Take a Break

Take a Break

You make your plans and life makes other ones for you.  

I had no intentions of taking a social media break at all this summer.  I blogged while on vacation and was planning to start my job, settle into my new place, and keep going with the blog as usual.  Life didn’t think that was the best plan for me and I decided to follow that cue: I took a two week break from my blog and Instagram.  

The break happened naturally– I would sit down to write, but I didn’t have the words or energy to say anything.  To put it simply, I was experiencing complete burn out. I blogged through the school year, finals, and then my vacation.  I felt like I was blogging because I had to, but I didn’t feel like I was creating content I was truly proud of. I felt like I had gotten to a point where I wasn’t being a service and I was a bit lost from my own personal mission statement of serving others, as my mind focused more and more on growth and following.

So, when life got busy and the words escaped me, a break felt like the exact move I needed to take.  And, not having social media did make a difference. I could take more effort to settling into my new house and new job.  I could spend time with friends and be fully in the moment, not thinking about my posting schedule. And the amazing part was that during this break, I felt my creativity skyrocket again.  I constantly was having ideas for blog posts and Instagram photos and stories. I felt like I could see why I started blogging again: to share my life in the hopes of helping someone else.

So, I recommend taking a break every once in a while.  In a culture that praises hustling and hard work, taking a break feels almost impossible.  But, when you push yourself constantly, you burn out. You need the break to recharge and find your direction again.  You might find yourself feeling better than you ever did at the end of it.

 

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Exploring Southern California: Studio Tours (Part Three)

Exploring Southern California: Studio Tours (Part Three)

A little known fact about me is that I am a bit of a movie junkie.  I absolutely love going to the movies and I basically live for Oscar season.  For this reason, I was SO excited to go to LA and have the opportunity to tour the studios where magic happens.  I had the opportunity to go on three different studio tours: Sony Pictures, Universal Studios, and Warner Brothers.  I enjoyed each of these tours. Here’s the details and differences of each one:

Sony Pictures: This tour definitely takes a more historic approach, which I was very excited about as entertainment history is what I want to specialize in.  The tour begins with a video and a stop to the Sony Pictures museum, which includes the Seinfeld set and various costumes and props used in movies like the Spiderman films.  We learned about how this lot came to be Sony Pictures and the history of both MGM and Columbia Pictures. The lot is formerly MGM’s but unfortunately, the studio sold off many of its sets, props, and costumes when it hit financial difficulties and it is unknown where these items ended up.  The lot does still have many small details that honor this past– the office buildings, which were once apartments for the stars, are named after the stars who lived in the buildings (my favorite to see was the Hepburn Building, named for Katharine Hepburn, who I am named after– my mom is also a huge movie fan).  The next stop on the tour was the Jeopardy! Set.  The set was much larger than I had ever imagined and I was able to take a picture at one of the previous podiums.  Next, we visited the set of The Goldbergs.  Seeing this set was so cool, as it is such a unique set and show, with much of the decorations being from the creator’s actual home.  Finally, we walked the backlot and saw many of the cars used in films, including the cars from Ghostbusters. This studio felt the most like a working studio and if you’re lucky, you might even get a celebrity sighting! I would definitely recommend this tour, especially if you are interested in entertainment history and the old golden age of Hollywood.

NOTE: This is a 2-hour walking tour.

Universal Studios: This tour is located within the theme park Universal Studios: Hollywood and feels much more like a ride than the other two tours.  You board a very large tour bus and begin to go through the backlot of Universal. We visited the streets of New York first before going into our first piece of immersion: a 3D King Kong experience meant to demonstrate the power of special effects.  I was a bit disappointed here to find that this experience was simply a snippet of the King Kong ride located in Universal Studios in Orlando. We drove by some of the famous cars used in film, before going to Little Mexico where movie rain and flooding was demonstrated to us.  We saw a set for Jaws, which was not used for Jaws but rather Murder, She Wrote, before seeing a backlot for a scene of Jurassic Park.  We drove down the road where town scenes are filmed and continued to Whoville.  The buildings in Whoville are actually made of styrofoam to get the weird shapes!  We also saw the sets for Bates Motel and the destroyed plane in War of the Worlds.  The ride ends with taking you through another 3D experience: the Fast and Furious ride (it is a replica of the Orlando version).  This was the shortest tour we took, being an hour long, and was the most ride-like.

Warner Brothers: This tour is part walking and part driving cart, a combination of the other two we took.  We started by seeing a cabin that has been used in True Blood and Hart of Dixie.  I am a big Hart of Dixie fan and was amazed at how they transformed this cabin into the beloved Rammer Jammer.  Next, we visited the part I was most excited for: Midwest. Midwest is used to represent any town and can famously be recognized as Bluebell in Hart of Dixie, Rosewood in Pretty Little Liars, and my personal favorite, Stars Hollow in Gilmore Girls.  We got to get off and walk around here, going into the inside of Lorelai Gilmore’s house (spoiler: it’s also Sookie’s house) and seeing how they used these houses to film.  We also saw the house used for Fuller House here and the streets used for the Jersey scenes of Jersey Boys.  Next, we visited the streets of New York followed by a prop museum.  This museum held props from Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Harry Potter, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. We also got to see the Batmobiles throughout the years.  The guided tour ends and you enter an interactive area where you get to learn about filmmaking.  Here, you can see costumes from the new A Star is Born, take a picture on the set of Friends, and hold an Oscar.  This was the longest tour we took, clocking in at 3 hours. I really enjoyed this tour and would definitely recommend it, especially for younger girls, as many of the sets you see are aimed at this age group.

Overall, I enjoyed each of the tours.  I would recommend trying to check them all out but if you are pressed for time, I would definitely do either the Sony or Warner Brothers tour.  Both of these give great insight into the behind-the-scenes magic that occurs on the movies.

 

The Cherry Blossom Festival & My Second Spring Style Essential

The Cherry Blossom Festival & My Second Spring Style Essential

My favorite season in D.C. is cherry blossom season.  It makes this city feel so magical, as there are pink and white flowers everywhere you look.  I was so sad last year that I missed this special time of year while doing my college program, but that just made me so excited to see it this year.  The wait was worth it, because everything fell into place this weekend– my mom was in town for a visit, the kite blossom festival was happening on Saturday (without us even knowing it), and the weather was absolutely perfect.  Everything about yesterday made me fall just a little bit more in love with this beautiful place. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the day:

I’m also so excited for the second installment of my spring essentials with another classic piece, the denim jacket.  I love denim jackets and can almost always be found in the spring and fall to be wearing one. I love the look of denim jackets over summer dresses, as I think it can make a nicer dress look a bit more casual. I also love how you can make a denim jacket fit your personality– you can embroider the back, wear a plain classic jacket, or find one in colored denim, like my spring pink jacket.  

I bought my classic denim jacket from Ann Taylor Loft– it is $89.50 but is currently on sale for 50% off.  My pink denim jacket is also from Ann Taylor Loft, but is currently out of stock.  Land’s End has a great alternative available though for $53.97 right now.

Here’s how I’ve styled denim jackets:

 

Happy spring and I hope you enjoy seeing many more colorful outfits in the future!

 

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About My Blogging Experience: Part One

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About My Blogging Experience: Part One

The past few days on my Instagram story, I’ve been running a Q&A all about blogging, photography, and Instagram.  In fifteen seconds, I did not always have as much as time as I wanted to answer questions so, I’m sharing some longer answers here!

Q: How and why did you start blogging?

A: I started my first blog in June 2017 as a summer passion project– it focused on finding the uncovered history stories in my home county, Westchester, NY.  I loved writing this blog for the summer and spent every Friday and Saturday exploring new spots with my mom. However, I knew this type of schedule was unsustainable for when I was at school, so I decided to put that blog away (for the meantime, I may bring it back at some point). Fast forward through a few failed attempts to get back into blogging, I finally committed in summer 2018 that I was going to blog again, but I needed it to be something that was sustainable in my life and I was truly passionate about.  I kept feeling that I wanted to do something to break down the perfection complex of social media, while also helping people to find happiness in everyday– and so, the Self-Care Diaries were born. This was meant to be a place of celebration for successes but also acceptance and understanding for failures. Since launching this blog in October 2018, things have changed a bit: I’ve realized that this first goal I had of wanting to show reality online and find the good in everyday could expand far beyond just self-care.  Still, this idea is what drives everything I do with my social media presence and blog.

Q: How do you find the time to blog while being a college student?

A: I want to be completely honest: sometimes, it’s really hard.  I try to be reasonable with myself at all times and remember that I am a full time college student, not a full time blogger.  So, if I know I have a stressful week of papers and tests, I will set my expectation for the week that I will write one blog post and publish two Instagrams.  If I have a lighter week, I set my plan for the week to involve more content creation– maybe, two blog posts, three Instagram posts, and some interactive Instagram stories.  I also do set time in my schedule that is designated blog time. During those times, I will just focus on my content creation, whether that is blogging, taking and editing photos, or working on my content calendar.

Q: How do you come up for ideas for blogs when you feel stuck?

A: I have a few strategies for this.  First, whenever I get an idea, I immediately write it down on a note I have on my phone where I keep all my blog related content, including post ideas, quotes, and captions.  This way, later on, when I am staring at my blank document with NO idea what to write, I can look to this note and see some ideas that I may have forgotten about or passed on in the past.  Secondly, I really try to crowdsource for ideas when I’m stuck. I ask my Instagram followers in polls what they would like to see and what they wouldn’t like to see. I also see what other bloggers are talking about and think about if I have a response I would like to share, or if I can bounce off their idea somehow.  I also pay attention to the DM conversations I’ve had on Instagram– are people continually bringing up a topic to me? Is this something I would be passionate about writing about? Usually, at the end of this process, I have a topic I am really excited to write and share about.

This post has already gotten very long, so I am going to cut it off at that question but I will try to answer some blog-related questions here every week or so.  

 

Finding Intention on Social Media

Finding Intention on Social Media

Intention (n)- an aim or purpose

This word has been on my mind a lot lately in regards to almost everything in my life right now: my career path, my blog, my extracurricular involvement, and even just my interactions with others.  In each of these, what is my intention? What is my purpose, my end goal?

It is so easy to lose sight of intention in this busy and loud world and nowhere is that easier than social media.  Whether you’re a blogger or just someone who enjoys Instagram, you joined social media and use it for a reason. Maybe, it’s to stay informed about your friends lives and better connect with them, maybe it’s to promote a business or idea, or maybe it’s a learning space to you where you can connect with resources.  Most likely, when you’re scrolling Instagram or putting together your latest caption, you aren’t thinking of this reason. You aren’t thinking about your purpose for being on social media, and that’s not your fault. In fact, social media encourages us not to think about our purpose.

Social media is paradise for a micromanager.  Every detail matters on social media and none can be too well thought out.  Think about presets. I have spent a ridiculous amount of time in the last two months working on my presets, trying to get the tone, tint, and lighting of my photos exactly perfect and make it so that my feed is cohesive.  The crazier part is that presets are an industry: people are selling them constantly and more and more bloggers are making videos/blogs about how they edit their photos with presets.

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This is my Lightroom account right now– it features many photos I’ve never posted and many photos edited in one to two different presets.

Maybe, you haven’t gone into the preset world or engaged with them in any way, but you still probably fall into the social media micromanaging.  At dinner yesterday with a friend, we spent part of our meal analyzing his photos and why they hadn’t been getting as many likes as usual. We went through every detail in these photos.  Were they posted at a topically relevant time? Was the photo aesthetically pleasing or confusing? Were they posted at a high traffic time for Instagram? My friend is not even super into social media and found himself on social media’s micromanaging island.

When you’re constantly thinking about the details, it’s hard to remember there’s a big picture to even think about.  Personally, this is my greatest weakness in all aspects of my life, but social media definitely exacerbates it for me.  Sometimes, you need to take a step back though and think back to that original reason why you’re on social media. For me, I created my  Instagram in the eighth grade, when the app was not even two years old yet. I joined because I wanted to be able to connect and share photos with friends– at the time, I followed about 10 people who I went to school with and the app felt like our collective photo album.  This fall, when I started my blog, my reason for Instagram became to create a positive place of honesty, sharing, and growth.  I was frustrated with how negative and purposeless a place social media, in particular Instagram, had become and I wanted to do something to change it for others, in whatever way I could.  

My intention for all my social media– my blog, my instagram, my twitter, and my pinterest– is to be always be a place of kindness and honesty.  I challenge you to think about your own intentions for social media. If you’re lost on where to even start, here’s some captions to ask yourself:

  1. What reason made you download Instagram or whatever social media app you’re thinking about?
  2. What are you proud of on your social media?  Is it the artistic nature of your photos, your witty captions, or your interactions with friends or followers?
  3. Do you feel like your in-person persona matches your social media presence?  Is your social media presence helping you to be the person you want to be?
  4. How can your social media help you in your goals as a person?  Can it help you be a better friend, a better resource, or a better professional?
  5. Are you happy with your social media presence?  If not, why not and what can you do to change it?

 

 

Living My Truth: Being Vulnerable on Social Media

Living My Truth: Being Vulnerable on Social Media

“Love Yourself Instead of Loving the Idea of Other People Loving You”

I saw this quote come up on my Instagram feed and I immediately felt seen.  This quote encapsulated my struggle so well, so I shared it on my story. When a friend reached out then saying she related and started telling me her story, I felt I had to share my own story– I had to share why this quote meant so much to me and touched me so much.

So, I sat down on my bedroom floor (the spot with the best lighting in my apartment) and I recorded a video about losing myself sophomore year of college.  I had the perfect life on the surface– a big group of friends, leadership on campus, a great internship, and good grades– but, I was still so unhappy. I felt lost.  I was at a point of doubt with my religion and I was seriously questioning if God was real and if He was, did it even matter? I made a lot of decisions because of groupthink, rather than using my own judgment.  I was always with people and yet, I had never felt so alone in my life. I thought I had to love myself because others loved me, but I wasn’t happy with myself. I finished recording (after a few takes) and hit post.

Immediately after uploading, panic hit.  Had I shared too much? Would the people who knew me during that time period judge me and unfollow me?  Did people even want to hear about my struggles with faith?

I’ve shared my stories in the past, but this was scarier to me than usual and for a while, I couldn’t understand why.  Then, it hit me. I was sharing this story simply to share and for no other reason.

When I speak about anxiety, I’m speaking to share, but also because I want to be a resource to anyone who is struggling.  When I talk about social media comparison culture, it’s because I want to be part of changing this culture. In those moments, I am working for a higher purpose.

When I posted about feeling lost, confused, and unhappy, I simply shared because I wanted to be real.  I wanted to take off the mask for a moment and say my honest truth without trying to put a spin on it. And telling the truth, for no reason than wanting to show reality, is really scary.  It leaves you at your most vulnerable, but those are the moments that matter.

I don’t think we tell the truth enough.  I don’t think we’re real enough, with ourselves or others, enough.  We always have an agenda or are trying to put a spin on things. Right now, I’m conquering my fears by just telling my truth.  No spins, no masks, just me.

Do What Scares You: Learning to Be Alone

Do What Scares You: Learning to Be Alone

People always say you should do what scares you in order to grow.  That’s an intimidating concept at its core and one I have ran away from for a long time.  What scares me? Being alone.

I’m not scared of being alone in the romantic comedy sense, but rather, for the majority of my life, I was scared to actually do anything alone.  My freshman year, I skipped a lot of meals in the dining hall because I was too scared to eat alone. Why? I was so scared that everyone who was there with their friends would judge me for being by myself.  In my head, I could hear laughter about how I had no friends. In reality, no one even batted an eye, but my inner monologue and fear controlled me.

When I went to Disney, I felt it was time to change: I only had five months to take in this place and if I only did things when others were around, I knew I would leave with regrets.  So, I did park days by myself. I booked meals for one. I explored the resorts when I wanted to. I also spent time with my friends and enjoyed their company, but I didn’t let my fear of being judged stop me from doing things alone too.  It was about balance: I could be alone or with people.

So, I want to share with you all my favorite ‘alone’ activities, in case you’re new to spending time with yourself like I was.

 

  • Coffee Shop.  I’m convinced there is some hidden power in coffee shops (and I’m not talking about caffeine) because when I’m in them, I find it completely comfortable to be alone.  I love working in coffee shops and so, I often bring my laptop to write an essay and do some readings, but I’ve also found I love coffee shops for relaxing alone time: I love just bringing a book and sitting and reading in a coffee shop.  It’s a space where so many other people are by themselves that this whole idea of being judged for being alone goes away.

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  • Museums. The first place I ever went by myself was the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC.  Going to museums alone is one of my favorite activities, because you get to explore at your own time and pace and be taken away by what strikes you.  I spent a good half hour just staring up at the ceiling at the Renwick and it was amazing– never before would I have been able to spend that type of time like that.

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  • Shopping.  This one intimidated me.  I had always gone shopping with either my mom, my sister, or my friends, but never alone.  However, when I shop alone, I find I’m willing to take more risks in what I try on because I’m not worried about anyone commenting on how awful something looks on me.  So, I try on things that look horrible but sometimes, I find a surprising good find that I would have completely missed out on otherwise.

 

I still hate eating alone at a sit-down restaurant and I sometimes hear that inner voice telling me everyone is judging me, but I’ve also found a solace in being alone and learning to enjoy my own company.

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One of my favorite photos from Disney that I took on what started out as a solo park day (I ran into friends who I then spent time with): Ariel in the Festival of Fantasy Parade