The decision to not make any resolutions for 2019 is paying off. Devoid of any particular direction, I decided to take a week off from social media (which turned into a month), and think about what I want to do with Cherry Cross. If you are wondering why am I even thinking about it, let me explain.

When I started Cherry Cross in 2013, I was in Karachi, and the blog was meant to be a glorified personal diary. It would also double as a forum to share my opinions, reviews and repost my work from print publications. The same year saw me move to Dubai, where the blog picked up and earned some recognition. It made collaborations possible, and a tiny increase in my bank account. Keyword here is tiny. But as any blogger would tell you, collaborating for a financial remuneration and not a barter of goods or services is a big deal, and rather difficult. Despite the tiny monetary contribution, I had no problem continuing with the blog because my day job, working as a journalist for the biggest publishing house in Dubai, helped pay the bills and made it possible for me to enjoy the privileges that only a handful of established bloggers have access to.

After three years of riding that low wave of fame and opportunities, I came to Cologne, and Germany was all ready to teach me a few very hard lessons. Blogging, collaboration and community were all very different here, and I just couldn’t push through the layers of resistance. In a couple of months, I realised that traditional way of blogging will not work here, at least not for me. Previously, I wrote about bigger things – happenings, reviews, events, opinion pieces, etc. I decided to mix things up a little, and turn it into a lifestyle blog, with a focus on me. Content came from me. It became about me. It felt intrusive and rewarding. And exhausting. So very, very, very exhausting.

From what I ate to what I wore, who I met and what I experienced, all became ‘work’. Unpaid work. And to make it even more challenging was the lack of engagement. The fact that people did not respond or engage was disheartening. I tried to keep the game face on, until I couldn’t, and decided to stop blogging altogether. Abandon Cherry Cross.

I announced a week long sabbatical, deleted all social media applications from my phone and took a deep breath.

I finally felt peace. I enjoyed the silence a lot more than I expected. I suddenly felt pressure off my shoulders. I ate without taking pictures. I met friends and didn’t take a selfie (even though my makeup was on point). Every now and then, I had an urge to share something on social media, but it fizzled out. I read two books in a week (I couldn’t finish 3 in all of 2018). I made all kinds of business plans and pursued some of the steps.

If something felt so right, clearly it was right, right?

It wasn’t. While there was a definite vegan glow, there was something amiss. I missed writing. I missed my voice. I missed that one odd comment that sparked a meaningful/fun conversation. A handful of my friends nudged me on, reminding me that I have a ‘gift’, and I cannot let it be. And out of thousands of followers on Instagram, some actually read my blog too. The question was if I can go on writing despite such microscopic response and meaningful engagement?

My answer is this post. A month long deliberation made me realise that I need this outlet, regardless of response. I write because it makes me happy, and I shall continue to do so, even if no one reads. Maybe one day my words will garner more traction than my face, or not. I shall continue writing, for you and me, with hopes that may there be more of you.

So, I came back. Determined. Rested. With a focus and direction.

Hence, Cherry Cross 2.0 – better than before. I promise the content won’t be as tired as my slogan. To begin with, Cherry Cross has had a facelift. A new interface. I wanted it to be cleaner, clearer, less busy, reader-friendly. We made some changes and now I do like it as a reader: I hope you do too.

Secondly, content has had some shift as well. We have 10 categories now – some old, some new and one favourite. Here they are, with a brief overview of what to expect in each one of them.

  1. Style: infamous OOTDs, along with things I bought and loved. A few runway coverages as well.
  2. Beauty: Product reviews, DIYs, and salon experiences.
  3. Lifestyle: if anything adds to my life, be it an app, Netflix series, beauty boxes, restaurant or recipe, you will find it in this category.
  4. Jewel Act: a whole new arena – I LOVE accessories and will be blogging about rare finds, styling hacks, caring for loved pieces and sharing a peek into my own stash.
  5. Travel: Join me in my holidays, free of cost.
  6. Relationships: Love, love lost and everything in between. My favourite subject to write about. I have got Bhindi to prove it.
  7. My Cologne: Monthly social calendars and other city-specific news. It made the cut purely on basis on numbers (clicks). Cologne specific content made it to most read content throughout 2018.
  8. Just Pakistani Things: Expat life in Germany has its challenges and we Pakistanis got to stick together. Anmeldung, abmeldung, visa drills – this is the place for it.
  9. Personal Essays: If oversharing is a sin, I am guilty. Here’s where you should go to find all about Shaheen Nouman Rajan

PLUS, I am launching Cherry Cross Cares this year. Consider it online activism about a subject that is very close to my heart, and has been, for almost two decades. Transgender Community. There are so many misconceptions about them, and so much that needs to be done. I am hoping that it will bring together people who feel passionate about doing right by this marginalised section.

There is also a change on how social media will work. More blog, less random gibberish. Also, I won’t proactively share content anywhere by my pages. I would rather have a small, interactive community where I invest my time and energies, instead of spamming in groups where I think the content is useful. You are more than welcome to repost though. Always share the goodness.

Well, that’s about it. Here’s a whole new beginning for Cherry Cross and me. And I am keeping my fingers and toes crossed for it to be a success in its own right.