a brooklyn wedding weekend.

One of my best friends on the planet got married this weekend here in Brooklyn, and being part of this wedding was so magical that I just have to share it on the blog today!

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Katie and I met in eighth grade at Eyer Middle School in Macungie, PA.  I was the new girl, and even though we didn’t fall into the same circle right away, I could tell from sharing classes with her that she was funny, creative, authentic, and kind– some of my favorite qualities in a person to this day.  She blew everyone away at the end of that school year in her starring role in the musical, and by the time we got to high school a few months later, she was already a superstar in our theater department.

As juniors in high school, we were both lucky enough to land in a homeroom/first period class working on the student-run TV news program– ETV.  We were chosen as part of that class for both junior and senior year, and the rest is pretty much history.  Something about the chemistry in that small class brought a group of us together in a really special way, and ten years later, my ETV friends are still some of my closest.

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Katie and I on our last day of high school! (June 2008)

Fast forward to 2012, and Katie and I had both moved to New York City, where we fell in love with each other all over again.  Simultaneously, I was falling in love with Matt (another Eyer Middle School grad!), and she was swept off her feet by her (now) brand new husband, Sean.  Katie and Sean live about fifteen minutes down the street from us here in Brooklyn, and having them as neighbors feels like having family nearby.  Reconnecting with Katie and becoming “grown up” best friends has been one of the biggest blessings of my life here in New York, which made it all the more meaningful when we got to share our engagements and wedding planning over the last year and a half.  Katie was a bridesmaid in my wedding in June, and I was thrilled to stand up with her this weekend, too.  Her special day was so beautiful and so perfectly Katie, and I was thrilled that she gave me the OK (all the way from her Hawaii honeymoon!) to share a bit about it on the blog.

As we knew she would be, Katie was a drop-dead-gorgeous bride.  Seriously, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone look more like a movie star in real life.

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Katie and Sean’s fabulous friend Samantha Sleeper designed her stunning custom wedding dress.  It was the perfect blend of high fashion Cinderella, magical mermaid, and glam city bride, and I loved how much it reflected my friend’s personality.  We couldn’t take our eyes off of her, especially on the sidelines of her iconic bridal portrait shoot at Brooklyn Bridge Park.

After photos, we were whisked off in a trolley (with music provided by Sean’s groomsmen) to The Bell House for the ceremony and reception.  After months of swapping wedding plans with Katie, I knew she had assembled something special, but she really outdid herself and exceeded all expectations.  The whole scene felt enchanted, with bistro lights and Chinese lanterns hanging from the ceiling and creeping vines down the aisle and around the room.  Katie and Sean were married (!!!) in a deeply personal ceremony, and within an hour the room was transformed into a mega-cool party, featuring amazing live music, fried chicken served family style, and a make-your-own-ice-cream-sundae bar.  We danced until our feet hurt, and it felt so good to be reunited with my old friends for such a fun occasion.

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I’m really grateful for these wonderful people, and the way we’ve continued to support each other through major life changes and celebrations.  One of my favorite things about this wedding was the way it made me feel such a sense of community, and I feel lucky to be a part of this community of friends still going strong after a decade, a community that now includes significant others who have learned to appreciate our sense of humor and high volume.  I also felt a strong sense throughout the day of my community here in New York City, and of the community that happens naturally when you meet people who love the same people who you love.  All told, it was a day full of warm and fuzzy feelings, and I am still overwhelmingly happy that I had a chance to be part of it.

These sneak peek photos from Katie’s wedding photographer Lauren Gibson Photography capture the glamour and Brooklyn edge of the whole day.  Honestly, have you ever seen anything cooler?

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Congratulations to the new Mr. and Mrs. Hutchy.  Wishing you many years of the same vibes of love, happiness, and community that surrounded all of us at your wedding.  I love you to the moon, beautiful friend!

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snacks.

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Today, I wanted to share a few thoughts about a topic that I love, hate, love to hate, and hate to love: SNACKS.

Sure, snack foods might seem a trivial topic for a post, but I’ve decided to run with it, anyway, and for two main reasons: 1.) Honestly, snacks are great. 2.) In the (almost) three full weeks that I’ve been working from a home office, I’ve had to pay a bit more attention to the way that a snack here or there figures into my day.

During the years that I spent working in a typical office environment, my co-workers and I would joke about how a closer proximity to our home kitchen during the day would impact our productivity.  “If I worked from home, I would LITERALLY just eat things from my kitchen all day long,” one friend said.  “I would barely get anything done because I would be too busy snacking.”

As a young woman, I’ve always felt the standard pressures to keep myself healthy and looking my best.  I can also admit that, having been a perfectionist since Day One, I am perhaps a bit harder on myself when it comes to body image.  It’s something I’ve struggled with throughout my adult life, and it tends to (unfortunately) dictate a lot of my routines and decisions.  I work through it on a daily basis by exercising whenever I can and being diligent about cooking three healthy meals a day.  My major weakness when it comes to my health is (and always has been)…SNACKS!

I have a serious sweet tooth and just generally prefer grazing throughout the day to eating big meals.  Because I work hard at the gym and do my best when it comes to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I more or less allow myself to indulge my snacking sensibilities when the mood strikes.  I’ve learned over the years that I can’t be too strict.  I maintain good habits overall, and I believe that being restrictive about food leads to even bigger problems down the road.

STILL, I knew that being twelve steps from my full kitchen when I transitioned to a home office (yes, it’s twelve steps– I just checked) would be an interesting new part of the daily routine.  At my corporate gig, I would usually have two snacks to bookend my small-ish lunch, and that always worked for me.  I was anxious about managing the temptation to more fully embrace my preference for “grazing.”

I’ll be honest– it’s been up and down.  For the majority of my first two weeks in the home office, I rarely thought about grabbing a snack, because I was focusing so much on scheduling my days that a KIND bar in the afternoon was about the only thing I could wrap my head around.  I’m working a lot harder this week than I was before, but I’m also getting a bit more comfortable with my schedule and space, so I find myself more tempted to visit the kitchen even if I’m not 100% hungry.

Generally speaking, my new work-from-home routine has made me feel SO MUCH more physically healthy.  My sleep schedule is slowly normalizing, I am able to get the exercise I need to feel my best, and I spend more time on cooking my meals the way I prefer them– healthfully, and so they fuel my body the way they should.  Snacks are, however, the piece that I’m still figuring out, and since I’m working hard to be open about every step of this journey, I wanted to share this one–as un-glamorous as it is.

Do any of you prefer “grazing” or snacking to big meals?  How do you curb your sweet tooth or snack cravings?

(Also, fun fact: I bought the gummies and marshmallow cereal included in the picture above purely as props for my snacking photo shoot.  Feel free to come take them off my hands!)

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gratitude diaries #1

Happy weekend, everyone!  It’s a cloudy Saturday here in New York, and even though the temperatures have suddenly dropped in a way that doesn’t make me entirely happy, I’m kind of loving the way it is so perfectly marking the start of October.  This is a low-key weekend for us, stuck right in between a few weeks of traveling and weddings, so the bad weather is just an extra excuse to stay home and relax.  So far, we’ve been watching some bad movies (Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising— I know, I have no one to blame but myself) and reading some good books (in my mission to re-read my way through Harry Potter AGAIN before I get around to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I recently started Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and it’s bringing me endless joy even in all of Harry’s angst).

I’m starting something new with this post, and calling it Gratitude Diaries.  When I was growing up, my mom (you can check out her blog here) always encouraged me to regularly take time to jot down a few things for which I was thankful.  For the last twenty-or-so years, I’ve come in and out of this practice, but it’s always been one of my favorite tricks to keeping a journal, and has always been close to my heart.  Since I’m no personal development expert, and there’s a lot more to me than just learning to be my own boss, I’m kickstarting this series as a way to share other little bits of happiness and sunshine happening in my life.

Sooooo, here is my very first edition of Gratitude Diaries.  Here are a few everyday things I am currently feeling grateful for…

  • Grilled cheese and tomato soup.  This is the first thing that comes to mind, because we whipped it up for a quick late lunch today and it made my little fall-loving heart so happy!
  • J.K. Rowling’s imagination.  As I mentioned above, I am in the process of working my way through the entire Harry Potter series for the fourth or fifth time.  As I get older and come back again and again to these books, I am (a little) less amazed by the magic of Harry’s world, and a whole lot more amazed by the person who created it.  I am grateful to live in a time when these books have been available to me since I was a little girl, so I can appreciate them both as a reader and a writer.
  • The Brooklyn Brainery.  I checked this place out for the first time yesterday, and if you live in the NYC area, I would encourage you to do the same!  About a week after I quit my corporate job, a friend passed along information about a Freelance Writing Bootcamp hosted at the Brainery, and the timing was perfect.  I always get a little first-day-of-school-style anxiety in those situations, and I had never been to a “continuing education” class, but it was productive and inspiring.  The bootcamp, which lasted almost six hours yesterday afternoon, was a great opportunity to sit in a room surrounded by other people trying to navigate their way through this freelancing life.  I got a lot of great ideas and information, and feel like I’m not the only one figuring all of this out as I go!
  • Social media reconnections.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, but I just have to put it out there– how cool is it that, thanks to social media, we have the chance to get another shot at friendships with people from our past?  As my life has TOTALLY changed in the last few weeks, I’ve found myself reconnecting with several high school classmates who have been amazing resources and cheerleaders for me.  I’m grateful to have the chance to get to know them better now as an adult, when we are all so much more secure in who we are and have even more to offer each other.
  • New NYC work spaces.  In the second half of last week, I started venturing out of my home office to get a change of scenery and to force myself to focus in on writing work for a few hours at a time.  I took a little trip to a coffee shop near Astor Place on Wednesday, and met with my friend and former roommate for some co-working time at a restaurant around the corner from my apartment on Thursday.  It’s fun to have an excuse to check out new little spots, and I think I am going to learn a lot about tea as a writer trying to get out of my apartment!
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Wednesday morning’s office, with a perfect view for NYC people-watching.

 

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success (these days).

First, I owe a major THANK YOU to all of you for the incredible response to the blog launch last week.  I am totally humbled by the many kind words you shared after I made the link  public, and it means so much to have you along for this ride!  I hope you will continue to enjoy, and to share if you feel so inspired  🙂

We spent the weekend back in Pennsylvania visiting family and continuing the birthday celebrations.  Too many helpings of ice cream cake later, I am officially feeling 26, and vey loved, too. I woke up yesterday morning (almost) 100% ready to jump into another week of hustle.

I’m going to make a confession, though, because honestly, it’s something I’ve already been thinking about way more in Week 2 than I was in Week 1.  You may have already guessed, but here it is, spelled out in plain black and white: I currently have no paycheck.

Don’t get me wrong– I was obviously prepared for this reality when I made the decision to leave my publishing job.  Matt and I spent a lot of time talking through our finances and making sure we were comfortable.  Both of us have been diligent over the years about saving our money, which has taken a lot of pressure off of us, and we can continue managing our money without major issues as I work to build up my writing business over the next few months.  I’ve spoken with enough freelancing friends to know that it can often take that long before you’ve established any sort of steady income in this industry!  Still, I have always been very frugal and careful with my money, and I know the financial implications of my situation will be a constant personal concern until I’m fully up and running.

Last week was SO incredibly positive.  I’m already lining up exciting conversations in the coming days that will give me the chance to touch topics and projects that will be fresh, exciting, and totally stimulating.  Yay!  BUT, those endeavors aren’t paying…yet.

In the meantime, I’ve decided that my usual metrics of success might need a bit of tweaking.  I’ve spent my life pursuing success in very conventional ways– good grades, a good paycheck, promotions, etc., all of which are totally awesome and have gotten me where I am today.  In this moment, though, success lies in the small victories I achieve each day, because the little wins get me closer to my goals.  Here are some of the ways in which I’m currently defining success:

  • Time at my desk.  When you’re working from home and still learning the ropes of your routine, more than half of the battle is sitting your butt in that chair, opening your computer, and chugging along with research and communication that’s going to generate paying projects down the road.  Since I’m still nailing down official assignments, I was worried at first that I wouldn’t know how to actually structure time at my desk so it would be productive.  I am amazed by the amount of potential work that I can lay the foundation for if I simply take the time to sit down and focus.
  • Content generated.  When I’m not researching potential outlets or working on outreach to editors, I am working on this blog or logging time writing my book.  A lot of thought and mental energy go into creating this content, and there’s no doubt that I’m putting in a good day’s work when I shut down my computer having produced it.
  • E-mails and follow-ups sent.  I’m investing a lot of time now in reaching out to and following up with editors and potential clients.  If it really is “all about who you know,” then I’m trying to get to know as many people as possible early on!   The more contacts made or messages sent in a day, the better I feel.
  • Sticking to my routine.  In my last blog post, I talked about the importance of keeping up with a routine even outside of a structured office environment.  For me, maintaining these habits is key to keeping me on track.  If I give in to the temptation to stay in bed until noon, skip a workout, or lounge around all day in sweatpants, I’m setting myself up to fail.
  • “Work talk.”  One of the first things I realized when I began feeling disengaged and unsatisfied in my corporate job was that I no longer wanted to talk about my day at work.  My (now) husband would ask me what was going on at the office, and I wouldn’t know what to tell him, or how to express what was exciting me about my day-to-day.  Now, when Matt comes home from the office, I’m so very excited to fill him in on the new leads I’ve found and the conversations I’ve been having.  I count that as a huge win!

Don’t get me wrong– I’ll do a MAJOR happy dance when those paychecks start rolling in, but for now, I’m working on tuning in to all of these other markers of success.  I love this quote from one of my very favorite humans, Amy Poehler– “You attract the right things when you have a sense of who you are.”  I am feeling more like my real self each and every day, and in doing so, I am attracting all of the “right” things– happiness, personal growth, creative opportunities and yes, eventually, financial reward, too.

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Photo credit: Pinterest/www.spoken.ly
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week one.

Woo!  I can’t believe today marks the end of my first FULL WEEK out on my own in this freelance world.  (Today also marks the official launch of this blog, which deserves a toast of its own, if I do say so myself.  Yay!  Thanks for visiting!)

This week, I had originally planned for a rest/catch-my-breath period, knowing that I would inevitably launch myself at my usual million miles per hour into this next endeavor after I’d taken some down time.  Matt encouraged me to watch lots of Real Housewives reruns on Hulu, try to bank some sleep after two years of insomnia, and generally do whatever I felt like doing, whenever I felt like doing it.  I had all good intentions to do just that– BUT, I am shamelessly and unfailingly my anxious, perpetually-moving self, so I ended up at my desk for about five hours each day.  Oops!

The good news is that, while I didn’t take the week-long vacation that my mind and body may have needed, by hitting the ground running right away, I feel all the more excited and motivated about my choice to leave the 9-5 world.  It’s totally exhilarating to make things happen for yourself.  Since I’m in the early stages of building up my workload, I am spending most of my time on outreach/networking/pitching projects, but I’m still busy, engaged, and mentally stimulated.  PLUS, the beauty of this flexible schedule is that I can build in some break time at random intervals throughout the day, which has allowed me a little time here and there for Real Housewives-viewing, per my concerned husband’s request 🙂

A few Week One observations…

  • Routine is still key— but with adjustments.  I’m a creature of habit, so I knew that when I left the structured office schedule, I would just replace it with a structure of my own.  Even though my days are more fluid now, I still start my mornings with key rituals: getting up at a reasonable time, making the bed, getting a good workout, showering, putting on make-up, and getting dressed (in real clothes, not jammies!).
  • It’s a little easier (and more productive) to have sleep issues when you don’t have to clock in to an office at a certain time.  As I write this, it’s 4:50 AM and I’ve been at my desk for about two hours crossing items off my to-do list.  In my dream world, all of my sleep issues are cured and I’m back on a normal sleep schedule, but in the meantime, it’s been really nice NOT to fight so hard against my body.  The other day, after five sleepless hours tossing and turning in bed, I realized that being my own boss would allow me to kickstart my day!  I got up at 2:30 AM, brought my laptop and some sleepytime tea to the couch, spent four hours putting together pitches for editors, and was back in bed for a nap by 6:30.
  • People at the grocery store are a lot friendlier on weekday mornings than they are at any other time.  Our local Trader Joe’s is more or less over capacity throughout the weekend and after 5 PM Monday through Friday, so you can count on the TJ’s employees being rightfully exhausted and your fellow shoppers being rightfully miserable during those periods.  It was refreshing  to sneak a trip to the store after my morning workout the other day, and to see how much chattier and calmer everyone was!  (Plus, the Dirty Dancing soundtrack is apparently the go-to music at 8 AM on a Monday morning, and who can complain about that?)
  • When you work from home, you suddenly become responsible for your neighbor’s FedEx deliveries.  We share our small building with one set of neighbors who live upstairs.  Both of them also work from home, but they tend to be out and about during the day, and I’ve learned in the last few days that they receive a lot of packages.  Most of them need to be signed for, and most of them are conveniently delivered when I have a mouth full of toothpaste and no shoes on, and when the delivery man is feeling particularly impatient and liberal with the doorbell.

One week down, and so hopeful and happy.  We’re off to Pennsylvania this weekend to spend time with family and continue birthday celebrations.  Please keep following along– more adventures to come next week!

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a home office.

After I officially gave notice at my publishing job a few weeks ago, Matt and I finally tackled the office space in our apartment.  When we moved into our 700-square-foot Brooklyn home, we used the small back room mostly as a place to store miscellaneous furniture.  We came to think of the space as mine, primarily because it housed my closet and two shelves full of my books.  As we began discussing the possibility of my career shift, revamping the room and turning it into a more functional office space for me was always a priority.

The room is tiny, but after an afternoon at Target and some game-time decisions that allowed us to keep old pieces rather than buying new, we had turned it into a comfortable, cheerful space that makes me feel productive and inspired.

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Spoiler alert: There are more than a few wedding photos featured in my office space.  I’m a newlywed– can you blame me?
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I’m the kind of girl who likes a lot of colorful, positive images around during the workday.

 

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My mom sent me this quote from British spiritual teacher Jeff Foster.  It’s so perfect for this moment in my life that I had to copy it down and hang it right at eye level in my office.

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I worked in the publishing industry for five years, so you can only imagine how many books I’d collected by the time I was ready to pack up my cubicle last week.  I shipped two huge boxes full of books back to my apartment and swapped out many of the titles that had been sitting on these shelves to make room!

One of the things I increasingly struggled with at my corporate gig was the routine of sitting in a gray, windowless cubicle for nine hours a day, every day.  It made me feel trapped and, quite frankly, just…sad.  I am excited to have created a workspace that feels more like “me.”  I’m so motivated when I walk through the rest of our apartment and see the office, knowing that I have the opportunity to sit myself down here at any given moment to work, create, and hustle.

We’re still planning to paint the room, and I’m thinking about a soft, buttery yellow.  Do you have any other ideas?

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One of Matt’s fantasy football drafts fell on the same day that we fixed up the office.  I walked out of the room to make dinner, and within seconds he had settled in to try out the new space and draft his team— I couldn’t help but take a photo! 

 

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26.

Today is my 26th birthday!

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My favorite birthday card from an old friend who knows me all too well.

With our June wedding, we threw the biggest celebration of my life just a few months ago, so when I started thinking about this birthday recently, it honestly felt pretty insignificant.  I’m a sucker for any opportunity to be a little extra festive, so I usually go crazy for my birthday, but this one felt a little different.  After feeling so much attention and generosity in June when we got married, I was ready to flow in and out of September 20th with little to no fanfare (at least for this year).

But now, having initiated another major life shift last week, 26 feels worthy of a bit more excitement!

When I resigned at my corporate job three weeks ago, I intentionally scheduled my last day at the office so it would land a few days in advance of my birthday.  I wanted to walk confidently into the next year of my life, head held high and heart ready to embrace this wildly new chapter.  I am now on Day Two of the “transition week” that I granted between wrapping up at my old gig and diving in 200% to my new routine, so my schedule has been a mix of enjoying time for myself and laying additional groundwork for my writing career.  I’m grateful that I allowed for this reflective time, and that it also fell during the week that I am turning another year older.  As I sit here at my new desk in my home workspace, I can quietly absorb all that’s happened over the last twelve months, and pat myself on the back just a little bit for having the courage to jump into the next twelve months the way I have.

25 was undoubtedly the biggest year of my life yet.  I sunk my roots deeper into this Brooklyn neighborhood that I love so much.  I prioritized meaningful, gratifying friendships and invested time and energy into my one-of-a-kind family.  I planned a wedding that was both visually beautiful and intensely sentimental, and walked away married to the man who has been my partner in all things for over seven years.  I did a lot of soul-searching, and granted myself some grace when it came to questioning where I had landed professionally.  After all of that, I declared myself ready to walk away from a safe and secure work environment to protect my health and happiness, and to pursue my dreams.  It was a year of brutal honesty, authenticity, and not being afraid to “put myself out there.”

I feel a little exhausted thinking about all of it!  But, most of all, I am excited to see what happens next, and to figure out how I can continue to build on all of the goodness that has manifested in my life recently.  It hasn’t been easy, and it may not get any easier, but I’m ready!  26, bring it on!

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the last day.

The morning started like this:

me, sitting at my desk, half-dressed, listening to “Brave” by Sara Bareilles on loop, drinking a smoothie, and sobbing as I received encouraging text messages from my parents, all before 7 AM

Four and a half hours later, at 11:30, I packed the last of my things, handed in my company ID badge, and walked out of my office building for the last time.  The tears had started again as I walked toward the subway, and then I looked up and saw this:

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It’s the most beautiful day here in New York, and the first day that really feels like fall– my favorite season.  In that moment, it felt like a small gift from the universe just for me– as if this first day of my new journey was meant to also be completely gorgeous so that I would walk outside and know that I’d made the right decision.

When I started at my job almost five years ago, I was twenty-one years old and making a two-hour commute to New York City from my hometown in Pennsylvania.  I remember so clearly a very dramatic, suburban, wide-eyed thought that I had as I walked up Eighth Avenue on my first day.  “Here I am, in New York!  This is where I’ll make a name for myself.  I’m here to make my fortune!”

There have been moments over the last few weeks since I gave my notice that I wondered if, in doing so, I’d thrown away the opportunity to fulfill that naive twenty-one year old’s city ambitions.  I know that it’s not.  I am entering a transition, and it’s going to be challenging and uncomfortable, and it might stretch me to some of my previous limits, but it will lead me to a place where I can call my own shots as to how I make that name for myself.  I don’t think it’s ever too late to figure out how you really want to live your life.  Circumstances aren’t always right for making massive life changes, and I am grateful that the stars have aligned in my own circumstances to make this possible for me at twenty-five, almost twenty-six years old.  Now, the trick is to let myself feel each and every stage of this transition, so I can get to the other side ready to chase success in my own right and as my best self.

For now, I am going to take myself out to my favorite little French spot on the corner to sit outside on this perfect day with a book, an order of French fries, and a glass of champagne.  Because if there’s any better way to mark such a major milestone, then I don’t know what it is.

 

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i did it.

I can’t believe I’m typing this, but here’s the big news:

I quit my job today.

Wow.  It looks even weirder typed on the screen than it sounds when I say it out loud.

I, constantly overachieving, straight-shot-from-point-A-to-point-B Alli, have done something completely unexpected.  I’ve strayed from the path.

The truth is that, while this may seem like a surprising and plan-deflecting move, it’s really just a return to my original life track.  I was lucky enough to land an awesome internship in book publishing when I was a junior in college, but prior to that, my focus was all writing, all the time.  The publishing internship was intriguing at that time– could I really spend my life surrounded by books?  I fell completely in love with the idea, and before I knew it, it was three weeks after graduation and I was sitting on a bus bound for my first day in the Sales department at a major New York City book publisher.  Now, almost five years later, I know that I lost myself somewhere in the excitement of landing that job.  And if it means taking an unexpected turn to get back to where I want to be, then I need to make that leap.

It’s been a privilege to work where I’ve worked for the last few years.  I learned to interact with lots of different kinds of people, saw the inside of corporate America, and read hundreds of books along the way.  But, it’s important to follow your intuition (I’m a big fan of Jess Lively and her work on this subject), and to know when to take the next step to get where you really want to be.

So, here we are– at the next step!

What’s the plan?  The plan is to write, and to create.  The plan is to learn, and to network with people who are interested in what I can do and what I have to say.  The stars have aligned over the past few weeks and I’ve made some exciting contacts out there in this exciting online world.  I’ve already jumped into some freelance assignments at a few fantastic outlets, and I’m looking forward to building that portfolio.  I’m excited to share my work as I gain momentum!

Thanks for following along as I start down this new path.  It’s never too late to follow your gut instincts, or to try to work your way back to the beginning.

 

 

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