The other day, I had a rushed morning. I checked email, chugged my lemon water, hurried in the shower, dropped Teddy off at the groomers, and ran to a meeting. Honestly, it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for me, but it didn’t allow much time to think. It was just go.
The meeting was going really well and as I was sharing a bit of the background of The College Prepster, I realized just how much I had changed over the years. To be completely honest, I do not recognize myself. If I were to go back and tell my 15-almost-16 year old self where I would be in ten years, I don’t think my younger self would have believed me. Nope!!!
Growing up, I always dealt with anxiety. I had great friends, but I never would do something that I didn’t feel 100% comfortable doing. I never went to the movies on Friday nights in middle school. I didn’t go to any parties. I went to homecomings and proms, but didn’t dance. Even little things like telling a waiter what I wanted to order was hard! The list goes on and on.

This was the first week of college, I was very excited to be starting a new chapter, but I had no idea how much personal struggling I was about to go through that semester!

I never would have believed that I was going to meetings with strangers basically every day. I would have never believed that I was voluntarily throwing myself down a mountain on skis or sinking in a pool learning how to scuba dive. I wouldn’t have believed that I was in a great relationship. I would never believe that my formerly terrified of dogs self would end up with a dog of her own.
As excited as I am to know how far I’ve come and knowing that there’s still room to grow, it does make me sometimes look back and wonder if my life would have been different had I been this “new” me from the very beginning.
But then I remember that the new me has been me all along and that everything I’ve gone through, overcome, faced is all part of the journey. It’s all part of my story. The good, the bad, the ugly. 
And actually, it’s mostly the bad and ugly that really forced me to grow and change. (Yes, I know this is cliche!!! It just is so true, I can’t not say it.) That time I fainted before my college interview? That time I failed my first ever college exam? That time I dropped out of a class and squeaked by another with a D? That time I found myself on the floor of the bathroom crying at work? That time I had to decide between my job and my passion?
Those moments led me to where I am today, in a powerful, the-dots-all-connect way
So instead of feeling sad about thinking what I might have missed growing up because of my anxiety, I just own my story and know it’s just as much a part of who I am as having green eyes is. It’s just me.
I don’t think about all these changes frequently, but sometimes it hits me. Like when I’m sitting across from a near stranger, completely comfortable, talking openly about my life and my business and thinking to myself, “Wow, I can do this. I am doing this.”
This is not to say that I don’t still have things to work on. I’ve been having the worst time trying to fall asleep every night lately. There are times when I feel sick to my stomach and frozen with fear and self-doubt. But I get through it. Somehow, someway, I get through whatever it is.

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Vienna Rose

I love this! I'm 15 right now, and anxious about my future. This post almost serves as a letter from my future self, because all my present worries are your anxieties from 10 years ago. College is soon on the horizon, and it's definitely stressing me out. This has inspired me to be unafraid and pursue my dreams. Thank you for such a relevant and inspiring post, I really appreciate it. 🙂

Audrey Lin

I've only just finished my first year of college, and already it's been the most transformative experience in my life. I used to be totally dependent on my parents because they were always around. This past year I've surprised myself with how I've been able to deal with multiple situations, and I'm so excited for my next three years. Thinking about the years after that is a little more nerve-wracking; we'll cross that bridge when we get there haha -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey's

Lindsey Saxby

This is such a fantastic post! Sharing this side is so brave and shows how much confidence you have and how much you've grown from when you were 15. It's really inspiring. Thanks for sharing. I think a lot of us can relate to this.

Lindsey | Finding Balance in Life

Fairy Princess Jord

I've loved reading bits and pieces of your story over the year. I think your courage sharing your moments of weakness have been amazingly encouraging for so many girls struggling with anxiety or self doubt out there. You're an example of overcoming anxiety but still admitting that it is a constant effort. For me that message is inspiring!

Janae Stanfield

I love this post Carly! I've gone through quite a change these past few years, and it's weird looking back and seeing how much you can grow as a person. I used to be the shyest girl around, but just this past semester I studied abroad in London! Thank you for being so real and transparent with you readers! If you ever have time, check out my blog! I used it mainly while I studied abroad, but I'm starting to post more about my life now.

Mia M

carly, this blog post truly touched my heart. i have been reading your blog for as long as i can remember & you have become apart of my day to day life, i don't know what i would do without you & your blog. you are an inspiration, & now hearing your story of overcoming obstacles shows how relatable you really can be! 🙂

3 Peanuts

I am so glad to hear how you have grown so much and that you have the insight to recognize it. That is what life is about. I am old enough to be your Mom and I am growing as a person each day by making mistakes. I was just talking to Will, my 18 year old son about this today.


You can't hope for nothing bad to ever happen (it will!) but you pray for the wisdom and the courage to handle it. It's quite wise of you to recognize that.

Courtney Lovell

I feel the same about myself. Who I was 5 years ago is definitely not who I am today. I've grown and changed so much as a person. I'm not sure I would have pictured my life being this great.

I love reading your blog and seeing how you've grown as a person and how your blog has grown with you. Thanks for such a great post today!

Shirley L

You've just described my entire life. Down to the no dancing school dances, anxiety, staying within comfort zone, failing college classes, deciding between job and passion… New me! Everything! Great post and thanks for being so honest.




The strangest thing has been happening to me. I don’t recognize myself. My reflection looks the same, yes. But there are so many moments where I both don’t feel myself and feel myself. At the same time. I don’t feel like myself because it’s been so long since I’ve been myself!
There have certainly been moments when I’ve seen glimpses of who I am, but I don’t think I realized how significant the changes were. Until, you know, I feel back to normal. Or on my way back to normal that is.
Towards the end of high school, I was pretty much heads down, with the rest of my class, on getting the best grades and then getting into “good colleges.” By my junior year, I was already running on exhaust fumes… awake at 5:45, school from 7:25 to 2:45, crew practice from 3:30 to 7:00, a quick break for dinner, and then homework until after midnight. #rinseandrepeat College wasn’t totally better between morning practices, minor mental breakdowns, regattas every weekend, pressure for a “good gpa,” finding a job, building the blog, launching a magazine, etc. The month I was home between graduation and moving to NYC wasn’t relaxing (at all), because it was all about the JOB HUNT. Must find the perfect job.
And then it was a year of insanity. I truly don’t know what I was thinking or frankly how I did it. I think I must have been in some sort of constant state of adrenaline. Sleeping three or four hours a night for weeks’ on end?! Trying to fit in two more-than-full-time jobs plus friends plus everything into my life? Again, I don’t know how I did it. I really think it was a constant stream of adrenaline mixed in with some sort of post-graduate temporary manic state.
Even though it’s only been a few weeks since I left my job to focus on what I was really passionate about, I already feel like a new person. But the new person isn’t really new is she? She’s really the girl I’ve always been… just hidden under layers and layers of pressure and stress that I had buried myself under.

I’m actually (finally) having fun and enjoying every minute of what I’m doing. I have time to enjoy things instead of just rushing through it for the next thing. I have more time to work on the things I love, which also gives me more time to work on things that have nothing to do with “work.” Lunch breaks that are actually breaks?! Reading in the morning because I want to, not just because I’m stuck underground for twenty minutes. (And if I want to read another chapter just because… I can.)
When I talk to friends, which I’m sure they appreciate, it’s less about venting and more about sharing exciting news or simply catching up. There’s time for friends. Not squeezing friend time in between events or meetings, but real time for real friendships. And that makes me happy.
I don’t have to be on my computer fourteen hours a day, not that I had to before, but it certainly felt like it (or maybe it really was entirely self-imposed).
I never really thought of myself as a “happy” person. Not that I was gloomy, I just never considered myself one of those beaming people. While I’ll never be the life of the party, I’m surprised at how happy I’ve been. Excited about things instead of just chugging along. Setting great goals and feeling ready to accomplish them versus just checking off the boxes on a to-do list.
It sounds so cheesy and beyond cliché… I know. (Two months ago I would have wanted to slap myself for even saying this… but…) Everything is just so much better. Lazy mornings are better. Movies are better. Songs (omg the songs) are better. Working is better. (Gosh, even my skin is better.)
This isn’t to say that I’m not stressed at all. It’s just that the stress is more manageable and reasonable. My anxiety around certain things still exist, but it’s not in the way of getting through life. And sometimes I cry and get worrisome about the future and meeting certain goals and just being 24 years old living on my own in this big city. But I think I wouldn’t be doing things right if I wasn’t a little bit nervous!
So everything is a bit brighter and way more exciting.
And I’m liking this girl that I’ve rediscovered. I think I’ll keep her around.
Have you ever felt like not yourself? How did you get back to her?

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I usually don't comment on blog posts, but this one is so, so relevant to my life. In order for me to find myself, I spent a lot of time alone. I made a habit of being alone and learning to love it. I spent time figuring out the simplest things – what I actually like to eat or wear or do. I also changed majors (towards the middle/end of my sophomore year of college…not the best idea, but necessary). Ever since, I've been a lot more confident and happy. My grades are better because of it, my work ethic is better because of it, my relationships with those around me are better because of it, and I am better because of it.

Thanks for sharing this post. It was perfect.


I know exactly how you feel! For the past couple of years I have been so focused on trying to be the perfect person, but along the way I lost who I really was. It wasn't until I started dating Jason and created Prep on a Budget that I really began to feel like myself again 🙂


Taylor Cunningham

Sounds great!! I'm still finding a balance, I've definitely been doing the nutso schedule and 3 or 4 hours of sleep a night thing lately… I'm waiting for the crash!

Lori Ann

I know exactly how you feel, except I still haven't found a a balance in my life. Sometimes I look in the mirror and I don't even recognize myself, but it's kind of a good thing. Life may be crazy and I may be on the verge of a major crash from only getting 4 hours of sleep a night, but I feel so much better than I did a year ago, and I'm so much happier than I was then.

Nena Farrell

Totally feeling the running on exhaust fumes, and trying to focus more on the things I love! I went through a rough year where I really lost sight of myself and developed a lot of bad habits, but this year I'm really focusing on what I love and writing a lot more to start recognizing myself again before I graduate! Thanks so much for sharing this.



I'm so happy you are enjoying what you are doing and are a happier person all the way around! I have felt like I didn't recognize myself before. I think it's easy to get caught up in what you feel like you are "supposed" to be doing in a common/mold like sense, and get caught up in pleasing other people and taking on too much. There was a point in my life a few years ago where I would wake up with anxiety thinking about all the things I needed to {I had way too much going on} and checking things of my "where you're supposed to be in life" check list. Once I realized that that wasn't working for me and became aware that I was just going through the motions I change somethings and was happy with the outcome. As selfish as it sounds, I think it's important to step back and think: "does this make me happy and is this situation a good fit for me" versus getting caught up in the frame of thought of where/what/when you're "supposed" to be doing. This is a really great post! Thanks for sharing!



I can totally relate to what you're talking about. After leaving a super stressful job I hated three years ago and then going straight into an intense graduate program for three years where I maintained a high GPA, joined the international honor society for my field, etc., got married a month after graduation, moved to a new city, started job hunting, and oh, then turned 30 (!) a month later, I feel like I'm now just finally starting to feel like myself again, coming down from all the stress (marrying a wonderful man and honeymooning in Hawaii definitely helped 😉 ). I feel like I'm just now able to breathe again after more than seven years of non-stop pressure to achieve.

Jessica Joyce

I feel so unbelievably stressed right now, but compared to your hard work, mine is nothing! I know that I must work hard to get what I want. It's good that you're discovering that.
I really love these open blog posts. It makes you more personal, and less "digital."

Your Friend, Jess


This is exactly how I'm feeling lately. In my senior year of college, interning, taking classes, worrying about finding a job, being the president of an on-campus organization, balancing personal time, family time, friends time… It's all overwhelming and I've noticed that I'm not feeling like myself lately. I've made a pact with myself that I'm going to set aside time for me. Time to read, relax, think or just do absolutely nothing. This time has proven to be incredibly rejuvenating and brings me back to the ground!

Haley @ Cupcakes and Sunshine

I love this post so much. I think I'm currently in the college manic phase. And I'm looking forward to loving what I'm doing. I'm just hoping it comes sooner than later. Your posts give me hope!! I'm ready to take on NYC…one day 🙂

Spotted in Stripes

Right after I graduated from college last year I took a job and moved straight to Atlanta. I dove right in thinking about how this is what you're "supposed" to do after gradation. After three months of working in the corporate sales world I knew that it wasn't the right fit for me. 50+ hour work weeks spent staring at a computer all day, always on edge to meet deadlines and not to mention all of my bosses "last minute emergency projects." A large percentage of the people I worked with were driven solely by money and would do anything to throw each other under the bus for an extra buck. Their morals and values didn't align with mine and it was a compromise to my beliefs to be around it every day. I found myself incredibly stressed out and it was taking a toll on my usual optimistic and happy outlook. I stuck around with the job for 9 more months hoping it would get better. It didn't..and I finally had enough courage to waltz into my bosses office and hand over my letter of resignation. I left that job in March and decided to move back to Tampa to get my feet back on the ground and redirect as to what my next move would be. I realized the day after I left that corporate job I instantly was beginning to feel like myself again. The support of family and friends was what was most helpful in getting back on track. I had more time and energy to devote towards all of the things I typically love to do. It gave me an even greater sense of appreciation for the everyday "little things."

So my advice- Spend a little more time with yourself doing all of those things that you enjoy most: reading, catching up on sleep, dinners with friends, creating, exercise, or whatever it might be. At the end of the day you realize you get this one chance to write your own story and live your life. You might as well make it a life your are proud of one and one that is filled with happiness of doing what you love, surrounded by those you love 🙂


Gah! I know exactly what you're talking about. I've always dutifully (with very few deviations) followed "the plan". I went to college, did reasonably well, graduated, and found a job (in another state from my family), found a boyfriend and all was hunky dory… right? Seriously wrong. I found myself seriously unhappy, and I could not for the life of me figure out why. I moved out of that first apartment and into another (safer) one, and through certain circumstances, I found myself alone. All I did was work and sleep. If I weren't a crazy cat lady in training, I wouldn't speak on weekends. I rarely left my apartment for anything other than food.

After a while, I did something that my ex had looked down on because of monetary reasons – I joined a gym. Getting back into shape and paying attention to my health allowed me to more objectively figure out why I was so miserable where I was. So I moved, again, to a different job in a different state to an apartment that is filled with natural light, easy access to the city center, with a very strong community. It was a good start, but I wasn't completely happy, until recently.

This weekend, I gave myself permission to be happy.

Now, that may seem silly, but consider it – you are allowed to be happy. You are allowed to do things for yourself. Don't worry if it fits into "the plan" or worry about what people might think – do it because it makes you smile.

I am so thrilled for you and wish you all the best.


Kimberly Topolewski

I just wrote a post about this a few weeks ago. In high school and college I totally felt like I had everything together. I knew what I was working towards. I had a finite plan that in x years this was going to happen. Now that I'm an "adult", there is no finite plan. I mean, I do have goals – I want to be a manager in the next 5-7 years, I want to save $XX,000 for a future home etc, etc.

But things are just so much more vague. And some days I feel like I'm just going through the motions, and other days I'm completely on top of everything I have going on. It's strange and confusing!

carelessly graceful