Feature: Nicole Tillotson
If you don't know her already, Nicole Tillotson is probably the cutest, happiest human we've ever come across. She's a 21 year old from Fort Meyers, FL studying digital journalism with a minor in graphic design.
In her own words she's humbly obsessed with the world of internet as well as fashion, pop culture social media and reality shows. Besides being a copy editor, writer, photographer and occasional YouTuber, Nicole is also a blogger. She manages the social media for an online and print magazine, Local Wolves, as well as the executive editor of Southeastern University's magazine.
She is in a word, courageous. She's a student, a creative and holds positions for two magazines. She inspires us here at Dream On Youth with how raw and open she is with her sunny and sometimes cloudy life. We were lucky enough to get the chance to dig a little deeper into the vastly rich soul that is Nicole Tillotson and here is what we discovered.
In your own words, tell me a little bit about yourself. What is there to know about Nicole Tillotson that we might not see on your social media or blog?
One of the most interesting facets of the internet is that you only see a small facet of a person’s life, the one that they choose to display. Most choose to highlight personal successes, which I can be guilty of myself, I additionally choose to display my struggles with mental health in hopes of one goal: for others to see themselves in my struggles and know they are not alone — that we are in this together. Aside from passions about mental health, internet, and creativity, people are always shocked to know about my studious side. Not to put myself on a high platform of intelligence, but learning — from school to topics that peak my interest — has and I believe will always be one of my most prominent personality traits. Not to mention, I graduated Valedictorian of my high school class. So if you’re in need of a friend to talk history and science with, sign me up please!
You're so honest in your writing, did it take awhile to get to a place of comfort posting your story online?
Firstly, thank you so much for your kind words; that’s the highest compliment to receive! The more I began to grow as a creator, the more my work took less of a light, artistic meaning and more of a serious side. I used to see myself as a two-faced creator: one who would publish photos from the latest music festival or a video of the latest YouTube challenge circulating. Yet, I always felt like I was hiding another side of my creativity, as during these times, I would journal thoughts and words much darker than anything I was portraying on any internet platform at the time. As I began to self-reflect one day, I realized I was putting out an image that did not accurately represent who I was; however, the content I was putting out was 100 percent genuine; I just had this important, introspective facet of my personality that was not being shown. I always knew I wanted to address heavier topics, specifically mental health, until those thoughts and words became something I couldn’t ignore, no matter how hard I tried. At two in the morning one night, I couldn’t fall asleep, and naturally I began to journal for myself with no intention other than relief from the thoughts circling my head — ironically, it was about ADD (or Attention Deficit Disorder) and how my brain wouldn’t turn off. I had all these thoughts and collecting, sorting through, and expressing them brought me clarity. Waking up the next morning to find out it was World Mental Health Awareness Day and having a piece in my journal that was finished and collectively made sense — a rare breed — I realized it was now or never to share the passion that was placed on my heart.
How do you find a balance between your creative life and school?
Finding a balance between creativity and school has and will always be one of my number one struggles. I'd be lying if I said I didn't still struggle with it to this day. There was one point during the end of my freshman year of college where I had a serious breaking moment that I’m sure almost every college student has at some point — I was ready to walk to the campus register and withdraw myself, all because school was leaving me no time to pursue my true passion, which is anything in the creative field. As with any struggle, I chose to use my creativity and innovation to find a way around the situation. That’s when I realized, my major is in the creative field, yet I’m looking at everything too closely. If I step back, look at the big picture, and plan accordingly, I could set myself up for creative success in the classroom, which in turn would grow me beyond the classroom. Sure, there are tons of creative projects I would absolutely love to pick up right now, seemingly my belated YouTube channel, but I’ve come to terms — meaning I have full peace — that my season for YouTube is not the present, and that’s okay. All will come in due time, and I’m always looking forward to that time, but also remembering to be present and constantly seeking creativity wherever I’m currently at.
Why is it important to you to share your personal experiences through your blog?
The word sharing is key among the importance of sharing my personal experience though my blog. My website and blog are a collective of personal experiences that make up the person of Nicole, including the great moments and also the more serious ones. What bonds people together are sharing stories, as stories are so powerful. One person sharing his or her story has the capacity to change the story or perspective of another. In turn, this story-sharing begins a chain reaction; as many people are continuously becoming affected and changed through the simple action of one person sharing their story. In essence, the power of stories is the reason I choose to take my deepest, unedited thoughts straight from my journal, in hope to inspire a few along the way.
If our readers gain any message from you what would you want it to be?
If I were to give a single piece of advice to a stranger, or even a friend, find what sets your heart on fire, what makes you the happiest in the world, what makes you excited to jump out of bed in the morning, and pursue that with all of your being. Through finding your niche, you’ll go through many accounts of trial and error, where you’ll find yourself unhappy where you currently are. Here’s a secret: any activity that leaves you unfulfilled and with negative emotions is not your true passion or calling, and you’re wasting your time. There’s bigger and more fulfilling plans the world has to offer you; you just have to jump ship on all of the occupations that churn these negative emotions inside of you.
Start with the little things. If you’re taking a class you don’t enjoy, know that’s not the career path for you. Another secret: you can find passion in your classes, just like you can with other areas of life; you just have to step out of your comfort zone. I was terrified of taking my first graphic design class in college and was convinced I was going to fail because I can’t do hands-on art if my life depended on it. But, I took the class, fell in love, added a minor in graphic design, and had my first design gig for a high-profile magazine not even a year later. Imagine if I let fear run my life and register for another class. This interview probably wouldn’t exist.
However, you’ll realize you’ve found your true niche when it comes natural; when your work doesn’t feel like work, but rather something that you could do for the rest of your life; when you second guess that you can get paid for pursuing your hobby for the rest of your life because it’s so fulfilling and doesn’t feel like a job; and you don’t dread going to meetings that correlate to what your chasing, but rather, you can’t wait to get to where you’re going.
The world is so large and so diverse that if you find a hobby, activity, or passion that you truly love, there is a spot for you to do that thing — the thing that sets your heart on fire — for the rest of your life.