Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Moments of Clarity

They're like a montage of fleeting moments in an indie film, like supercuts edited together.

I was driving up a hill in peak hour traffic ~or as peak hour as this city can get anyway.  The sky was a soft pink and the red lights of cars were Glowing.  I didn't even like the Justin Bieber song that was playing at the time.  It was so counter... deep. 

Nevertheless, sitting there I realised that I was deserving.  For the first time, I actually saw myself as a human being; I wasn't ashamed of my thoughts.  In fact, I actually quite liked myself.  It's hard to explain, but you see, sometimes you never seem to get what you want, and sometimes you can't even picture yourself getting what you want - like that thing you want never even crossed your mind.  Yet, that thing you want, other people have it, so it must be possible.

It was the first time I realised that I am just as entitled to things as other people are.  Sometimes you don't understand this lack of confidence or underdog feeling because you're simply in denial.  "I am a strong independent woman, right?"  Perhaps you don't understand yourself as well as you think.  A superiority complex could exist, or the angsty puts-up-walls-because-scared-people-will-see-the-real-me could be a real thing too.


Warm water running and just standing there, absolutely still.  It'd been a lethargic day of eating chocolate and reading my watercolour-embossed diary.

Somehow I can remember every thought as soon as it's read.  I remember feeling that way, I remember what happened and the entire phase.  Like, it's all just one big continuous phase, isn't it?  A notebook-long phase until the pages run out.  Is that when the new theme of my life begins again?

Writing is funny like that.  It time-capsules feelings.  It documents thoughts.  I am every single person who recorded words in my diary.  I'm the girl who's worried about getting fat, the girl who yells at herself to study, the girl who accuses her sister of being jealous, the girl who is lonely and then suddenly feels loved, then sad.  Somehow the voices stay the same.

When I'm older and read this diary, I'll remember what it was like to be 17 again on an emotional level, and that's so cool.


Love,
M

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Some Kind of Urgency

Sitting in a restaurant with no doors in Chinatown, Sydney, over a bowl of some kind of hot condensed milk, coconut dessert, my mum asks me why I always seem to want more.  At this age it's all about new things, bigger and better.  She asks me why I must go out every day - busy busy busy - and why I can't just stop for a moment - rejuvenate, reflect.  What is the rush to leave home, to spend money as soon as it's acquired, to have lists and lists of things to do and things to obtain.  How will I ever be happy?

Content is the magic word.  It is also a state of mind so out of reach.  There is always someone, something, something missing from what would otherwise be a perfect life, out there - and my brain is always reaching - stuck in a cycle of constant raging highs and lows.  When everything is going right, when everything should be perfect; my mind is so accustomed to worrying, to obsessing, to thinking ahead.  What do I need next?

So it's time to sit, and simply be happy.  Life is not about ticking boxes, because they can never all be ticked.  And honestly, sometimes things happen that you never thought would be on your list - that makes up for it.  It's not about what you don't have or the green eyed monster.  It's about friends, family, food, learning and dreams.  It's always about dreams.

Love,
M


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

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

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