My 7 Year Anniversary & What It’s Taught Me

lifestyle blogger naty michele at central park Yesterday officially marked 7 years since I first created my blog and decided to embark on this journey of being a “digital influencer” – a journey that has eventually led to self-discovery and so much more. December 4th crept up on me before I could even realize that another anniversary was approaching. All the years before, I made sure to do a celebratory shoot. This year though, I truthfully wasn’t sure whether or not to acknowledge it at all.

A huge part of me has been carrying around some guilt knowing that I’ve neglected my blog ever since I moved. It has been a labor of love for such a long time now and I do hate that I’ve strayed away from the foundation of what I’ve built. There was a part of me that felt as though maybe I shouldn’t celebrate this time. The more I thought about it this past week the more I realized that what I do and how far I’ve come goes beyond the blog. This site started everything for me, but I’ve been able to expand past it in many other ways.

I deserve to celebrate 7 years of doing what I love. 7 years of working for myself – something that has challenged me every single day. I deserve to be proud of all the accomplishments that I’ve been able to achieve during this time and to give myself a pat on the back, something I don’t do nearly as often as I should. It was silly for me to think that those things shouldn’t be celebrated. These last 7 years have changed my entire life. They’ve helped shape me into the woman that I am today. They led me here to my very first apartment in New York City. I’m eternally grateful.The most fascinating part about all of this is when I look back on my growth throughout the years. When I dig into the archives to revisit older posts from my humble beginnings, I don’t even recognize the girl that I see in the photos. It’s such a crazy concept to me of how far I have come since December 4, 2011. Not only has there been growth in my writing, photography and transparency, there has also been growth in WHO I am as a woman. So much has shifted for me in terms of the way that I portray myself. There is much more intent behind everything I do now and I finally realized that building a genuine community is far better than just having a large number next to my profile name on social media.

Community. It was so important for me to learn the power in that. Creating meaningful conversations that went further than surface level became an instrumental part of what I do. For way too long, I only focused on the number. If a photo had low engagement, I allowed it to make me feel bad about myself and my work. If I wasn’t growing my following fast enough, I started to compare myself to everyone else questioning what I was doing wrong.

You know what I was doing wrong? My priorities weren’t in check. I was so concerned about the number without realizing that each number represented a different human being. How could I truly connect with each individual when I was only focused on gaining more followers? That changed the game for me. It became evident that the more open and honest I was about life, the more conversations I had. The more conversations I had led to more authentic connections. So now instead of finding ways to get more followers, I’m finding ways to create more connections with those who are already following me on this journey. Yesterday, I felt super compelled to ask on my Insta Stories, for the first time ever, why everyone chooses to follow me. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to ask, but never did. I was completely blown away by the response and honestly was not expecting that in the least. I didn’t know if that many people would take the time to answer or if anyone even cared to share their reasons with me. But wow – a huge thank you to all those who replied with such sweet, encouraging and heartfelt words. While I was reading all of the messages a sudden wave of inspiration washed over me and I ran to my laptop to write this post.

While some follow me for style and travel only, the majority of people said they follow because of my life chats, the authenticity, the positivity, and the relatability. Whoa. That is extremely powerful to me. Back when I started, that would not have been a reason for someone to go on this journey with me. I can’t even put into words what those responses mean. I got a little emotional reading them because it served as this incredible reminder that I’m definitely on the right path and I need to continue building and expanding. While sometimes I feel like I’m doing everything wrong, I’m obviously doing something right. And while it’s amazing for me to grow past the blog, I also need to remember the importance of my roots and can’t neglect this space for too long.

I remember when I got laid off from my job of 4 years. It happened exactly at the same time that I lost my father. Back then, I was 26 years old, just a few months shy of my 27th birthday. Everything that I knew was suddenly taken away from me. I had never felt so lost in my entire life and I remember asking myself, “Where do I go from here? How am I going to survive this?” It’s been an extremely long and challenging road throughout the years, but here I am. I’m still surviving, but even more than that – I’m thriving.  I swear I got through it all because of God, being able to do what I love every day and because I’ve had so many of you in my corner rooting for me to grow and be successful in my own right.lifestyle blogger naty michele sitting at central parkI never thought that I would have the opportunity to reach others on a platform like this. The idea of working for myself and creating my own business seemed like such a foreign concept back then. I knew in my heart that the typical 9-5 was not for me. It didn’t suit my personality or my creative needs or my insanely scattered mind. Even though working for myself stresses me out and challenges me constantly, it also keeps me grounded. It’s taught me resilience. It’s taught me consistency. It’s taught me how to hustle.

I’ve learned how to have the proper balance between organic content and brand sponsorships. I realized how essential it is to only partner on campaigns that make sense for me and that feel authentic to who I am. I also learned my value and what I can bring to an oversaturated industry. I might not have hundreds of thousands of followers and my photos may not be the best of the best, but I have my honesty. I have my stories to share. I think that can be really impactful. It makes me feel like I’m bringing more value to the content that I am putting out. I try to focus on a message with each image. If it speaks to me a certain way, then I’m going to express that through my writing. Knowing that doing this has resonated with so many of you makes me realize that I just need to continue expanding on this.

There are a few big ideas that I have for 2019. I need to figure out the best ways to implement these concepts, but I believe in my heart if done correctly it can help bring me to the next level that I have been craving for because as you all know – I want more. I’ve been saying it all year and I haven’t been able to shake that feeling. So expect some new things coming from me soon. You can also expect more frequent blog posts as I desperately need to get back to my writing and sharing as much as I was before. I’ve got gratitude in my heart for everything that these last 7 years have given me. I’m so thankful for all of you – the ones who have been with me since the beginning – the ones who have stuck around through the rebranding and all of the content changes – and even the ones who recently found me. None of this would be possible without you and your support. I owe so much of what I have to all of you for giving me the opportunity to use my platform in the ways that I have for as long as I have. I love you all so much even without having met you because your encouraging words and support always lift me up and push me to continue.

From A Love Affair With Fashion in 2011 to Naty Michele in 2018…. WOW! What a difference 7 years have made. Cheers to another 7 with more lessons, beginnings and opportunities. I hope you’ll still be here. ❤️

Photos by Geri Torres 

 

 

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