Tuesday, September 20, 2016

How Summer Wind Was Born and What I've Learned Along the Way

When someone asks about my blog, whether it's a reader e-mailing me or a friend/acquaintance asking about how exactly a blog works, one of the number one questions I am asked is 'how did you start your blog'?

In the past year or two, I've spoken about Summer Wind in front of large and small audiences and I always start off with how I started Summer Wind, but I realized I never really shared the full story here. Get ready to read, because it's going to be a long post today (but I hope you'll stick with me!).

So let's rewind over 7 years ago back to early 2009 when I was a freshman at James Madison University. I went to JMU and started out in the business school. I was taking all of the pre-requisite business classes such as econ, accounting, business stats; the list goes on. I remember waking up each morning absolutely dreading going to my macroeconomics class. It was an 8am class and SO boring. I remember not feeling inspired or interested in anything the professor was saying, but figured, hey this is college, I just have to suck it up. 

Over Christmas break of my freshman year, I broke down to my parents. I told them how much I dreaded my business classes and how nothing interested me whatsoever. Being a good student in high school/always being interested in school in general, this feeling totally threw me for a loop. 

I remember moving into the second semester of my freshman year and not being thrilled with any of my new classes. Many people told me to stick it out because the pre-requisites are always the worst. I took their advice for as long as I could.

So a few weeks after I got back to school after Christmas break, I made an appointment to see my advisor. He suggested I look into switching my major...becuase if you're not happy, a change needs to be made, right? This was a complete learning experience for me and truly where I realized that I had the power to change my life, improve my happiness, and the control to do so. 

 My advisor explained that I could switch starting my sophomore year and graduate on time (as long as I didn't study abroad.. unfortunately, one of my biggest regrets). So I started researching different majors. I asked around my sorority and within my friend groups to see what people were loving who shared my similar interests. I finally decided on Public Relations. I went back to my advisor and he set up an appointment to meet with the head of the PR school. He gave me a list of websites and blogs to read in order to learn more about the field. That is kind of how I got started on reading 'blogs'. Back then, blogs were fewer and farther between and most were typically political/news focused.

As I was searching one day on Google for 'monogrammed towels' (some things never change, ha!), I came across a blog (it no longer exists which is so sad because it was one of my favorites). I immediately took to reading this blog every single day. I thought, how great is this! This blogger shared her passions and creativity and love for fashion with all of us and just day to day details of her life. I found myself going back to the blog each day and found other blogs that I enjoyed reading, too (sadly most don't exist anymore).

I loved feeling so connected to the people whose blogs I was reading. I felt like it was so great to be in touch with other women who shared the same interests as I did! 

Summer break, following freshman year, rolled around and I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. One day I decided (completely on a whim) to set up a blog account and started writing. I had no plan whatsoever, no goals in mind, no reason behind my actions except it looked like a fun hobby that I might enjoy. I also wanted to practice my writing since writing is such a big component of public relations.

In the following months, I found a great community of (mostly) women who had similar tastes and style and interests. I enjoyed writing about my day-to-day life and sharing my love of fashion and connecting with people. It was fulfilling and very satisfying for me which was so refreshing after coming off of a year of accounting, statistics, econ, etc. Not to sound like a total cliche, but I felt alive again. I started my sophomore year refreshed and ready to take on a new and exciting major.

During my last three years in college, I learned a lot that helped me to grow my blog, which was icing on the cake! I loved being able to take the things I was learning in my classes and apply them and practice with them on my blog. After I graduated, I was able to talk a lot about Summer Wind in job interviews and truly, the experience I had gained from it, is a major reason why I secured the post-grad jobs that I have had throughout the years!

From my blog, I learned things that my classes didn't (and couldn't) teach me. I got to see an industry begin right before my eyes and be a part of it in the early stages. Some things I didn't learn in college but I learned from having a blog: Some HTML coding, photography, programs/apps, file types/storage, etc., how to negotiate contracts, SEO, how to gracefully handle criticism (both constructive and negative), how to delegate tasks, prioritization, how to say no/respectfully decline, how to self-educate (YouTube/forums/asking questions are your BFFs!!!), how to evolve/adapt/change without losing your sense of self/brand....the list goes on.

But my biggest tip? 

It's true when people say that comparison, is the thief of joy. Summer Wind brings me so. much. joy. At the end of the day, my goal with Summer Wind is to reflect that joy outwards in hopes that it brings others joy, too. So I've learned that when it comes to comparing myself to others? I don't. Or rather, I try not to (I'm certainly not perfect). This not only applies to blogging/bloggers, but it's something I've learned and can apply to every single facet of life! 

I like to share this story/timeline because I think it really shows the uncertainty that I felt during college. Anyone reading this that is in college, who may feel this way, should know that first and foremost, it's ok to feel that way. But it's also ok to change paths.  And it's not only true in just a college setting!  Anyone that may be in a job/relationship/hobby/etc. that they aren't loving, should not only know it's ok to want something different but even more importantly, it's ok to change or start over or take a completely different route! 

If I hadn't decided to change my route during my freshman year who knows where I would be now. Summer Wind may not exist, and I may not have had the amazing jobs that I have had/have.

One of the most-asked questions I receive in regard to my blog (whether it is from those who are starting a blog or those who just want to know more) is how I have kept up with it for the past 7+ years... throughout college, working full-time, and life responsibilities in general. 

I first joke (but really I'm not kidding) that I don't sleep. And it took me a long while to find a groove. I sacrificed social events in college, lost sleep as a post-grad and had many a meltdown due to stress. But the bottom line is that I never gave up because I had found something that brought me happiness. It was something that I had created on my own and it only existed because of the work that I put into it. I was so passionate at the start, and still am to this day and the passion alone is what keeps me going. 

 I think it's so incredibly important to find a passion either outside of your job or within your job. This was one of my overall biggest lessons that I learned throughout my time in college and even continue to learn the importance of throughout my post-grad life. I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes that really sums everything up. It's by one of my favorite childhood authors, Roald Dahl:

I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.


Anonymous said...

Selfishly, I am so glad that you have found this passion and continued with it through the years because it certainly has been inspiring, informative and I enjoy reading it everyday! Thank you!

Kate said...

Was it Monograms and Manicures? I miss Hopsy! I think I must have started reading right as you started and found you through her...I remember reading along when I we were both in college and have kept up to this day.

Anonymous said...

Sydney, I have been a reader since the very beginning and love when you write posts like this. You're such a wonderful woman to follow along with and I can tell you first hand that you bring joy into my life each morning that I read your blog.

Ashley said...

I absolutely loved reading about how you began your blogging journey! I admire you having the courage to realize you were unhappy and to do something about it!

Ashley // MyWellDressedLife.com

Christina said...

Thanks for sharing this with us. As a reader, you are personally one of my favorite bloggers out there. I enjoy visiting your site every day. You still have your fabulous and unique style after all of these years. I can appreciate that you are not just a sell out who gives us the same clothes review that every other blogger is giving because they were sent the items for free. The passion for your blog shines through and is very much appreciated. Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing your a piece of your life with us! xo Christina

Just Jess said...

I still remember reading your blog at the beginning. I miss Hopsy too! Jess at Just Jess

Melissa Mullery said...

It's so wonderful to learn more about how you created your blog. I have enjoyed reading SummerWind since I myself was in college probably from 2010 onwards? I have loved watching the blog evolve and your style evolve. I always appreciate your tips and advice. Congrats on 7 great years, Sydney!

Brenna Duke said...

"I made an appointment to see my advisor. He suggested I look into switching my major...because if you're not happy, a change needs to be made, right? This was a complete learning experience for me and truly where I realized that I had the power to change my life, improve my happiness, and the control to do so."
I love your quote above because I am an academic advisor and that one just really made me feel a little bit more passionate about my work today.
I pursue teaching yoga on the side and that is my real passion, and where I feel like I can make a difference for people. This is where I always encourage others to take control of their own happiness and change their way of thinking to be happy in the moment.
Thanks for your perspective. I feel about you how you felt about all of those bloggers you mentioned.
Keep on keeping on doing what you're doing and thank you!

Charlotte Harris said...

Great post, I loved reading your story! I also love that quote at the end, such a good one.


Sharan Kaur said...

Thanks for sharing your experience!!


Michelle Mullins said...

It was so great reading about how you got your start! Being a student at JMU now, it makes me realize that I can make sacrifices on missing social events if I want my blog to be successful too. Thank you for sharing :)

Michelle | www.landofstyleandsass.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

You are SO inspiring!! Thank you so much for sharing!!!

betsybreck said...

I was a freshman at JMU in 1989 and yet I can still relate to a lot of the styles on your blog! What I love about your blog is that you feature timeless, classic style that really looks good on anyone, even a 47 year old mom. I frequently share your clothing suggestions with my 10 year old daughter so she starts to understand the difference between trendy and stylish. So, Thanks for that and we look forward to reading more of your blog through the years!


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