About one year ago, everything changed for me and for our community.
A tragedy that struck home so hard it shook us to our core.
A dear friend, brilliant mind, adored father, respected colleague … the list goes on, left us in a way that hits straight to the heart and wakes you up like very few other events can.
I certainly woke up that day. That alarm screamed as loud as it could and I still hear it to this day.
I know I wasn’t alone. So many of my peers experienced similar emotions, sensations, and reactions.
We Could No Longer Ignore the Problem
Sadly, this wasn’t the first tragedy we’d encountered that year – we lost other friends and colleagues as well.
But we knew we couldn’t stand to lose any more amazing people.
We couldn’t look away. We couldn’t just carry on anymore.
So we started talking.
I have been blown away by our internet marketing community. Many of us have never even met face to face and yet the comradery, the friendship, the support among us run rampant!
Never before have I seen a group of people come together so quickly and so openly as when we were forced to face this tragedy.
Groups were formed. Calls were made. Texts were sent. Face-to-face get-togethers were had. Columns like this one were created.
And the best part of it all? It didn’t stop!
We saw the need to stay connected. We recognized that we are a family that needs to support each other. And, perhaps most of all, we saw that we were not alone in our struggles.
It has been amazing to see the openness and honesty that has become so commonplace over the past year. I have seen people that once felt they couldn’t risk being seen without their mask on break down and lay themselves out in the most vulnerable ways.
I include myself in that list. I have become more able to reveal myself to the world around me. That has only been made possible by others sharing in that journey with me.
In leading up to this piece, I knew that I wanted to really find a way to focus on the positive changes that our community has seen because of Jordan Kasteler.
I wanted to honor him in a way that really brought some form of good to this incredible loss that we all experienced due to his passing.
Where Are We Now? Thoughts from Our Community
I reached out and asked a few people in our community if they would share some words of how they have been changed for the better as well as how they have seen our community as a whole making changes to support each other over the past year.
Here is what they had to say:
“Working days, nights, and weekends was normal for me a few years ago. However, at that time I couldn’t say that I was really happy. I didn’t understand at the time that my work-life balance was completely off, and I now know that that could have developed into something truly horrifying.
I eventually reached such an emotionally unstable point that I hit a time where one week I was super productive, but the following week I felt hugely demotivated and absolutely miserable. (I know this is a familiar story with many others as well, I hear people telling similar stories and sharing similar experiences regularly.)
Over the past while, I have been working diligently to save myself from this emotional trap. This new focus has led me to investing more time into things that are not related to work and putting more time into the things that help to create a happier life for myself.
I can see that more people in our community are becoming more aware of the need to make this sort of a switch to their schedules and priorities as well, which is brilliant to see!”
“In the past year, I have noticed a massive shift in our community not being ashamed to reach out and ask for help, advice, or just a kind word. I feel like masks have been dropped, and people are not embarrassed to discuss what makes them “real”; I love it!
I think many people used to feel they had to have public persona that was acceptable, and now they know we all have issues and it is OK to talk about.
I have a picture of Jordan out that I see every day. I moved past the guilt and the pain when I looked at it, and he is now a daily reminder to stay present with my friends as much as I can.
And, it is a reminder to me to stay focused on my well-being as well. I tend to overwork and do too much for everyone and end up exhausted. I take steps now to take care of me more than ever before.”
“Though I’ve been in the industry for years, I’m still a somewhat newer member of the SEO community. Call it fear of rejection, social anxiety, whatever, I’ve always been nervous to put myself in a position to be judged by my peers.
It really wasn’t until I was invited to an amazing Facebook group made up of a small close-knit group of industry peers focusing on supporting each other through the day-to-day struggles that I realized that nearly everyone shared the same fears, anxieties and experiences that I have.
What a relief it is to know there is a place where we share what we are feeling and have so much empathy! Finally I have a place I can turn to where people understand me.
Even if I don’t share as much as others, I have peace of mind knowing there are people there ready and willing to listen and help, where there’s no judgement, just open arms.”
“We’ve definitely made a lot of progress over the past year as a community. However, if I’m being completely honest, we still have a long way to go. I’m still hearing about issues of bullying. I’m seeing people piling on people they disagree with on Twitter.
While, thankfully, these are in the minority, the polarization and black-and-white thinking needs to stop. The judging and assuming needs to stop. The trolling and “mob mentality” needs to stop.
We need to stop fighting each other and start lifting each other up – treating everyone like human beings. Nobody is perfect, but I hope we will continue to see more people be able to let go of their hate and negativity to accept love and positivity into their lives. I know that will continue to be our aim with Friday Focus – to remind everyone that they are not alone in their struggles.
Ultimately, though, I am so happy to be a part of something so positive in our community – and it’s great to see so many others jumping onboard, too.”
Kim Krause Berg:
“It’s easy to assume that your peers are generally doing better than you, making more money than you, and are super successful in every way. It is only in the past few years that I realized this is baloney.
I respect people who remove their masks and show who they really are. We are people with lives and struggles, heartache, depression, and pain.
In the past year I have opened up more and made new friendships as a result. We have more in common with each other than we might think.”
“Over the past year I’ve seen an incredible shift in our community.
Social media itself breeds an environment where we see only the best of our peers and post the best of ourselves and being in marketing, needing to be on social media, needing to market ourselves on social media and seeing only the best version of those trained in presenting the best version of themselves – one can feel very alone in difficult times. Compounding that we face an often isolated profession where even sitting beside someone, we are focused on a screen and all they contain.
Sadly, we all know too well what that leads to, and over the past year we collectively recognized that we are human. That those around us are human. That others need support and perhaps most importantly, that we do too.
We finally heard the words spoken all too often after those tragic events, “If only they had asked for help.” And we took it upon ourselves to do so.
We finally knew to listen, to watch and to find out how those around us were doing, lest we face the loss of another friend who we would have dropped everything for, ‘If only they had asked for help.’
The community has grown it’s heart and soul over the past year.
There is still a lot to do. There are still many who don’t know where to turn. Many who don’t know who to talk to. But each time we reach out and each time we talk about challenges openly, share our own and listen to theirs … each time we do that, the community grows it’s heart a little more.
It has been a incredible year of change. While we will forever mourn the spark, the now burning fire keeps us all warmer.”
“One thing that has changed dramatically in our industry over the last year, is that as individuals, we’ve become a lot more vocal about asking for help when we need it.
I think most people are more than willing to help each other. They just have to know that someone needs help. Now that people are starting to open up more about their personal struggles, the community is able to better support them.”
I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you – whether I know you in person, whether I know you online, even if I don’t know you at all –- thank you for being here.
Thank you for caring and sharing and being a part of the positive change that we are all working so hard at creating.
Keep being a force for good in our community.
Together we will make a difference.
This piece is written in memory, honor, recognition, and gratitude of Jordan Kasteler.
For all that he gave us, shared with us, taught us, and left us with. We are eternally grateful.
***PLEASE DO NOT STRUGGLE ALONE! Reach out, ask for help and know that you are valued.
CLICK HERE for a list of phone numbers for Suicide Hotlines around the world.***
Featured Image Credit: Paulo Bobita