My Friends Do Cool Stuff: Volume V

Okay, okay, I know it’s been a while since I did a MFDCS post. I’ve had pseudo-posts, like about that time when The Boyfriend was in The Music Man or when The Roommate went to a Masquerade, but I used to write about my friends’ jobs and hobbies in depth, and because I have phenomenally awesome friends, I decided it was just about the right time to bring this series back.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Katherine.

katherine on a log in hawaii
Here, we see her in her natural habitat. Or in Hawaii, which, let’s be honest, is everybody’s preferred natural habitat.

Katherine is an entomologist. She studies bugs. She is a bug scientist. That picture up there is of her collecting samples, which quite frankly takes an amount of courage that I doubt many of us possess.

The actual definition of entomologist is here: “a scientist who studies insects. Entomologists have many important jobs, such as the study of the classification, life cycle, distribution, physiology, behavior, ecology and population dynamics of insects.”

So, um…WHAT??? How freaking cool is that?

(Also, she’d probably like me to remind you that “bug” isn’t a terribly specific term. She works with parasitic wasps, which are actually called microhyms in scientific circles, and which definitely don’t make me want to scrub all my skin off in a panic.)

She is currently working on her PhD after graduating from an Ivy League college, so if you thought you were talking to the smart one in my group of friends then I regret to inform you that you are sadly mistaken. Katherine can look at a wasp underneath a microscope and determine which of the hundreds of categories available it falls into. Then, she is responsible for categorizing them like this:

a bunch of samples on cards
Look closely. There are wasps on these sticks.

And blowing them up into ridiculously detailed posters like this:

giant blown up pic of a bee

Really though, she’s one of less than ten people in the world – that’s the ENTIRE WORLD – who study the taxonomy and systematics of these wasps. She even presents at conferences, such as the meeting of the Entomological Society of America.

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In this photo: An entomologist looks more professional than I ever will.

And the best thing ever? Katherine is as big of a nail art junkie as I am. This is the answer to your question if you wondered how on earth we’re friends when I write a blog about my fingernails and she works for the freaking Smithsonian in her spare time. Her recent hymenoptera-inspired manicure looked like this:

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And she would like to comment that “the little grey dots on the green are parasitized stink bug eggs on a leaf.”

…I’ll just leave it at that.

Buzz you later,

Mary

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Birthday Balloons!

Well, it’s happened (two weeks ago…). I’ve passed the Quarter Century Mark. Obviously, this has caused major changes in my life, and I am now a functional adult who knows how taxes work and has her retirement plan set up and who even has an organized sock drawer.

…I really have no idea what functional adults are like. Was I even close?

So The Boyfriend surprised me this weekend by …

Taking me to a freaking BED AND BREAKFAST! I’d never been to one before, but this place included sprawling views….

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Fine dining…

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The most gorgeous room with a fireplace…

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And of course the best guy who ever lived.

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And for the nails? Of course I wanted to do something special to them. I started out with the Birthday Balloons tutorial (see this previous post for the video), and kept the balloons themselves pretty basic. In fact, I probably could have done with some more highlighting or light reflection by adding some more white to it, but oh well.

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And what better way to celebrate the giant milestone that is a 25th birthday than with…the number 25? I used my dotting tools (call me weird, but I can get a more precise line with them than with my tiny brushes) to paint the appropriate numbers on my middle and ring fingers. That way, when I bend my fingers over so that you can’t see my thumbs, the 25 seems symmetrical, if that makes any sense.

Either way, I’m willing to bet that good things are in store for Age 25, especially if this kickoff was anything to go by.

Many happy returns,

Mary

(P.S. More Star Wars CoverGirl reviews coming soon!!)

The Big Two-Five

It’s weird to me how I can feel so old and so young simultaneously – I mean, I’m one of those entitled millennials that everyone hears about who enjoys double-brunch weekends and competes in a karaoke league. But I’m also a high-powered businesswoman type who works for a multinational corporation and could quite possibly climb the ladder and make something spectacular out of myself here one day. It’s all a contradiction.

A contradiction with PIRATES.
A contradiction with PIRATES.

Either way, I’m about to turn 25 and realized that…whoa, I’m certainly a grownup now. I’m in my mid-twenties. I can see 30 peeking over the horizon, and damn, I really should work on getting my life together in the meantime.

But that’s not the point. Right now, the point is to enjoy the fact that I’ve made it this far and that I’ve still got a hell of a road ahead of me, and it’ll be worth every step (I should have warned you that this would be one of those gushy introspective posts, huh).

So, sappiness aside, let’s talk about birthday nails! The traditional, I’ve heard, is the cupcake.

But there are so many other possibilities out there, my love of cupcakes notwithstanding. I mean, didn’t I just say I was going to try and be a little bit more of a grownup? I scoured the Internet for some more birthday nail tutorials.

My second google search led me to this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYjTlZCI9Hw

Which provided some more pretty cool options, described here:

  1. I might try an ombre again, although that’s never worked for me before, for the sold purpose of gathering some Birthday magic and hoping for the best. And of course, I’ll never say no to glitter. I’d probably use blue instead of pink though, because, come on, have you met me?
  2. BALLOONS! Oh HELL yes. These could be fun. Again, I wouldn’t go for the pink, but the idea seems easy and effective!
  3. Cupcakes again, but this one is a cupcake accent nail. The possibilities are endless.

So, ladies and gents, please watch the videos above and vote for whatever you’d like me to do to my birthday nails! I’ll go with whichever one you choose, although I’m probably going to put some blue in there whether you like it or not.

So let me know in the vote below:

EPISODE I: SPEED OF LIGHT

So, if my calculations are correct, we are exactly six weeks out from the new Star Wars movie. Apparently there has been an awakening. I have felt it.

Seriously though, I’m more excited about this movie than I’ve been for just about any movie in the past few years. Avengers who, amirite? (Unless you’re the Marvel Studios executives, who I’m sure are reading my little blog, in which case oh my god I love you I love you can I have a cameo in Infinity War???)

Shameless plug in the hopes of getting into your good graces.
Shameless plug in the hopes of getting into your good graces.

Anyway, because few things are as important to me as this movie, I obviously had no choice but to buy the entire Cover Girl line of Star Wars-inspired nail polish. It was a business expense, of course, and I’m sure I’ll file it that way on my tax returns (that was a lie). I’ll be posting a review of each of the six Star Wars shades every week until the week of December 18, a.k.a. the day we’ll be telling our grandchildren about when they watch Star Wars and we describe the hardships of having to actually, you know, drive all the way to the IMAX theater instead of having the movies beamed directly into our brains.

So, we begin, a long time ago (or last night) in a galaxy far far away (or at my kitchen table) with…

star wars episode 1 crawl

P.S. I found the coolest website in the world, the Star Wars Crawl Creator, which is how I made all of these kickass crawl pictures. Check it out sometime. Put it in your work presentations. Your bosses will thank you.

Let’s start by going over the Star Wars collection as a whole. It’s nice, I suppose. I mean, it’s fine. It’s CoverGirl nail polish, which typically isn’t my thing when I’d usually go for an OPI, Essie, Julep, or Indie of some sort.

But anyway, I had to get my hands on some of the collection, and that began with Speed of Light, a tan-ish, green-ish, grey-ish high gloss polish.


I only say green-ish because that’s how it looks in the pictures; it’s really more of the blandest grey you can imagine.

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It even matched my bedspread.

I can’t even think of good things to say about this color. I could definitely get away with wearing it to work, I guess? But really, my biggest problem is that the name is so misleading – absolutely nothing about this color reminds me of the speed of light. Even less about it reminds me of Star Wars, or does anything to increase my excitement for The Force Awakens.

Maybe it’s the color of the Millennium Falcon on a bad day, but even that’s pushing it.

There are also about 10,000,000 comments on the Cover Girl Website about how the bottles don’t have the Star Wars logo on them despite the website showing it in their pictures, but I would have forgiven that oversight if it were even a little bit more interesting of a color.

Verdict: Speed of Light might as well be bantha fodder.

Tune in next week for more reviews, and may the Force be with you.

Mary

Ugh, is she really doing a housekeeping post?

Well, the answer to your question is yes, but this time it’s…literal housekeeping. Plot twist?

I recently moved from my two-bedroom apartment into a four-bedroom townhouse with The Roommate (who will hereafter be known as Katie, because that is her name), and Kelsey and Liz, who I talked about in a My Friends Do Cool Stuff post about competitive karaoke. I’m actually going to be doing competitive karaoke this season as well, because come on, who passes up an experience like that?

Anyway, moving sucks big time, and while we were able to get the furniture from Point A to Point B rather quickly (aka in a single day), the unpacking and reorganizing was one of the most unpleasant things I’ve done in a long while. A big thanks to my mom for coming over and helping me out with that. I promise I’ll learn how to be a functioning adult sooner or later.

However, now that my room is finally set up and looking pretty spectacular, I wanted to show off my favorite new wall decoration: THE RACK!

monty python rack
Bet you weren’t expecting the Spanish Inquisition.

No, it’s actually a nail polish rack that I ordered off of Amazon. I adore it. Most of my furniture is black, so it matches spectacularly, and it’s a great way to display all of my colors and not have to root through an old ModCloth box or a deceptively lacy tackle box in order to find the shade I’m going for. I think it’s going to make both painting and blogging so much easier in the future.

nail polish rack
And yes, my mom took this picture too.

I’m sure I’ll actually organize it by color soon – I actually did it when I first moved in, but then the rack fell off the wall and I lost a few colors in the ensuing battle. Let’s have a moment of silence for some glitter that I’m still not sure how I’m going to get out of the carpet. Goodbye, security deposit; it was nice knowing you. Thankfully, Katie is pretty handy with power tools, and she was able to use some screws and what I can only assume is sorcery to finally get the rack to stay up.

Well, now that you can see my entire collection in its somewhat-grainy-in-the-picture glory, what would you like to see next?

No, really, I’m soliciting advice here.

Thanks for reading,

Mary

Admiral Ackbar and Out the Door

I hate to brag, but this has been a ridiculously productive weekend. I did my grocery shopping for the week, I cleaned my room (with my mom’s help, which I add because she reads this blog and I’d definitely hear about it if I took all the credit myself), I did a few loads of laundry, I got some extra documentation written for my job, and I Skyped with one of my best friends for two and a half hours about her upcoming wedding. Lots of high-pitched screaming noises were involved, which could indicate that sometimes I’m capable of being a girl or that sometimes I’m capable of being a velociraptor.

Self portrait.
Self portrait.

So, in the end, I wound up doing a manicure that’s deceptively simple while looking quite fancy. A few months ago, while I was rebelling against all of the neutral nail polish that I had bought for work, I picked up a bottle of China Glaze’s It’s a Trap-eze! It seemed far more fun than the lavenders, pastel pinks, and nudes that were already in my Ulta shopping basket.

My first thought about the name of this polish is that Admiral Ackbar had something to do with it, and as such I wondered why such an esteemed citizen of Mon Calimari was related to something so glittery. Perhaps it had to do with the celebrations after the destruction of the Second Death Star.

admiral ackbar it's a trap
And yes, I use this line in everyday conversations.

Sure, I guess it could be circus-related, but come on. The name is weird. Even a trapping trapeze is weird to me.

It sure is glittery, though…

trapeze nails 1

trapeze nails 2

This is all one polish – no futzing around with multiple layers of a solid base and then multicolored glitter on top. This all mercifully came in the same bottle.

trapeze nails 3

It was a little tricky to work with because it was pretty runny compared to a lot of my other polishes, and it tended to slide off my fingers and into my cuticles if I didn’t do it just right. What you see above is three coats of the polish because the white is so translucent around the glitter. However, I happen to love it, because a lot of the glitter got caught underneath the next coat of white as I put more on for a sort of layered effect and I JUST FIGURED OUT WHY THE POLISH IS CALLED IT’S A TRAP OH MY GOODNESS THE GLITTER IS TRAPPED BETWEEN LAYERS! THAT’S BRILLIANT!

Ahem. Sorry about that.

There’s one more component to this manicure, and it’s something new (to me) that I’ve been meaning to try for at least a year, if not more. I’ve been a Seche Vite fast-drying top coat devotee ever since I originally bought my first bottle of it a few years ago, but I’ve since heard about a similar product called Out the Door, which promised similar results without the gunkiness that usually happens when you get halfway through the Seche Vite bottle. I decided Out the Door was worth a shot, so I picked up a bottle on Amazon.

out the door

The results? I would definitely buy this again! It’s half the price of Seche Vite, does the top coat job admirably (I took the above pictures after taking my laundry out of the dryer and had no smudge problems!), and apparently won’t gum up. I’ll see about that last claim – for now it’s too soon to tell – but I’m happy to use as much of the bottle as I can for now.

Best wishes,

Mary

Transformation Tuesday!

Oy. That’s a trend I’ve never gotten behind on Instagram. Nobody particularly wants to see pictures of me with my glasses and braces in the early days of high school, followed by a picture of how gorgeous I look now (that was sarcasm). I would like to reassert that I’m still a dork. Or a geek, if you prefer to call me that, and/or if you’d like to talk about Star Wars with me.

I do look cute in this picture though, so I’ll throw it in. If you’ve seen my face elsewhere on the blog, you can use it for comparison. But that’s not the point.

picture of me at age 2

The actual point is that, because I’m an addict who can’t help herself, I jumped on the Julep promotional train and ordered a few extra not-in-the-monthly-box colors just so that I could take advantage of the free Metamorphic Trio. There’s a pink (Tyra), a green (Tilda), and a blue (Bjork) transforming top coat, and I was determined to try all three of them.

These top coats could create about a billion looks, but I decided if I was going to do a true Transformation Tuesday, I’d have to really transform – I needed to start out with a color that I wear only rarely, a color that’s the opposite of my oh-so-beloved blue, a color that invites the fashion doll comparisons that I so desperately avoid…

Yeah, it’s pink. I decided to try out Tyra.

To start, I’m still not sure if these colors look better over similar shades (Bjork over blue, for example), or different shades (Tilda over blue or purple, for example). The promo email  suggested that the top coats should be used over bases that were at least in the same color family…

Photo belongs to Julep, not me. I took it from one of their promotional emails.
Photo belongs to Julep, not me. I took it from one of their promotional emails.

 …so, okay Julep, I defer to your expertise.

While I’ve still got some summer sun going outside, I decided to bring back an earlier favorite from my China Glaze Electric Nights collection: Glow with the Flow. It’s the brightest pink I own, and since I’ve recently gone through a total reorganization of my nail polish (more on that later) it was easy to pick out from the pastels.

Here’s what Glow with the Flow looks like on its own. I used three coats for maximum brightness.

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glow 2

And then…the pièce de résistance…the mighty morphing (coughPowerRangerscough) Tyra Top Coat!

tyra 1

tyra 2

I…I guess it made it shinier? And it added a vague light pink shimmer? Overall, I’m not impressed. Maybe I should have gone with a darker red or magenta instead of a bright pink in order to truly transform the color – I think my choices were a little too similar here. I’ll post some other transformations (should I put air quotes around that?) on some other days and let you know whether I think the Metamorphic Top Coat Trio is really worth it or if it’s something I’m glad I got as a free gift.

In the meantime, I guess I’m wearing fluorescent pink nails at work today, so that should be pretty funny if nothing else.

Take care,

Mary

MERCURY BUBBLES BLAST!

Nail polish can mean so many things to me. It’s how I de-stress when I’ve had a long day, and I’ve even read about the meditative effects of stopping everything in your life and focusing on the one task of polishing your nails perfectly when you need an extra boost of relaxation or creativity. It’s how I get to show off my fun side when I have to dress in pencil skirts more often than I don’t have to dress in pencil skirts. And, lately, it’s how I’ve been connecting to friends and family old and new both through this blog and through my various other nail-polish related social media.

So anyway, about the Mercury Bubbles. Sailor Moon, and more importantly Sailor Mercury, and I have had a long and complicated relationship in the past, and by that I mean I adored the show in the fourth and fifth grades, promptly forgot about it until college, and then remembered its hilarious combination of awfulness and wonderfulness when I used it to bond with my hallmates in my dorm.

In preparation for an ocean-themed party, here is my best friend Bri in the middle as Sailor Moon. I was dressed as Ophelia, because of course the English major dressed as Ophelia.
In preparation for an ocean-themed party, here is my best friend Bri in the middle as Sailor Moon. I was dressed as Ophelia, because of course the English major dressed as Ophelia.

If you’ve read anything on this blog (and if you have, which means you’re one of my dozen or so readers, I can’t thank you enough!) you’ll know that my favorite color is blue. Additionally, I always found myself relating more to the brainy or nerdy characters in my favorite TV shows, mostly because growing up a geek sort of leads to that inevitable conclusion. So when the hallway-wide Pajamas-and-Sailor-Moon parties began, I immediately declared that my favorite character was Ami Mizuno, better known as Sailor Mercury.

In fact, it even got to the point where my one friend gave me a poorly (sorry, Lynda) photoshopped picture of some of us as the Sailor Scouts for my birthday that year.

Im on the left.
I’m on the left.

And even to this day, Sailor Moon is bringing old and new friends together. I’m still in touch with all the girls in the pictures above, and I’ll be a bridesmaid in Sailor Moon’s wedding this fall (sorry, it’s not Sailor Scout-themed). More importantly, I’ve connected more with my cousin over Facebook and through this blog, and she was kind enough to send me some pretty spectacular nail polish when she figured out my love of Sailor Mercury.

Icy Rhapsody - Sailor Mercury Inspired Indie Nail Polish - 15 ml
Pictured: Not my nails. This is the official image from the Etsy shop.

The color is a Mercury-inspired silvery-blue called “Icy Rhapsody,” probably because of Mercury’s Freeze attack (which I accomplished in elementary school games of dress-up by throwing blue beanbags at my opponents). You can find the color on Etsy at this link. The shop is called Yume Lacquer, and I’m so excited to mention them here as they’re my first official Indie polishes! Yep, I’m a full-blown lacquerista now. Or at least I’ll pretend I am.

Here’s how the color looks on me. I’m absolutely in love with it.


I think it’s a great color both for lying by the pool in August and for making my nails sparkle in January, and I can’t thank my cousin enough (she also got me a Final Fantasy color from Yume Lacquer and some Doctor Who-themed perfumes from Fresh&Geeky, which I’ve been wearing daily because, come on, one of them is called Petrichor). It’s a great way to show my Mercury love, and to represent how Sailor Moon has helped me bond with so many amazing people.

Mercury Power,

Mary

New Job, New Neutrals

Remember when I was really stressed out?

Oh, wait. That’s a perpetual state of being for me. Never mind.

But anyway, that’s an entirely different kind of flying altogether.

Today, I start a new job. Auqwkeujdfvjhqklqerhotjs. Starting new jobs is always a little stressful, and by a little, I mean I feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest and this morning I put on about triple the amount of deodorant I normally use. However, I’m confident – hell, more than confident! – in my Grown-up Professional Nails.

As soon as I heard that I had gotten this job and that my dress code had changed from “Just…just don’t wear jeans, please” to “Business Casual, but seriously, Business Formal would be nice too,” I realized that I had to take stock of my life and my choices and especially my nail polish collection. Gone are the days when I can wear mismatched Joker glitter hands to the office. Gone are the days when writing the word “Marvel” on my hands is a good way to start a conversation with a client. And gone are the days when I can wear a dress that’s just a tad too short and kind of hope that cute guy in Contracts notices…wait, different story (and for the record, I usually refer to that guy as The Boyfriend, and yes, that’s actually how we met).

I decided, then, that I needed to do a serious organization of my entire polish collection. Up until now, I had been keeping them in an old ModCloth box, all scattered about so that I had to seriously hunt for whatever shade I was looking for. This had to change so that I could work with my new office’s more buttoned-up dress code, in addition to my current goal of “Mary, please get your freaking life together.”

Step One: The Sorting

Dear GOD I have a lot of nail polish. This isn’t going to change at all – I’m still a Julep Maven, of course. However (and readers, help me out on this in the comments!), I’m considering switching my Maven profile from “It Girl” to “Classic with a Twist” so that I can get some more work-appropriate polishes in the mail each month. Might be worth my time.

I began by buying a box from Target. It had a lot of compartments, and wasn’t particularly expensive, so I thought it might be an upgrade from the previously mentioned cardboard box.

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From there, I began the tiring process of sorting my polishes by color. I realize now that I tend toward the cooler colors; I’ll wear just about any shade of blue or green or purple on my nails and feel pretty happy about it. Here’s what it all looked like when I had it separated out by color:

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Step Two: The Realization:

I kept the largest compartment separate from the others. If a color was kind of a reddish, or kind of a pinkish, or kind of a pastel, or just a nude of any sort, I placed it in what I’ll now refer to as the WORK COLLECTION. I’ve written that in all capital letters because that’s the way I’ll be referring to it from now on. However, I ran into a bit of a problem…

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I honestly have way too much nail polish to be able to fit in this box. When I tried to fit all of my blues into a little side compartment, for instance, the box almost broke under the weight, were forced into the WORK COLLECTION box out of necessity. Some of the bottles from various brands were just too big for the box to be able to close when they were inside. I also had neglected to take my tools into account: I have toe separators and striping tape, seen in the picture above, in addition to my tiny brushes, stamping plates, and dotting tools.

I think everything’s going to end up back in the cardboard box, honestly. But if having too much nail polish is a problem…it’s a problem I’m willing to accept.

Step Three: The Painting

For the pièce de résistance, I present the nails that I’ll be wearing on my very first day:

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Presented with my coffee table as a background. And with horrible cuticle stains.

Yeah, compared to what I normally post, they’re pretty boring. I think so too. But I’m moving from a young office full of newly-minted college graduates to one of the largest companies in the world, so conservative is the name of the game when it comes to my fashion from now on. The color is a fun nude with peachy undertones, Essie’s Perennial Chic. I had to go with this one because of the name – I grew up on Perennial Street, and I appreciate the symbolism of continuously-blooming flowers that literally and figuratively remind me of my roots (I was an English Major; I look for symbolism in everything).

I don’t think I’ll be using this color again, though – even though it’s a great nude for the office, it smudged like crazy even after an hour and an application of Seche Vite. You can even see the smudges in the pictures.

Smudges aside, I did manage to sneak in a little bit of fun! I decided to sprinkle a little China Glaze Fairy Dust on top of the nude, and in most lighting you can barely see it. It’s there for no other purpose than to make me happy, which I think is a necessity for what will surely be a stressful week, but it’s not so bold or noticeable as to make a statement to my new employers.

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Well, as I guess you can tell, I’m officially off to work!

Wish me luck,

Mary

An Ode to New Beginnings (and Confetti)

Sometimes, when I find a particularly cool nail polish look, I’m not afraid to repeat it. That’s the case with today’s nails.

The background is actually my old desk.
The background is actually my old desk.
Artfully posed on my work laptop.
And then I artfully posed them on my work laptop.

The black is Sinful Colors’ Black on Black and the confetti dots are Ciate’s Comic Strip (matte glitter and an AMAZING name? Be still my heart).

Usually, I tell you about what’s going on in my life before I show you the pictures of whatever manicure I’ve deemed appropriate for the situation, but this time I think it needs to be the other way around. You see, this style is what I did for New Year’s Eve 2014 a few months ago. At the time, I just thought they were a festive and colorful way to ring in a new year, and the perfect nail look to wear while sipping champagne with my friends. The Roommate even saw them and copied the look for her own New Year’s Eve plans, so I was pretty proud of the concept at the time.

confetti 3

I’ve decided to wear black confetti nails again today because it’s my last day at my current job. It’s been a hell of a journey here, and in the two years I’ve been employed I’ve celebrated victories, been crushed by failures, met great people, switched departments, and gained so much more respect for myself and what I’m capable of doing in a workplace. It’s thanks to this job that I feel qualified to take the next step.

Like a New Year, this is the end of one chapter of my life and the beginning of the next. This manicure reflects exactly what I’m feeling about that: the black is a reflection of my fears and concerns as I jump into something new; the confetti represents my joy at being able to grow and move onward and upward in my career.

It’s a bittersweet ending, but new beginnings are right around the corner.

Have a wonderful weekend,

Mary