MY LAST BIG ADVENTURE?

Oh, there you are! Hi, I’m Evalena, in case you were wondering, and I’m the one who secretly moved in here on New Year’s Eve. I hope you’re here about the Last Big Adventure flyers I’ve been handing out lately. Maybe you’re wondering if it’s really true? If I’m actually crazy enough to believe I’m about to sail the Seven Seas of Life in an imaginary pirate ship that I built with my own two hands? 

Yes. That is exactly how crazy I am.

MY BIG/MAJOR/HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT

Two days ago, I jumped off the biggest cliff since 1995. I’m about to embark on my last great adventure and, if you wanna tag along, there’s plenty of space on me ole ship. Be warned, though. This is not one of them all-inclusive fancy-schmancy Caribbean cruise ships. That’s not really how I roll. I’ve been building myself a proper old imaginary pirate ship, and I fully expect my voyages across the seas of Life to be tough, difficult and even gut-wrenching at times. But sometimes there’s nothing for it. You just have to brave it and jump. Because if you don’t, as Astrid Lindgren told us, you’re nothing but a tiny speck of dirt.

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At the moment, I’m still dealing with all the moving boxes that need unpacking and the sweet dilemma of where to put my all my stuff. I suppose it must sound a bit weird to begin a big adventure by building and moving into a sodding ship, but here’s an idea:

There are boxes, paint buckets and building material all over the place here. I’ve been working on this (almost) secret project for quite some time now, and today, because of a massive spurt, you can finally begin to picture what The Resilience will look like when she’s shipshape. I need to keep going, but if you pop the kettle on, pull up a chair and stay for a cuppa or two, I’ll tell you what I’m doing here. 

WELL, I'VE NEVER HEARD ANYTHING LIKE IT!

I'm moving in!

There are boxes, paint buckets and building material all over the place here.

Before I start telling you about this great adventure, there are a few things I need to get off my chest. First of all, I want to be very clear in saying that this is not a sales pitch. I’m not here to make you buy anything (not even a ticket!) and I guarantee that you’ll never see any badly disguised “free” rip-offs here. I can’t stand that kind of asshattery.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen enough bogus offers to last me a few lifetimes. They appear in targeted social media ads, in emails in your inbox or as pop-ups and links on pretty much every single site you visit. They whisper sweet nothings about all the free stuff and once-in-a-lifetime offers they have in store for you. I find it downright offensive! I don’t mind people trying to make a living out of their own hard words. Hel, I don’t even have a problem with people straight up asking for donations! I can’t stand the assumption that I’m dense, followed by a ridiculous attempt to get one over on me.

That shit’s just not on!  

The other day, I received a relatively sweet email from a blogger I’ve followed for a long time. Chill, it was a newsletter kinda thing, nothing clandestine! So, in this email, he wrote that I would get a free copy of one of his books. All I had to do was to click on a link and fill out a form with my address details. Now, I kinda knew where this was going (they look pretty much the same all these offers scams), but as I had already started writing this post I decided to follow through. For edumacational purposes of course.  

Sadly, as this is a person I really like, this so-called offer turned out to be even more of a scam than I had expected it to be. I had to click my way through a maze of optin-pages with infantile writing, and weird pop-ups with even weirder video ads. And, of course, each of these pages featured yet another “special offer.” I was told that I could become rich, more productive and more successful than a mere mortal such as myself could ever dream of if only I clicked on those links and added all the gracious offers to my FREE book order.

Bleh…

In the end, having forced myself through what felt like an endless, soul-destroying, self-pub [1] e-book marathon, I reached the page with the actual order note. And I nearly fell out of my bed when I saw that the cost of the book was, indeed, $o.oo. It was a free book! All I had to do was to fill out the form so he would know where to send my book. Correction. Fill it out and press OK. And this was the point where the real trickery of this particular scam was uncovered.   

Yes, the book would, indeed, be mine for FREE. (Why do they always write that in boldface capitals as if it was hard to see or something?) It was my “gratitude token,” as the blogger in question put it, for having been such a loyal fan for all these years. I would, however, have to pay for the postage. Which would cost me more than buying any of his books from Amazon and have them shipped to me for free. And, what galled me the most was that the postage cost more than the pre-order of a Brandon Sanderson Stormlight Archive volume!

Well, I’ve never heard anything like it! When self-published “authors” of non-fiction print-on-demand or e-books, that never saw an editor’s eye, charge more for postage than one of the most successful authors of our time, they’re taking the piss! 

So, it was all for nought. I didn’t get a book and the blogger lost one of his “loyal fans.” I’m not following someone who thinks they can dupe me with sweet words and make me pay top dollar for some cheap rubbish. How about waving a free stuff card in the air, only to shower people with all sorts of crazy scams wrapped in sweet words. As if I’m stupid and desperate enough to part with my money like that. Bloody cheek! You best take your book and your lousy “offers” and stick them where the sun doesn’t shine. We’re done! 

I’ve spent most of my life swimming upstream and going my own way; and I don’t think age is a good enough reason to stop doing that. Rather the opposite, actually. If anything, I’m even more inclined to go my own way, and do my own thing, now. And guess what? I don’t care if every single social media marketing “expert” says that you need funnels and optins and special offers to make it. I will never, ever, send you spam. I will never, ever, write about shit I have no interest in, or that I can see no use of. I will never, ever, try to trick you into buying something you don’t want or need. 

Never. Ever.

AND THIS I KNOW I MUST DO

Wanna meet the spring in Paris?

Maybe we can meet the spring in Paris?

Right, now that we’ve talked about what I won’t do, I also want to be very clear on this: The reason why I’m building this pirate ship; and making myself a home base on this domain after 25+ years (!) of free portal blogging, is that I’ve gotta get out of this place. And for that to happen, I need to make money. Yes, I’m going for full transparency here, and that is the bitter truth.

To put it bluntly, the knock-on effects of Brexit, the pandemic, Putin’s blasted war and other catastrophes and misfortunes have shaken my foundations and made my future far from safe. Sadly, as I loved my job, I’ve had to accept that I’ll never work again, at least not in any sense that we’d traditionally think of as working. This leaves me with four options:

      1. I could stay in England and hope that things don’t get even worse. This is, after all, my home and the place where I wanted to grow old(er).
      2. I could become a freeloader and move between my five adult children. At least four of them would be able to take turns housing my arse, and feeding me one month each on a running rota until my dying days.
      3. I could go to Sweden, couch surf for Loke knows how long, and hope that the Swedish welfare state, or what’s left of it, takes pity on me. If that succeeds, I may be able to spend the rest of my life as a “benefit scrounger” in an accessible little flat in some suburb where I really don’t want to live. 
      4. I could adopt an (even more) alternative lifestyle and try to find ways of monetising my assets. This could potentially give me the freedom to live wherever the fuck I want, to travel when and where I want (with my dog no less!) and to spend part of the year in Sweden without having to jeopardize my access to medication and specialist healthcare.

Status quo, i.e. option one, is not much of an alternative. To live like I’m doing right now, locked up in a house that’s not wheelchair accessible, is not how I want to end my days. The post-Brexit situation is making a lot of things a lot worse, and I can’t see a silver lining on the horizon. Even the most enthusiastic of the Brexiteers said it would take up to 50 years for Britain to recover. I don’t have 50 years, and even if I did, I’m fairly certain that poor people can forget about finding any raisins in this cookie. I don’t want to leave Britain, but as much as it kills me to admit it, I can’t see a full-time future here for myself. Not anymore.

As for option two, I know that my kids would welcome the opportunity to “adopt” me. But if you know me at all, you’ll know why this is out of the question. Caring for a family member is hard and it puts enormous strain on all involved. As spoonies, we have a kind of boss-employee relationship with our carers, which, among other things, means that we have to remember that our home is their place of work. Even with the best and most professional carers, it’s a balancing act to find ways of being professional and personal without having to give up the private.

With a family member, it’s a million times harder!

I want to be able to hang out with my (grand)kids knowing that none of us has to put our own needs and wants away. And that’s why it’s imperative that I have some kind of control over my own existence. That I have both the ability and the resources to go where I want and make my own decisions. No life (none!) would be worth the price my kids would have to pay for option two, so it really isn’t an option.

Option three, trusting the Swedish welfare system to “rescue me,” appeals to me about as much as pitching a tent at the nearest IKEA parking lot, and live out my days as a squatter there. I have seen far too many Swedish spoonies stuck in a system that largely resembles ours. Which means you’re only ever deemed worthy of help if you’re already dead. Almost dead? Nah, not good enough, you scrounger. Get a job! I deeply resent the fact that we have to give up our autonomy and accept a life that literally locks us in a cage. I’ve spent too much time locked up in different cages. If I manage to break out of this one, I won’t allow that to happen again if I can help it. So, there’s not really an option three either.  

Right. Option four it is. And this is what I know that I must do: 

I have to find a way to make enough money
to keep myself and my dog afloat; and to give me a chance
to spend half of my time travelling and visiting family.

Simples! We now have a destination. Happy we could iron that little detail out. All that’s left to do then is to decide what to capitalise on. This actually raised a new dilemma for me: If I have nothing of value, and I’m a relatively useless human being, what on earth do I have to monetise? How am I supposed to make any money? And don’t say Only Fans, or we can’t be friends. [2] I’m serious.

It took me quite some time to find the answers to these questions. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I felt that I only have one asset that could potentially be turned into “a service” and that’s my survival instinct. I have an extraordinary ability to survive all sorts of disasters and misfortunes, and I have a zest for life that few can beat or crush. I guess you could say that I’m good at inspiring and motivating people to hang in there and believe in tomorrow.  

This is actually something you could wrap up and sell wholesale in this digital day and age. Unfortunately for me, I hate that idea. Trying to sell human decency and kindness feels wrong to me. Not in the least because those who have the greatest need of my skill set are the ones least able to afford it. So no. I just couldn’t go there. But it was this realisation that would eventually lead me to the solution I had been looking for. My breakthrough.

MAYBE I'M NOT COMPLETELY USELESS AFTER ALL

Maybe I’ll trade boujie trad life for the freedom of some kind of #vanlife?

The train of thought that eventually arrived at this whole idea began after a routine check-up at my GP’s. (That’s your local Doctor, or physician, for any non-Brits in here.) This happened before my 50th birthday, but after Cameron had announced that there would be a Brexit referendum. Something that jeopardised our future in Britain. Anyway, the appointment took an unexpected turn when my doom-and-gloom GP, having looked through my latest round of test results, turned around and said that it was time for me to make peace with death. 

No, I don’t think he was trying to scare me stiff, and he didn’t tell me to go home and write my will. I took it as more of a philosophical statement. I mean, it stands to reason that you cannot be riddled with disease and expect to live to be a hundred, and we do know that people with my particular profile rarely die of old age. I came away from the GPs feeling a bit like you do when your car unexpectedly makes it through the MOT, but with a long list of advisories. You know it’s time to start saving up for a new car and it hurts.

But you know there’s no saving up for a new option when it is your life that’s on the line. 

I knew right away that it was the thought of leaving my little frog prince too early that would be the hardest to deal with. I lost my Nan far too early and the wound that left in my soul never fully healed. What would I have wanted? What would I have asked of her, had we understood and been able to deal with, her death in a better way? Hers was impending btw = fuck cancer. 

By the time I had my personal MOT result unceremoniously handed to me, I had lost both sets of grandparents and a great aunt. I had had ample time to reflect over that kind of loss and what, other than the person, you actually lose when your elders are no longer with you. It was as clear to me as if it had been written in fluorescent capitals across a night sky. What I had lost was not just the people that were so dear to me. I had lost all those who came before us. My ties to the past were severed. There was no one left who could bear witness of the time before my family existed. And I knew that the one thing I wished I could have had was access to their memories. A way to listen to their words and benefit from their knowledge.   

This kind of brings us to the catalyst, or the inciting incident if you will, of this particular story. My last great adventure. [3] Suddenly, I knew that I’d been wrong. And stupid. I did have something of value! Something I probably could monetise. My words.

Storytelling is my lifeblood. It’s the only thing I do that I have any real talent for. Yes, I know I said it was survival, but that’s more of a passive skill. A mindset. Writing is something I’ve been doing all my life. It’s how I breathe. How I make sense of my thoughts and feelings. How I escape when reality bogs me down.

For more than 25 years, most of my words have been available online. For free. They have been making money, but not for me. My ad allergy and belief in content sharing kept me from monetising my work, but it didn’t make my words free from monetisation. It only freed me from having to deal with a practice I found inherently distasteful. The readers got to read my words with ads and affiliate links slapped onto them. The owners of the sites where my words were published cashed in on this practice, and made money from my work. And me? I got nothing but the satisfaction of a published text. Well, it’s time to flip that script.

I am officially reclaiming all my words. All. Of. Them.

And yes, I will be monetising them. This means that if you’re one of my “old” readers and you have chosen to tag along, and continue to read my posts over here, only the domain names are new. And if you’re a new reader, I pray that you’re not too much like me, because there will be ads and affiliate links on my blogs. 

I know some people really like to see ads, and have products and services recommended to them. This actually made my decision a little easier. Nevertheless, I promise I’ll be selective and only showcase products and services I believe in or can see the use of. Like books! 😁 Maybe, if you help me out here, we can find some kind of balance where you can continue to enjoy your visits and I can keep posting new content for you without feeling too embarrassed.

For reasons I’ll go into later, I was planning to keep working on The Resilience for another year or two, and to make today’s announcement on the day I could finally leave this house. Well, let’s just say that my 2-year anniversary jitters made me go a little (ok, very!) crazy. I’ve just pulled off the kind of miracle I used to do all the time back in the day, and here we are. 

I jumped off an enormous cliff, fell (aka worked) for 48 hours straight and have now officially embarked on My Last Great Adventure. 

What this means? Patience, young padawan. I will explain it all, but you can’t expect me to spill all the beans at once now, can you? You know that’s not how I roll.

COME CHECK OUT MY PIRATE SHIP

Let's board my ship and sail the seven seas

Ohoy, matey! Just hop on board and let’s sail this beauty wherever the winds take us!

The third, and final, thing I need to make crystal clear before we take this relationship any further, and you sign up to tag along on this adventure, is that I do not expect anything from you. I’ll never write any whining posts about how I’ll stop writing if you don’t show me the money. Or, worse, sufficient deference. There will be no hare-brained videos about how my creative juices will dry up unless you put your money where your mouth is. (Seriously, the way some of these influenzas influencers whine and moan and berate their followers does my head in. It’s not like we’ve asked them to forego a normie lifestyle to be a tortured creative soul, is it?) 

I’ll never demand any donations, payments or purchases. My content won’t be sitting behind any paywalls, and you don’t need to feel obliged to click on any links to help me out either. My writing has never been about money. It’s always been my lifeblood. As important to my survival as my heartbeat. And even though I’ve decided to monetise my words now, I’ll never stop writing and putting my content out there for free. This will never change. Not even as I level up to become a professional blogger. One of those people. The ones I’ve been poking fun at for all these years.

Something I never really thought about before was how much money these free blog portals I’ve been using are making on people like me. If you take a good look, you can see what a clever business this is. Each portal has an owner (or a group of owners) who, simply put, opened a shop online. An empty shop full of empty shelves. Then they put out a standing invitation for you to come and showcase your stuff on their shelves. For free. You can show off your cooking skills, your parenting ideas or, perhaps, how to apply your eyeliner to catch Prince Charming. The only thing you can’t do is to sell something. At least not overtly.

Genius idea, I tell ya! Morally indefensible, perhaps, but yunno…

At the end of the day, it’s a minimum input – maximum output kinda game. All the owners need to do is to keep the shop clean and the shelves filled with new and exciting things for people to see. In other words, they need to keep attracting a steady stream of new exhibitionists, aka bloggers. People are fickle and easily bored, so there needs to be constant variation in what’s hot on the shelves. 

But Evalena! How are they making money if it’s all for free and no one is selling anything?

Well, I’m glad you asked, cupcake. They make money by charging other shopkeepers (aka business owners) top dollar for the ad space on the walls, doors and windows of the virtual shop. These ads can be seen not only by the bloggers, but also by all of their readers and viewers. And there are plenty of marketing people who would pay ridiculous amounts of money for the ad space in a shop that’s always open and always full of potential customers. This is why so many of the free blog portals pay through their teeth to get celebrities to come and guest blog with them. The right celeb can raise the profile of a blog portal, thus attracting even more new readers and raising the ad revenue. Then they can rope even more hopeful baby bloggers in and keep the spiral moving ever upwards. 

Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching!

Realising that my words were out there making money, even though I wasn’t seeing a penny, got me thinking. And counting. For the first time ever I did an audit of all my free blogs and social media accounts and was taken aback when I realised that I’ve written and published thousands (yes, really!) of texts over the years. And some of them, if I may say so myself, are easily on par with anything I’ve seen a professional blogger write. 

But that’s not all.

On top of the blog posts and articles, I have a vast catalogue of educational material that I’ve written over the past 40 years. (Yeah, I know, I’m a word hoarder.) This ranges from things like texts and worksheets on British holidays, to textbooks supporting course modules I’ve taught and/or written. Most of these texts are also good and could be useful for other people. Now, I don’t know if this makes you think what it made me think (other than that it makes me sound bloody boastful), but for me, it was a proper aha-moment. 

Could it be that I had the solution to the problem that had worried me for so long, sitting in my hard drives, and on a range of websites and blog portals? 

Today, marks the beginning of my third year in the Rapunzel tower. It’s a day that could have filled me with the deepest despair, but thanks to my reframing strategies, it’s also a day where I can look back and see how much I have achieved in these two years. What’s more, it’s the day that will go down in the history of my life as the day I set off on an adventure that, quite frankly, scares the Hel out of me.

Granted, I’ve been here before, but I was young then. Young, strong and driven by an all-encompassing need to teach my kids to jump off cliffs and dip their toes in unknown waters. To show them it’s ok to try your wings. That you can think, rethink and always decide to do something completely different in case whatever you’re doing right now isn’t serving you, or doesn’t feel quite right anymore.

Today, I’m no longer responsible for any kids. 

Today, if we’re going to be completely honest, I’m not even fully responsible for myself. I’m written off as useless for the job market, a burden on society and my family. I’m a wheeler, a spoonie, and I spend almost all my time in bed. I have no money, no assets and I live in a place where I no longer feel safe. But I’m no tiny speck of dirt, so there was nothing for it. I had to jump again.

Are you still interested in this adventure?

Great! I was hoping you’d say yes. Then how about you pop the kettle back on and make us another cuppa? Because you can’t really tag along on an adventure with someone you know nothing about, can you? 

Grab our cups and come with me to the next post and I’ll tell you a story about dreams, dreamers and dreaming. And then I’ll tell you about the dream that lead to us being here right now. 

Much love,

//Evalena 🖤🏴‍☠️

© Evalena Styf, 2022

PSSST!
    1. I say self-pub, not indie-pub. There’s far too many self-professed expert authors who are self-publishing non-fiction e-books that, quite frankly, should never have been published. Yes, I said it.
    2. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being on Only Fans. Nothing! I just have a huge problem with people suggesting that disabled people should make money that way. Too long an argument to explain here, but it boils down to a Dickensian way of looking at society and those who are deemed to be of lesser value.
    3. No, I’m not planning to die yet, but this is my last big adventure.
    4. (Not a text reference!) Does it all sound a bit messed up? Or maybe just a bit messy? Yeah, I know. I’m being vague on purpose as I want to draw the story out a little. Like all epic voyage stories, this one requires a certain element of artistic license too. Bear with me and I promise it will all be as clear as mud before you know it.
    5. Okay, maybe the heading was a tad clickbaity, but give me a break. I’m a professional blogger now, remember? It’s more or less expected of me at this point, isn’t it? 😉

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