On Reflection: 2010 to 2020

 

As I write this, at the end of November 2019, I’m cooking my internal organs with a 101 fever, desperate for all of this flu to leave my body, and distracting myself with any tedious task I can (that doesn’t involve moving my pounding, migraine-filled head). About two hours ago I settled on the task of updating my resume. About 30 minutes ago I gave it a final look over. About 24 minutes ago I started to tear up.

Maybe it’s the cold medicine giving me a deluded sense of achievement, but I think it’s the radical feeling of true accomplishment that’s responsible for these waves of emotion.

I started this decade in high school. 2010 feels a lot further away than ten years, but maybe that’s because when each step is crossing a milestone the distance doesn’t just feel further, it really is. I was naïve at 16 years old, in 2010. I hadn’t applied to college, taken the SAT, or even started studying for it (in complete honesty I never studied for it). I hadn’t had my first boyfriend, hadn’t failed my first test, hadn’t lived away from home for longer than a week. I was sheltered and naïve to the fact that I was scared to live outside of the box I had drawn around my self.

By 2011, I was thrust into more “new” than I had experienced before. I went from living in a very red county to a very blue campus. I entered college with viewpoints I now cringe at. Those four years turned my life and beliefs 180 degrees. I went in a Republican, Christian, who truly believed that because we were all equal under the law that we were all equal in society. I graduated as a Liberal, Agnostic, who has a deep appreciation for the intersectional, social justice movement. But that rebirth, painful at is it was, was necessary. I sat in many a philosophy class as the representation for the dissent. I pushed my peers hard on their beliefs, much to their chagrin, out of curiosity. I don’t like to be wrong, but I appreciate it. If someone wants to tell me I’m wrong I won’t take it, but if they want to show me, I’ll welcome it. Philosophy was a class of ‘show me’ and ‘prove it’ to me, which is why I fell in love with the field.

Graduating in 2015 put me halfway through the decade but at square one of where I wanted to go. I ended up have a string of part-time jobs that, while I hated them at the time, I wouldn’t change for anything. Looking back they are the times I should have been more ambitious about all my hobbies. I should have focused on the present instead of the future. I had this idea, largely societally-influenced, that my life hadn’t truly started because I didn’t have a full-time job.  Imagining a scenario where I used that time to explore what I could be, who knows where I would be now. The majority of my part-time positions were in the customer service or food service industry, providing me with indispensable patience that has served me daily. The best part of 2015 was my introduction to the world of digital marketing. It provided me with the foundation of working in a small business, start-up atmosphere, how to maneuver in the digital space, what branding was and how to wield it powerfully and efficiently.

Those are the skills that got me my first full-time job in 2017, after 18 months of job-hunting. They are also the skills that carried the blog in its first year, 2018, when I needed a creative outlet.

Starting the blog in 2018 is the highlight of the decade for me. Finally stepping into something with two feet was a bold statement about who I am and where I want to go. I found out fairly quickly that a nine to five desk job is not a productive atmosphere for me and have used the blog as a creative outlet ever since. There is a large duality about how I look at the blog. It’s both a playful, sandbox mentality and a serious entrepreneurial outlook. I try all kinds of things on here, stretch myself, do and talk about what makes me happy and motivates me. Meanwhile, I work very hard to maintain a brand image that is respectable. I heavily vet brands that I work with, I track finances, metrics, and contracts meticulously. I see a lot of my parents in this approach. The playfulness of my dad, always expansive and looking for new projects, passions, and adventures balanced with the steadying nature of my mom. Much like their 35 year marriage (in 2020) it’s working beautifully and harmoniously.

The final year of the decade was the toughest of my life. At the end of 2018, we learned about several terminal illnesses in the family and over the course of nine months in 2019 we lost my uncle, grandmother, and grandfather. Experiencing so much difficulty pushed me to incredible introspection. It’s easy to feel guilty when being away from family during difficult moments, especially when loyalty is as important to you as it is to me, however, as my aunt reminded me: you have to live your life. You cannot rush or hold back your life for your family, it’s not what they want for you and it doesn’t benefit anyone in the long run. My growth this year, and in many ways this decade, can best be exemplified by my decision to renew my NYC lease and remain in the city I love. I highly considered returning to DC for proximity to my family, but made the decision to continue living in a place that I love and that makes me happy. It’s a selfish action that I’m proud of.

The beauty of life’s ebbs and flows really showed itself in the final week of the year. One week after losing my grandfather, my sister in law welcomed a new baby into the family. My first niece, my parents’ first grandchild, and a very special little person.

Welcome, little Kendall Joanna.

Welcome, 2020.

 

On Reflection: January 2019 Truths That Are No Longer Mine

 

As a society, we engage in a hypocritical game when it comes to growth.

We like to mock our previous selves with self-deprecating photos and jokes, mocking the authenticity we used to adore. While simultaneously urging growth and hustle and daily betterment in our present selves. When do the scales tip? When does the person you are today become a punchline? The answer should be never. Growth is stunningly beautiful, radically raw, and a gift we are given through our humanity.

In honor of my ever-evolving self, here are ten truths about me that felt self-defining in January of 2019, but are no longer true.

 

+ the NYC subway scares me {this one expired quickly, thank goodness}

+ I don’t want to have children {I don’t know when, but there was a switch and now I want three little rug rats — you’re welcome, Mom}

+ I am considering going back to hormonal BC {never again}

+ I don’t have a strong group of girlfriends {it’s never too late to make new friends}

+ I am struggling to see what unique thing I can offer to the blogging space {I am unique, therefore if I bring something authentic to me it’s inherently unique}

+ I have never kicked a rat {August 12, 2019 — never forget}

+ I feel guilty about moving away from my family {I did what was best for me and I know my family supports that}

+ I wrestle with imposter syndrome daily {it’s more of a once and a while thing now… and getting more and more infrequent}

+ I am not interested in being married until I am 30 {I’m interested in taking next steps when it feels right, regardless of age}

+ I don’t think I’ve accomplished enough, for my age {I’m proud of what I’ve done and where I’m going}

MY YEAR IN OBJECTS

12 little things that made up my year.

 

JANUARY {this apartment, and getting to choose it as I moved 250 miles from home}

 

FEBRUARY {the cinnamon on top of this latte, a last at my favorite DC café before the move}

 

MARCH {this pothos and all its propagated babies slowly filling my apartment}

 

APRIL {this sink of flowers, for the blog’s first international brand partnership with La Mer}

 

MAY {the greenery incasing this home in my neighborhood}

 

JUNE {this sunset, welcoming me home every evening}

 

JULY {this embroidery, crafted by my grandmother for all her grandchildren}

 

AUGUST {these noodles, for being one of the only things to get me out of the apartment on 100 degree days}

 

SEPTEMBER {these icecreams on a perfect beach day}

 

OCTOBER {this view at the end of every morning run}

 

NOVEMBER {this license, from when my grandfather was a Baltimore taxi driver in the 1950s}

 

DECEMBER {this first sourdough loaf, on the last day of the decade}

 

MY WEEK IN OBJECTS

no. 1 // this vintage end table, estimated to be from mid-century China and a beautiful new project

 

no. 2 // my new little niece, who’s photo won’t be coming to blog despite the fact that I have dozens of them already

 

no. 3 // my mother’s pies, for keeping tradition alive every Christmas

 

no. 4 // long backyard walks at my childhood home

 

other things:

Christmas is a feminist issue.

a reminder of the paradoxical issues in our society.

a win for workers.

tech that goes the extra mile for representation.

Personal Note: ethical brand relationships & more life

 

It was a nice slow day here at ASH (Akhlaghi-Shephard Home). Yesterday was a Wednesday that felt like a Sunday and today was a Thursday that felt like a Friday — must be a combination of short winter days and yesterday’s squall.

I took advantage of a slightly lighter workday (unheard of in Q4) and low-grade fever to indulge in a little “me time”. The blog got a major aesthetic update yesterday and I’ve been thinking more and more about its content, design, longevity, and where I want to go with it. Several months ago I decided that I was going to play out the brand contracts I had and focus on keeping all future contracts within my guidelines of ethical and representative companies. I’ve never wanted the blog to be simply a soapbox for myself, but rather a connection piece for advice, new ideas, and even material goods that are high-quality and consciously consumed.

The more I consider bringing more “lifestyle” into the blog, the more I’m realizing that I need to share more of my own life to do so. I’m naturally introverted and slightly more private about my goals and day to day life, but in the next chapter of WM I really want to bring you all with me.

Another goal of mine is to expand into more spaces and platforms. I gave Youtube a go (rip) and found that it wasn’t the right platform as I move forward. Maybe someday I’ll be a vlogger, today is not that day. However, I like the idea of having a space to share all my little favorite bits and bobs. A place where my day to day ideas, interests, and thoughts are reflected. Returning to my old Pinterest (which has been sitting unused since 2016) was a trip down memory lane. Reorganizing was a joy.

 

 

They have so many new features since the last time I was on (the “Sections” attribute really spoke to my Type A personality) and I had so much fun building little Boards and Sections and pinning away. I see why it’s catchy. This recipe, in particular, is calling my name but may have to wait. I have been patiently and methodically feeding my sourdough starter for nearly two weeks now to get it matured and flavorful and this weekend it is finally going to be time to bake this puppy into delicious loaves. I honestly cannot wait. I’ve completely shifted into soup mode — Seinfeld reference anyone? — and am looking for anything to dip my sourdough into.

That’s all for this little check-in. Admittedly this felt awkward to write, but I anticipate that’s the result of covering new terrain.

On My Mind: releasing past patterns

 

I’ve always been a things person. I like things, I surround myself with them and growing up in a large home in the country facilitated this. I grew up on over 10 acres of land, consistently surrounded by both nature and things. There’s a comfortability in it. I’m used to seeing a full basement of bits and bobs that my dad could use to solve any problem around the house. Or a full closet of treasures and memories that my mom could assemble into a last-minute Halloween costume, fix a busted seam, or turn into a new game.

At some point, I began to equate things with capability and comfortability. Things became a toolbox that I could use to solve my little problems here and there. Getting rid of them meant that I may need to repurchase in the future.

Moving to NYC a year ago begged me to reconsider this collecting mentality. I simply don’t have space. I cut my closet in half and was still bursting. I take up 2/3 of the closet shared with a partner (his patience with me continues to have limits I’ve yet to find) and have drawers stuffed with tees, tanks, bits and bobs. I’ve tried to move things here and there, reorganize, to no avail. I Marie Kondo’ed my home and still see the dreaded things everywhere. There’s only so much organizing can do for you when your home is bursting at the seams. I’ve decided that a sincere slim-down is in order. My closet, my home, the entire ASH is on a little diet.

This isn’t intended to be a New Year’s Resolution (as I truly don’t believe in them, which you can read about here) but there’s something about the end of a year — end of a decade — that begs us to reconsider decisions or lack thereof. I’ve managed to justify my consumerist behavior with the fact that I resell and donate my old bits, or hidden it underlayers of support for other global issues. “Maybe I over-shop, but I don’t use single-use plastic.” As if one can balance the other?

It can feel like living ethically is walking a tightrope, always someone to offend or some small action you’ve done incorrectly. I’ve watched people online be ripped apart in posts supporting a marginalized group with comments like “what about this group?” or “if you really believe that you wouldn’t have done X”. People make mistakes, grow, and learn, but the internet doesn’t like us to do that. We are constantly recorded and past actions held up like exhibits in a courtroom, by armchair social justice advocates. Even if you are looking to do the right thing, and move forward.

That being said, the fear of failure has never been something to hold me back from being boldly audacious in my goals. So a closet slim-down, swapping quantity for quality, is a movement I’m happy to take part in. There are a few things I have at the top of my to-do list.

 

take my grandfather’s old coat to a tailor to make it wearable for me.

investigate my tee shirt collection and aim to donate anything unworn in the past year.

take inventory of the storage closet & shelves.

slim down the storage unit, move the bikes into the apartment, and close the lease.

 

One by one I plan to cross them off and create a very different situation at ASH.

MY WEEK IN OBJECTS

no. 1 // this sunlight, streaming in Sunday morning as a little reminder of all the light despite the shadowy times it feels like I’m currently in

 

no. 2 // this photo, serving as a very special memory with my granddad, who we lost this week

 

no. 3 // our sourdough starter, Scooby 2.0 who is nearly matured and will be made into a beautiful loaf this weekend

 

no. 4 // this haircut, a both liberating and cathartic chop I gave myself 3 am because life is too short to wait for an appointment

 

other things:

justice.

a very special holiday tradition.

this word of the year.

holiday magic is killing us.

this nyc history in my backyard.

When I was 21, I Donated my Eggs {Full Egg Donation Story}

April 2015

As I wake up and try to blink my eyes open, I realize that I can’t, because after crying for about an hour they’ve been welded shut. It’s the same story every time I go under anesthesia. I cry as I get put under, I cry during, I cry after. I’m so thankful I warned the nurse that this would happen because as I finally get my eyes open I can see she nervously watching me, anticipating that I’m in serious pain. She tenderly hands me a saltine and encourages nibble after nibble.

He handles a few of the discharge aspects, sits with me as I get my bearings, helps me get dressed, and drives me home. And just like that a chapter of my life, something I’ve been participating in for about nine months, ends. A few weeks later I’ll get a call, be told that everything went well and asked if I would like to donate my eggs again.

 

Several Month Prior … Fall 2014

I knew I wanted to be an egg donor since I first learned it was a possibility. I had seen the commercials, explored the website, and found that I needed to be 21 to be eligible. A few weeks before my 21st birthday, in September of 2014, I submitted all the information to get started. I listed information about my background, height/weight/etc, birth control I was on, lifestyle choices (smoking, drinking, etc), and whether or not I had a history of pregnancy, STDs, etc. I noted that I would be 21 at the end of October and asked to be contacted at that time.

On Wednesday, November 12, 2014 I was notified that I had been accepted into the pre-screening process. The pre-screening is a three-step process that covers the medical and psychological aspects of donating your eggs. It’s also very educational and keeps you well-informed of the process and what it looks like.

 

 

I went in one day to get my baselines. It was a quick blood draw and vaginal ultrasound. They were checking on my bodily health and the health of my ovaries. I was compensated $50 and went home to wait and see if I was cleared for Donor Day.

About two weeks after I went in for baselines I was scheduled to attend Donor Day. Three other women in their 20s and myself spent the day together and learned about all the ins and outs of the donor process. Broadly that day can be broken into two facets: psychological and medical. Psychologically we took a MMPI test and briefly reviewed what the process would look like (in terms of length and mental strain). Medically we learned a ton about our cycles, short-term effects of the hormonal injections, and gave ourselves an injection of saline. Throughout the donation process we would need to inject ourselves daily with a hormone mixture so the clinic needed to be sure we weren’t squeamish about administering the injection.

The final stage of pre-screening was meeting with a social worker for a psychological consult to ensure that we understood that while this is a “genetic offspring” it was not our child and that we would be releasing any claims to the child. We also agreed to disclose to the facility if our medical history changed in the future (to keep the receiving family informed about their child’s future health). They reviewed all aspects of our MMPI test and pressed on certain answers, asking me to defend or explain an answer. The psychological review took about two and half hours for me. At its conclusion, I was compensated $450 and told that only about 3% of applicants advance past this stage.

 

December 2014

On Tuesday, Dec 30, 2014, I was notified that I was approved by my social worker and officially in the program. This meant that my profile went live on their database. Similar to a dating profile, families could sort through and “match” with me if they would like to receive my eggs. My profile included non-identifying information about my appearance, family medical history, psychological information, and a personal note that I could include. You had the option of including a photo and I chose to include several photos of myself as a baby, four-year-old, and adult. While this does remove a layer of confidentiality for myself I felt that it was important for the receiving family to have a chance to visualize their potential child.

Remembering how unruly my hair was as a child I included a joke about several detanglers they would need to purchase. I’m fairly sure that my humor (along with my age and photos) is what helped my profile get chosen so rapidly. Once I had three family matches I would be notified and then the actual donation process would begin. Typically this can take about four to six weeks, I received all my matches by the end of January. Once you are selected the next several processes (pills to injections to retrieval) move extremely quickly.

Once I was matched I started the stimulation cycle, in which I was given new birth control pills to take and a specific start date to begin the pack. This lasted about four weeks (February 2014) and synchronized my cycle with the women receiving.

 

March 2015

After completing cycle synchronization I started injections. These can last for 10-12 days, mine lasted 14. Each day I had to mix and administer an injection of hormones to my abdomen. The needle was tiny and it didn’t hurt, but I was dotted with smile-like pattern of bruises about my belly button. The hormones I was injecting were designed to stimulate my ovaries to mature a larger quantity of eggs than I typically would for a period. During each of your menstrual cycles, your body matures about 15-20 eggs within the follicles in your ovaries. Then your body chooses one egg to reach maturity and be released for ovulation. The other eggs stop growing and are discarded during your period. When you go through egg donation the injections you are administering tell your body to mature all the eggs in your follicles (15-20 instead of just one) and those eggs are then retrieved. In short, you are losing no more eggs than your body would typically put out and lose in a cycle.

There were a few side effects, similar to PMS. I had some cramping and a few mood swings (not atypical for me) and a lot of fatigue. I was exhausted every single day, most likely because my body was working in over-drive and I was in the midst of my college senior year, final semester, mid-terms.

 

Mid-February 2015 in the midst of my donation process. I was still training and performing with my dance team on a daily basis in addition to running 40 miles a week, studying for mid-terms, and writing a 100-page Philosophical thesis.

 

Throughout the process, I was getting nearly daily blood tests and vaginal ultrasounds that measured the size of my ovaries. They were to monitor the medications and confirm that they were working well, dosing was accurate, and to maintain my wellbeing as a donor. Because my ovaries were getting so large during this process I was told to stop running as it would heighten my risk for ovarian torsion. Initially, the visits were every other day. As my body got closer to a potential retrieval date the visits became every day.

 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

On Tuesday, April 21 I was told that my eggs were ready for retrieval and that tomorrow would be the day. Because I was going to be put under I had to stop eating and drinking at midnight (like any anesthesia procedure). My retrieval time was 6:45 am. All the retrieval times are early morning and the receiving women are scheduled later in the day. That day was a bit of blur.

I went in super early, was seen immediately, had my blood test and ultrasound. Once it was confirmed that I was at the proper part in my cycle I was called back into a room that strongly resembled a surgery room, put under and woke up about an hour later, process completed. To retrieve the eggs a physician used a transvaginal ultrasound probe to guide a needle into each ovary and remove the egg in each follicle. The retrieval itself lasted only 20-30 minutes and at its conclusion I was told they were able to retrieve 31 eggs. In-facility recovery lasted about an hour, I got a little anti-nausea medication (my stomach is not a fan of anesthesia) and sent home. In its entirety, I spent about three hours at the retrieval facility that day. I received a check that day for $6,500 and a small gift: a bracelet with a charm that read simply, “Give”.

The retrieval itself doesn’t leave a mark (aside from the bruises from my injections) as there aren’t any incisions, but my body definitely knew that something had happened. I went home and slept for most of the day with moderate cramping. It just felt like a day you’d want to spend in bed with a heating pad. I emailed my professor for an extension for my sculpture (it was due the next day, April 23rd), which was denied, and at 11 pm drove myself back to college. At 2 am on Thursday I was in the studio, up to my elbows in plaster, completing the project for my 8 am class. Definitely not the ideal 24 hours post-retrieval, but a good example of how resilient your body can be and how low-stress donating was for me.

 

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, I decided not to donate my eggs again. The timing didn’t work out for me later in life and it was the right decision for me to be a one-time donor. That being said, being a donor was an incredibly special and fulfilling experience. I wouldn’t change it for the world. Knowing that a family or families out there have a special little someone (who is turning five this year!) is incredibly rewarding.

I get a lot of questions about why I decided to do it and I don’t know how else to explain it but a calling, like I had a duty to do it. I have friends who utilized donor services, friends who had trouble conceiving, friend born of egg donation, and I’ve watched families want a baby so badly. I could help, so I did. I’m not a martyr, it just seemed like the right thing to do, I had a gift that I could give.

 

 

FAQs

How much were you paid for the retrieval?

I was compensated a total of $7,000, prior to taxes (totaling approximately $1,100).

 

How did the hormones affect you?

Truthfully, they didn’t affect me very much on an emotional level. Throughout the hormone injection process, I was dating someone and we didn’t have any major arguments or issues. I would have expected to see an emotional issue show up in the relationship, but nada. The hormones we take are the same that your body naturally produces, just at a different ratio to sync your cycle with the women receiving the eggs and mature more eggs. After the retrieval, my period was irregular for two months and then everything normalized. Within eight to ten weeks it was just a memory and I didn’t feel any different.

 

Will you be able to have your own kids someday?

Yes, there is no evidence that donating your eggs will have an adverse effect on your fertility. However, there isn’t enough research to say there are no long-term side effects.

 

Do you know your kids from the donation? Or can you meet them someday?

No, this is done similar to a closed adoption. Once I donate I relinquish all rights to my eggs and any children that come from them. This is something that I want to make super clear: these are not my kids. Genetically they have my DNA, but that’s where our “connection” ends. The only time we would have a channel of communication in the future would be through the agency and only if there was pertinent medical information. For example, earlier this year I went through testing for Celiacs. If those tests had come back positive I would have reported to the agency that I tested positive and they would have communicated this to the receiving families. There would never be direct communication between myself and the families.

 

How long until you felt “normal” again?

Pretty much the next day! I was back at college and in class like nothing had happened. Actually, no one at college knew I was even going through this process. Aside from some lingering PMS-like symptoms (for about two days) and an irregular period, I felt like myself.

 

Will you run out of eggs earlier now? Like, hit menopause sooner?

No. It’s a common misconception that egg donation=losing eggs. The reality is that every period you are losing multiple eggs, this was all reviewed on Donor Day to keep us fully informed of the process. Quick science lesson, as a woman you are born with your lifetime supply of eggs (about one to two million). When you reach puberty you have closer to 400,000 eggs. During each of your menstrual cycles, your body matures about 15-20 eggs within the follicles in your ovaries. Then your body chooses one egg to reach maturity and be released for ovulation. This is how you get pregnant. If your body releases two and both are fertilized this is how you would have fraternal twins. The other eggs stop growing and are discarded during your period. When you go through egg donation the medication you receive tells your body to mature all the eggs in your follicles (15-20 instead of just one) and those eggs are then retrieved. The retrieval itself fits nicely into your natural cycle and (in short) you are losing no more eggs than your body would typically put out and lose in a cycle.

 

On Reflection : A Letter to My 16-Year-Old Self

Dear 16-Year-Old Me,

I have good news for you.

After ten years of having your license you still have not caused a car accident. You will be rear-ended in a few months, you will experience a car breaking down on you more than 20 times, but you’ll learn a lot about cooling systems, jump-starting a dead battery, and how to know when the guy at the Chevy Chase BP is trying to pull one over on you. Dealing with auto shops as a solo 16-year-old young woman will teach you to stop being so trusting. It’ll toughen you up more than you realize.

But right now you aren’t thinking about that. Right now, you’re just extremely excited about that party coming up. Fair warning, it will not be like the movies. Not even close. The police will bust the party, it will make national news, and you’ll nearly get hypothermia hiding in the woods (okay maybe a little like the movies, but not in the way you hope). The K9 dog that finds you will lick your face and be such a comfort. His name is Red and when you have to blow a breathalyzer in front of Dad he’ll stand next to you. Somehow, you’ll blow a 0.0 and get to go home. And then, you’ll get to experience one of the best parenting moments of your life.

You’ll wait at home, standing in the kitchen, anticipating the brutal verbal lashing you’re in for. When Dad gets home he’ll just say eight words: “You know that was really stupid, don’t you?” and then send you to bed. That moment will stick with you for a long time. You know how close you came to getting kicked off the track team right before states, you know you put your college acceptance in jeopardy, and Dad knew that you did. You’ll start to carefully measure the risks you take. You’ll still make some pretty bold moves over the next decade, but you’ll have carefully calculated just how much you’re risking.

A couple weeks later you’ll have a heart to heart with Mom that you think about every day. She’ll tell you about all the potential she sees for you and you’ll start to see it too. You’ll realize how close college is and how expansive that is. Don’t be overwhelmed, be enthused. Let yourself be full of passion and potential and energy. Explore every nook and cranny of who you and who you may become.

 

with my varsity XC team

 

99% sure this was at a cast party…

 

I want to talk to you a little bit about friends. There will be a lot of people that go in and out in your life over the next ten years, especially as you leave for college, but there will be one that will stay. You will be one of the lucky few people to have a friend that lasts longer than a decade. You will share laughs, tears, and deep details about who you are with this amazing woman. You will grow out of the place of jealousy you can regress into and be genuinely happy to watch your friend achieve so much. You will learn how to be happy with you, instead of pining to be someone else. Your friends will teach you how to genuinely rejoice in another’s success. You will grow into an extremely empathetic person because of it. You will feel deeply and because of that, you will hurt deeply.

You’re only 16, so you haven’t had your heart broken yet. Maybe you thought you had when your middle school boyfriend broke up with you via the carnations that every other girl was getting as a gesture of love, but you haven’t. You haven’t had that moment when he tells you it’s over and the floor drops out. That moment when your blood feels heavy as lead in your veins. You won’t have that series of moments of seeing him every day on your tiny college campus, crossing paths and sharing classes. You have two more years before you’ll truly get hurt. Consider yourself immensely lucky. When it comes to love, run your own race. I’m so proud of you for never stressing about other people having experiences before you or thinking that you were “behind”. Remember, you’re always right on time for your own life. And when you curse ever even considering locking into a degree at SMCM (a school you are now so eagerly applying to) remember that it’s the place you’ll be both hurt and healed.

 

the theatre quintet in Les Miserables – five best friends that did nearly every show together

 

Be patient with yourself. Be kind and generous and accepting. You will have a rough time in your late teens, early 20s. You will struggle with an ED, you will have your heart broken, you will see a very ugly side of the world. But for now, just relish the bliss of your ignorance and stay hopeful for everything to come. You are growing into someone who is fiercely independent and confident and capable. It’s a beautiful thing, but don’t let it make you think that vulnerability is equivalent to weakness. Ask for help, ask for support. You’re going to need it.

Be authentic. Learn appreciation without expectation. And do not give up on us because we get (or are getting) there.

 

So much love,

M

 

PS: I know you didn’t PR at States, but you will next year 😉

PPS: Get a haircut specifically for curly hair and let the ringlets rage.

PPPS: Stop plucking your eyebrows.

Personal Note: adapt. react. readapt. apt.

*100 Schrute Bucks to anyone who gets that reference*

 

Let’s get into it. A few weeks (months?) ago I took about five full days away from IG and it finally gave me the space to realize what I want to change about how I interact with the app, what I bring to it, and what I takeaway. I feel like the internet is full of these “epiphany” style posts, and that’s not what this is, this is a pivot.

On a walk last night, I started to spiral into my “here’s where the blog is and here’s where I want it to go” chats and found I was repeating myself, and that I had been repeating myself for weeks. I don’t see the future of the blog on Instagram. Do I see a presence there? Absolutely. Do I see it being the money-maker, the main focus? Not at all. In the past few months, I’ve spent so much time worrying about it and focusing on it that it’s pulling from what I truly love to do: write.

The blog is my website. Let’s pause and let that soak in. It’s my website. It’s my space to create, write, edit, adapt, react, readapt, apt. I do everything here for you. I want to create something that is worth your time and energy to read. I want you to gain something of substance from it, even if that thing you gain is “she is so wrong and here’s why…” I don’t see that same impact on an IG feed post.

When I started blogging it was as a creative outlet and I think I viewed “making it” as having tons of sponsored IG content, brand deals, promo codes, etc. Money, money, money. I’m currently in that position, where I continually have to turn down brand deals because I cannot take on the workload being offered to me. I feel so fortunate to get to work with such amazing brands and the volume has allowed me to be highly selective in who I work with. I prioritize working with companies that are led or founded by women, particularly women of color, and love every moment. I never work with fast fashion companies. I investigate every company I work with and ask myself “Can I ethically support and encourage others to support this type of a company, brand, CEO?” That is absolutely something that I want to continue in the future. Sharing those types of brands with you all is incredibly important to me and I want to expand and share them not only on IG but here as well.

So, on Instagram, to sum up, we’re having fun, you look young…but that’s not enough (another TV reference I hope you get). I’ve spent the past few weeks shifting my focus from IG to the blog and I am more in love with this space than I have been before. I’m turning down a lot of brand deals because they don’t want content on the blog, they just want a pretty photo on IG. Which I find a little odd because sure I have 13.8K followers on IG but the exposure of each post is maybe 1.2K. On the blog, I have over 20K monthly visitors, with each post getting about 2.4K views.

In the future, I am planning on pulling back slightly on IG content, specifically on the constant stories posting and focusing more on the blog. I’d love to build to posting 3-4 times a week and if that means not posting every single day on IG or seeing my IG followers count fall then I’m fine with that. My heart is, and has always been, in writing and creating. I love writing and editing, designing shoots, I love reading your messages, I love chatting with you all, I love hearing how you’re implemented my advice. I love every moment of this world. What I don’t love is when a pressure to post something, anything, on IG to compete with an algorithm.

It makes me stressed.

It strips the joy of creating, which is why I’m here in the first place.