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My Life: One Year Later

This time last year I opened Gmail to find a truly mind blowing arrival. An email from the YouTube staff letting me know that I had been chosen for YouTube NextUp NY’s inaugural class. The email was sent on March 31st, and it basically had to say “This isn’t an early April Fool’s joke! You really are NextUp!” which I think is hilarious but also kind of sums up exactly how getting that email felt.

I’d applied for two YouTube-related things in early March and I’d been rather confident in hearing back from one (VidCon’s “Less Than Famous” Panel because I’d been a runner-up in 2015 so I mistakenly thought I’d be a shoo-in for 2016).  So I had my hopes dashed a bit when I saw the panel participants announced a few days prior.  As for YouTube NextUp, I thought I had such a low chance of being chosen I essentially applied and forgot about it.

But what happened was such a crazy rush of impossible coincidences that a year later, with my life so vastly different from what it was then, I can’t help but reflect on the catalyst that receiving that email was.

Things you don’t know:

The day I received the email I had taken a half day from work and spent the afternoon touring apartments in Downtown Lynchburg. I’d reached somewhat of a breaking point with living with my parents/being far away from Parker/desperately searching for new employment, and I thought that perhaps moving out of my parent’s house despite the risks of signing a year lease in a city that I didn’t want to be permanently and staying at my (honestly) dead-end career-wise job for another year would maybe bring me some kind of relief.

And there was a sense of excitement to it because I toured a beautiful 2 bedroom loft apartment with exposed brick and original hardwood floors and a cool “millennial-girl-living-her-best-life” vibe that was being offered for the price of the 1 bedroom apartments if filled quickly. And it was so beautiful and all the things I thought I should be doing with my life (according to Instagram, that is) even if it wasn’t really the best financial or career-related decision. So I’d just filled out an application and was excitedly telling two of my best friends about it via text (who had a less-than-enthused response because “But what about Richmond?” and “I thought you hated your job?”) when I opened my email and low and behold…

And things kind of came to a screaming halt. Because this was an Opportunity with a capital “O.” And moving out. Living my Instagram life. None of seemed as important until I’d allowed this Opportunity to change me.

So I put the fancy apartment on hold, and I went to New York for a week.

And I talked to my fellow creators. I learned about what they did for their “day job.” And how they balanced YouTube and their careers. Or rather, how they were trying to integrate YouTube into their careers for the most part.

And I came away, maybe not with a foolproof plan to YouTube stardom, but a better idea of how I wanted to live my life–real life, career life, Youtube life, all of it.  Unfortunately, that meant not moving into the trendy loft apartment. It meant putting a pretty solid end date on my time at my current employment. And it meant not taking a backseat on life anymore. I’d spent so much time saying “Well I can’t make better videos because I don’t have lights” or “I can’t make 2 videos a week because I just don’t have the ideas/energy” or “I can’t make non-dating advice content because that’s not what my subscribers are here for.”

I can’t. I can’t. I CAN’T.

But I could. Even when it seemed so darn impossible! (Like me being selected for NextUp).

So I said, I’m going to move to Richmond by September whether I found a job or not.

And I found a job. And I moved in August.

I said, I’m going to make 2 videos a week.

And I’ve made 2 videos a week (except for 2 weeks around Christmas when I just needed a break) since August, and I feel like I have more ideas than ever!

I said, I’m going to try making different content.

And I’ve made travel videos and review videos and a lookbook and collaborations with friends and a music cover of “City of Stars.”

I’m not telling you these to brag. When I write it all out like this, I actually surprise myself because to me it just feels like I’m doing life. It doesn’t feel extraordinary. It’s just what I have to do to get by. (But with obvious self-imposed challenges, of course).

What’s really awesome and amazing is that even though YouTube NextUp didn’t really do much to boost my channel in terms of subscriber growth, it did allow me to find what I think is important in life, in creativity, in my career, and in online video making.

I’m very a different person and a different channel in many ways than what I was at the beginning of April 2016. And I’m quite happy with not having to go back.

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I’m a 2016 YouTube NextUp Winner!

YT NextUp 1

I have wonderful news IMAGINE-Nation Friends! Can you guess where I’ll be going the week after my birthday? New York City! For a fun and hard-working week at YouTube Spaces NY because I was selected as a 2016 YouTube NextUp winner!

Now, you might ask, what’s YouTube NextUp? What’s YouTube Spaces? What is all this madness! So let me break it down for you.

YouTube NextUp

A program started in 2011 where influential YouTube creators applied to get a boost for their channels from YouTube itself. It’s changed over the years. In 2011, the winners received $30,000 to produce a project and attended a 5-day YouTube boot camp. Today, it’s more closely tied into the YouTube Spaces located around the world as that’s where the YouTube boot camp will take place and winners receive training in both production skills (like lighting, camera, and sound) and growing your audience/brand (with the help of the YouTube Partnership team). Plus there’s a $2,500 voucher for equipment to help take your channel to the next level!

YouTube Spaces

These are production houses created and run by YouTube. And they’re FREE for creators. There’s a minimum of 10,000 subscribers for full access to the Spaces, but there are lots of other resources for channels below that threshold to help you grow. In the U.S., they’re located in Los Angeles and New York City, so I haven’t been able to go to one yet.

What does this mean for Kaitlyn and iIMAGINEblank?

For one, it means that once again I’m being recognized for doing the right things, working hard, and being a great creator. And for me, that’s really important. I live far away from the buzz and bustle of the main YouTube community (NYC and L.A.) and I only really have VidCon as a yearly boost for my channel and my creative juices. It’s easy, at my slow but steady growing rate to feel like what I’m doing isn’t worthwhile or that it won’t pay off in the long run. But then something like this happens, and I’m instantly reminded that all my hard work does have pay offs. They may take time and A LOT of effort, but they reap amazing results.

But on a more technical level, this is really a wonderful opportunity for my channel. I struggle with not having the resources or network to create some of the more innovative content I would like to make and feeling a little in the dark on what could make my channel better as a whole. So I’m really look forward to the mentorships and the networking opportunities YouTube NextUp is going to provide me!

Plus who can argue with spending a week in New York City? Ha!

I’m so excited about this opportunity and I hope you are too! If you want to hear more about YouTube NextUp and how thankful I am to all my subscribers for bringing me to the place I am today, check out this week’s video!