beauty, fashion, & lifestyle

Digital content and communications strategist.

"Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all nighttelling itself stories." -Jonathan Gottschall


If it’s a Sunday (“dimanche”) and it’s raining, you can bet I’m looking at pictures of Paris. When I went a few months ago, it was my second time - but I hadn’t been back for almost a decade since I studied abroad there in the fall of 2009.

Despite not being in an environment to speak and hear French consistently for years, returning felt like home - even more so because this time it was with Paul.

During our few days there we couldn’t resist filling our camera rolls with photos of anything and everything simply because when in Paris (or perhaps France in general) everything just feels that much more elegant and delightful. Even the street art.

Even though it is in English…

Even though it is in English…

And of course, everything tastes more… je ne sais quois… no, I’ve got it: buttery.



The oldest pastry shop in Paris — there since 1730.

It is conveniently located on rue Montorgueil, which, just a few storefronts down is home to Fou de Pâtisserie, a shop that carries an ever-changing, curated selection of treats from acclaimed pastry shops all around Paris in one place.

This Stohrer caramel eclair was just the start before we sampled a Paris Brest, passion fruit cream puffs, and an almond crust tart with fresh figs, fig jam, hazelnuts, and basil.

Adulting is when you make plans far in advance to eat a breakfast comprised exclusively of Paris’ best pastries, right? Thankfully Paris is an amazing walking city.

I am also convinced that French water (and air? And maybe literally everything?) is the secret to the best skin ever. Every time Paul and I see these pictures we marvel at what we can only describe as “that French glow.”

Which brings me to French skincare… when I lived in Paris, I was pretty strict with my (student) budget. Splurging was reserved for dining out or saying yes to an afternoon pastry, just because (in another life I would strategically move next door to a Pierre Herme shop). Years later, in becoming a sometimes beauty blogger, I’ve tested hundreds of products - I don’t typically purchase them on my own. This time, I allowed myself to splurge during a few visits to the famed French pharmacies, where you can find gems like anything from Caudalie at a friendlier cost than in the states, the cult-favorite “everything” product Biafine, and one of my favorite cleansers, the Cleanance Cleansing Gel by Eau Thermale Avène. While nowadays there is access to many of these products online (you can easily add the Avène cleansing gel to your cart on Amazon— even Walgreens!), I found it to be romantic and rewarding to see the store displays for myself and converse with the pharmacists in my admittedly nervous French.

I’m always very meticulous in reviewing the packaging and labels of beauty products and so I was SHOCKED when I got home and unboxed the Biafine to discover that right there on the back of the tube it says “Johnson & Johnson.” On the box it says “JJSBF” so I had no idea I was actually purchasing a product by the very company I was about to rejoin in a few weeks (Biafine was acquired by J&J back in 2004, apparently). Team, if you’re reading this, I will happily hop on a plane to France anytime.


I have an emotional connection to so many photos, memories, and places in Paris. I love the city so much that I almost have a crippling anxiety over what to share on social media because THERE IS SO MUCH TO SAY - isn’t that silly? If there’s anything you want to know more about, let me know in the comments.


I am so touched by all of your reactions to my previous post, which, though I had fully written for weeks, was sitting in my drafts because I just didn’t feel ready to share it yet. So first: thank you again. It was that sense of fear I mentioned - a fear of being judged or dare I say it, being too vulnerable, that was holding me back. I’m taking it one day at a time to condition myself to take action with less fear. I have so much to be proud of and know I need to do a better job of simply just believing it for myself.

It takes time and conscious practice, though. There’s been something else on my mind for weeks that I’ve held pretty close to the chest— again, that feeling of “not being ready” to share. But it’s all good. The news is that I have returned to a familiar and familial place.


This photo was from a party that my colleagues at Johnson & Johnson (J&J) thoughtfully threw for me in March 2015. The occasion: I was leaving the company. To go to another company. And yet here I was still being celebrated! I remember my last day (and many other days at J&J) vividly. To be surrounded by such warmth and camaraderie was something I didn’t know how to fully appreciate in the moment, but there’s a reason I chose to save this photo and have it to look at now after three years.

I’ve returned to J&J and it has been quite the emotional journey to find my way back. With a renewed sense of purpose and outlook on how my career fits into the rest of my life, I am now several weeks in to my position as the Chief of Staff for the company’s enterprise design organization. It’s a tremendous opportunity that I am so grateful to have as part of the career story I am continuing to write.

So much of what I have learned about myself as a professional and what it means to be a leader has roots in the fact that I started my full-time (I cannot bear to skimp on the mention that I had a total of 8 internships as an undergraduate student, so the mention of “full-time” is intentional!) career at J&J, having exposure to people who beyond being brilliant in their fields, exude what it means to have empathy and to lead by example. I’m anxious and excited to leave my own mark. Week number 8 - there it is again, that lucky number 8- here I come…

As for that mention of it being a familial place… there’s also the fact that I met my husband at J&J. If you’re curious about those details, our wedding website is still up and you can find the story there!


My perspective on life has been undergoing some changes since August 2017. My best friend from high school suddenly passed away. Sagar leaving this world was a devastating loss to everyone who was lucky to know him and it rattled me to the very core of my being. A year later there are days when facing this reality still hits me hard. It usually creeps up in the quietest and rather simple moments, like looking out the car window as my mom drives me to the train station, hearing a song we used to listen to while carpooling in high school or just walking alone in New York City.  And other seemingly-random-but-not-at-all triggers, like seeing literally any Hyundai Sonata ever; he used to drive a teal one.

I often think back to a particular day a few years ago. Sagar and I caught up over beers after work at Birreria- it was then that I distinctly remember learning he enjoyed his job enough that he was at his office each day well before my alarm was even set to go off. Waking up early is not that easy to do for some of us (spoken as a true sleepy girl, I know), but Sagar was waking up each day with an important sense of purpose and thought the time he was spending at work was genuinely worth it. Hearing this caught me by surprise because I still vividly remembered our teenage selves and our shared struggle of getting to school on time…


As for me, I've lost count of the number of weeks that I have experienced struggling to get out of bed each morning, feeling weighed down by the dread that would begin to hover from the night before. Think “Sunday scaries” except it being every single day scaries.

I give an excruciating level of consideration to what I am willing to share on social media (working professionally in social media will do that to you). After a lot of thought, I feel it is time to share this broadly with you - my friends, former colleagues, friends of friends, acquaintances, and whoever you may be, however you got to reading this. Without revealing all the finer details, after 6 specific weeks of contemplating how much more I could endure or what the heck more I could possibly do on my side to try and make things better at work, I decided (with a lot of fear in my heart, but an abundance of support from my now husband) to quit my job back in May - with nothing else lined up.

For those of you who know my personality, this just “isn't me." I'm a type A planner. I never thought I would ever make such a decision without having the next step, and the one after that, already mapped out well in advance. Never say never.

If you know me then you also know that I throw myself into my work - I care about doing a stellar job and I’ve always worked really freaking hard, to the point where friends call me "the workaholic" (I'd rather be "the beauty guru," but hey) and at one of my previous companies I became one of the youngest people with a VP title at age 27. It turns out that this year, I learned the hard way that I was taking care of everything and everyone that I needed to at work - but in and out of the office I wasn't taking care of myself the way I needed to.

Quitting my job was scary. I was afraid of being judged, having regrets and throwing away a workplace rank I worked so hard to attain that I would not be able to get back. But every single time I felt miserable at work or merely just thinking about it, my thoughts automatically would start to shift to Sagar, to his passion for life and to the meaning of making the most of every moment. Remembering him helped me to finally make the decision I had been so fearful of but was the right one for my health. I owed it to myself and my family to take some time off to reset. After all, work will always be there.

My last day was only 9 days before my wedding, exactly four months ago. I soaked up every minute I could in that period, totally engrossed in catching up on details of wedding planning that sadly were neglected when I was working. It was a joy and I am SO PROUD (caps for serious emphasis) for allowing myself to have this time; I folded hundreds of things by hand from our favor boxes to the fortune tellers that served as our guests' place cards. I assembled every single thing that went into our hotel gift bags (including writing all of the cards that went inside them by hand... perhaps could have done without that part, looking back on it!), and I created all of our framed table numbers that showed photos of us at each corresponding age. 


Paul and I always wanted the details of our wedding day to be very personal to us and true to who we are; I am really grateful I put myself in a position to help make it happen and grateful to Paul for his unwavering support of my uncharacteristic decision to take a break from working life. I am grateful for a lot of things, but among them absolutely worth mentioning: having my finances in order to allow for all of this to be possible and for having an inner circle of the most loving family and friends who are my lifelong cheerleaders… and who genuinely share in my excitement for what’s next.

So… here I am. Thank you and congratulations for reading to the end of this first post on my namesake blog, or whatever you want to call it. I'm not making any overzealous declarations of what it is going to be. All I know is first and foremost, it's for me - for me to share more of myself with the people who care. And in daring to do so, I hope to hold myself accountable to the philosophy of living life with more focused intention and passion. I hope Sagar would be proud.

© 2018 Pauline L. Ma
Background image by Alexander Leong