Branding Myself Without Losing Myself

Personal Branding
Getting personal with branding

In case you didn’t notice, I am in the middle of a redesign or reorganization of my blog.

After a year or more of collecting dust with a very lazily-modified Thesis theme (basically, I just changed the link colors), I decided I needed to make my website a little bit more personal. So, this is a work in progress. I might fire up Ye Olde Photoshoppe and design a header graphic one of these days. I may add some other icons or graphics here and there. I may leave it alone. We’ll see. What I’ve done so far is a result of a few hours of work late Saturday night while chair dancing to my Keri Hilson Pandora channel. (No, I don’t want to hear your judgements.) Besides, who knows when I’ll have free time again, given my exhaustive social calendar?

Feeling Dirty

I often struggle with branding myself online. It’s not that I don’t know what to do. I know what to do–I do it for my clients all the time. It’s just that I don’t want to do it for myself. Marketing myself makes me feel dirty. I feel at odds about there being a gigantic photo of myself in my sidebar. But I know something like that needs to be there.  Even though that photo is somewhat old, it’s the only one I have of myself looking sincerely into the camera (pro-tip: eye contact builds trust with the viewer). So, up it goes until I find a new photo to replace it.

Writing my bios (short and long form) are a gruesome process for me. I have no problems writing copy for clients about themselves, their business or product. Solving these problems for my clients are always so obvious, and come naturally and easily. But for me? The negative self-talk overwhelms the sane strategic advice I use with clients. Perhaps this is because I struggle between wanting to be something society thinks I should be (typical American Rat Race at work), and being my authentic self.

That sidebar bio? It originally began with something dry and generic. I hate the idea of my job defining who I am as a person. I am so much more than a job title, self-employed or not. Yet, my bio statement opened up with what I do for a living. So, I flipped it. The revised statement is a nod to Romy and Michelle, and guess what? It’s sarcastic. But, I’m sarcastic.

The Future of My Blog

Recently I completed some blog re-organizing and SEO work for a client, BrothaTech. I had an exhaustive checklist of things I knew I needed to fix  on his blog, and I gave him a list of things to do. After checking my list twice and reviewing my completed work, I realized I don’t do half of these things on my blog. Not even close. Basic SEO strategies were being ignored. Advanced strategies as well. Meanwhile, this place is collecting dust, and my tumblr has surpassed my main blog in traffic. That’s when my wheels started turning.

One thing I’ve struggled with this blog is the idea of turning it into my “business” blog where all I do is write about tech. I love tech. I love being a nerd. But that’s not all I am. I like to travel. I like writing. I like media and entertainment. I love documenting and sharing. The idea of turning a site named after me into a blog solely about tech and social media feels like a disservice to who I am. Everyone else does it, but I can’t. It’s not me. I considered opening a new blog, and writing only about tech over there. I thought this was a good idea because then I could be a “founder” of a dotcom, since I see people being listed as founders of dotcoms. But these dotcoms are typically basic blogs (dusty ones, if you ask me). Anyway, I decided against that. I don’t want to segment myself and my audience. The title isn’t worth it, and I think this approach is somewhat obnoxious (for me).

I found a solution. Write about everything I love, and be my authentic self. Here. I’ll have a business site for business/portfolio purposes I can refer people to if I have to. But everything can coexist here, with some fancy organizing. I’ll make re-organizing my content a priority over design tasks, and I’ll work towards pumping out content regularly here. After all, being and writing as my authentic self is what brought me my original clients years ago when I had no idea what being a new media consultant was or would entail.

Hope you can keep up.

The Broke Rich

A month ago I decided to fly home to LA for a week because I knew I would not be able to come home for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. I usually like to spend a few weeks in LA when I fly back, but this time I could only stay for a week, as I have weekly bible study group leader duties in New York. Sure, leading a bible study group for the past few months has been cramping my jet-setter-nomad lifestyle, but I committed to being a bible study group leader at my church, so it is what it is.

If you know me, you know I can’t stand to have burly un-neat, misshaped eyebrows. It’s my thing, probably because I don’t frequently wear makeup and nice eyebrows are the best un-makeup a lady can wear. Note: If you ever see me in the streets and my eyebrows are lookin’ rough, then you know I’ve hit rock bottom. I prefer a manicure, pedicure and eyebrow wax every two weeks, but if the recession gets the best of me, at a bare minimum, I will find some change for an eyebrow wax.

As a result of my eyebrow preferences, I have formed very nit picky habits about my eyebrow care. They have to be groomed to a certain shape (i.e. natural), and I need my wax specialist to wax, pluck and trim. If I come across someone who only does one or two of those procedures, she’s crossed out of my book. I will not return unless under dire circumstances.

I realize I’m this way because I’m spoiled. Five years ago I discovered the best eyebrow wax specialist on the planet. I’m not the only person who thinks this, as numerous Yelp and FourSquare reviews agree with me. This eyebrow wax is only $10 and located in West Hollywood, CA but it’s not even about the price. It’s about the wax specialist: her name is Michelle and she’s the bomb.com. Michelle is Vietnamese, I believe, and she looks ageless (one day she told me she was almost 40 or something crazy old, and I gave her the side eye because she doesn’t look a day over 26).

Having the eyebrow waxing requirements that I have, one can only imagine the difficulties I endured after moving to New York two years ago. The New York beauty game is a whole different ball game. There are nail salons on every other corner, many of them charging $7 for a manicure and the service is flippant because there are so many options.  You would think the price point is perfect until you go in and look at the conditions of the salon, or the method in which they sanitize their instruments. I’ve also tried upscale, expensive places, and I am just not impressed with New York.

Nobody in NYC seems to be able to groom my eyebrows like Michelle. As a result, every trip to LA requires an eyebrow wax. It doesn’t matter where I’m at in my two week waxing cycle. It doesn’t matter how broke I am. I have to make a trip to WeHo and see Michelle.

So, back to last month. I stopped in my nail salon to get an eyebrow wax on my way to LAX. I stopped by as soon as they opened because I was going straight to the airport to catch a flight back to NYC after my waxing. I was so early, in fact, Michelle hadn’t yet arrived for the day. I told the receptionist I loved Michelle, and didn’t mind waiting. I explained that I was on my way home in NYC and had to see Michelle, as was my ritual these days.

“So, you’re just visiting LA?”

“Eh. Sort of. I kind of live in both LA and New York.”

“Oh, so you’re rich?” She said with blunt amazement.

I looked at her rather quizzically. Nobody has ever called me rich before, and seriously meant it. Especially so bluntly. Sure, it sounds like I’m rich. Whenever I tell anyone I am bi-coastal they swear up and down I am some kind of baller. If only they knew I feel the brokest I’ve ever felt in my life. Years ago my bank accounts were bigger than they are now. Which is odd to me because years ago I felt like that was the brokest I’d ever been in my life. But today? Right now? This is what broke feels like.

And yet here a perfect stranger was calling me rich. To my face.

I humbly went along with this “rich” notion as we continued to talk. I explained I pay rent in NYC, but my car and furniture remain in LA, and my business was also based in LA. Yeah…I wasn’t doing such a good job of convincing her of how un-rich I was. The problem with this conversation was that she was absolutely right. In the grand scheme of things, compared to the rest of the world, I am richer than something like 3% of the people on the planet. Even though I didn’t have the money for my complete mani, pedi, and waxing ritual, and even though I was being “frugal” by just getting an eyebrow wax….here I was. Rich.

Sigh.

As I get closer to my trip to Haiti, my finances are feeling the most strain they’ve ever felt. The rumors are true: running your own business is as difficult as they say. And yet I am doing my best to remain focused and worry less about money. It’s difficult, I won’t lie. I am going out less, and can’t help but feel like my friends think I don’t want to hang out with them. I take taxis less, and walk more because I live in Midtown Manhattan and can walk to many of the places I need to go. I’m working the MTA by subwaying to my destination and then busing my way home. I’m giving myself manicures and stretching out my bi-monthly pedicures to every 6-8 weeks (you don’t even wanna know how gross this makes me feel lol). I even briefly went back to processed foods because they were considerably cheaper than healthy organic fresh produce. I am doing my best to be a more responsible adult and pay for bare necessities so I can pay off debts and make rent every month. Needless to say, I feel broke in every way of life right now.

Today I went back to the nail salon to see Michelle for my routine eyebrow wax, as I found myself back in LA, four weeks since my last visit. I spoke to the same receptionist, and though I doubt she remembers our last conversation, I remembered it. Broker than I was the last time I saw her, I was reminded that I am indeed, rich.

Richer than the vast majority of the people on this planet.

On Being Baptized at Jones Beach


So. I got baptized last Saturday. At the beach. A New York beach, at that.

This might seem like it came out of nowhere. I think that was by my own design. You see, I joined a church back in June. A church I’ve been attending since March. I’ve been looking for a church to attend regularly in NYC since I moved here last year, but I hadn’t made a decision on this particular church until last Fall. I generally kept this information to myself.

I wrote a post outlining how I came about choosing and joining this church, and the post also discussed my personal history of church attending, but I never published it. I might some day. It’s incomplete though, and will need some editing/finishing.

Anyway.

My Baptism Backstory

I was supposed to get baptized like, decades ago. I became a Christian when I was fairly young (but old enough to make the decision), but for reasons that children and teenagers feel insecure about, I never chose to get baptized. (The churches my mother went to don’t baptize babies). I dunno, the thought of being dripping wet in front of everybody at church didn’t sound exciting. Seriously.

My mother and stepfather met in ministry school and they were both very active volunteers and leaders at the churches they attended over the years.  My mom didn’t force me to get baptized, which, I think was awesome now that I review my story. I’ve never felt like I was doing this Christian thing because my mom made me, or because I felt like I needed to please her, or because that’s just what people do in my family/community/etc. My mom set an example as best she could, but never forced me to do things I didn’t want to do when it came to Christianity. My stepdad was awestruck when he discovered I had never been baptized. He told me I needed to do it, but he didn’t pressure me or make me feel bad about not doing it. Again, I appreciated this very much. Everything about my faith is a choice, not a lesson in Peer Pressure 101, which I love.

As I grew older, I conveniently forgot about getting baptized. My reasons for not getting baptized? Laziness. Shyness. Fear. Excuses. Flat out disobedience.

Changes

Recently I decided I was going to really change the way I live my life in terms of my faith. No more just going to church on Sundays and forgetting about God for the rest of the week (unless a crisis arose, in which case I needed to cry a prayer to Him for help). I had too many needs, dreams, expectations and crises in my life that an hour on Sunday simply couldn’t handle. My needs demanded more consistency than that.

I decided I was going to join a church, attend consistently, join some of the weekly small group bible study sessions, MEET PEOPLE, volunteer at church, and make this more of a daily walk.  Consistency is what I needed. I knew I had to do this because it was a significant weak area of my faith, and I’ve been struggling with this particular issue for almost 10 years now (where did the time go?). I wanted change in my life, but I knew I had to change in order to get to the next level. Leveling up, if you will.

And so, there was adult water baptism staring me in the face again. I knew I needed to get this out of the way as an act of obedience. Truthfully, I signed up for a baptism earlier this year but flaked. Same concerns/fears/issues arose again. Then I thought, I’m too old for this. When I heard my church would be baptizing people at the beach, I realized this was my chance to do it with flair. I mean, how many people do you know who were baptized in the ocean? Nil.

The Big Day

I knew the date months in advance, but I was still giving myself a backdoor escape just in case I wanted to flake. So I didn’t tell anyone or mention my plans anywhere. My plan was a secret between me and the pastor who was e-mailing me about baptism signups.

I hiked out to Jones Beach this Saturday where my new church held their annual beach baptism gathering. We sang a few songs (including my favorite), the pastors reviewed the process with us, some people shared stories about their walk of faith, and then….we got baptized.

It was awesome.

So about the whole beach experience. There were 43 or so of us getting baptized, and 5 or so kids went first. They were such cuties. I envied them for deciding to do this at such a young age–something I could never bring myself to do. Bless their little hearts. Then the adults lined up in two lines, and for each line, three pastors went out further into the water where we would meet them when it was our turn. Someone ushered us from the shore to the pastors when it was our turn…and then you said what you had to say and they said what they had to say, and then you were lowered back into the the water, raised up from the water, and voila!

Easy, right? Except at the beach there’s this whole wave environment going on. Once I got into the water, chest deep, I realized I was freezing. The water was….yeah–FREEZING. Then these big waves kept crashing right behind us. I’m a SoCal Girl, so waves don’t scare me. But when you’re standing in the water with three people immediately surrounding you and you’ve got to focus on the ‘script’, as well as the falling backwards, and did I mention IT WAS FREEZING!? It was a lot to think about in a short amount of time.

It was fun. We jumped a few waves as I got comfortable with the freezing water splashing around, and then it was over quickly. Church members, friends and family who came to watch us all get baptized cheered loudly for me from the shore, and it felt great. The executive pastor gave me a big hug, and while I am a glutton for crying at special moments, I didn’t cry. I was happy and relieved.

I waded back to shore, a bit in a daze. I went to find the wonderfully wonderful friend from one of my bible study small groups who came with me and gave her a big wet hug. I cheered on the rest of the baptismal candidates as they declared their faith, and I took a few pictures.

I don’t think I could have asked for a better baptism experience.

I realize I didn’t go into detail of what all this means, what the Bible says about it, etc. Just know I am happy with my decision, I feel I’ve done what is right according to the Bible and if you want to know a better explanation of what this means, watch this here video on YouTube that my church posted from last year’s baptism (social media church FTW). If you have any questions, comments, concerns, feel free to ask in the comments, or shoot me an email and I’ll do my best to answer. Thanks for reading this far 🙂

Central Park & The First Day of Spring

Yesterday I’d had enough of my self-imposed cabin fever and decided I would go outside. And do stuff. You see, I’m a hermit of sorts. I stay home, indoors, all the time. Sure, I come from a land of beautiful weather with beaches and lovely outside things to do, but I tend to spend most of my time inside. Watching TV, watching movies, internetting, working, reading, singing, dancing. Everything.

Let me tell you, it gets depressing.

I’ve been this way since college, and there are some healthy normal things about it, and then things just get…strange. Next thing I know I haven’t left Liz HQ in 3 days. Oops?

Hermit life gets depressing in NYC. In LA, as long as I can open my windows and blinds to let the sunshine in, I’m good as gold. But in Manhattan I have no windows in my living room, a small window in my kitchen and well, it’s easy to feel like I live in CB4.

Thus, after being in NYC for all of four days, ya girl is going crazy! I don’t know what it is, but yesterday I decided to get myself out of a would-be funk and go OUT. Anywhere. I needed excuses to go do something.

As I was on my way out the door I called Mr. C, to see if he wanted to do anything. Mr. C and I will talk for hours, about everything and nothing. It doesn’t  really matter where we are, we will have each other in stitches (most of my friends are like this btw, which is why I love them). Sure enough, he was available to hang and I was anxious to see him after all these months of being gone from the City.


We ended up in Lincoln Center, browsing for a new set of earphones at the newest Apple Store in Manhattan (I copped some BOSE earphones that I’ll probably return due to lack of noise cancellation). A few farmer’s market drinks later, and we were in Central Park, park benching it up.

We spent a few hours catching up, reminiscing, predicting the future, talking about people walking by (New Yorkers and their tourists are great fodder).

The park was nice, except the trees were all dead-looking with no leaves in sight. And I was overdressed for the warm weather. Mr. C called me out for my complaining ways, reminding me that if the leaves were out, then I’d probably be complaining about my allergies. He’s right. I need to work on being happy with the moment, in the moment. It was good to be out, and good to see friends who remind you to enjoy what you have when you have it.