When I realized a few weeks ago that not only was I about to greet a new decade, but I was also about to celebrate this blog’s 10th anniversary, I went back to the beginning and reread my first post. Then I read my second. And my third. As I continued scrolling through day after day, month after month, year after year of words that I wrote, sentences that I wove together, personal thoughts and moments that I opened up about and shared with whoever stumbled upon my little space in the blogosphere, I realized I have publicly documented one of the most tumultuous decades of my life. And since I know where to read between my own lines, I realize it’s also a private journal.
When I started Riding the Roller Coaster in January 2010, I was a Navy wife and stay-at-home mom. I had a Masters degree I wasn’t using, my husband was gone a lot, and I craved a hobby.
I always enjoyed writing. I have an old notebook filled with poems I wrote in high school, years of journals, even a children’s book I wrote along with all the rejection letters that manuscript brought me. But it wasn’t until my then-husband’s mother gave me a cookbook for Christmas that I decided to start a blog.
This cookbook — Make It Fast, Cook It Slow — came to be in 2009 because of a blog. Stephanie O’Dea made a New Year’s resolution to use her slow cooker every day for a year, documenting her results on a blog, and the blog became so successful that she found herself publishing a cookbook of her recipe successes.
I had never read a blog when my then-mother-in-law gave me the cookbook. But after she explained the story behind it, she suggested that I start a blog, that I could write about my unique perspective as a military spouse. I said I’d think about, and I did.
In fact, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
By the time the new year rolled around, I already had a plan in place to kick off my very own blog. I would call it “Riding the Roller Coaster” because that’s what military life felt like, a roller coaster with all the ups and downs and wild twists and turns. And I would write anonymously, revealing only my first name with no photos of my face.
I knew I needed a theme beyond simply being a military spouse, a motivation to write on a daily basis that would also motivate any possible readers to come back and visit on a daily basis. I wanted a daily challenge for myself, just as O’Dea challenged herself with a new slow cooker recipe every day. What could I challenge myself to do that I wasn’t already doing.
After analyzing realistic activities to weave into my stay-at-home mom life, I decided that whatever I chose needed to be flexible and general enough that I wouldn’t run out of ideas. When it occurred to me how much I was jumping outside my comfort zone to start a blog, I started wondering what else I could do to shake up my day-to-day routine with new things. I jotted down a few ideas, then a few more, until I had a list long enough to clearly see I had discovered my daily challenge.
“I am going to challenge myself to do something new every day,” I wrote in my first post. “When I say new, I basically mean activities that fall outside my comfort zone (which isn’t saying a whole lot considering my comfort zone is about as expansive as my living room).”
My first daily challenge was simply starting the blog. My second was to take a photograph every day. My third was to fill out a job application. And it went from there.
Every day I blogged. When I wasn’t blogging, I was reading other blogs. At first I followed and commented on popular blogs I found through Google, mainly to figure out how it’s supposed to be done. But the deeper I delved into the blogging world, the more specific my searches became, and suddenly I found myself in the middle of a blogging community I had no idea existed: military spouses.
By the beginning of March 2010, a mere two months into my blog, my daily challenges turned into weekly challenges, and by May I was done with the challenges altogether. It wasn’t because I had failed or because I ran out of ideas. It was because I realized I had plenty to write about without adding the gimmick of a daily challenge. Writing ideas never seemed to stop flowing.
In April 2010, I became a columnist for Blue Star Families, an organization that advocates for military families, and I attended my first conference for military bloggers in Washington, DC.
By June, I had started a Tuesday Top 10 list, and other bloggers started asking me to guest blog for them. I also had enough followers to justify paying for a blog makeover.
In August I was asked to write five essays for PBS’s POV blog Regarding War. I also went back to work after being a stay-at-home mom for six years because, as it turned out, that application I completed for my third daily challenge landed me a job as a kindergarten teacher.
In September, I realized I couldn’t keep up the blogging pace with a full-time job. I also didn’t have the time to read and comment on all the other blogs as I used to. So I created the Mil Spouse Weekly Roundup, where bloggers shared one post they wrote that week. Each week a different military spouse blogger hosted the roundup, which helped us all save time on reading other blogs while still maintaining our connections with each other.
By the end of the year I had found a balance of blogging, freelancing, being a working mom and a military spouse. While I never made any money from my blog, I didn’t care. I found a passion I didn’t even know I was seeking.
Life was busy, and I didn’t always have the energy or creativity after a long day of work as a kindergarten teacher to come home and write and be a mother.
I started a Project Gratitude, which gave me something to write on a daily basis. In February I hosted a blog swap for Valentine’s Day, in May I attended the conference for military bloggers in D.C. for the second time and in December I hosted another blog swap thanks to the success of my first. And I decided to end the Mil Spouse Weekly Roundup after 61 successful weeks.
My most exciting accomplishment of the year was my first essay for the New York Times At War blog. Because of my public appearances and because I couldn’t write under a pseudonym for the New York Times, I stopped worrying about my anonymity and started freelancing under my maiden name, a decision I would come to be extremely thankful for in the future.
The year started out in a similar manner with my teaching job, guest blogging, a collaboration with another blogger on a huge Military Spouse Appreciation Day Blog Hop and a struggle to find time, energy and creativity to continue writing original content for Roller Coaster.
My second essay for the New York Times went up in February, where I revealed that my then-husband and I were in marriage counseling. It wasn’t an easy piece to write and share with the world, but I truly believed I would be writing a follow-up about how that counseling saved our marriage.
Halfway through 2012, my life completely changed when I was offered a job at Military.com. After only my second year of teaching, I quit and started my new position as an Associate Editor and SpouseBuzz blogger, which allowed me to work from home.
While I was thrilled that I had somehow translated my passion into a paying job, I soon discovered that all the writing I was doing for work left me with nothing to write about on my blog.
My last post of 2012 was in August.
I let Roller Coaster collect dust until October 2013. What my readers didn’t know was that during that 14 month absence, my husband and I had legally separated, I moved into an apartment with my kids and I would soon be changing the theme of my blog from life as a military spouse to life as a single mom in her late 30’s.
At the end of November 2013, my divorce was finalized and my final New York Times At War essay went live as I announced that I was no longer a military spouse. Two days later I shared the news on the blog.
Because I legally changed back to my maiden name after the divorce, I was thankful that none of my previous work included my married name.
This year was dedicated to the trials and tribulations of life after divorce, from meeting my ex-husband’s girlfriend, to figuring out what would happen when he PCS’ed, to the scary world of online dating, to books that helped me cope with divorce.
Between my long absence and my drastic theme change, I lost most of my audience that I had spent that entire first year building. And I realized I didn’t care. My blog was for me.
I only wrote eight blog posts in 2015, most of which directed any readers who stumbled along to the pieces I was writing for the Huffington Post.
What I didn’t share was that despite my aversion to online dating, it ended up working for me.
I only wrote five blogs posts in 2016, the first of which directed readers to my first essay for ESME about how I found my boyfriend thanks to my best friend hijacking my Match.com profile.
I also had my first essay published for the Washington Post.
My discovery of the exposure that comes with freelancing led me to devote any free time to selling essays rather than nurturing my blog.
I only wrote five blog posts in 2017 as well. The freelance life was still calling me (another essay at the Washington Post!), but I refused to let the Roller Coaster ride end.
Seven blog posts in 2018. Not only was I continuing to freelance, but I started working on a new project: a memoir.
Since announcing my divorce in 2013, I received countless emails from women going through or contemplating divorce. Some were military spouses, some weren’t. Some went through with their divorces, some didn’t. But enough women reached out to ask for advice from someone who made it to the other side that I realized I had the making of a book.
I also had a hysterectomy at the beginning of the year, writing about it for both Healthline and Folks. Now women reach out to me asking about both divorce and hysterectomies.
In 2019, I wrote a whopping 13 blog posts. I migrated from Blogger to WordPress and started writing about all sorts of things, not really keeping to a theme anymore. I discovered I love writing about my travels to other countries with my boyfriend, as well as things I do to stay on my self-care and wellness path like yoga and meditation.
In November, I participated in NaNoWriMo, and for the first time of my handful of attempts, I managed to successfully work on my memoir every single day throughout the month, bumping my total word count up to nearly 30,000.
That brings us to today. The 10 year anniversary of this blog.
I’m still working at Military.com. I’m still with that amazing boyfriend I met online. I’m still working on my memoir. I’m still freelancing. And I’m still blogging.
I’m not sure where I would be without Riding the Roller Coaster. Maybe I would still be a kindergarten teacher aching for a passion. Or maybe I would have found another path to a writing career. I’d like to think I was destined to be a writer, and I would have found my way there somehow.
I’m so proud of how far I’ve come thanks to this little blog. Cheers to a decade of blogging and happy 10th blogoversary to Riding the Roller Coaster!