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Aja, Unbranded

My name is Aja. And I like to write.

Aja Dorsey Jackson, writer

So much so that I can’t remember a time before that sentence was true. I think in stories. And then I put them on paper. That’s just how my brain operates, it seems.

I like to write, so before this blogging thing became a thing, I started blogging; I had a “day-in-the-life” blog, and then a pregnancy blog, and then a feminism blog (briefly) and then I started writing for a marriage and parenting blog. And then writing about marriage and parenting became my thing, and I wrote for many blogs– just about every day. And in 2011, I started my own blog and before I knew it, I had a lifestyle brand.

It wasn’t a big brand, but a brand, nonetheless. In 2013, I published my first book. And in 2014, I published one more.

And by then my marriage books were selling like hotcakes….or at least slightly hotter than room temperature cakes, which felt good enough to me as a little blogger with a couple of self-published books. I did some radio shows, I did some book signings. I had lead magnets and squeeze pages and all that stuff you’re supposed to have when building your brand and eventually I had a humble, but dedicated, following.

And then, as life would have it–because  life apparently did not like my lifestyle brand, my marriage, on which said brand was built, hit a snag–and by snag, I mean this:

You know those metal tire spikes that stick up out of the ground that are supposed to keep you from driving the wrong way down a street? Imagine rolling your car over them forward, then backing up just for good measure in order to make sure that they didn’t just implode, but explode and maybe destroy the whole car. Yeah…that way.

But in between all of the imploding and exploding, I had a brand. A happy marriage brand and I didn’t know what to say any more about happy marriages. And it was just as much a casualty of my own depression around the failure of it all as it was the feeling that I had failed so many people around me. Because when one marriage fails people take it personally. When yours explodes, everyone else feels the shrapnel, especially when people were counting on you– you who worked so hard, who was so happy, and wrote about it– to make it.

A therapist told me once that these things happen to people. That marriages hit bumps. That sometimes they end. That grown-up people who have been married understand. I wasn’t–I’m still not–so sure. So I just stopped writing. For a while, I didn’t want to. And after that, I just didn’t have anything to say.

Until I had a day where life looked fixable, maybe. So I worked up the courage to look at this thing I had built. To see how I could rework it. To figure out how to make this happy marriage lifestyle brand match my actual lifestyle. And I logged onto my website.

Except I couldn’t. Because it had been wiped from the face of the earth.

Every single blog post. Everything that I had written almost daily for five years was reduced to one blank page with an inactive directory message of maybe 20 characters at the top of it. And after days of trying to figure out how to get it all back, the verdict came in–it was conclusive. My site was not salvageable. There was nothing there. It was as though five years of work had never happened. No one could even tell me why it was gone.

It was on this day that I cried harder than I had to that point. Because it was then that I felt what I had long begun to suspect; that your work, all of your years of work, can be obliterated in one moment. It only takes one oversight; one conversation, one failure, one fit of anger, one text message, one lie, one virus, one misstep, one failed back-up; the space between what is and what was is so narrow, everything and nothing, life and death are only separated by seconds. That my previously held belief in the idea that rolling up your sleeves and putting in work made everything possible and just and right, was untrue. That sometimes you work and that work is no match for life. That sometimes you build cities, and those cities get felled by hurricanes. Tweet: Sometimes you build cities, and those cities get felled by hurricanes. http://bit.ly/2tSkH8V @ajajackson

So here I am, with a life. A life that doesn’t match my brand. Or sitting here without a life or a brand, depending on how I see it on any given day. And maybe that’s okay.

Maybe there is power in being stripped and unbranded. In being forced to start over. In sitting in the space between what is and what was and what will be not knowing the answers to any of it. In looking at all of the iterations of me, getting back to the unbranded basics of who I am and in standing in the two things that have been true for as long as I can remember:

My name is Aja. And I like to write.

I also like to hear from people. Leave me a comment if you like!


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8 Responses so far.

  1. Love. That is all. I believe in Aja.

  2. Nerissa says:

    Welcome back. Just write. The brand and the other life stuff will level out.

  3. Kelz says:

    Welcome back. No matter what life throws at you…don’t quit! You got this!

  4. Kristen Weiss Fidler says:

    Aja – beautifully written and beautiful you; just as I remember you from years ago in school. I would love to keep reading your words. Authentic and real. We could all use so much more of that.

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