2017 was a hoot of a year, guys!
It’s the first week of 2018, and it’s got me thinking about all of the incredible, inspiring, joyous, eye-opening, sometimes painful and heart-wrenching, but durable things that happened this year. This was the year that brought the most change to my world, from relationships to self-growth. As I was collecting photos from each month, I didn’t realize how much I’d done and how many pictures I had.
I’ve always believed that in order to move forward, you have to look back. So let’s reflect on 2017 as we leap into 2018!
January was probably one of my happiest months. I spent New Year’s in Florida after disembarking a family vacation cruise to the Caribbean. For New Year’s, I visited Wynwood Walls and Art District in Miami. This little trip had to be one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in my life. I am a huge street art fan, so this was something super cool to experience. I have so much respect for street artists and their creations.
I returned to my beautiful city of Atlanta for a wonderful coffee date with my friends Ashley and Atran. We spontaneously visited the cutest coffee shop (which would later be one of my favorite spots to go to) and studied there for hours. We couldn’t believe how much work we had an classes hadn’t even started yet! We sat at a small table, books, laptops, and lattes piled onto each other, laughing and Instagramming our artsy drinks. Nonetheless, memories were made this day that I will never forget.
At the end of the month, I wanted to dress a little more edgy. So, I went to H&M, bought this rad sweater and a bomber jacket, and took on the world. I felt really confident this day, as a new pair of headphones dangled from my ears that I would later lose.
The entire month of February, I felt as if I were flying. This was my first aTVFest, and I was so blessed to be able to experience something like this. I was so honored to be able to spend three days in green rooms and in theatres with TV stars, directors, and producers. Above, in the first picture, is Christina Ricci (Penelope and The Aadams Family) giving a talk about her new show Z: The Beginning of Everything. Below that picture is the cast of Greenleaf. If you ever find yourself in Atlanta during February, please do attend aTVFest. It’s an annual event where the cast of popular television shows of that year participate in panels, Q&A’s, and sometimes show us a sneak-peek of their new seasons. (I’m praying that the cast of Grown-ish and Stranger Things attend this year!)
After aTVFest, Nickelodeon recruited for writers for their summer program. Unfortunately, I wasn’t old enough nor a writing major, so I couldn’t sign up. But it was cool to receive free stuff. Pixar also visited the next week and gave us Toy Story pins!
February was also the month I really wanted to expand my photography. I was in a class called Controlled Lighting, and this will forever and always be my favorite class that I’ve taken. I used so many types of professional lights and learning the technical side of photography, while also defining my style. I love photos that make you think, tell a story, and wonder what happens after the picture is taken.
The two photos above were a project I’d done with electronics, and how to master using a flash with something that’s already illuminated. Below that is a self-portrait with objects (the background represents my love for street art and Banksy), while the brush pen represents my love for writing, and the lipstick represents my decision to not wear makeup anymore, yet still appreciate the art of it.
Here are some shots from my ICONIC portrait series:
I stood outside in the woods with a giant light and stand to get this shot. It was so worth it though.
March, March, March. What an interesting month that was. On March 1, the warmest day of the year, I met up with a fellow photo friend (the subject of my b+w portrait) to help him shoot for his final project. Somehow the shoot was turned onto me, but I didn’t mind. I’d never had my portrait taken before, so this was exciting. My friend told me to sit in the middle of the road, and we attempted to re-create a Tumblr photo. There are not many photos of myself so, I’m grateful for these!
This photo was taken the day Ashley and I tried Unicorn Frappucinos for the first time. We hated them. But then we found this cool pile of lights. We were mad for a while that the hype had let us down, but knew it’s something we’d never drink again.
March was also the month I found myself in my first official relationship. The picture above was taken after my first date with him. We’d walked around the city and visited the Beltline. At the end of the date, I’d snapped this photo of an abandoned gas station. I was on Cloud 9. WOW, my first boyfriend. I had great friends. Great photos. New relationship. What could possibly go wrong?!
(I ALSO TURNED 20 this month! I have a lot of pictures, but I’m not sure if the people in them are comfortable with being online. Also the boyfriend is in them…and no need to go back there.)
Spring quarter was in full swing. The ease of Controlled Lighting had faded into the background, and I was now taking Black and White Photography. B+W was a hard class, at first. Working in the darkroom with film negatives, light-sensitive paper, and hazardous chemicals was something I’d managed to shimmy away from for two years. I hadn’t worked in the darkroom since I was in high school and wasn’t planning to do so ever again. Yet, in order to graduate, I had to keep my head high. The class ended up not being as horrible as I thought. I passed with an A, and a recommendation from my professor to participate in a photography demonstration at the end of the year! (I felt like a BAWSE as I taught high school kids how to develop photos, and I was the only one chosen!)
My relationship started hitting a rough patch. This photo was taken right after my first serious argument with said-dude. I honestly don’t even remember what it was about–probably something about the wrong timing for whatever. But that day, Ashley and I walked into this expensive hotel and pretended like we belonged there. This was also the season she and I established that we were Drake and we always said, “bless up”.
Toward the end of spring quarter, I went to Savannah with boyfriend. We were beginning to work through our problems now, and things were getting better. I used to attend the Savannah campus, so this was a nostalgic trip for me. I saw old friends. Went to a sidewalk chalk festival. Reminsiced about all of the places I used to hang out in Svannah. Then ended the trip at a cafe I used to go to every day called Foxy Loxy.
Nothing much happened in May. When I look back, I can’t really remember May. I think I was hanging out a lot until midnight. Going on a lot of late-night McDonald’s runs. My circle of friends got a little smaller, which made me sad. I felt like I was changing and leaving my old friends behind. This was also a time where I felt like my relationship was taking a turn, as people became more concerned about my relationship (like why we weren’t eating togeher/why he was at church alone some days…what the heck, guys!?).
June gave me nothing but life. The school year had finally ended. What a rollercoaster that was. I was so emotionally and physically exhausted from all of the long days in the darkroom. My relationship was starting to become draining. My classes were draining. Basically, at this point, I really only had my boyfriend. So, after months of waiting because I bought the tickets in February, it was finally time to head to New York for the 2017 Governor’s Ball. What an experience that was. I am truly blessed to be able to attend such an amazing concert. Chance the Rapper. Logic. Lorde. Flume. Wiz Khalifa. Childish Gambino Wu-Tang Clan. All in one weekend. This was the hi-light of my 2017!
In June, I decided to start bookstagramming. I’d always loved books, but it was during this time that I wanted to have a little bit more of an internet presence. So, I’d read books, take cute pictures of them, and post them. Jennifer Niven liked my post in early June after I took some old grape stems and placed them on the book. LOL! My little bookstagram would later turn into a personal photography account that chronicled my aventures as a Summer Programs Assistant. (I also said goodbye to my braids!)
Working as a Summer Programs Assistant was an emotional experience. I felt all the feels. I had to balance my relationship plummeting to rock bottom, while trying to always keep a happy face on for “my kids.” Though, these are just some of the beautiful high schoolers I met during the first session of working as an SPA. I never thought that a group of teenagers would impact me the way these kids have. I still talk to some of this kids daily. They brought so much light to my life, even though I was at a low. I can only hope that my children are at least half as great as some of these kids I met during the first session. I’m tearing up…let’s move on.
When I had to say goodbye to the first group of kids, I was so torn. This was only the first round of kids. Unfortunately, I would have to attach and detach again two more times before the summer was over. I went from spending 24/7 with them, eating meals with them, taking them to art lessons and on trips, to taking down their door decks and exchanging Instagrams with them. It was hard, but I was grateful that they’d graced my life.
I feel heavy when I look at these photos. The break-up was official. My boyfriend and I were no longer. After being together for almost four months, there was no way the relationship could continue. But it was in this moment that I realized that the break-up didn’t define me, because the way those kids impacted me was greater than any boy. I had a job, I had my health, and I had my co-workers. That was all I needed.
After the break-up, I needed a distraction. So, I began bookstagramming more and more. It was in July that I would read more books and fell in love with Everything, Everything. Even though I’d already seen the movie and knew the story, I became so infatuated with living your best life today. And that’s what I was determined to do.
Another round of fantastic kids entered the program. I also had the honor of seeing Andy Warhol’s original work. I was beginning to heal. I began to relax. I particularly connected with Leo, who is such a model and created this iconic photo with me. Leo and I were true homies.
Summer Programs was wrapping up! This was the last round of kids. I particularly LOVED hanging out with these guys in H&M. They were so sweet and very photogenic! It was this round of kids that loved Chance the Rapper hat the most, so I wore my 3 hat every day for them! My hair got poofier, too. (I was the female version of Chance.)
And in the blink of an eye, it ended. Summer Programs was over. Two months of laughs, tears, panic attacks, dance parties, and ATL adventures had come to a close. I hate goodbyes, so this was not easy. Not only was I saying goodbye to my kiddies, but to my co-workers/job. It was hard to part, but the program was over. I felt very open in July, very exposed. I wasn’t really sure who I was. I needed some type of validation. I was, however, cracked…but not broken.
Two days after Summer Programs ended, I SAW LOGIC LIVE–AGAIN. He performed at the MGM National Harbor, and I had bought the VIP package. I attended a Q&A session with him and his fans, but was too shy to ask him a question. My heart raced every time he came to my side of the stage. For the concert, I was in the front row, standing next to a little boy who Logic rapped with. I was honored to see him again for a second time in 2017. (Sadly, this was the best picture I got of him.)
This day I went to a cute local bakery, ate a horrible pastry, and drank bitter bubble tea.
I re-vamped my bookstagram. Found some new places in Maryland. And wore my jean jacket almost every day.
Drank more bubble tea. Started finding my style again. Wore my 3 hat daily. Ate some rad corn at the state fair. Realized that I REALLY spent $70 on a Logic jacket.
Back to New York I went. Only for one night, though! I took the train about 4 hours to NYC to see Dave Chappelle and Childish Gambino perform live at Radio City Music Hall. I’d never been to Radio City, and it had always been a dream of mine after constantly seeing it on T.V. Radio City Music Hall is an incredible venue that I have nothing but respect for. Dave killed it and it was so surreal to see him perform live after watching his show for years when I was a kid. I already knew what I was getting into with Donald Glover’s performance, but he was fantastic nonetheless. (On my day trip, I found an M&M’s World + a Disney Store–I was in heaven!)
Toward the end of August, I launched this blog: hello ninetyseven! (Does anyone remember this old logo?) The name hello ninetyseven is inspired by my birth year: 1997 and Hello October’s blog. I chose the name because I wanted it to sound inviting.
I started this blog because I wanted a safe space to express myself through fashion and lifestyle posts. I also wanted to share my study abroad experience. I didn’t want my friends (or exes) to know about this. On hello ninety-seven, it didn’t matter that I was fresh out of a relationship, panicking about studying abroad a foreign country, or knew nothing about the current fashion trends. This was, and will always remain, a safe space for me to be me.
This blog represents strength, confidence, and dignity–all of which I gained during my four months of blogging! I said goodbye to my bookstagram and hello to lifestyle blogging, officially changing my username to @helloninetyseven. One of my favorite and earliest posts was my minimalistic back to school lookbook! For some reason, I am so proud of this post. I don’t know if it was the excitement of creating my first lookbook, the outfits, or the editing, but I love this post!
Before I knew it, it was time to head to Hong Kong. Eighteen hours later, I landed in the bustling city of Hong Kong. I’ve written a few posts about my experiences there, including my experience as a study abroad student, and later a post about the anxiety I had as soon as I got to Hong Kong (coming soon). I think Hong Kong is a beautiful city, but it’s a city that’s not for me.
In October, I had a lot of opportunities. Our teacher often took us out on walks and just let us shoot photos to our heart’s content. I think I captured some of my best photos during this time, because I really didn’t have a purpose for taking them. I was shooting for fun. With the constant anxiety in me, photography became my outlet, and the camera was my weapon. I felt fearless with the camera, far from anxious and unable to be stopped.
Besides photography, I also took College Mathematics and 20th Century Art History, two of the most draining classes I’ve ever taken! Those before me said that Math 100 was super easy. “It’s basically like high school math.” I guess most had taken it as soon as they’d graduated high school, instead of taking it three years into college, like I had. But still. It was math, math, and more math. Hours and hours of math. A huge test at the end of every two weeks. Luckily, I passed with a C and will never have to take it again. Art History wasn’t horrible, though. It was just a lot to remember.
*These photos are from my autumn college night routine 2017!
If I had to pick my favorite month, it would have to be November. the cutest brunch date with my friend Jasmine. Explored Hong Kong a ton. Found some clarity in my anxiety. Established that I was obsessed with a Tito’s Pizza, The Green Waffle (as pictured above), and Cafe 360. I’d drank about 8 sweet potato lattes and even ate chicken + waffles twice before leaving HK. Malls were my new sanctuaries, and the MTR was no longer a scary place.
The shots below these are just a few from my final Photo History project, where we had to emulate famous photographers’ work. I chose Edward Steichen and Alfred Stieglitz. I emulated their style by photographing through objects and creating a haze over them. This project is an expression of how I felt about Hong Kong. The entire time I was photographing these I felt lost and confused walking around through the city, searching for places that people would often ignore. (I’m going to post the full project in the Black and White Tag, which Alys tagged me in and it’s so cool!)
Alright, let’s talk about this picture:
I’m not sure if you guys know who this is, but this is LaMelo Ball. Yes, his dad is LaVar Ball. Yes, they were in Hong Kong. Yes, I stood for 5 hours at their pop-up shot just to get this blurry picture. I wanted to meet them so badly. But looking back, it was probably one of the most memorable things I did in Hong Kong. I am an avid fan of the show and I think that the Ball family is hilarious. I also commend them for working hard toward their goals.
To end November, I travelled on the MTR by myself all the way to Disneyland!! I had a fantastic time riding the rides by myself and experiencing the park at my own pace. I had the best lunch ever, watched a parade, and ended the day with buying a few souvenirs for my friends and I. (I was not excited, however about the almost two-hour long ride on the MTR ride, and the hour bus ride back to the dorms.)
This past December was such a lovely way to end the year. At the beginning of the month, I kept up with Zoella’s Vlogmas. I baked a few things. Loved my november favorites post and considered writing a December favorites post…but I unfortunately didn’t. I started practicing mindfulness and meditation. I began self-caring and relaxing more. I decided to re-brand myself and view my social medias from a business standpoint. I decided to start focusing on career goals, rather than just numbers. Though in doing so, I became more open in using my platforms as a way to communicate + network with fellow bloggers. I’ve received an abundance of support that I am forever grateful for.
Oh…and Trevor Jackson tweeted me. That happened.
I also began posting daily #OOTDs on Instagram. This was because I gained a newfound confidence in my appearance. I cut my hair in late November, and a burst of positive energy radiated from me. I was no longer insecure about my matted afro. I didn’t have to worry about how to maintain it anymore. With my short hair, I feel like I can take on the world. Plus, I also wanted to express to others that having short hair does not make you any less feminine than someone with long hair. Short hair is sassy af. OWN IT.
I spent a lot of December looking ahead, trying to find new ways to improve myself and my mindset. I took charge of my skin in December, as shown in my self-care routine. I started dressing more sophisticated. I even started brushing my teeth twice a day. Even though I’ve now stopped because I began working out for unhealthy reasons, I worked out. I tried to eat healthier. I even set goals for the new year that at least half I could achieve!
This was something very personal for me to write, and I hadn’t realized that 2017 had really shaped me, and showed me how to view life from different perspectives!
I hope that you enjoyed this post and don’t mind that it’s over 3000 words!
If you made it this far, I thank you. All I’ve wanted for years is for others to read my words and resonate with them. Special thanks to Alys, Maud, Amita, Faith, Brianna, Rebecca, and Matthew for constantly showering me with kind, encouraging words. As well as helping me find the courage to post this.
Here’s to 2018.
stay as you are,