It helps a lot. I talk from personal experience. Yoga definitely helped me balance my emotional, physical and mental states. It also made my pregnancy amazing.

    Also, if you intend to continue blogging, (which you definitely should cause you are great at it and writing is highly therapeutic), then do register your website quickly.

    You would make a excellent content writer Ashwini. All the best in your career as well as personal life.

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    1. Thanks Namrata. Will pay heed to your advice - about the domain and about Yoga. Thank you for your support. Hope to stay connected. :)

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  7. great to have met you too. we were almost completing each others sentences!

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    1. Oh yeah totally! I wanna gang up with and do halla bol on sexists! I think I already have a target in mind! ( She Devils laughter!)

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  8. Hello poet Ashwini. Thank you for dropping by and sharing your shayaree. Loved it :)
    Your journey from the panic attack to today is truly inspirational and I'm so glad you shared it for I see too many people in corporate jobs who have forgotten that life is for living and being, not just clients and working!
    All the best for your goals for next year. Before I get into my gyan mode, I will stop but be bold enough to share my last year's U. It's for you. I have a feeling you'll like it.
    U is for unfurling
    Will be in touch. xx

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    1. hehehe glad you liked those 2 lines. I surprised myself actually when those lines just came to me. But I was inspired...:)

      That poem is so so beautiful. Thank you for sharing the link. I read it 3ice. It definitely expresses a lot of what I am feeling right now. I am kicking myself for not having discovered your blog sooner. I love your poetry. Will find time one day and binge.
      Thank you for hopping to my blog. Hope to stay connected. :)

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  9. Ashwini, congratulations on completing the a2z 2018. All your posts were thought provoking and insughtful, full of research. I agreed with almost all of your thoughts.

    I hope you recover your health and get better soon.

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    1. Thank you Meena. I truly appreciate all your thoughtful comments. I am sorry...but which is your blog again? Sorry again - my memory s failing me.

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    2. www.balconysunrise.wordpress.com

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  10. This is an amazing reflection. Thank you for not only sharing your insights learned from the challenge but also sharing what you had to overcome to be triumphant! I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.
    And of course, congrats on completing the challenge!

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    1. Thank you so much. :) I've been reading other people's reflections and I realized that everyone faces challenges. Its all part of the game. Feels extremely satisfying tho when u dont give up. :)

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  11. Congratulations for having made it to the end Ashwini. T'was a whirlwind month, and you made it count...and how!

    Thanks for sharing your personal experiences and insights. And thank you so much for the tribute. Meant a lot :)

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    1. Hey Chriss. I got a lot of creative satisfaction from the challenge. It boosted my confidence like nothing else.

      Thank you for your support. Not everyone helps. And you did not even have much time to spare. I appreciate your assistance even more because of that.

      Best of luck for your future!

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  12. Congrats on a very successful AtoZ, Ashwini. And thank you for the mention (didn't use 'Shoutout' :D) All the very best for the future in terms of your blogging and personal targets.

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    1. Thanks Varad for the visit and the comment. :) And thanks a lot for the wishes.

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  13. It's fab that you were able to overcome the hurdles and finish the challenge :)
    Debbie

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    1. Thanks Debbie. I think it qas the sheer happiness of getting back to writing. Welcome to my blog. Hope to see you around again soon. :)

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