Sunday, 16 April 2017

Idols

Three Australian born Chinese girls who had blogs at the age 17.  Sound familiar?  In some ways I feel as if our idols are reflections of ourselves who have become the people we want to be.  They are obtainable.  They are of similar interests, upbringing and culture.  They are relatable yet they have made it.  They are living, breathing proof that the person you want to be is within reach regardless of your background.

Margaret Zhang, Yan Yan Chan and Estelle Tang - I found these three girls one by one.  There's nothing remarkable about them other than that they're awesome, just as awesome as any other successful person in their field.  What they brought to the table for me was their similarities.  They went through what I'm going through, and they came out like that on the other end.



Margaret

In my earlier Instagram days I was enamoured with following models.  They were beautiful people living beautiful lives.  It was all so utterly, completely aesthetic.  And so, I found Margaret Zhang: photographer, IMG model, Australian student with a 99+ ATAR.  She was everything I wanted.  She did math, she was an edgy kind of beautiful, she played the piano as an art form - the way it should be played, she studied at the gargoyle-embellished University of Sydney, she was an impeccable writer and most importantly, she looked great sitting front row at New York Fashion Week.

I pored over her Instagram and watched numerous interviews.  Margaret was studying law while networking while jetting across the world and taking photos of Karlie Kloss.  She was the perfect definition of a girl who has everything - probably at some expense, but somehow she made it work.  

But it was only recently that I really looked at her blog, Shine By Three.  And by looked, I mean lurked.  I did some serious lurking.  I lurked all the way back to posts from when she was 17, posts where she had deleted half the content out of shame, growth or moving on.  There I found photos from her Year 10 formal, from the time spent with her friends, from parties and hikes and 17 year old fashion shoots.  Margaret Zhang was just like us.

And yet, somehow, she has found herself living an inhumanely aesthetic lifestyle in New York city. That's what I call a true idol.



Yan Yan Chan

Somehow my Instagram taste moved from models to personalities that were some form of cool, arty, slightly hipster.  You know, those girls who wear sneakers and gold glasses, pants that aren't skinny or shirts with obscure or way-too-common logos, who have boyfriends with brown hair, make collages and have stylish rooftop parties... Yan Yan Chan was one of them.  The girl was cute.  She was quirky.  She was fun.  She was somehow childish yet super mature.  And her aesthetics, well they were out of this world.  She was the coolest Asian I had ever seen.

It was only recently that I discovered she had a blog, and that she was a blogger, and had been one when she was 17.  Unlike me though, she had a blog with a simple French name - something with taste, unlike The Life of Little Me (side note, should I change my blog name or just live with it for memory's sake).  In one of her recent posts entitled On My Mind she mentions that the post is 'Real Personal, an homage to the beginnings of this blog'.  

And that's what blogging is about at this age, isn't it?  It's about sharing your thoughts, material you find interesting, your experiences, your idols.  Your words are floating on the big wide internet, yet these words are contained in your little corner, your super personal corner, a corner that's more like a journal, and that's more for yourself than the rest of the big wide world.  There's something pretty about being a journal girl, about recording memories and keeping diaries.  Yan Yan Chan - this super cool photographer, fun girl - reminded me of that.  And here I am.  Blogging after quite a while.  Watch this space.  There's more to come.




Estelle Tang

If we're talking about personally relatable backgrounds, Estelle's is eerily familiar.  As a contributor to my favourite blog, Rookie, I used to comment on her articles all the time, with no clue of who she was.  To view one of her explicably relatable articles and one of my cringey comments, read this post: How to Talk About Yourself (Without Feeling Gross).  At the beginning of the article she mentions her Asian Australian culture and upbringing, and some of the traits and beliefs she gained from that.  It's like as soon as I read the words Asian Australian I'm like Yes YES I immediately feel a connection.  The reason I'm sharing this is because the other day, while reading some of her work, I came across her reply.  She had responded to my comment.  Hurray! An interaction!  

And why this sudden interest in Estelle Tang when I had no idea who the author of these articles were before?  Well, little did I know, we used to go to the same Sunday family dinners when she was a teenager and I was a toddler.  Her mother was the bane of every child's existence, the bearer of kumon, a repetitive boring tutoring program that sent kids into temper tantrums and strikes.  Her mother, her family, was practically identical to my own, if not a little more strict.  

And with this upbringing.  With mothers with morals and ideas that will never break through the culture barrier, with parents who have trained us to be master thinkers from a young age, with our crazy, driven, competitive relatives, with skewed ideas of success and restrictions on particular experiences, with a background completely opposed to any sort of unstable lifestyle, with parents who have worked hard to provide us with the best, unaffordable education, she moved to New York City.  She lived in a share house.  She struggled for a while.  She became an editor of Elle Magazine. She recently interviewed Miranda Kerr.  She is someone in my wide 'family' who has done something a little different, writing something I consume, enjoying the same media as me.

And now I want to find everything she has written on her background.  I want to see what she went through, understand what may be ahead, be understood.  There is something about reading content by people who understand what you do that makes you feel less alone.  Read some of her work HERE.


Love,
M

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Down Trodden

It's been over a month and by far the longest I have gone without writing.  Do I even have a blog anymore?

A few other things I haven't done in a while include wearing sunglasses, doing my makeup, being excited and dancing.  I haven't done any of these things since school started.  I hate to say it, but school has become my worst enemy, the place where unhappiness flourishes and manifests through me.  It has become a trap from which I have become the worst version of myself.

But when I try to pinpoint why exactly this is happening, it all comes down to myself.  I have come to realise that I am simply a culmination of a whole lot of influence.  That is who I am as a person, and while I'd like to think I go deeper than that, I can't seem to find any deeper being.  I'm a reflection.  I am a human being so blind to other people's flaws that I have been copying them for my whole life, burying any inkling of any independent, opinionated person inside of me until she has died from a lack of nurturing care.

I want to get her back.  I understand that she is premature and never had a chance to grow.  I understand that she has been underdeveloped since I decided that everyone else was right, and she was wrong.  There are so many strong, beautiful, interesting people out there, and I am not one of them.

This lack of personality has me stranded in a race in life that I'll never win.  I'm forever looking to those ahead to guide me, that I've been unable to see my own path beyond them.  What do I actually care about?  What?  What do I want that's new?  What do I want that the rest of society doesn't want? What do I want that they don't have?  You can't see the bigger picture when you're trapped so far inside the smaller one.

But perhaps this isn't how it works at all.  Perhaps I am an interesting person, or normal at the very least, and this could be part of what makes me so.  Maybe everyone else is just a lot less interesting than what I give them credit for.  Either way, it's time I did something about my seven week long de-motivated self.

(wow.  I feel so self-centred and self-focused.  Is everyone else this self-focused too?  Maybe if I became less self-focused I'd care less about all this and be a happier person...)

You know what I've realised?  What other people think is actually really insignificant.  Or, well, thinking so is a step to gaining a little self esteem.  You see, they don't all belong on some pedestal where their opinions should always be considered true.  In reality, they're just as important as you and me.  I woke up this morning analysing the events of yesterday before realising that I honestly did not care enough to analyse what anyone thought of me, or of anything really.

And if I honestly do not care enough, I honestly do not care about all the stupid things I've been conditioned to care about.  In every culture and society we're conditioned to think that different aspects of life are important.  Different things are considered fun.  Different things are considered acceptable.  Different things are prioritised over others.  If you're trapped in the smaller picture, all these things considered important by the people around you, they're important and that's that.  But look at the larger picture for a moment.  Look at the way people in other cultures, or just different people, see the world and live life.  Look and you'll realise that all the things your society deems important, they're not the be all and end all of importance after all.

And this realisation, this realisation has me noticing that everything I have deemed important, everything I have decided is worth caring about, is just a manifestation of my susceptible-to-influence, pushover personality.  And now that I've realised this, it's high time I discovered what exactly it is that I care about, don't you think?

Love,
M


Sunday, 5 February 2017

EATING in Canberra

No matter what we have planned, we will always end up eating.

Eat your way through every city.  It's the best part of any place.

Blueberry Cronut from 7th & Bake


Fish & Chips from Cafe Momo

Salmon and rice from Pepper Lunch

French Toast from Penny University

Smashed Avo from the Cupping Room

Xiao Long Bao and Peking Duck from Yat Bun Tong

Chai Latte and Hot Chocolate from Blue Olive Cafe

Smashed Avo from Little Oink

Eggs Benedict from Ricardo's

Blueberry Pancakes from 39 Steps

Homemade waffles

French Toast from Urban Pantry

Smashed Avo from Ona on the Lawns

Bacon & Egg roll from the Cupping Room

Salmon and sweet potato rosti from Lonsdale Street Roasters

Cereal Milkshakes from the Coffee Lab

Food from the Coffee Lab

Food from the Cupping Room

Homemade Nutella cookies and brownies
Eggs Benedict from Tilly's

Vietnamese noodle soup from any place in the city
Love,
M

Friday, 27 January 2017

Scissors & Glue





My desk is a mountain of colourful strips of paper because in my spare time - in those moments between breakfast and doing my makeup -  I'm preparing myself for the dreaded yet inevitable beginning of school.

Dolce & Gabbana

Alexander McQueen

Moschino

Kenzo

Chanel
Unlike this year, last year's collages were actually related to the subject they were covering.  Perhaps that was a little less confusing.  These collages are the only remnants left of whatever education I received in 2016.

Maths

Physics

Maths

Chemistry
Love,
M

Monday, 23 January 2017

School starts in a week

The last few months have been spent floating with no intention.  This continuous routine of planning, walking, eating and when none of these things are happening, deciding on TV shows to watch, have made me forget what life must be like when you're trying to be productive.

My head's been a little muddled in the wrong place lately.  All I seem to be exposed to are friends telling me about boys, sex and alcohol.  What's the latest status? Virgin or not?  They'll tell me about the latest outrageous thing they did while drunk at a party, and I'll be wondering where I've been all this time.  Why have I been missing out on all this?  What are my thoughts on all this?  Are these experiences really that important to me?

With school moving further and further out of the picture, all the stigmas of this teenage culture are moving in.  If all experiences and opinions involving drugs and boys are what all these people seem to find important, then should I be finding this important too?  They talk about it as if however far you've gotten with a boy is what defines who you are.  They see it as a status rather than an act, and without school occupying my brain, I'm slowly being sucked in to these absurd ideas of importance, no matter how hard I resist.

I've realised that saying yes to alcohol is a lot easier than saying no.  Being interested when people tell you about their sex lives is a lot easier than changing the subject.  Acting as if I know more than I actually do is something I feel pressured into doing, and it's absolutely stupid and shocking and immature.  They don't get that having sex does not suddenly make you more mature.

And then, last night, someone reminded me that school starts in a week.  I realised that my life with school involves a lot less talking and thinking about boys, sex and alcohol, because my priorities are different, and neither is better or worse.  This is the age where people are experiencing all these firsts at all these different times, and it's confusing and needs to be seen as nothing more than what it is.  

I am sick of 'living in the moment' and being dazed all the time.  I am sick of not knowing what I find important without it staring me in the face.  I am sick of feeling lesser when people tell me about all the things I'm 'missing out on'.  And for once, maybe I feel as if I'm ready for school to start in a week.

Love,
M

Saturday, 14 January 2017

3 countries

So, in fact, there are many different ways in which a person can be 'Asian'.










To acknowledge and notice the nuances of the vast difference between the cultures of the East and the West, sometimes being born of one but thrown to the other can cause you to think, and think for your whole life.  As an Australian-born-Chinese, I've seen all the differences in food, attitudes, priorities.  I have seen what it is to belong and not belong, to feel unique and proud and frustrated.  A lot of my identity has been built around being 'Asian'.

But, you see, calling myself 'Asian' is already a somewhat misleading, broad term.  Asia is a continent.  Asia consists of India and Korea and the Middle East.  I may be from both China and Malaysia, but that's two countries out of 48.  And that's where I go wrong.  I call myself 'Asian' because in a predominantly white country, I'm of a rather large minority, and we label ourselves as 'Asian'.  'Asian' isn't a culture.  Chinese is a culture, but 'Asian' is many.

Two days ago I flew back from Malaysia, a country consisting of three major cultures: Malay, Chinese and Indian.  All are Asian.  There, my cousins and my uncles and aunties label themselves as Chinese.  Chinese people have their own stereotypes, as do the Malays and the Indians.  None of them call themselves 'Asians' because being Asian is a given.  While people from Vietnam, China, Japan and Korea may 'look the same' to people here, in Asia there is a wide distinction in culture, food and appearance - I say food because food is very important to most Asian cultures, as it should be.

But then, with internet and movies and Netflix taking over the world, pop culture in Malaysia has become quite westernised.  While girls my age do enjoy K-dramas and Animes, my Aunty has said that 'nobody tells anyone they watch K-dramas.  It's one of those things they want to sweep under the rug.'  They all enjoy looking 'tumblr' and eating at 'hipster cafes'.  They'd rather eat eggs benedict than roti canai.  As my cousin said, 'they're all trying to act white these days,' and as my uncle said, 'P A T H E T I C what does that spell?'

However, this is a huge generalisation.  Unlike the way she describes some of her school mates, my cousin dresses a lot more 'kawaii' as her friends put it.  With school-girl skirts, stockings, pastel colours, shiny miniature boots and pigtails, she is the picture of one of the Japanese school girls in her Animes, and I think that's cool.  Every day she uses a cushion foundation and lip creamer, all bought from Korean makeup shops, going for the dewy look rather than matte everything with wings as sharp as knives.

This seems to be the picture of beauty in Japan, where we visited for a week before the new year.  In advertisements all over subway stations and Shibuya Crossing, girls had perfect, moist-looking skin.  Their eyeliner was much more discrete than those I see here, and to my surprise, their wings were not turned up but rather finishing with a little straight flick.  Sometimes the wings would even be turned downwards.  This difference in beauty, which I thought was actually much more attractive, must be the manifestation of a thriving Asian culture, which, for the first time I'd ever seen, was not trying to be white.

In Japan, everyone walked fast and everyone was well dressed, including the boys.  Girls would wear pink and white long furry jackets, outrageously sparkly eyeshadow with blue eyeliner, or Moschino-style embroidered jackets or pants, and nobody would blink an eye.  It was rare to see a girl in simple jeans and a coat.  It was much more exciting.  Boys would have hair sitting perfectly, wearing bomber jackets and hipster glasses, somehow making their pristine Adidas sneakers look classy rather than basic.  Walk into a 10 story Forever 21 and you'll find that floor 5 upwards is men's clothing.  They have their own celebrities, pop culture, technology and language; and they're proud.  Now this is an 'Asian' I want to see more of.

But then, in some ways, while factoring in the westernisation, there has been a beautiful modernisation of the Chinese culture in Malaysia as well.  Walking into a cheongsam shop, the beautiful Chinese patterns, silks and collars have been fused into beautiful, plainer dresses fit for any Western girl trying to branch out, or printed on batik the same way Indonesians make their clothing.  While tossing the Yee Sang we add salmon, because it is both easy to find and tastier, and when eaten it tastes like a salad with balsamic vinegar dressing.  Pineapple tarts sit on kitchen counters alongside butter-cream cupcakes.  While this culture in itself is Chinese-Malaysian, and while they may not be as acquainted with western culture as people who have immigrated over, they still, in some ways, have the best of both worlds.

And, in my case, how can I truly be Chinese-Malaysian if I do not live in Malaysia and I have no memory of ever having celebrated a true Chinese New Year?  Being 'Asian' in a white country is an entirely new 'Asian' in itself.  While in Malaysia, my Aunty was telling me about her experiences going to high school in Australia at the age of 15.  She said that as a new immigrant, she realised that other Asians, those born in Australia, didn't want to be associated with her.  They were ashamed of their culture.  Back in that time, there weren't as many immigrants, and being non-white was an actual rarity, 1 in 100.
Watching Fresh off the Boat, set in a similar scenario in a slightly later time period, while the eldest son isn't ashamed of his culture, he is aware of the stereotypes and fights against them, saying to his younger brother on his first day of middle school,
'So you want to be what everyone thought I was when I walked in on the first day.  You want to undo all the work I've done over the past two years... I'm keeping them on their toes, blazing trails, breaking chains.  Then they see you coming with your violin and your camera, and we're back to where we started.'
And then there's second generation Asian immigrants today.  Stereotypes still exist and we make fun of them, but I can't tell whether we despise them or love them.  I can't tell whether we're fighting them or accepting them as predominantly true.  In an overly politically correct world, I think we are beginning to take pride in our culture while everyone else is afraid of being racist.  It's a newer, more multicultural world in which girls wear traditional clothing out to dinners and dances, and I'm glad to have been born in this time period where it is easy to be proud of being 'Asian'.

Love,
M

Sunday, 1 January 2017

1st of the 1st

January number 1 - what else could this post be?  As I just wrote in my diary, this day marks the end of living in torturous hazy bliss each day, and the beginning of working towards something.  I've decided to spend a good chunk of today reflecting and looking forward, because as of the last few months I have thought of nothing but fashion, money and how people perceive me.  New year, clear head, right?

January - Gelato in Italy!!!
Looking back at 2016, well, it feels as if 2015 may as well have not existed.  It was a year of complete metamorphosis, in both myself and my day-to-day life.  Reading over last year's resolutions, I feel as if I have completed every single one except for "be nicer to people".  If anything, I have been meaner to people, becoming more condescending and less empathetic.  Perhaps that is something to acknowledge and work on coming into 2017.

February - on a hike that feels so long ago
With a perpetually dazed mind, it is incredibly difficult to look back at 2016 and remember any progress in particular.  

With growing confidence, for the first time I was doubting and seeing flaws in other people, and suddenly their desperation for attention and approval seemed so pathetic.  But, at the same time, I was adopting more of this desperation myself.

With growing confidence, I began to take pride in my appearance, starting with hair, then clothes and finally makeup.  

The quantity of friends I have depleted drastically, but the quality of those stuck with me increased dramatically.  And, for once, I feel as if I don't need anybody else.  They make me feel special, and that can only be a good thing.

March - the 'cousins' spend a day at a farm
Freedom came in the form of understanding that milestones don't have a time limit.  Freedom came in the form of independence and driving.  Freedom came in the form of realising that a person has layers, and that you don't have to put yourself in a box and act accordingly for people to comprehend you.  In fact, you don't have to stick yourself in a box for you to comprehend you.

April - Riding a bike around the lake

New year's eve was spent on a plane from Japan to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  With massive headaches, we watched the clouds zoom past on our descent into humid weather.  At midnight in Australia we were eating a massive buttery roti tissue in a hawker shop with no walls, followed by Baskin Robbins on the 31st.  And at midnight in Malaysia my sister and I pulled our beds together, listening to the fireworks exploding above while watching Bon Jovi sing to Katherine Heigl in New Year's Eve.

May - took these pics in this jacket because I felt so supah cool

And now, here we have it.  2017 is spread wide in front of us, and here are my resolutions:

Lay off social media

This has been a terrible problem for me that must've snuck up at some point in 2016.  I spend 3 hours on average on my phone each day, according to the app Moment, and while this may not be awful, it is unacceptable and unhealthy to me.  Enough external approval... it's time to have a little mystery.

June - candid photo waiting for N2 ice-cream
Be more appreciative of my friends

Sometimes I forget that I have them because I know they'll be there, unconditional of the way I act towards them.  It's time to show them a little more gratitude and do something for their benefit once in a while.  It's a lot more worthwhile to spend my time on my phone catching up with them than stalking strangers on Instagram or replying to "streaks".

July - at an art gallery
Be happy for others

Enough with the twinge of jealousy every time something good happens to someone.  Enough with the excuses as to why what they have couldn't possibly matter.  Enough with the grasping at every other thing I have that they don't.  It's okay to acknowledge that what they have, they deserve in every which way.  It's okay to acknowledge that these things can only be good.  They say that you know you're happy with yourself when you become happy for others, and perhaps that's the first step in completing this resolution.

August - my first ever concert
Be confident despite my appearance

Makeup or no makeup, hair up or hair out, contacts or glasses - no matter what, I want to be able to hold that same level of confidence.  I want to be able to speak to people, still feel like an accomplished, confident girl, even with my hair up, glasses on and face bare.  I don't want it to be necessary for me to look great every single day.  Even when ugly, my personality should shine through.

September - eating cake

Stop looking up to people who don't matter

And this is where my desperation for approval needs to end.  There are select people I barely know who I think are awesome.  They'll be beautiful or accomplished, and every time I encounter them at my best, I'll feel a sense of pride and happiness.  If they're in the same room, I'll claw my way into making a good impression the same way you would if they were your crush, and it's downright stupid.  Those who matter are those who make their way into my life naturally, not because I have some sick need to make them notice me as much as I notice them.

October - candid photo waiting for the light rail

Be less shallow

While it is easier to portray yourself outwardly and only judge people skin-deep, we are so much more than that.  It's time I work on what's inside as well as out.  Just because other people don't know something about you, doesn't mean it's not true.  

In 2017 I would like to work on realising that I am not the only person in the world and seeing other people's needs.  Better late than never.  
I would like to be more grateful of my family, even though I may not show it.  
I would like to explore my own morals rather than blindly believe those of others.
I would like to actively learn new things unnecessarily rather than shun those who do.  It's time to educate myself.

November - picnic at the beginning of summer
Work hard for myself 

We don't achieve things so we can yell it out at the world.  We don't work towards something just because it's what society deems as "successful".  We work towards the kind of lifestyle we want, whether in the short term or long term.  Whatever makes us happy.  This year I would like to work my butt off in my final year of school - but I'm doing it for myself, uninfluenced by anyone else.

December - birthday

Here's to 2017.  Happy new year!
Love,
M