Today marks the day one year ago that Mal the Beef Gal went “viral”. I’m still not certain there’s a specific definition for the term viral, other than something that takes off at an exponential rate beyond anyone’s control, or desire. That, and the fact that companies are searching for the key to “going viral” daily. Unfortunately, as far as I know, the search is still on.

Almost 170,000 views later I’m proud to report:  I’m still me. After my blog post went viral I didn’t sprout wings, gain an extra life, or win a million dollars. I’m just a girl with an opinion that others felt passionately about as well. I happened to strike a nerve at the right place at the right time, unknowingly, and only a little bit on purpose. I am humbled by the amount of support I received (and continue to receive) for that post, and along the journey I learned many lessons. I’ve been thinking about this anniversary post for months now, and today something told me to check the calendar. So I did, and it was time. After much reflection on which angle to take, which stories to share, and how to commemorate such a monumental event in my life, I decided to compile a list of the lessons I learned throughout this experience. I hope that they help you with blogging or just life in general.

First thing’s first– I wrote the post, because I saw an opportunity to fill a gap, express my opinion, and hopefully educate others in the process. Contrary to popular belief, I was not paid to write it, nor did I gain anything from writing the post, except for a thicker skin and lots of love and new friendships. Here are some tips from my story.

Stick to your guns. At times I literally found myself asking “Who am I?” “Should I change my mind?” “Should I take the post down?” It was almost a constant struggle of back and forth in my mind, because of the responses the post was gathering. “Keep advocating for agriculture! We need more like you!”–keep it up. “You’re an idiot, and we’re all dumber for having read your words.” –take it down. “Malorie, will you help me start my own blog? You’ve inspired me.” — keep it up. “Mal, do yourself a favor, and jump off a bridge.” –take it down. Up, down, up, down; the cycle was viscous. But no matter how confusing it got, I stuck with my guns. I only added an intro to the original post explaining the situation, because I don’t post a blog unless I am 100% completely satisfied with it, and I couldn’t bring myself to undo what I had meant to write the way I wrote it.

There are rock stars in your circle. Those who are in your network will go to bat for you, no matter the situation. Even if it’s to kindly tell some guy who told you to jump off a bridge to back off. The outpouring of support and encouragement throughout the process of the “My Beef with Carrie Underwood” post, and its travels to all four corners of the world, was unbelievable. One day you’ll have the chance to return the favor to those who reached out to you when you needed them most. Do so with an eagerness to repay them for what they did for you. A simple “Keep up the good work” goes a long way in a hectic situation.

Some people are plain mean. Don’t let mean people get you down. Period. There’s a difference between someone teasing you, because they know you and a complete stranger putting you down in an irrational fit of anger. Sometimes you will strike a nerve, but chances are it’s for a good reason. Sometimes it just takes opening someone’s eyes to a situation to initiate a dialogue, other times it takes letting the interaction go, because in the end it’s not worth it to waste your time and energy. Simply put:  if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.

Stay positive even when it’s tough. I remember two days after the blog originally posted, I was invited to speak to the San Luis Obispo County California Women for Agriculture about my experience. I had originally planned to respond to every comment that the blog received, but instead, I found myself wallowing in the masses of words that readers had written in response to the blog–both encouraging and devastating. When I finally pulled myself away from the computer, ate my first meal in basically a day, and drove to Templeton, on my way there the sun came out from beneath a cloud. I cried. Sobbed, actually. The symbolism in that moment was so overwhelming that I couldn’t hold it back any longer. The whole process was fairly emotionally draining. I’m actually surprised my then-new-to-me boyfriend stuck it out with me like he did. He’s still around, so I guess it didn’t startle him too badly. I’m convinced it’s because I care and you care. But some folks didn’t, and chose to voice that opinion. Fair is fair, but at least be nice about it. Even when you think you can’t, keep your chin up, because someone will notice your job well done, and you will become stronger for it.

and the biggest lesson of all–

Keep on keeping on. It’s a year later and I’m still an advocate for agriculture. It’s deep in my roots, and it’s where I belong. There is nothing I love more than helping others find ways to share their stories, because your story is unique to you. If you have a story to tell, shout it from the roof tops. Who knows? Maybe it will accidentally go viral, and you’ll be a stronger person because of it!

Here’s to those of you who follow my blog and provide encouraging words as we go along. I can honestly say, I wouldn’t have gotten through April 22, 2013, and about the 72 hour period after that, without you.

Here’s to standing up for what you believe is right, finding the creativity to share your story, and above all, keeping your chin up along the way and you’ll never be led astray.

With much gratitude,

Mal the Beef Gal