March 29, 2019

6 Things I Learned Through Blogging (& Celebrating 6 Years!)

Wow.. 6 years. Much like most of my personal posts, today's is a difficult one to write. Not because there's not much to say, but because I just can't find the words to say it all. On March 29th, 2013, I sat down in my bedroom at my sister's house in New Hampshire and wrote quite possibly the world's worst blog post. At the time, I thought it was just something I'd do to build a writing portfolio so I could eventually land a job at Teen Vogue a la LC in The Hills. Never in a million years did I think this was something I'd still be doing a year later or even two.. let alone SIX years.


I've said this before, but when I first opened my laptop and logged into Wordpress to create my blog, I wanted to call it Sights on the City, because that's all it was: one step in my detailed plan to eventually live and work in the city. Somehow, I decided to name it The Caro Diaries instead – and I'm so glad I did. The name just fit. Maybe it's because I meticulously kept diaries all throughout my childhood, filled with mundane entries about how my brother was being mean to me, or how I like-liked the cute boy in my primary school. But once I settled on the name The Caro Diaries, everything unfolded.

I'm very proud to say that through the last 6 years, I've shared many chapters and pages of my own personal story. There were moments I'm happy to have closed the chapter on, and there are definitely many that I go back to read when I want to reminisce, like reading your favorite childhood fairytale years later. Though this blog has seen many ups and downs, and quite a bit of "OMG I am SO sorry I went MIA!" posts, one thing has always remained true for me: the catharsis that I feel when I pen these words.

And so, now, here we are.. six years – roughly 2,191 days – later, and I am so much better for it. While I never saw The Caro Diaries being a huge part of my life on the day that I penned my first post, I cannot imagine my life without it now. And while I haven't necessarily been the best blogger over the years, there's nothing more satisfying than knowing that no matter what adventure I'm on, no matter what life throws my way or what lessons I'm struggling to learn, there's one place where it'll always make sense. And for that, I'll always be thankful for every page and every chapter of The Caro Diaries. Now here's to creating many more..


In honor of six years, I thought I'd share some special 6's.

SIX LESSONS I LEARNED THROUGH THE YEARS: 

ONE // You're going to change, and so will your blog 

And guess what? That's ok! If we all stayed the same as we were the day we hit publish on our first post, well then things would be really boring, right? I personally would still be an 18-year-old college freshman who thought she'd move to New York after graduation – and my life couldn't be more different, and my blog shows it.

Through relationships and friendships, ups and downs, life lessons and laughs, new hobbies, new stages and new habits, you continue to grow day after day, and your blog is a reflection of that. And there's so much beauty in seeing the transformation over the years, even when it hurts to look back.


TWO // Don't get caught in the comparison game

It seems like everyone's a blogger or an influencer (ehh, I hate that name) these days, and it's so easy to find yourself comparing yourself to everyone else. This one has 100K followers on Instagram, while this one got a fully-comped trip to Bali and this one is wearing a brand new designer dress for free. The rat race of followers and numbers is real, and the best of us have been caught up in it. But at the end of the day, the important thing to focus on is to keep creating the kind of content that you would want to read, and the audience will follow.


THREE // (that being said) Don't put all your eggs in one basket 

When I first started blogging, Instagram (and really, even social media) wasn't the kind of animal that it is today. Now, it's a whole different ballgame. Plain and simple: there are bloggers and then there are Instagram bloggers. While there's nothing wrong with creating exclusive content for social media vs your blog, many people focus on Instagram way more than they do their actual written content. And it's easy to understand why: the visual platform is more appealing, easier to sell clothes and even easier to keep in touch with followers. But at the end of the day, we have no control over it.

Yep, we don't own Instagram (or even our content ON Instagram for that matter), so if the app was to magically disappear tomorrow, or just shut down for a day (we all know the mayhem that ensued), what will you have to show for it? There's nothing wrong with focusing on your visual content, diversifying your forms of monetization or using the social media platform, just don't forget about your actual content in lieu of it.



FOUR // Stop trying to fit in

It's only natural in blogging to take inspiration from others: maybe a big-time blogger you follow does a series you wanna start on your blog, or maybe you like the editing style of their Instagram feed. It's okay to be inspired by others in the game, but changing your brand to fit into an image you think you should be like isn't. So if it means following a trend you'd usually never wear because every fashion blogger is wearing it on Insta, or writing a certain way on the blog because this famous blogger does it, or even covering topics you'd never write about on your own, well.. it's not worth it. All it'll do is leave you feeling inauthentic, and ultimately, uninspired.


FIVE // Block out the bullshit 

Starting a blog (especially now, when everyone and their mother are 'influencers' or 'content creators') can come with some negativity or skepticism from friends and family. My biggest piece of advice? Ignore them. People always have something to say, and they always will, so you might as well do you in the process, right?

When I was still internally battling about starting my blog, only a few days before I took the plunge actually, I made the mistake of telling a friend of mine at the time that I was thinking of starting one. I remember she pointedly laughed and said "what are you gonna write about? boy troubles and college classes?" like it was the biggest joke. I looked at her and said, "yeah, if I want to". It was the edge I needed to actually open up my laptop and get it done. You know what the funniest part is? The minute she saw my blog, heard how friends and strangers alike were reacting to it, and saw that I got to do cool things, she decided to start a blog of her own. No laughing matter now, huh?

Could you imagine I heard her laughs and decided not to start my blog after all? Guess it's a good thing I learned early on that you have to block out the bullshit.


SIX // You might feel vulnerable, but that's okay

Throughout the last 6 years, I've broached many personal topics on the blog. Whether it was getting my first negative comment (and finding out it came from someone I knew IRL), discussing the end of relationships and friends, sharing my personal struggles with my body image or my future, or even just figuring it all out right here on this page, I've experienced it all on The Caro Diaries. And because of that, many people I knew in real life read these words, and in a way, got a glimpse at my innermost thoughts – and it can feel downright nauseating.

But in the scariest of these moments, through the times I hit post with my eyes closed, I came out stronger and better for it. In the most vulnerable of posts when I thought I might die if someone I knew admitted to reading it, I got countless comments of support from readers and followers. In the posts where I dug deep to find the words I didn't even know I was feeling, I got messages from readers who were feeling the same way. For every word I typed on this blog, there was someone out there who could relate to it. There's a power in releasing that vulnerability into the world, but there's magic in turning that vulnerability into something special. And that's what The Caro Diaries is – to me at least.


6 Most Personal Posts Over The Years

For some reason, my personal posts always seem to be the most popular posts around these parts, so I figured I'll share my top 6 most personal blog posts. 

ONE // After years of dreaming of living in NYC, my first few weeks there were... meh. To be honest, they were quite challenging, and so I shared that side of New York, beyond the fabulous Instagrams. 

TWO // My first 'real' post on the blog after that crappy introduction post was this: a blog post about figuring out where you can call home when you're in between two places. It was something I struggled with for a long time, and I felt compelled to share it on the blog. Has my writing style changed, or what? 

THREE // After months of experiencing a health scare, I laid it all out there. Oh, and I promised to run a half-marathon (that I ended up not even running because it clashed with sorority recruitment.. lol one day!).

FOUR // For years, my life was all laid out in front of me: work hard in high school so you can get into a good college, and then work hard in college so you can graduate with a good GPA. But no one talks about what happens when you leave college. Yeah, we get a job and become an adult.. but it felt like a "now what happens?" moment, so I wrote about it. 

FIVE // This entire post can be summed up by saying: it's crazy how much changes in a year. When you think your life is doomed and over, it's only just begun, and the journey is a hell of a ride. 

SIX // The prequel to post #5, this one chronicled my feeling like I didn't have it together, especially as I entered my final semester of college. What caused it? A job rejection on New Year's Eve (yep, they really did that). Oh, and I curse a lot in this one! 


6 Most Viewed Posts Over The Years

ONE // I guess there's a lot of sorority girls on people's Christmas list.. but really, classic gifts for any gals in a sorority, from a girl who had WAY too many Alpha Chi stuff during my time as an active member.

TWO // Decorating your college dorm can be hard when you're a broke college student, so I shared some of my favorite DIY dorm room decor, just in time for my junior year move-in.

THREE // Being in a sorority can be expensive. Between the dues, and the shirts, and all of the accessories you haveee to have, and let's not forget about taking a little. I took two littles in college, and I maintained a pretty strict budget both times around, so I shared my tricks and tips for taking a little when you're #BallinOnABudget.

FOUR // When my sister got engaged, I was in college in a totally different country, but I still wanted to show her that I was there for her, excited and ready to help with the wedding planning, so I made a little DIY engagement basket, filled with some of her favorite things and wedding planning necessities as a little gift. Also: every bride-to-be needs a shirt that says Feyoncé.

FIVE // Just one day after I opened up about how tough it was living in NYC, I decided to challenge myself by making a bucket list of items I wanted to experience before I left the city. The list was perfect for tourists and locals alike, which made it one of my most popular posts.

SIX // Post-grad sucks.. and balancing everything when you're employed full-time somehow feels so much harder than it did back in college. In this post, I partnered with Erin Condren (who, fun fact, was the first brand to ever work with my blog back in 2013!) to share my tips to finding ways to balance work, your social life and a side-hustle.


So that's it.. six years worth of memories and six years worth of posts. I'm so excited for sixty more!
Will you still be reading TCD in 60 years? ;)

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March 20, 2019

Budget-Friendly Skincare Routine for Combination Skin

This post is sponsored by Bioré but all content and opinions expressed here are my own and that of The Caro Diaries.
One of the hardest things about having combination skin is finding the right products that work for you. I've tried just about everything – both drugstore and high-end – and it still feels like it's impossible to find the balance that's needed to treat both the oily and dry patches of my face. Some products dry me out even more, while others don't even begin to treat the oiliness, and it's a serious problem.

I've been a fan of Bioré's products for a really long time, as you know, so when I heard about their new line of Blue Agave & Baking Soda products, made especially for those with combo skin, I was dying to try it! I picked up the line's Whipped Nourishing Detox Mask and the Balancing Pore Cleanser, and it's safe to say I've added it into my regular routine pretty quickly!
I wasn't sure exactly why the combination works perfectly on combo skin, but if you're smack dab in the middle of oily and dry, this is your skin's secret weapon! Baking soda is known to deep clean and get into your pores to remove all the guck, and it can be very harsh on your skin, so the Blue Agave, which is known for it's conditioning benefits, helps to soothe and nourish the skin! The combo makes it possible to target both the oily and dry patches, which is a very hard balance.

And even though the products are perfect for those with combo skin, they also have tons of benefits for those who don't consider themselves to have combination skin – which means that these are the perfect addition to basically everyone's skincare routine! Each product is priced at under $7, which makes it affordable and attainable for just about every budget – who says skincare should be expensive?

I tried the Whipped Nourishing Detox Mask, and it's the best for feeling like you got deep down in your pores and cleaned everything! The mask has menthol in it, which gives you that intense, pore-tingly sensation that feels amazing (and makes your skin look it too!). It's a whipped texture that applies so smoothly onto a wet face, and in only 3 minutes, my skin felt drastically cleaner! (Instructions say keep them on for 3-5 minutes, and no longer!) I will say, if you have sensitive skin or you're sensitive to menthol, this product may not be right for you as it might cause short-term flushing of your skin. But to be honest, my skin is fairly sensitive, and I had no reaction to it!

The Balancing Pore Cleanser is definitely the newest addition to my every day routine because it was a great face wash that exfoliated (it has jojoba beads!), deep cleans and leaves my skin feeling smooth, refreshed and just all-round clean! I used it in place of my regular face wash at night, and really felt like it removed all the guck and impurities from my pores and took off the remnants of makeup trapped in my skin. I can definitely see how using this product long-term can make my skin softer, brighter and healthier! 
I ordered these online through Walmart, but they're available in stores all over (check here to see where it's available), online through Walmart, Target or even Amazon!

 
While it's no secret that I'm a fan of Bioré and especially this new line, I feel like anyone with combo skin will be too!

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March 11, 2019

March Goals

So, Carnival has come and gone, and now March is in full swing, which means it's time to share my goals. February brought a lot of consistency, a virus and tons of Carnival prep – I even shared more about Trinidad Carnival on my Instagram Stories, and it's all saved in my Highlights, so if you missed it, go check it out!

Now that Carnival is finished, life is a little slower in some ways and definitely more hectic in others. I won't be hitting fete after fete anymore, but I'll be working a ton more trying to get my April issue out on time, as well as helping with three other publications coming out in the next two months. So it's going to be crazy - but fun - as always!

Now let's get into this month's goals and last month's recap!

Check out last month's goals and recap post HERE


RECAP OF MY FEBRUARY GOALS

1. READ SIX BOOKS // I really wasn't sure I'd be able to do this one, because February was so hectic, but I'm happy to say I managed to read 6 books in time! I knew the first week or two of March would be Carnival and recovery so I wanted to make sure I was ahead of my reading schedule (link to goodreads challenge) and i'm proud to say I did it!  

2. EXERCISE 5 DAYS A WEEK // I definitely exercised way more in February, and even days that I missed training, I'd make the effort to go to the gym and do an hour, wake up early in the morning, or go to a lunch-time yoga class. However, two weeks before Carnival, I got super sick with a virus and I was out for three days straight, making it that much harder to workout 5x that week. Besides that week though, I met this goal, so I'm giving myself partial credit here!  

3. FINALIZE MY CARNIVAL ACCESSORIES // Of course, this happened super last minute – but I somehow managed to get it all together in time: my Monday Wear, boots, tights, accessories and even glitter spray to make sure I was looking extra sparkly on the road! 

4. GET TO SLEEP EARLIER // I feel like this is always going to be a yes and no for me, because it was really dependent on the night. Sometimes, I stayed up til 3 am, and others I was passed out by 11:30 pm. I've accepted this is just who I am, although I'm always trying to get to bed earlier regularly!

5. TRY SOMETHING NEW // This is super tiny, but was something so totally new for me. If you know me, you'll know I'm so boring with my manicures: they're always gel polish, either in a bright red, a pale pink or trusty nude, and sometimes if I'm feeling exciting I'll do a deeper red. That's it. Four shades! Lame, right? So, last month I tried both white nail polish AND rose gold chrome nail polish, which I did to complement my Carnival costume. I shared them both under the NAILS highlight on my Instagram, so if you're looking for nail inspo, I gotchu! 

TOTAL: 4/5: Overall a great month, considering I hit most of my goals! 


MARCH GOALS

1. GET BACK ON TRACK WITH EATING HEALTHY // Carnival was last week Monday and Tuesday, and after months of being super strict and eating super clean, I gave myself the rest of the week to 'cheat', and eat all of the cravings I had while I was hardcore. Now that the last few days have passed, I need to re-commit to the healthy lifestyle I'd been following and it's a massive goal for my month to get back on track. I've seen in the past how easy it is to continue 'cheating' after Carnival (especially because there's no huge goal in sight: Carnival you're literally half-naked on the street so you're super motivated!). 

2. SCHEDULE MORE BLOG CONTENT // Now that I'll have a littleee more free time, I want to commit to blogging more often than just twice a month. Really trying to become more regular, especially as I approach my 6-year blogging anniversary at the end of the month! I'm trying to work on creating more content for TCD. 

3. BOOK MY FLIGHTS FOR E'S WEDDING // One of my besties from my sorority is getting married in the Fall! I know that I don't want to miss seeing her walk down the aisle to the love of her life, and so I've planned a quick little trip for her wedding, and to visit some friends in Boston and Connecticut. This month, I want to book flights while they're still affordable, book my hotels and finalize the details so I can officially RSVP YES to Erica and Matt!  

4. WAKE UP EARLIER // In the last few months, I've been making an effort to be up earlier, and at the start of the year, I was up consistently by 6 am. But obviously, as time passed and as I've gotten less and less sleep, I've found myself hitting the snooze button more and more. I live 5 minutes away from my office, and I definitely take advantage of that sometimes, so I want to get back to waking up early and enjoying my slow mornings before the work rush begins!

5. START BACK POSTING ON INSTAGRAM // Instagram has definitely been the platform I've been the most hesitant to jump back into since returning to TCD, and I've been really slow starting back. In the last few months, I've started to post more on Instagram Stories, even creating a few highlights and showcasing some things that are important to me! But I want to find the motivation to post more photos to my feed. So, if you have any advice or suggestions on content you'd like to see, let me know!


So, that's it! My goals for March! They're a mix of personal and blog goals, and I think that they're gonna be hard to accomplish! Let's do it! 

What are your goals for this month? 

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