where am i going? what am i doing? | part two

Welcome to Part Two of Where am I going? What am I doing? I hope the previous part didn't turn you off completely. Sometimes publishing this stuff is really hard, but doing it for myself was really important. So here goes.


photo by Nikki
In May of 2012, I graduated from college. It's not that I didn't think I could or that I intended to drop out halfway through, but as an eighteen-year-old, I definitely couldn't envision myself at this point. 

I think that's what's so weird for me at 22. Growing up, I was a big time dreamer. I wanted to be the Editor in Chief of Seventeen Magazine and a performance artist and run a non profit organization for middle school girls. I wanted to do it all and it never occurred to me that I wouldn't. 

In college, I rocked out the two jobs and an internship and 15 hours of class lifestyle. After my break up, I didn't have a lot of friends, so I didn't spend much time being social. If I wasn't at work or school, I was absolutely sleeping. Sleep ruled everything around me. I lost all motivation to get out of bed and go to class, much less to study abroad in Buenos Aires or write my memoir.

The last couple of months of college, I was totally checked out. Instead of sitting in class learning about the principles of Biology or how to make some pixels move across the computer screen, I was sitting at Starbucks working on my writing portfolio. I was writing seven cover letters a week and applying to all kinds of jobs every time I thought a profession sounded better than school. But at my small liberal arts university, attendance played a big role in my final grade, so my GPA suffered hard. At the same time, Dago was finishing up his masters thesis. We hardly saw each other at all and the time we did spend together was spent writing.

All I wanted was to graduate so I could be done. Done with waste-of-time classes, done with not seeing my boyfriend, done with turning down opportunities because they conflicted with my schedule as a student. Graduation wasn't about celebrating the education I earned, it was about closing a chapter in my life and jumping into...whatever was next. Unfortunately, I didn't really know what came next. At 18, I hadn't pictured my life this far. I knew as a kid where I wanted to be as a grown up, but 22 is certainly not grown up. So I've got this degree--what next?


photo by Dago
In my Career Prep class, we had this assignment called The Perfect Day. We were to write our ideal day in X amount of years; from the moment we woke up until the moment we went to sleep. What is my morning ritual? Who do I live with? What am I wearing and eating? What does my work day look like? Am I writing in solitude in a cozy wooden cottage with dogs at my feet? Or am I interviewing celebrities on the red carpet in a dress that costs more than my mortgage?

Before this exercise, I thought I was going to start a non profit. That was the plan. I had been a communications intern at a dating abuse helpline for the last eight months and thought 'Hey, this isn't so bad!' But then I started writing (and writing and writing). All of these visions from growing up of working for a magazine spilled onto my word document. A sixteen-hour work day filled with lunch interviews and nighttime launch parties. So many outfit changes. Constant email checking and cab rides and fashionable women. Oh, and I ate breakfast like six times.

I was so happy writing this Perfect Day. How did I not know this was what I wanted? How did I get down the wrong path? Why did I think fashion and writing wouldn't be a part of my future, when they had been so much a part of my past?  So I switched gears. I started blogging. My senior portfolio mimicked all of my favorite magazines. I interned with a style and beauty blog and freelanced for a local e-zine as  fashion writer. Dago bought me year-long subscriptions to Harper's and Elle to support my newly remembered dream.

All the while, I continued to work as an advocate at the helpline. After graduation, I began applying for retail jobs with the hopes to someday become a buyer. I worked for a few months at Nordstrom and applied for every bridal salon in town. I even attended a bridal show and used it like a job fair, introducing myself to everyone who would talk to me and hoping to get my sparkly-shoed foot in the door.

And then I met Andy. He was a friend of a friend and a local wedding photographer looking for some help maintaining his social media. What started out as a freelance opportunity turned into an awesome part-time gig that introduced me to a whole new world of writing: the wedding industry.

After many networking events tagging alongside Andy and more bridal shows playing who's who with every wedding vendor in town, I started to see a trend. These small business owners love what they do--baking, planning, photographing, flower arranging--but they do not necessarily have the skills or time to brand and sell themselves. I saw so many mistakes and wanted to help. 

This is what I love to do, help other people find their voice. Whether it be through my advocacy, through wardrobe consultation, or through branding and social media management, I want to help others learn to use the tools in front of them to be heard.

photo by Whitney
In comes Here Comes the Brand. I've always loved weddings and I feel like I have a solid understanding of the industry, as far as vendor-client relationships and branding are concerned. I may not be able to make a box cake, much less a wedding cake, but I certainly know what consumers are looking for when being sold to. 

Starting a business is scary. How much am I worth? How much do I know? What if people don't like my ideas? I've been turned down for lots of jobs, so what makes me think it's realistic to make up my own?

I'm almost 23. I'm not a magazine editor or a performance artist or the head of a non profit. And I'm not really on the path to any of these things in the foreseeable future. I feel a little scared because I don't know what's next, but I didn't know what was next before I got where I am, and I'm doing pretty okay for myself.

So, where am I going? What am I doing? I don't know. My long-terms goals revolve around abstract things like "happiness" and "stability" instead of specific job titles or world locations. I don't think this means that I've stopped dreaming or setting goals for myself. I think it just means I'm growing up.

13 comments

  1. girl, i read your first one and loved it.
    i feel like i really relate to this.
    i am about to finish classes and after my internship this summer im done.
    but after that i don't know what i want to do.
    i know what i like to do, but i have the hardest time finding a way to make them practical.

    im so happy that you have found all of these great opportunities and taken them.
    and weddings, don't even get me started on how much i love weddings.

    K

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  2. I'm right there with you! I'm currently working full time and a full time grad student, but I still feel a bit lost. I would say that you should only do what feels right: if you are undecided on something big, like grad school or a job you've been offered, DON'T DO IT. I think there is way too much pressure for people in their early 20's to have already achieved something. It was easier for our parents and grandparents to have a career/family at that point in their lives, but millenials have it tough with the job market, student debt, social weirdness, etc. Just do what makes you happy, even if it's unconventional! And keep writing! :)

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  3. That first photo is such a gorgeous photo of you!!! I love it.

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  4. You will be amazed by how many people are appreciative of this post and how much it resonates with/is applicable to different age groups. I wish style blogging had less fluff overall, so it was very refreshing to read this two-part post. Lastly, I couldn't agree more with the point about envisioning your perfect day. The first step to getting what you want is knowing what you want. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Great post nicole! Super excited for you! Lets grab lunch and catch up next time im in town!

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  6. I love hearing more about your journey, Nicole! You're a wonderful wonderful wonderful lady who has big things in her future.... From what I've been hearing, all of those big things aren't as much fun to those who don't have them planned from the beginning, anyway.
    Jenn
    With Luck Blog

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  7. You are amazing! Keep on going for your dream even if your dreams change! That is what is amazing about life it takes you places you would have never imagined!!

    xoxo,
    Alyssa

    sincerelytrulyscrumptious.com

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  8. 23? You still have a lifetime ahead of you! I'm not sooo old or anything; I'm 29, but I only just now went back to school myself. I tried at 18, just as you did and it just didn't work. Now, a husband and 3 kids later, I'm back at it. I've learned there's is always time to do what you really want. I held myself back thinking I had missed my opportunity but I've realized that opportunity is always out there. And I LOVE reading your stuff. You have an amazing voice and I don't think you'll have trouble finding someone who wants to listen to it. I know I am always happy to read what you've written. I have blogs I follow but yours I READ! Keep your dreams in sight!

    PS You have legs that go on for days girl! haha

    Lindsey
    High Heels and Training Wheels

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  9. <3 you. Seriously.
    You are so inspiring, and like I said the other day, this is exactly what I needed to hear. I've got lots of ideas of what I want to do, and "who I want to be," but who knows if those things will work out.. or if they're even real possibilities. But, I'm going to do a bit of soul searching, and see if I can't figure out something that makes me happy. Life gets so crazy, but I'm glad I've found girls like you to help inspire me daily.


    Btw, I really love the picture of you holding the balloons, so beautiful!

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  10. I love these posts. There is something wonderful about a blogger who doesn't just write about pretty outfits, wishlists, and the latest trends. It's important that there are bloggers like you who write about real topics.

    I also think it's awesome that you're chasing happiness, because that should always be the ultimate goal.

    PS, thanks for sharing the Jenna Marbles video in the part 1 post, so sad but so good.

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  11. Congrats Nicole! When we met at the TSC mixer during SX and you talked about wanting to start this business, it sounded like such an amazing (and exciting) venture, and I can't wait to hear more about its progression in the future.

    Also, you're a fabulous writer. I really enjoy reading your posts!

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  12. This is really great! It's as if you stole my words and state of mind right out of my mouth. I'm a beginning blogger - of food! - as well recent grad who's stopped applying to the jobs I always thought I'd have while in college. But I'm creating a community for myself among bloggers in Boston, (I too might shadow a wedding photographer this summer!) and you've inspired me to just keep going and do what I love - which is what I'm doing!

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  13. Oh God, how I can relate. I'm 23, graduating THIS May with my BA and a certificate, and all I wanted to do six months ago was start a nonprofit for middle- and high-school aged girls, using horses or dogs as therapy. I've been applying crazily for jobs, given up my big dreams to move across country (at least for this year), and realized just how non-exciting my resume is. I've been shirking my final assignments in order to secure something in those scary days following graduation when I'm forced to leave my current job and strike out on my own. Is it just me, or is 23 the worst year? :/

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