{owning it} On the Changes

by Rachel on February 8, 2012

Some of you may have noticed my blog’s new header and sidebar icons already; if you haven’t (or if you’re viewing this in an RSS reader), come on over and take a look!

Working with a designer for the first time was so exciting. I’ve always been very DIY when it comes to blogging headers and design, mainly because I typically can’t afford not to do things myself. But as blogging has become more popular, it seems like everyone and her sister has a professional design job. While I really care more about my blog’s inner beauty, it would be silly for me to pretend a blog’s outer beauty doesn’t matter. And its outer beauty just wasn’t doing it for me.

The truth is, I was over my header and I had been for a long time. First, it just didn’t represent my personal style at all. For several years, my style has been pretty clean, preppy, and minimalistic; I rarely wear or decorate with bright colors. I also felt like it didn’t represent my blog anymore. I designed the header back when I was blogging about health and fitness; I tweaked it a little when I changed my blog’s name and URL, but I really should have had it redesigned then. That original design was meant to distinguish my blog and brand it in a sea of healthy living blogs, and it did that. But then my blog started to change and the visual representation didn’t match the tone or the content or me anymore.

On the one hand, I figured it didn’t really matter. I mean, it’s just a header, just like a pair of shoes is just an accessory. It doesn’t change the nature of who or what is wearing it. The problem is that, like it or not, first impressions matter. As do twentieth impressions. My blog’s design was telling new visitors it was something maybe it wasn’t, and was telling older readers that it was still the same thing it had always been. And while I don’t think my blog’s content has changed so dramatically, I did know that it was evolving in a way I needed to acknowledge.

But acknowledging that my blog had changed was essentially admitting I had changed. It wasn’t about the header; it was about accepting that I was different than I was two years ago. I knew it, my friends and family knew it; but even though my friends and family were cool with it and I liked who I was becoming, I was seriously about as comfortable talking about it as I was talking about my boobs and period when I was 14. Thinking about a new design felt about as fun as unexpectedly getting my period during 9th grade history class. I was also terrified of starting over. To be honest, I felt like I had the healthy living blog thing down. And the raging slut thing too. Writing about things that were new for me meant I’d have to re-learn how to do it. I wasn’t sure if I was up for the challenge and I wasn’t sure if people who had been reading my blog for a while were either. I mean, that sounds about as fun as watching a bunch of teens with all their acne, braces, changing voices, and new bodies try to interact at the mall. But I finally reached a point when sticking with my old design — and trying to make my content fit that old design, and that old blog — in an effort to ignore how I’d changed seemed ridiculous.

I kept my URL and my blog’s title, but beyond that, I feel like this is going to be the year when I tear things down and start over. I want to blog like I haven’t had a blog for the past six years. For some people, nothing feels that different here and new people probably won’t really think twice about it. But for others, it will look messy, awkward, and painful, and they’ll just need to look away. And that’s fine.

But owning that it’s fine to disappoint people has probably been one the hardest things I’ve ever really owned. That is probably why it took me this long. If someone tells me they hate something I’ve worked on or who I’ve become…yeah, I care about that. I’m not going to say “Sorry I’m not sorry! Fuck off!” and go on my merry way. But by trying to be open-minded and flexible, I was actually changing in another way, a way I wasn’t proud of: I was becoming a person overwhelmed with self-doubt. I’m cool with the fact that I don’t want to sleep around anymore, but I will never be able to just accept not being a confident person.

Once I decided to get a new header and icons, I was tempted to re-brand my whole blog in the process, so that at first glance people would know what to expect and could simply move along if it wasn’t their thing. I’ve always felt like bloggers should be up front with people; there’s plenty of Internet out there and I’m not going to force anyone to read my blog if they just hate everything I stand for. But unfortunately, I really can’t tell anyone what to expect. I have no idea right now what my blog’s meta-narrative is. I can’t write a tagline. I have no clue who is reading or who should be reading. But it would be really dumb for me to start with what I want my blog to be/what I think other people want my blog to be/what my blog used to be, and then try to make my content fit that.

And to be honest, I don’t expect everyone to keep reading as I transition. Not only do I not want to force anyone to witness my awkward blogging puberty, the fact is, working in a vacuum has its perks. When you first start blogging, you don’t have a lot of readers, and while that seems like a bad thing, it’s actually a really good thing because you can do whatever the fuck you want and no one cares because no one’s reading. You have no one to compare yourself to, no reputation nagging you, and you really don’t have to worry about managing people’s expectations because they have none. And there is so much freedom in that. Every time I’ve been in that position, I’ve realized very quickly, OK, I just have to talk about what I want to talk about and say things how I want to say them, and if I get less traffic, who fucking cares? Knowing people might not like what I was doing and writing about it anyway made me a more truthful (and therefore better) writer, and, really, just a better person.

Anyway. I hate getting meta like this — because my God, anyone who just started reading my blog is probably currently thinking, WHAT THE HELL IS SHE TALKING ABOUT?! — but I wanted to address what I felt like was the elephant in the room for a lot of people who have been reading my blog for a while, and who deserved an explanation.

And if you like the new look, all compliments should be directed to Holley, my wonderful designer. Working with a designer was really exciting. She took all the scattered ideas I threw at her, saw what I couldn’t see or articulate, and turned it all into something that made sense. I had a wonderful time working with her and I highly recommend her services if you need anything done!

Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll be getting back to the business of my blogging puberty!

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dori February 8, 2012 at 2:14 pm

I love the blog-as-puberty metaphor and I really love your new look. The header is awesome, and even more awesome is the consistent design of the buttons. Love. And as you know, I’ve been reading your blog for a few years now (crazy how fast time goes) and I am a huge fan of your writing and your approach to life, so I hope other people can see your website for what it is: a refreshingly well-written, humorous, honest take on anything and everything.


2 Mary (A Merry Life) February 8, 2012 at 2:16 pm

I like the changes. LOVE the header.

I think most blogs change over time. I’m really stuck with mine and feel the need to change and move in a different direction but haven’t taken the time to think about that and work on it like you have. I think it’s great what you are doing, whether it brings more or less readers & traffic.


3 Alyssa @ Life of bLyss February 8, 2012 at 2:21 pm

I love you, I love what your blog is about, and I love the new look. I learn more and more every day I need to stop trying to please people… so let’s all just throw in the towel and start pleasing ourselves. :)

regardless, you’re makin’ me happy. so you just keep doin’ it to it.


4 Jacki February 8, 2012 at 2:32 pm

I go through blogging puberty every damn day. You are handling yours with far more grace and restraint than me (says the woman who changed her blog title no less than 7 times in the first year and still wants to change it again).


5 Parita @ myinnershakti February 8, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I wish more people realized what you’re realizing. People change, and there is nothing wrong with that! A personal blog should represent the blogger, and if you change or your life changes, then so should your blog! It’s common sense! And I haven’t been blogging for that long, but I am of the belief that it’s YOUR blog, so you can do whatever you want with it. Your readers should (and I think will) understand this. I, for one, am excited to follow along!


6 Dallas February 8, 2012 at 2:48 pm

You know my feelings on this, but if people don’t care for the CONTENT YOU PROVIDE FREE OF CHARGE… Then they can damn sure mosey along. You’re awesome, and we all survived middle school once… You can do it again!


7 Jessica @ Stylish Stealthy and Healthy February 8, 2012 at 3:27 pm

I feel like my blog is still in diapers. But it’s comforting to know that even someone who’s been blogging for longer than a year still has anxiety about their blog’s aesthetic and how changes will affect people. I get anxiety every time I think of self-hosting, so reading about other people’s experiences with changes makes me feel a little less pukey about it all.


8 Stina February 8, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Your blog is one of my favorites (one of the few I’ll click out of Google Reader to read on your actual page), and I love the new header! Sadly, none of the othe buttons seem to load on my browser at work. I’m sure they look fantastic though. (I had the same issue before the re-design so it’s definitely me, not you.)


9 Mandi February 8, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Guess I’ve only been reading the blog for a year and a half or so, but I’m still in! I like not only the stuff you say, but the way you say it.

And the header is effin’ gorgeous. I’m jealous.


10 Amanda @ Click. The Good News February 8, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Looks nice- I like the new look.


11 Mandi February 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm

I like the new look, Rachel! I really enjoy reading your blog on the regular :)


12 Rachel February 8, 2012 at 5:05 pm

I’ve been a loyal reader but rare commenter and just wanted to say I think the updates look great! I always look forward to your posts, Rachel; whether the post is fun or thought-provoking they’re always enjoyable. In a sea of blogs filled with fluff I really appreciate your dedication to post quality content. And re: blog puberty I think if you’re doing it this time around sans braces and jc Penney training bras you’re off to a good start. (not that I experienced my early teens like that or anything)


13 Cameo February 8, 2012 at 5:17 pm

I love the look! Great color scheme. I am struggling with my stupid blog. I have no idea what the heck I am doing anymore. I too thought I wanted to do the HLB thing. Then realized it wasn’t really working for me. Now I’ve fallen in to a give-away trap. I feel like I’m doing too many and it’s diluting my personality. Then there’s the fact that I have less time to blog and thus the content suffers (hence the give-aways). I aspire to have a really honest, slice-of-life, thought provoking blog and as of now it’s a gigantic work in progress.

I really think blogging is still in its infancy. It’s been around for years, sure, but I think it will continue to grow and evolve. There are so many categories and types of blogs out there and I constantly question what draws me in. Blogging is socializing on a totally new level. I will probably never meet you, but if you strike a chord in me with one of your posts, I will remember your words, thus you are influencing me as if you were someone in my “real life”, I find this quite intriguing. And if blog imitates life, that means that you will have people come in and out. Some will stay the long haul, others will lose interest others will fall madly in love and become your BFF. Blog imitates life. Now who’s meta?


14 Jessica February 8, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Your blog looks great!


15 Mel February 8, 2012 at 5:27 pm

I’m pretty intrigued/ excited for this growth spurt! LIKE WHAT CAN EXPECT?!

I mean, yeah, I’ve grown comfortable with this consistent thing we’ve had goin on for the past year and half but just because I like to distract myself with your blog during the day doesn’t mean that’s the way it’s supposed to be. haha

For real though, I frequently equate reading your blog to listening to an older, wiser sister (who will be real and upfront about the good and bad). So I like to think that some things will just always remain relatable.


16 Rachel February 8, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Haha honestly, you can probably expect a lot of the same thing, but at first you can also expect more (better) lifecasting and more about all of my relationships — family, girlfriends (new and old), Eric, coworkers, etc. Quite possibly more Life, less Lessons. Life is what leads me to the lessons and I want to show more of that process on a daily basis.

But then again…who knows?! This is just my training bra and JTT poster talking. We’ll see how things play out.


17 Anna February 8, 2012 at 5:50 pm

The new look is great. It gives me a “vintage burlesque-meets-internet and modern woman” feel. And just go in whatever direction your life is going! I don’t think that anyone needs to explain or justify when their blog is evolving or changing direction, because life is not a static process and if you want your blog to reflect your life then it’s going to grow up with you. NBD.


18 Rachel February 8, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Thanks, Anna! I like how you described it!

It’s interesting that you say that I shouldn’t have to explain or justify…I thought the same thing until I found myself in this spot, with people actually saying that I should be single because it would make my blog better. While on the one hand, that’s so ridiculous, you’re right — I shouldn’t have to explain why I’m not going to do that. On the other hand, it was getting so loud and hard to ignore that I felt like I needed to just say something. Will it make the criticism stop? I have no idea. I doubt it. But I really just wanted people to know I’m aware of the transition, happy/excited about the changes in my life, and I have no intentions of quitting my job, breaking up with Eric, or moving back home with my mom in an effort to have things go back to the way things were on my blog.


19 Anna February 8, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Agh that is so unbelievably rude of people! And I totally get why you need to explain your new look and focus, for the fans and un-fans. Haters always gonna hate. For some reason I am reminded me of this quote I found on Pinterest http://pinterest.com/pin/7881368067729014/


20 Rachel @ Healthy Chicks February 8, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Good for you for going your own way and being true to yourself, and what you believe in. I think this is a great step for you Rachel, and I really think your new header looks great. I’ll still keep reading, no matter what awkward transitions you take. ; ) I love your blog and always will!


21 Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic February 8, 2012 at 7:15 pm

I like the new header and the new look! It’s nice to see changes on a blog that reflect real-life changes too – and I’m speaking as a reader and a fellow blogger :) Congrats!


22 Caity @ Moi Contre La Vie February 9, 2012 at 9:31 am

GOOD LUCK! Can’t wait to see where this new direction takes you.


23 stef February 9, 2012 at 9:54 am

I’ve been reading for awhile but haven’t commented before, so uh.. hello! I’m in the beginning stages of my own blog and comfortably in the “no one is reading anyway, so I’ll just post whatever I want for myself” phase. I actually thought that with my post yesterday – I really wanted it to go up but had a moment of “god, imagine if people actually looked at this stuff, they’d think I’m insane.”

I’m curious though, about any obligations you feel with changing your blog direction/focus while having sponsors. Is there any assumption that you’ll maintain a certain tone or readership level for their sake? Clearly I don’t have the answers, just curious if it impacts a decision to adjust things.

And the header looks great!


24 Andie February 9, 2012 at 10:48 am

Rock it, sister.


25 Sarah February 9, 2012 at 10:49 am

When I started reading your blog, I hadn’t quite mastered owning it, and reading definitely led to some serious “getting it” moments. I read your posts like advice from an older sister – someone who had had a little more time to get herself together, but who seemed to speak from a place I would eventually be. Then for a while, I felt like I’d caught up with you.

And then things started changing, and I must confess, I was one of the people who missed the Rachel of mcmuffin rules and gym crushes. But I had a getting it moment of my own – I won’t always be a single recent college grad either. At some point, I’m going to be where you are. And once again, you’re helping me navigate not only how I get there, but how I handle myself after I do. Some material I can use now, but some is insight for later – and that’s useful on a whole new level. Good blogs don’t just hand me stuff I already know and love, they get me thinking ahead.
I admire the grace with which you accepted that you might lose some readers, but I think that many who are like me will realize that we don’t need the old Rachel anymore. We Got It. New Rachel has more to say that we actually do need to hear.


26 [SMASH] February 9, 2012 at 10:54 am

I think it’s a welcome change for us and you. I like that the change really represents you and your style, along with the evolution of your blog. I’ve liked how your content has changed over the last few years and stick around because of your writing style, your topics, and… well… YOU.


27 RAIN February 9, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Honestly I am not loving the look of the blog.
Your writing is as clever and thought provoking as always, and it would in no way change the fact that I love reading your blog!


28 Rachel February 9, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Glad you’ll stick around even though you don’t love the decor! :)


29 Chrissy (The New Me) February 9, 2012 at 8:57 pm

I love the new header, and I still like your blog, even with the changes. I’m getting hitched this year, so I really don’t care to read about hook ups and the single life – it’s just not my scene. The new direction your blog is headed (relationships, life, home, work, ect) is. Which works out nicely for me!

Try to think of blogging as a boyfriend or girlfriend. Sometimes we really love someone but one day, realized that we’ve we grown up and apart. Which is totally fine and natural, and leaves room in our lives for new people that we make better connections with. As your blog changes, you’ll lose some readers. But I’m pretty sure you’ll gain a bunch of new readers just by being yourself. Hope that makes sense. It’s shouldn’t try to be profound after a few glasses of wine. :)


30 Rachel February 9, 2012 at 9:17 pm

So true!

I’ve found that most of my friends are going through the big stuff right now…I was actually the last one to sort of settle down. So while I feel super self-conscious of the changes, I really don’t know why I do! I think more people reading are in your shoes anyway. And even if they aren’t about to get hitched, or are even still single, they relate to conversations about the big stuff more than the partying anyway.

Anyway! Thanks for the support!


31 Heidi Nicole February 10, 2012 at 12:17 am

I saw your tweet about the new design and clicked over the other day – I love the header and it made me see you in a different light. I can’t even visualize your old header but when I clicked over to see the new set up I instantly took a mental step back, thought “huh?!” and honestly wasn’t a big fan.

But then I read this post in my Reader and you hit it spot on when you say the old header didn’t represent your personal style. I have no clue as I have never met you IRL but once you described how this new header fit your personality better it all made sense. So much sense. When I clicked over to comment I stared at the header for a bit and realized that it is basically showing off a whole different blogger. You are no much more grown up, approachable and put together in my mind’s eye…all because of a blog header. Weird!

My second impression went much better than my first – so thanks for the explanation!


32 Kelly @ No Thanks to Cake March 3, 2012 at 1:49 am

I’m going through the exact same thing you describe right now. I just launched a new design that’s so much more me and I’m getting mixed reviews. I know you blogged about this for your readers…. But for those of us going through similar changes it’s also therapeutic.


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