Advice

11 Lessons from 11 Years of Blogging

Yesterday marked 11 years since I hit publish on Capitol Hill Style.  It’s incredible to think about all that has happened and changed during that time, and how, despite all of those changes, this blog has remained.

A few weekends ago, I did an AMA on my Instagram Stories, and several of the questions asked what I had learned over the past years about blogging, fashion, and creating content.  And when I look back on these years, I can hardly count them all.

What I’ve learned about fashion…

In my younger years, I was more than willing to suffer for style.  If the clothes pinched a bit, if the shoes hurt my feet, if I had to get up early to master that updo, it was no trouble.  But once you learn that you can finish a work day without sore feet, and that a second day of dry shampoo won’t kill anyone, it’s a game changer.

Beyond that, I’ve learned that every woman has different needs.  There is no ‘right way’ that suits everyone.  No miracle wardrobe that blends seamlessly from person to person.  I’ve also learned that we all have the same goal: to look nice and feel confident about our appearance as we tackle our professional goals.

What I’ve learned about expectations…

Everyone has days when they don’t feel their best.  Everyone has days when nothing looks or fits quite right.  Every woman I know has had that moment when she looks in the mirror and just feels demoralized, but we all have a tendency to feel like we’re the only ones.  All we should expect from ourselves is that we put in effort, and if it doesn’t turn out as hoped, to be kind to ourselves.

What I’ve learned about feminism…

11 years ago, I wouldn’t have called myself a feminist.  Growing up in a rural, conservative place, a feminist was a stereotype.  But thanks to the women in this group, I realized that painting feminists as a man-hating trope is just a continuation of societal misogyny.  If you believe that men and women are created equally and deserve equal treatment, you’re a feminist.

What I’ve learned about work and career…

Coming out of college, my career was a straight line following from one goal to the next.  And I will admit that I felt some youthful superiority at my ability to move down the checklist tacking one challenge after another, but any feelings that I had about having this career thing licked were premature.

Every woman is fighting a battle, and life isn’t linear.  Things evolve; you evolve.  What you wanted may change.  Where you live may change.  You will have successes.  You will have setbacks.  You will more than likely have regrets.  You will get tired, because your career will span decades.  And you will pick yourself up, reassess, and go again.

What I’ve learned about getting older…

To those under-30, have adventures when you’re young.  Travel.  Kiss the guy/girl.  Stay out a little too late.  Be spontaneous.  Start the business.  Dye your hair purple.  Put some money in an IRA (compounding interest is a real thing).  Take risks.

The one thing you lose as you get older is the cushioning effect of time.  As long as you have it, use it.  It’s true what they say, your deepest regrets will likely be about the opportunities you missed and the things that you didn’t do.

If you’re over-30, taking risks and making changes gets harder the more time passes.  You can still do it; there’s just so much more to consider and so much more pressure to do the right thing, because all your decisions feel so final.  Just remember that if you really want it, you can still have it, just maybe not as easily or in the exact way you imagined.

And whatever you do, stop reading the “Things to Do Before You’re (30, 35, 40)” listicles.  They’re written by 24-year-olds.

What I’ve learned about skincare…

See a dermatologist when you’re young; go back every year.  Moisturize. Wear sunscreen.  And don’t pick that pimple.  You only get one skin, be kind to it and it will be kind to you.

What I’ve learned about saying the wrong thing…

I write thousands of words every week.  My grammar isn’t the best.  And every now and again, I say something dumb on the Internet.  The longer I blog, the more I realize it’s okay to make mistakes.  It’s important to apologize.  No one is perfect.  All you can do is be genuinely sorry, and do better next time.

What I’ve learned about community…

Until you’re 22, almost everyone’s life moves at the same speed and has the same milestones.  Then, our lives diverge.  Some women get married, some don’t.  Some find their career path early, some don’t.  Some have kids, some don’t.  We make mistakes. We have regrets.  We suffer losses, and have successes.  Our milestones stop looking like everyone else’s, and it’s easy to feel alone.

You.are.not.alone.  I started the Thirtyish Community Group because I wanted women to be able to share their experiences, their questions and their vulnerabilities.  Sometimes we need shoe or travel recommendations.  Sometimes we need advice on leaving a marriage or a job, or dealing with the loss of a parent.  No one’s experiences are identical, but we can still support each other and build community so that we feel less alone.

What I’ve learned about social media…

Post to Instagram, or don’t.  Share on Facebook, or don’t.  But whatever you decide to share, make sure it meaningfully resembles your real life.  Everyone, especially you, suffers if you’re crafting a brand or a narrative instead of being an authentic person.

What I’ve learned about failure…

You will fail.  You will fail in big ways, small ways, and unexpected ways.  You will fail others, you will fail yourself.  You will hate it.  Hopefully, you will learn from it.  But if you’re not failing, you’re not trying.

Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.

What I’ve learned about figuring it all out…

It’s easy to believe when you’re young that by the time you reach a certain point in life, you’ll have figured it out.  Your career path will steadily upward.  Your personal life will be smooth.  Your self-esteem and confidence will just blossom.  But that’s nonsense.

Don’t buy into the idea that you can or will get to a place where everything just flows.  Some months, some years will feel amazing.  Some will feel like torture.  Life is like the weather; there are sunny days and stormy ones.

All you can do is stay present.  Set goals, and try to reach them.  Stay in the fight.  Try to stay true to yourself, even when you’re not sure exactly what that means.  And whatever you do, don’t let the idea that you should have it figured out make you feel like a failure.  No one has their life on lock all the time, even if it might look like that on social media.

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    22 comments

  1. Megan says:

    “And whatever you do, stop reading the “Things to Do Before You’re (30, 35, 40)” listicles. They’re written by 24-year-olds.” This cracked me up;) Great reflective piece, thank you!

    August 19, 2019/Reply
  2. MOnica T says:

    If you learned all this, then you are doing great! Excellent insights, keep up the good work!

    August 19, 2019/Reply
  3. Lost says:

    Love this. Great sentiments! Congrats on 11 years.

    August 19, 2019/Reply
  4. Cara says:

    Thank you for 11 great years! Your posts brighten my day! Cheers to many more years!

    August 19, 2019/Reply
  5. AMB says:

    I think I’ve been reading you for almost all of those 11 years and it is this thoughtfulness that keeps me here – along with the cute pup pics and snark.

    August 19, 2019/Reply
  6. CHloe says:

    Did I miss the announcement about the Thirtyish group? I want to join!

    August 19, 2019/Reply
    • Maria says:

      Aw man what bummer that it only exists on Facebook.

      August 20, 2019/Reply
  7. Lauren says:

    <3!

    August 19, 2019/Reply
  8. Kristen says:

    Beautiful!

    August 19, 2019/Reply
  9. Dia says:

    I am so happy you started this project. I’ve been reading your blog since 2011 & it’s helped my style evolve. Thank you for talking about failure. It’s so hard to say it out loud but so important. And we all go through it thinking we’re alone.

    August 19, 2019/Reply
  10. AnA says:

    Congratulations Abra! I enjoy reading the blog. Your evolution in some of these areas are something I have seen and cheered on as a reader. Thank you for being real.

    August 20, 2019/Reply
  11. Lauren says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for years now, and this post made me tear up. Thank you for all the time and effort you put into your work. And wishing you a wonderful, lovely wedding day coming up, and a joyful marriage! Just love you 🙂

    August 20, 2019/Reply
    • Nancy says:

      I feel the exact same way! Your honesty and insights are invaluable!! Thank you!!

      August 20, 2019/Reply
  12. Liz says:

    CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR RETIREMENT AS SOON AS YOU CAN! YESSSSSS (I started fully funding my 401(k) and Roth IRA at 29 and I look at those years from 25-29 where I was working but not saving for retirement and cringe at the lost retirement income)

    Also, Abra, I’d be really curious if you would highlight a couple of advice questions that you answered in the past 11 years that you have a vastly different take on today???

    August 20, 2019/Reply
  13. janine says:

    “But if you’re not failing, you’re not trying.” Thanks, I needed that today. Thanks for all that you do.

    August 20, 2019/Reply
  14. Em says:

    Thank you for this!

    August 20, 2019/Reply
  15. Karen says:

    You’re a treasure. Truly. I’m way outside your target age demographic, but I’ve been reading since nearly the beginning and can hardly count the number of times I’ve used your professional advice or made a great purchase based on experiences you’ve shared, or gotten something important from an article recommendation. The cocktail recipes too and dog news especially. 🙂 I love that you are kind, thoughtful, honest, and genuinely helpful. This is the only blog I read. Thanks for keeping it going.

    August 20, 2019/Reply
  16. MM says:

    Congratulations on 11 years! Thanks for creating such a wonderful corner of the internet.

    August 20, 2019/Reply
  17. Meredith says:

    Congrats and thank you for 11 years! As someone 30+ you had me nodding along on your lessons learned! 🙂 Keep up the great work and thanks again!

    August 20, 2019/Reply
  18. K says:

    This was a fun read. I really liked hearing not just about how the blog has changed, but how YOU have changed over 11 years. I’m working on planning my 10th college reunion and it’s so cool and so crazy to see where people ended up. Coming out of college I felt so pressured to make the Right Decision, but it turns out there wasn’t one.

    August 20, 2019/Reply
  19. Sarah says:

    All of this is spot on! I was added to the Thirtyish Community group by one of my friends from grad school. It’s been what I’ve needed as a working mom. I have very few friends that have careers and even fewer that have careers and kids. Your blog and the community has been a big bright place for me in the craziness that is being a working parent in her 30s.

    August 27, 2019/Reply
  20. Sarah says:

    All of this is fantastic, Abra. Especially the last part about “Figuring it all out”. Congratulations and thanks for the past 11 years!

    August 27, 2019/Reply

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