Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A long overdue introduction and why I blog about polish

My family and friends all think I'm nuts (their words, not mine) because I blog about polish.  A lot of people think it is silly, and some don't seem to understand it, but there are a few people who totally and completely get it - and those people are you, my dear readers.

So why do I blog about polish?  Last May (2009), as I was desperately searching for that light at the end of the semester-tunnel, I decided to take a break from my work.  I was finishing up three papers, each over twenty pages, for my three 700-level grad classes, and I had never been in such a strange, stressful, and overwhelming place before.  The terrifying thought that maybe, just maybe, I somehow did not belong in graduate school - that somehow I had slipped in because one of my professors wrote an awesome recommendation just because she liked my personality, or because I had scored shockingly well on the English section of the GRE (and not because I had performed shockingly terrible on the math section), or maybe it was just because not enough people had applied that year that the grad program let me in just to fill the spaces.  I also considered the possibility that it was some sort of outreach thing - take in a few dummies in order to make the brainheads feel even better about themselves and their big words.  All these thoughts were racing through my mind as I struggled to piece together these three papers, shifting gears from one to the other to the other in order to keep myself from falling behind on one and potentially drowning during the final few days of the semester.  I scattered books everywhere I went; they were in my bed, on my kitchen table, beside the coffee pot, in my car, on my desk, in front of the tv, on my elliptical.  I stopped doing dishes and cooking; J got carryout each night and we took our meals in separate rooms so I could keep reading.  I ran out of clothes to wear and found myself in tye dye shirts and soccer shorts.  I felt like I didn't have a single minute - not even a minute - to spare doing anything aside from research and writing.  And I began to doubt my abilities more and more.

My mom came by one day during the second to last week.  My parents have a way of just popping by, and normally I welcome the interruption.  But I didn't that day.  She had brought her Chihuahuas and they greeted my dogs with brisk barks, then proceeded to chase them around the house, barking, barking, barking.  My mom commented on the dirty dishes, the dust bunnies shyly peeking out of the corners, and my bizarre attire, then sat down at my kitchen table and invited herself to lunch.  "I don't really have time," I told her as she pushed aside a stack of books and set her purse down.

She looked right at me and said, plain and straight, "You need a break, Brooke."  I admit, I looked rough.  I was surviving on little sleep and junk food, not wearing any makeup and donning my perpetually crooked Harry Potter glasses, and my hair was a frizzed mess because I didn't have time to straighten it.

I didn't listen right away, of course.  It took some persuading, but she got me to agree to taking a few hours off.  And I did.  We took the dogs for a walk.  We talked about life - the kind that doesn't revolve around books and grades and competition.  We probably talked about my grandmother, of course we told each other stories about our respective cats, we laughed at the dogs, and we likely complained about our current ailments.  Spending some time outside (even if I was being dragged by one hundred pounds of dog) was relaxing and rejuvinating.  It took me away from the self-doubt and worry I had let swamp me for the past few weeks.  It helped me remember why I wanted to go to grad school in the first place, and what I hoped to accomplish.  And it helped me remember that there is far more to life than grad school.

Before my mom left, she told me she was going to order herself some nail polishes and said she wanted to get me some as a gift - something to look forward to when the semester finally ended.  I told her I'd look into it and send her an email.  I had never ordered polishes online - I had always just bought blindly in the store, sometimes sneakily testing a spot on my thumbnail in order to get a better feel for the colors.  After she left, I had another hour left of the time I had allotted to 'relaxing.'  I went to the website she was ordering from and was overwhelmed by all the names and tiny pictures of bottles.  How would I ever choose?  I finally decided I'd get two polishes: OPI Shorts Story and China Glaze Strawberry Fields.  I typed "OPI Shorts Story" into my browser on a whim, thinking I may find it somewhere cheaper, and was amazed to discover numerous pictures of the polish on peoples' nails.  I clicked on one of the links and was shocked to come across an entire blog devoted to nail polishes.  I slowly scrolled through the entire blog (back to the very first entry!), looking at the different polishes and building a long, long list of 'wants' and 'needs.'  Then I found another blog, this one with different polishes.  And then another.  I was completely amazed at the incredible resource these blogs provided - and I based each and every one of the polishes I ended up ordering off of swatch pictures I found through these blogs.  Unfortunately, some of the polishes I was interested in didn't come up in any searches - I just couldn't find them swatched.  Which is why one day I decided I may as well swatch my polishes and polish designs.  Perhaps I could end up posting a polish that someone falls in love with, or perhaps I have a polish that has not yet been swatched, or maybe through the online blog community, another reader could discover their new favorite polish swatched on my (shorty short) nails.

I've always been fascinated with the idea of self-publication.  In sixth grade, I began Horse Lover Newsletter (or HLN if you're in the know), a monthly 10-15 page publication all about horses.  I sold two yearly subscriptions and plenty of individual issues to my generous friends and family.  I published for a little over one year, printing each issue on my slow chugging printer (and using enough ink that I could have never broke even on the cost).  I kept each issue saved inside of plastic dividers in a thing-ring binder.  HLN was my pride and joy.  When I was in eighth grade, I began Butterfly, an online zine of sorts.  I published beauty reviews, how-tos, and polls, distributed to around fifty followers.  I had fun with it, even receiving a product sample from St. Ives to review on my zine (I was ecstatic).  In high school, I directed my writing to the school yearbook, and in college, all my creative abilities turned to my papers.  Working on my blog has been a great return to the creative writing I have enjoyed for so many years.

It is also fun for me to post pictures of my polishes, my nails, and my nail designs.  I'm not a professional - far from it - but most of us aren't professionals either - we just love painting our nails.  And for me, polishing has always been a very relaxing and enjoyable activity.  It is something I have shared with my mom my entire life, beginning when I was just a few years old and I was first allowed to use two of her polishes: clear top coats, one with gold glitter, the other with silver.  I ADORED those polishes.  I just loved painting my nails with them.  Sometimes I would alternate, other times I'd stick to one solid color.  I just loved painting them on my nails.  I still have those two first polishes - the two polishes my mom shared with me that started the addiction that has now lasted more than twenty years.  As I got older, I got more polishes, first some Wet n' Wilds, then I moved on to Maybelline, then special polishes sold at stores like Claire's during my middle school years, and in high school, I loved Revlon (although I yearned for the pricey OPI polishes).  When I started college, I met J, and he spoiled me, buying anything I happened to mention.  He bought many of my first OPI polishes before I began encouraging him to curb his spending a bit.  I only recently discovered China Glaze (my first was part of the order my mom bought for me in May) and I got my first Zoya this past summer.  My collection has slowly grown over the years, but my addiction has stayed strong for a long time.  And that day my mom came to visit me during the roughest part of my toughest semester reminded me of one of the things I have always enjoyed in life - and helped me remember how much I love polishing.

I like posting polish swatches and designs both because I love doing my nails and because I want to help others find new favorite polishes and nail design inspiration - and these are the same reasons I love reading other nail blogs.  I'm a polish lover, tried and true, and my blog lets me have as much fun as I want painting my nails :)

Thank you all for reading and commenting on my blog.  It is great knowing I have an appreciative audience out there, checking out my polished nails and falling in love with polishes the same way I have.


chuckabiddy said...

This is why I like your blog: you're a student like me, but in a completely different part of the world, and it sounds strange but in distracting yourself from stressy work you're managing to distract me too! It's great! Plus nail polish is quite theraputic, and bright colours certainly cheer you up!

kelsealaurel said...

=) I love your story! Very cute and relatable! I'm still an undergrad, so I don't quite understand the crushing amount of work, but I will in a couple years! It feels so good to be able to share something your passionate about with others, because I totally know what you mean when you say your friends and family don't get it. That's why we're here!

Liz said...

Ugh. I had an almost identical experience that same semester. Thank goodness for having people and hobbies in our lives that give us a bit of a break!!

Helen said...

Thankyou for sharing that - I love how your mum came to the rescue. I fully blame my mum for my addiction as she bought me my first OPIs a few years ago an it's been up/downhill (however you want to look at it!) since then.

Am adding you to my blogroll - I hope that's ok.

MightyLambchop said...

Thank you for sharing that. I'm glad you joined the community and I love what you have to share. You rock!!

Unknown said...

Thank you all so much for your kind and encouraging comments!!

chuckabiddy, I love that my blog has helped you find a distraction from school too :) I totally agree - nail polish is so therapeutic!!

Thanks Kelsea! I'm glad you follow and share the polish love too!

Oh Liz, you know that end-of-the-semester situation I experienced more than anyone. It is nice to know that I wasn't alone in my experience. I hope things have gotten better for you too :) being a second year has been so much more rewarding!

Helen, I'd love to be part of your blogroll - thank you! I love that your mother got you addicted to polish too :) Of course, I'm sure our collections have surpassed our mother's now, lol!

Thanks so much Mighty Lamchop!! I'm glad I've become a part of this friendly, welcoming, kind polishing community :) You rock too!!

jo.frougal said...

Brooke, thanks for this post and your blog. I agree with you -- the nail polish community is generous and helpful. I think you're into it for the service, and I think that motive is not to be taken lightly.
I've just begun my blog recently. I'm doing it for quite a different kind of break. One of these days I'll post about why I paint my nails. I'll tell you when I do, and then you'll know just what big a service you're doing for many women you don't even know about.
Thanks so much for sharing.

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