Our social media director, Sarah Tuttle-Singer, reminded us this week in a Facebook post about how her life has changed since she published her first post with The Times of Israel.

That got me thinking — how has my life changed since getting published? In a lot of ways. In fact it looks nothing like it did two years ago much less one year ago, and of course, all roads lead back to Sarah.

Two years ago in what was at the time my semi new, fledgling store; I was struggling to put on a happy smile when really I was overwhelmed and scared I wasn’t going to make it. I was depressed from the crappiest of break ups and considered it an accomplishment to get out of bed (if I did).

One particularly crappy day, while working, I decided that crawling under my desk to sob and cry it out would comfort me.

It didn’t.

At that moment, an email alert dinged from my desk with a message from a client who had just bought an outfit from me for her son’s bris. It contained a blog Sarah had written about “The Rabbi and the Vibrator”. She thought I might get a kick out it.

Holy shirts and pants.

It might have been my half-baked delirium but I laughed reading it until I nearly pissed myself. I then, of course, tracked back and read all of her Kveller posts convinced that while I didn’t have kids, I wasn’t married, and I didn’t move to live on a kibbutz in Israel, here was a person who wrote about pain, life, and uncertainty in a way that made me feel less alone and a little bit more connected.

I then did something I’d never done before to a stranger- I found her on Facebook and friend requested her. She accepted and I’m pretty sure what I wrote her was half love letter/ half OMG, I need to hug you. The stench of desperation was totally there. (And she didn’t judge me for it!)

But we became friends and as Sarah changed jobs, she kindly put out a call for writers to guest blog at the places she went. Sarah always took care to lift up those around her and share the opportunities as she could. When I submitted to her my first post I never thought that she would like it, much less pass it on to be published. She told me I was a good storyteller.

Photo via Audrey Bellis' Instagram

My desk where I blog with my sidekick. Photo via Audrey Bellis’ Instagram

A year passed and we saw more stability on both of our ends. She soon made her way to The Times of Israel and at her encouragement I submitted my first post. I could have never imagined it would become one of the top 10 read posts in 2012 (barely scraping onto the list at #10) or how it was going to change my life. Since writing for The Times of Israel in the last 10 months, I have:

  • met an incredible amount of people both online, and in real life that have made me feel incredibly welcomed into a Jewish community that I previously felt excluded from.
  • met people that have become dear friends and confidants.
  • written a book, that thanks to a TOI reader who reached out to me, might actually see the light of day and be published to sit on a real life bookshelf
  • had the opportunity to write for Huffington Post Women, thanks to another reader that reached out to me. When Arianna Huffington herself actually replied to the email- I nearly choked to death. When that first post received over 200 comments- I was so shocked anyone even read it that it still amazes me. (PS- It was very awkward to tell my parents that I had chosen to talk about my sex life with the internet in a very “Hannah way”. They still avoid talking about it.)
  • joined a New Jersey start up team called Meddle. Blogging helped to define and showcase my voice which I will now use to aide in the development of the Meddle voice.

But most importantly, I was vulnerable. I’ve been told by men and my mother that:

I was never capable of letting anyone in, or willing to let my guard down.

Here, at The Times of Israel, I’ve done exactly that. I’ve been able to write about my infertility for the first time, about heartache, joy, and about struggling to find a spiritual inner peace.

I receive emails almost every day via my website and through Facebook from people that are being equally vulnerable in reaching out. I have heard incredible stories and been humbled to tears by other people who have chosen to share their own struggles with me.

I’m not the only blogger Sarah, and The Times of Israel has taken a chance on, but I’m grateful for the opportunity they have given me and for all the roads I would have never known without them. I think of Sarah as my Fairy (writer) Godmother, but cooler (and in hooker boots). Somewhere in Israel she casts out sparkles from a magic wand and her encouraging ways have made us all better writers along the way. She leads by example.

They say opportunities are made, not given. All my roads lead back to this place and the TOI’s greatest mitzvah has been creating opportunities for writers to share their work. I may not get paid to blog, but because of my blogging, I have known greater abundance and for that I will always be grateful.