Exploring Southern California: Part One

Exploring Southern California: Part One

With the school year finished and my internship not starting until the beginning of June, I had some rare free time.  This summer, I am filling this otherwise dead time with a trip to Los Angeles. I am so excited about this trip and to share little snippets of my day both here and on Instagram.  I love to travel and I have always wanted to get to know the West Coast better, so I am loving the opportunity to travel and see all that this area has to offer.

Day One: Travel Day!

Call me weird, but I always get SO excited for long flights because I love getting to disconnect and catch up on movies.  I am a total movie junkie, so six hours on a plane just watching movies is the best to me. This time, I watched Mary, Queen of Scots, I Feel Pretty, and Smallfoot.  Mary, Queen of Scots is one of my favorite historical figures and Saorise Ronan is one of my favorite actresses so I was thrilled to finally get to watch this movie! If you’re a European history lover, I would recommend it, but if not, it might not be your type of movie.

After getting into LAX, we picked up our luggage and rental car and drove a little over an hour to our hotel, Marriott’s Newport Coast Villas.  We checked in, dropped off our luggage, and went out for dinner at Sol Mexican Cocina.  I cannot say enough good things about this restaurant!  We had shrimp taquitos for our appetizer and I got the chicken street tacos as my entree and they were AMAZING.  Our waitress was so kind and even gave us a dessert, which was so tasty I never even had time for a photo. We are making plans to get back to this restaurant asap.  After dinner, we returned to the hotel to get some much needed sleep.

Day Two: The Richard Nixon Library & Museum and Exploring the Resort

I am a total history nerd and that is about to show through SO much.  One of my biggest bucket list items is I want to visit every Presidential Library in my lifetime.  Before this trip, I had visited the libraries of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Franklin Roosevelt.  When my dad pointed out that we would be near Richard Nixon’s Presidential Library this trip, I jumped at the chance to go and mark another Presidential Library off my list.

The library was truly fascinating.  I’ve studied Richard Nixon numerous times in classes, but I had never taken such an intensive look at him.  The library also really dives into Watergate, which I appreciated and found so interesting. My favorite part though was exploring the outdoor grounds.  Pat Nixon’s rose gardens are so beautiful, I kept stopping to look at every flower we passed. We also got to tour the house outside that Richard Nixon was born in and spent his early childhood in, which was a really cool and unique experience.  While this library was not my favorite of the libraries I’ve toured so far, I truly did enjoy it and loved the opportunity to learn about Richard Nixon from a perspective I haven’t had before.

After we finished the library, we stopped at Blaze Pizza for a quick lunch and then went back to our hotel.  It was too beautiful a day to stay inside, so we went out to explore the resort grounds a bit more. This place is so gorgeous, with views of the Pacific everywhere (including our room balcony!).  Everywhere on these grounds is stunning and I am truly in love with the resort and with the beauty of California.

Afterwards, we went for a late dinner at Reunion Kitchen + Drink in Laguna Beach.  I’ll be honest– I was mostly excited about this spot because I watched every episode of Laguna Beach and the Hills when I was in high school as a guilty pleasure.  Getting to go to the town where it all started, even if just for a restaurant, was super exciting. The food also was amazing at this restaurant, which was a wonderful end to a great first full day here in California.

Day 3: The San Diego Zoo

It has been about fifteen years since I last went to San Diego, so you could say my memories of the zoo and the city were pretty murky.  I did remember seeing pandas here, so you could say I was slightly disappointed today when I found out that the San Diego Zoo no longer has any giant pandas.  Despite this set back, we had a lovely day at the zoo!

Fun Fact: The San Diego Zoo has the largest colony of koalas outside of Australia.  I was SO excited to get to see the koalas and they were so adorable. They don’t do much, as they sleep approximately 22 hours a day, but they look like teddy bears when they sleep.  I could have spent hours just watching them.


After the zoo, we drove back to Newport Coast and grabbed dinner and called it an earlier night than we have been having.  Tomorrow, we are continuing our adventures and heading to Beverly Hills and yes… I will be singing this song the entire day.

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The Importance of Behind the Scenes Moments

The Importance of Behind the Scenes Moments

I view Instagram and social media as an art form.  There is so much time and creativity put into it that often goes unnoticed.  And just like with any art, we want to get it perfect. Our feeds should be aesthetically beautiful, our captions should be perfectly palpable, and our writing should be eloquent and swift.  And, this work should be appreciated: it does not come without effort and it is desiring of art.

Yet, social media is different than any form of art before.  While you can paint a picture and put it up in a room, it is not thought that that picture encompasses you and your life.  When you post on social media though, your posts become you. They are your public representation world of who you are and what your life looks like.  People assume they know you when they see your profile. And to many, this assumption feels unfair, because it brings with it a new sense of responsibility.  We are responsible for showing reality in this art form, as much as beauty and perfection.

I think this responsibility is what is leading to the rise of behind the scenes posts right now.  Social media is a curation of moments, but when that’s taken to represent all of reality, it can be pretty harmful.  So, all of us, who spend our hours thinking about how we can create the best content possible now have something new to think about: how can we continue to make art we are proud of, while also showing reality for all that is.  Behind the Scenes posts do exactly this: they show the art process. They show what the day to day looks like, including the moments of no creativity and struggles. They bring reality into this curation of moments.

My challenge for you is to think about how can you bring reality into your social media presence?  How can you make your account a positive space, instead of a negative one?

I’ll be sharing a full blog post of behind the scenes moments from my latest Instagram later this week.

 

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.  

 

Sharing My Playlist for Life’s Most Overwhelming Lyrics

Sharing My Playlist for Life’s Most Overwhelming Lyrics

Yesterday was a hard day.  I felt overwhelmed in every aspect of my life– professionally, I have a big decision coming up and many interviews; academically, I had a paper due that I struggled A LOT with for my hardest class; socially, I get down on myself that I’m not a good enough friend because there are weeks where I feel like I don’t make enough time for my friends.  On days like that, self-doubt creeps in and tells me that I’m only overwhelmed because I’m not good enough, not smart enough, not strong enough. I know I’m far from being alone in feeling like I’m constantly fighting a little monster in my head– if you’re feeling this way, I want to remind you: we are stronger than that monster.

I turn to music when I’m overwhelmed to help me fight the monster. I feel like music can help me feel seen and understood so I’m sharing below five of my favorite songs that help me calm down and also, a link to my spotify playlist.

 

  1. Hold On by Shawn Mendes.  

 

Favorite Lyric: And it won’t slow down, no matter what you do, so you just gotta hold on.

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  1. Girl in the Movies by Dolly Parton.

Favorite Lyric: I want to be happy, I want to be free, just like that girl in the movies.

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  1. Flicker by Niall Horan.

Favorite Lyric: Then I look in my heart, there’s a light in the dark.

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  1. Inside Your Heaven by Carrie Underwood.

Favorite Lyric: When minutes turn to days and years, if mountains fall, I’ll still be here.

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  1. 1973 by James Blunt.

Favorite Lyric: I will always be in a club with you in nineteen seventy three, singing here we go again.

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Here’s my entire Spotify playlist, which I do periodically update and add new music to:

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.

February Goal Check-In

February Goal Check-In

Can you believe it?  We are two months into the year already and it just feels like 2019 is flying by.  With the year rolling and the semester halfway done already, I feel this is a good time to do a goals check-in and set some goals for the rest of the semester.

Goal Check-In:

Goal #1: Plan Less: This was my biggest goal for the year and the goal I’ve seen the most progress on.  I’ve said goodbye to my Google Calendar, where I would plan out every single minute of my day.  I mean it– I would create time periods for sleep. Productivity was the name of my game, but I just ended out burnt out and unhappy.  With a less structured schedule, I’ve made time in my life for the moments you don’t always predict– the meetings that run over, the random run-ins and catch-ups with friends, and time to relax and breathe.  I’ve still got a LOOOONG way to go on this goal, as I usually can still be found making plans weeks in advance and still have a pretty stuffed calendar, but I’m getting there.

Goal #2: Spend More Time with Friends: Whenever I get busy, I tend to isolate myself and only spend time with the people who directly relate to whatever I’m busy with, whether that’s work, extracurriculars, or class.  Whenever I do that, I create a stress bubble for myself, as I’m only around people who share my stresses and struggles. I’ve been trying to make time for all my friends this semester and I’ve been doing pretty well on this.  I’ve been getting coffees and dinners with friends I wouldn’t otherwise see and Facetiming my long distance friends.

Goal #3: Get to the Gym: This is the goal I have been so sporadic about.  There are some weeks where I get myself to the gym daily with excitement about the next episode of my podcast.  And then, there are weeks when I can’t even fathom where I’d get the forty-five minutes a day to spend at the gym.  I’d day I’d score like a 4/10 on this goal so far.

Where do I go from here?  Well, I consider the progress I’ve made so far and use that to help me form new goals for the rest of the semester.  Here’s what I have so far:

  1. Continue to try to plan less and be more spontaneous.  Try to go into a weekend with nothing on the calendar and just make it up as I go.
  2. Make time for myself.  I often feel like on the weekends, I’m exhausted from everything and just need some time to decompress with myself.  I want to start making time a few times a week for me to do this so it doesn’t pile up.
  3. Actually get to the gym consistently.  I really want to get into the habit of going daily or every other day and so, this is a goal I want to continue working on.
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