I’m back with another Table Talk Tuesday, and I’m so excited for all of you to get to know my interviewee, Haley, from the blog Haley Marie. Haley and I have been chatting over email for a while now, and I was immediately impressed by how smart and driven she was, as a freshman in college. I can remember back to being a freshman and how lost and confused I was about where I wanted to go with my life, so I am really blown away by how Haley’s ability to set goals and go after what she wants.
So without further adieu, let’s get into the interview so you can see what I mean…
Can you tell me the story of how you decided to start your blog, and what your blogging journey has been like so far?
Though my current blog, Haley Marie, is only a couple months old, I have actually been blogging for about three or four years now. I guess the best way to start is actually with the story behind my first blog, so I’ll just roll with that! I was fifteen years old, and I was in a bit of a rough patch as far as my personal life was concerned. I was aimlessly searching for something to fill my time and build myself back up again. So, I followed my gut and returned to my roots by filling my time with something I’d always loved to do: writing! I channeled all my energy into starting a blog, the Chick Lit Kitchen, where I wrote about my loves of food and romance novels.
Though the Chick Lit Kitchen was a bit of a flop (I started running out of time to read and make time-consuming recipe posts as I advanced in my high school career), I eventually returned to blogging as a kind of therapy when I entered another rough patch in my life. When I was a bit older, the dormant anxiety and depression I’d always carried deep within me started to become too much to bear. Finally, the thought occurred to me: why don’t I start a blog again? So I did! Love, Haley (my second blog) didn’t start out about mental illness, but it quickly morphed into a place where I shared my deepest thoughts and feelings about the anxiety and depression I was battling.
Yet as my anxiety and depression began to improve with time (and therapy), I sort of felt that I was outgrowing the old label of “mental illness blogger.” So, as I graduated from high school and began to transition into college, I started to experiment with a couple of new niches. The result was that my blog ended up all over the place. I strayed so far from my original brand that I eventually felt like my best course of action was to start from scratch, rather than rebranding Love, Haley for a second time. That’s how Haley Marie Blog began! Now, while I consider myself a college, beauty and health blogger first and foremost, I will never forget my roots as a mental illness blogger.
I contributed to your blog post about why I picked my college major. Can you talk about how and why you picked your major, and what your advice would be for picking the right major?
I actually have two majors, Journalism and Political Science. Somehow, I think I always knew that this was where I would end up eventually. I have always known I wanted to be a writer, just like I have always known I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself (like politics!). Personally, I identify with the word “writer” before anything else, besides maybe the word “woman.”
My first semester, I was a part of both the student newspaper (as a news writer) and the student PR society (as a member of the digital/creative team, which does client work based on graphic design). I instantly fell in love with the newspaper – particularly with the positive energy and quick pace of the newsroom – and now I am (as a freshman!) an Associate City News Editor there this spring! While I enjoyed PR too, I felt like these were the same experiences I was getting through my blog, which I was much more passionate about than the student organization, and that it wasn’t really as valuable to me as being in a newsroom.
Around the same time, I also happened to be falling in love with my first Poli Sci class, Intro to American Politics, and all of the heated election discussions it brought. And, I mean, not to be that person, but the 2016 election definitely shaped my perception of the Poli Sci field by showing me just how much the world needs strong female leaders! So, as long-winded as this story has been, that’s exactly how I realized that these two things were the subjects I couldn’t live without studying for the next three and a half years, and the fields I wanted to build my future career around!
What is the most important thing you think someone should know before starting a blog?
Ooh, this is such a good question! My advice for anyone starting a blog is this: whatever you want to blog about, make sure it’s genuinely what YOU want to blog about. Don’t blog about whatever’s popular in that moment (popularity is fleeting). Honestly, what keeps me motivated to keep banging out posts – even when it’s after 1 AM and all I really want is to eat a bagel and go to bed – isn’t getting views or comments or likes on Twitter (though I won’t lie – those things ARE nice!). Instead, it’s passion. And I think most successful bloggers would say the same!
I actually experienced the dangers of falling into this trap firsthand. For a while, I felt self-conscious about my blog because it wasn’t “serious” enough. Instead of blogging about scholarly things like politics, I blog about some of my favorite things: beauty, lifestyle tips and healthy eating hacks. At first, I worried this meant I was vapid and shallow, and that this was the way my readers would perceive me. However, I quickly found that when I wrote about something I was passionate about, rather than things I thought I should write about, I was able to produce better content and let my true sincerity shine through. Because I was writing about things I loved and could genuinely offer my advice on, my posts are more popular – plus, because I actually look forward to writing, I am able to produce more quality content, more quickly!
A lot of college students and 20-somethings battle with feelings of self-doubt and questioning if they are good enough. Do you have any tips for moving past these negative thoughts?
I’m not going to lie: though I’ve tried my hardest to be open about my battles with mental illness, body issues and self-esteem, I’m still in that age bracket and I still have insecurities and doubts. Sometimes, I act like I’m beyond the point of having negative feelings or self-doubt, when in reality, I haven’t fully pushed past it – and nobody should expect me to! I’m only 18!
The problem with being in college or in your 20s is that we compare ourselves too much to others – especially when it comes to people like celebrities, bloggers and YouTubers. When we’re confronted with posts and videos like “How I Organize My Life” or “My Perfect Morning Routine,” we always seem to think that everyone else has their life together, and we’re the only ones who are still figuring it out. If you’re someone who reads a lot of blogs, you probably know exactly how I feel. But here’s the secret no one wants to admit (especially not in the college blogging community, where we’re literally telling you how to lead more organized, productive lives): literally none of us have our sh*t together yet! No matter how many blog posts I write about having high self-esteem, no matter how “on-fleek” my eyeliner is on a particular day, no matter how organized my planner appears, I’m still not perfect. Nobody is.
If you had a life motto, what would it be?
In one word, “balance”! Life, to me, is all about balance between work and play, health and pleasure, friendships and significant others, and all the other competing factors in our lives. To me, balance is all about listening to what your body needs and gratifying it. Maybe it’s all the yoga I’ve been doing lately, but I firmly believe when you give your body what it asks for and start to show it love, sooner or later your body will start to love you back!
Meditation is a huge way that I achieve balance: my therapist recommended it to me, and I find that 5 to 10 minutes of meditating a day counteracts a lot of the stress I experience in my day-to-day life. Because I try to stay in tune with my body’s physical and emotional needs through meditation, intuitive eating and other mindfulness strategies, I can always tell when I’m getting tired or cranky, what I’m craving (whether that’s a chia seed smoothie and a sweat session, or Chipotle and Gilmore Girls) and when I’m starting to isolate myself because I’m working too hard, and need to plan a night out with my girlfriends.
What three things are at the top of your gratitude list right now?
My boyfriend, Ryan, always makes the top of my gratitude list! He lives about an hour away from where I go to school, so we don’t see each other very often; however, I’m eternally grateful for all of the stability, balance and positivity he brings me. Whenever he comes into the city for our weekly visit, it puts a smile on my face!
I’m also grateful for my family. My parents are divorced, so my family has had a harder journey than most. Working out the details of where I would attend college and who would pay for it was more difficult and complex than I originally expected; however, I can’t express enough how grateful I am that everyone is trying to make the best of our difficult situation.
Finally, I’m grateful that I will (hopefully) be travelling to London for five days this summer! My boyfriend and I are planning a trip together. We haven’t finalized the details yet, but I couldn’t be more excited about the possibility of seeing the city together.
Who is your biggest “girl crush” in terms of female entrepreneurs, celebrities, or any other woman you look up to, and why?
I’m cheating and giving two answers, because I look up to so many women! I personally think that having empowering women as role models is one of the most important things a female entrepreneur can bring to the table.
When it comes to celebrities, Emma Watson is always my go-to answer. I admire her resolve to lead a private life and have a normal college experience at Brown, I love how intelligent and collected she is and I think she’s such an incredible role model for women everywhere. Her work with the UN to further the rights of girls all over the globe inspires me to think about what more I could be doing to help people outside my own backyard.
As far as business goes, I’m a huge fan of Nikki Phillippi. She’s a YouTuber rather than a blogger, but I couldn’t be more impressed by her brand. I discovered her by listening to her Tea Talk series, and fell in love with the way she connects with an audience. She always comes across as so authentic and genuine, and gives advice that makes me think she’s the big sister I never had! Plus, her work with sponsors is just so inspiring to me as a blogger. So, even though YouTube is a bit of a different world from blogging, I hope I can take a leaf from her book and adopt some of the same ingenuity and sincerity as a female entrepreneur in the media.
What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?
I would tell myself to spend more time focusing on the things that matter most to me and the qualities I would like to see in myself, rather than what other people think of me. I feel like growing up, I put so much energy into achieving “goals” that had nothing to do with my personal character or my entrepreneurial spirit. Though I’ve always been a self-starter who’s achievement-oriented, when I was in late middle and early high school, I sometimes lost sight of that in favor of striving for superficial beauty, popularity or the “right” boyfriend. So, I wish that I had channeled my energy into something productive and meaningful to me, rather than chasing guys who didn’t appreciate me or worrying that my stomach or thighs were “too fat.” If I had been in a more mature state of mind back then, I think I would have focused on giving myself something to be proud of and finding a reason to love myself first, without needing some random guy or friend’s approval.
What is one accomplishment you are most proud of?
One of the things I love to brag about is my high school senior project. Besides my blog, this project is one of the things in life I am most proud of! Senior Project was a course in my high school geared toward preparing us for a career in our major of choice through completing a research component, internship and final project of our own design. Prophetically, since I’m now a Poli Sci double-major, I spent my year researching the impact of television on American politics.
For my internship component, I interned in the office of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker in his constituent affairs department. While I don’t always agree with the Governor’s politics, I loved the human element of getting to do casework for constituents and feel like I was really making a difference in people’s lives.
For the project component, I invited a group of professionals for a panel discussion at my high school, on the topic of media and politics. For weeks, I was emailing people left and right, filling out grant forms and designing advertisements and tickets for the event. We ended up getting an almost $600 grant from the district’s education fund for my work. I also moderated the panel, which included a Massachusetts State Senator, the Director of MassVOTE, a Boston Globe journalist, a Northeastern professor, and a grassroots campaign organizer for a PR company. Educators and citizens from my town and the wider community attended the panel and even had the opportunity to ask their own questions at the end of the panel! Overall, the night was a whirlwind, and one of the most spectacular experiences of my entire life.
I have to throw a fun one in here to wrap this up. If you could be any animal, which animal would you want to be?
I’d probably transform into a cat. I’m notorious for falling asleep in boring lectures (sorry, not sorry to my Stats and Political Theory professors) and I am fiercely independent. I also crave attention and fall in love with anyone who feeds me treats…so, I guess I just have to face it: I’m pretty much a cat already!
I hope you all enjoyed this installment of Table Talk Tuesday! I’m so impressed by what Haley has been able to do with her blog(s) so far, and at such a young age. I’m looking forward to continuing to read her posts and learn from her. Be sure to subscribe to Haley’s blog, and follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Also, if you would like to be featured on Table Talk Tuesday, leave a comment here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!