It was this time last year I packed up my desk and waved a forlorn goodbye to a six-figure salary at a renowned influencer marketing company. Though I knew there would be no turning back after giving the two weeks notice, the hope that I’d made a mark on the industry in some small way lingered. This naïvety led to a rude awakening when, within days of my departure, all mentions or traces of me were scrubbed from my work. For all intents and purposes, I never existed there.
As time passed, the sting of this expunction faded. My soul was charged with new purpose, and I’d learned a hard lesson: We are more disposable than we think. If you want to be remembered, do something that can’t be erased.
Over the past twelve months, I’ve dedicated my time and energy to making a difference in Dallas. It has forced me to shed the safety of my online bubble, get proximate– even uncomfortably, at times, and see the world without a rosy filter. As a consequence to this shift in focus, my blog has arguably suffered. I’ve posted less this year, grown more disconnected from the blogging community, and watched Instagram engagement plummet. I slowly began to accept the decline of my so-called influence. It seemed a small price to pay in exchange for giving back to the community.
Last week, I bore witness as men of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds, gave their time to be stand-in father figures for a “Breakfast with Dads” event at a Dr. Billy Earl Dade Middle School in South Dallas. My friend/coworker Kristina posted a request on Facebook hoping for 50 volunteers. More than 500 signed up. It was incredible.
The sight of these compassionate and strong men showing up in full force brought me to tears. I watched as the mentors helped teach the young male students how to tie a tie. Awkward, scared expressions transformed into smiles of confidence and trust. Lives were changed that day. I realized then that true influence cannot be measured in Instagram followers or page views.
2017 has been transformative. I went from shooting New York Fashion Week runway shows to photographing after-school programs at local elementary schools. Instead of coding blogs for former contestants of The Bachelor, I helped develop an online platform for youth to share their creative work and voices.
Sometimes I feel as though I’ve been holding onto my past life in fear of losing my status as an “influencer” online. It’s time to let go and move forward. Reflecting on the year as it comes to a close has led me to this conclusion:
The amount of influence you have is nothing compared to the impact you make.