What. A. Year. Last year was such a rough year, personally, that it wouldn’t take much to make 2017 better. I didn’t have too many expectations at the beginning of the year, and boy, was I in for some amazing surprises.
I was thinking about how I started the year, and it wasn’t pretty. I cried a lot. The sadness clung to every square inch of my body; it felt like it would always be there. (Spoiler, it wasn’t.) If only I knew how many doors, and windows, would open over the course of one very short year.
This is my eighth year of rounding up my “favorites,” and this might just be the best yet.
ONE // ME
This sounds so narcissistic, but hear me out. In 2016, I felt like I had given so much of myself to other people, particularly a relationship that sucked me dry. Even though I was sad, I decided to just focus on myself for the year. It was “self-care” times 100. I decided to be as selfish as I wanted; with that in mind, it was an easy spin to find the positive. (Example, instead of coming home to an empty apartment, I was coming home to TWICE THE CLOSET SPACE. If that’s not a plus, then I don’t know what is.) In a lot of ways, it also helped me re-focus on what was important to me.
The funny thing is that as I focused on myself, everything else seemed to fall into place too. This was, by far, my best year professionally and financially. My friendships and relationships have never been better. A lot of the things I struggled with seemed to get a little clearer and a little easier. I think by bringing my absolute best self to the game, I was able to play remarkably better, which affects every aspect of my life.
Being your best self doesn’t just happen overnight. It took a lot of work. It wasn’t me just sitting in a bathtub with a book, face mask, and a flickering candle. (Although, I did take a lot of baths because I wanted to, haha.)
Universally speaking, I think being selfless is praised and being selfish is not condoned. I understand where that sentiment comes from, but it’s like being on an airplane: you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting others. When you’re in a good place with a great foundation, you’re able to contribute exponentially more.
TWO // Meditating
I know I sound like a broken record, but meditating has changed my life. Here’s my initial reflection on doing 100 days in a row. It is, without a doubt, the best thing I’ve discovered this year. I’m going to be doing a longer, more in-depth post about specific things it’s helped me with. To keep it brief here though, I used to have a full-blown panic attack at least once a week, and since I started meditating daily, I’ve only had one full one and a couple of near-attacks. IN 300 DAYS. This is something I’ve suffered from my whole life and, frankly, it’s a little jarring to not deal with it since it was such a prominent issue in my life. Sometimes I wait for the other shoe to drop when I find myself in a situation that used to be an instant panic attack…. and then, nothing.
I also haven’t been sure if I wanted to ever talk about it on here, but a main culprit of my high anxiety has been intrusive thoughts from OCD (or “bad tapes” as I like to call it). I wouldn’t say that I’m “cured,” but I feel like meditation has been the one thing to manage it and make life pleasant instead of a constant battle with my stream of consciousness. The easiest way to describe it is that I used to feel like I was locked in a room 24/7 with a horrible person with even more horrible thoughts and now I can kind of close the closet door on her. For the first time, I feel like I can truly breathe, literally.
And I will tell any and everyone to give meditation a try. To get started, I think you need to do a guided week or two, at least. Headspace, which I use, has three 10-day packs that introduce you to meditation and I found it extremely helpful. I didn’t feel alone in trying to navigate this new way of thinking.
THREE // The Business
My blog is kind of like an iceberg. There’s the tip (what you see), and then there’s this huge underbelly. A lot of the underbelly is boring and wouldn’t be all that interesting if you were to take a peek. (It’s a lot of emailing and Quickbooks.) Some years there is very little operational change to what goes into the behind the scenes. This year, a lot of HUGE changes happened.
First, I got a new manager. Blog managers basically manage all the sponsored content (both what comes directly to me and what they bring in) and brand development. The first manager I had worked independently and the second one was part of a larger organization called DBA. I loved my first manager, but unfortunately, some life-timing things meant we couldn’t work together forever. And my second manager was a great way to get my foot in the door with DBA. I don’t think we saw eye to eye on everything and one of the most important things is that a manager totally understands your brand. Finding a manager is a lot like dating, I’ve discovered. You have to figure out who you click with. I eventually switched to a new girl and, omg, it’s like striking gold. It’s made my day-to-day with blogging so much easier, and we have the same communication style (i.e., Type A, all texts, and emails). I trust her 100% and know we’re always on the same page.
Second, I hired a full-time employee! This is not something I anticipated doing when I started the year, and honestly, I didn’t think I could afford to until I got my new manager. The best part is that it’s Carter and I’ve been working with her for years whenever our paths happened to overlap. To get to hire her and to work with her has been such a blessing this year. Photography is so important and I struggled for years in this department.
I don’t know that I’ll ever feel like I completely know what I’m doing (does one ever get to that point?!) but I felt pretty good about the direction the business side of things went this year.
FOUR // Dating
Dating was probably my biggest fear coming into the new year. I was worried about so many things since I had been out of the game for a while. So many more apps to choose from and I was living in a different state. How in the world was I going to date?! Well, I did what I do best. I made a plan.
The thought was that I would get a few “first dates” over with so that when I was actually ready to date (in six months? a year?) I would have a few dates under my belt already. My friends helped me set up a few app profiles and I went zero to sixty making a full week of plans. Seriously, I really was just going to do one week and then just deal with my baggage so to speak. I just wanted to get those initials dates over with so they didn’t linger or grow into some giant, scary obstacle. My mom warned me that I shouldn’t do it so nonchalantly because that’s how you end up meeting someone. Of course, moms are always right.
I went on one date with a guy who was very nice, but it felt more like a business meeting than anything else. (And he was a way better texter than an in-personer.) I was in DC to speak at Georgetown the next day and reached out to a guy from college (he was my second ever kiss, haha, and we were more or less together on and off throughout college) to get together while I was in town. The next weekend I went out with a guy from another app who was super sweet but had no chemistry with. But, the Friday before that I had gone on a blind date that someone I sort of knew set me up on (!!!). We met up at a bar after work in the city and I fully expected to be home in Connecticut by 9 pm… but we ended up talking until the bar closed!
The rest is kind of history.
I only say all of this just to offer some hope. For every one positive story, there are twenty horror stories, so I hope this can be one of the positives! I know dating isn’t easy and putting yourself out there can be terrifying. I almost didn’t go on the blind date. I was 10 minutes late because I had to give myself a 15-minute pep talk in the train station. You just never know what’s going to happen though. It’s worth trying (and checking your emotional baggage at the door while you’re at it).
FIVE // PARIS
I definitely traveled more than I’m used to this year.
Kicked off the new year in Tampa // Trained down to DC to speak at Georgetown // Flew to Aspen to celebrate Little V’s birthday // Took an impromptu road trip to Charleston // Jetted off to Bermuda for a chilly work trip // Traveled to Palm Beach for a girls’ trip with Julia // Went back to Charleston for a few days // Surprised my mom in Tampa for Mother’s Day // Drove down to Baltimore for the Preakness horse race // TOURED PARIS FOR THE FIRST TIME // Went back to DC for my five-year reunion // Traveled to Nantucket for the first trip of the year // Did the quickest two-day trip to San Francisco // Spent two weeks on Nantucket (with my girlfriends for five days and with the dogs the next) // Drove upstate for a weekend at my boyfriend’s family’s lake house (randomly, the same lake my mom grew up going to!) // Rang in my grandma’s 90th birthday in Tampa // Celebrated my birthday down the shore // Traveled to San Francisco for a wedding // Went back to DC again for a meet and greet with Tuckernuck // Spent Thanksgiving in Tampa // Visited Lake Placid before Christmas
So many trips and it’s hard to pick a favorite, but the one that stands out the most would definitely be Paris. Paris has been on my dream travel list for years. For one reason or another I never actually went, but this year I decided to make it happen. I loved the trip so much. It did not disappoint for my first trip. Hoping to go back in the next couple of years.
SIX // Fitness
Working out and falling in love with the gym and being in shape has definitely been a favorite of mine this year. I recounted my fitness journey earlier this month so you can read that in-depth post here! I think the things I’m most proud of for the year is just sticking with it and signing up for a second 5k (a Santa fun run) after loving the first one (Turkey Trot).
SEVEN // Carly the Prepster
I almost included this in the “business” portion of the post, but I think it deserves to be on its own. Switching my blog name from The College Prepster to Carly the Prepster was a huge deal for me. I’m still not entirely over it. As I thought, it wasn’t that big of a deal when it was actually implemented. It was pretty seamless, which was the goal. I was just sentimental about the name and felt kind of sad to close that chapter of my life.
However, I am excited to see the change in 2018 for my business. I snuck the change in right before the holiday season went into full swing so next year is when I (hopefully) see the most significant difference when working with brands.
EIGHT // New to Me Brands
Three brands that I fell in love with this year:
– Lake Pajamas. I technically learned about these in 2016, but I actually wore them so much this year that I’m looping it in. They are the best and so comfortable. I wouldn’t say they’re the most flattering pajamas, but they more than make up for it in comfort. My collection seemed to grow quite a bit over the year.
– Margaux. I tried on a pair of these flats on a whim while in Charleston. They fit perfectly and felt great right in the store. I immediately ordered a few pairs and have been wearing them almost exclusively since. (Can’t wait for the snow to melt and temperatures to rise so I can start wearing them again!) I can’t recommend these shoes enough. I also got to meet the co-founders this fall, and they’re darling.
– Athleta. I knew about Athleta before 2017, but I definitely fell in love with the product this year. Their clothes are amazing, for working out and regular street clothes. Every time I walk into the store, I have to practice serious self-control not to buy everything.
NINE // Weekends Off
This is the first year where I’ve been pretty conscientious about setting aside weekends as “off” time. I’d say that I succeed about 50% off the time, which is pretty good for me. If I know I’m going to be working a lot on a weekend, I’ll try to schedule some off time mid-week to compromise. It’s made a huge difference mentally for me as I feel like I actually have time where I don’t have to be glued to my phone.
The best part? People start to catch on. I try never to text my manager on the weekend so that she can have her weekends off too, BUT I don’t respond to emails until Monday morning and the people I work with understand it and are okay with it. It’s so nice too because then we can pick things up first thing Monday morning without feeling obligated to go back and forth all weekend long.
This kind of goes back to my first point. Decompressing and relaxing for 48 hours means I bring my best self to Monday. Even though I take the time not to work, I end up being so much more productive (and HAPPY) throughout the week. I think the net gain is positive here. Plus, because I’m sleeping better and working out and generally trying to be healthier (which includes letting myself recuperate on weekends), I haven’t gotten sick this year.
Even though it’s not a “task” on my to-do list, I try to consider resting just as important as working. So far, I’m seeing great results.
TEN // Quality People
My mom and I love to describe the best kinds of people as being “quality people.” These are people of substance who positively contribute to your life. Life is too short. Surrounding yourself with quality people is the only way to go.
With every passing year, as I get older, I try to seek out these quality people. Between my family and friends, I feel ridiculously lucky to have such incredible people in my life. In 2017, I met a number of new quality people. I know I’m a better person because of their support and frienship.