When I was in Santorini earlier this year, it was a place unlike any other.
Well, actually, it kinda was, but not in a way that I – and probably most of you whom had never been – had actually ever imagined. You see, on Instagram and on glossy postcards in souvenir shops, the Santorini that had ingrained in my mind was of the whitewashed, pastel-domed, blue Aegean Sea variety.
The first stray dog I saw, I thought nothing of it. Then I started seeing more, and more, with each one looking even more neglected and malnourished than the last. Then I read about the poor donkeys; the ones that are forced to trudge up and down that ridiculously steep hill to ferry tourists to and from Fira under duress with the stealth crack of a whip. It was like an arrow through my heart; but more than anything, it shattered this honeymoon image I had of this place. Sure, 10% of what laid before me was awe-inducing, jaw-droppingly magical. But the other 90%? Disappointingly – but understandably so – it’s stuff that you would never see on your Instagram feed.
I’ve been blogging for almost 10 years – that’s a third of my life (yikes!) – and in that time, so much has changed in so many ways. When I started my first blog in 2006, I had in total three readers – three friends who were bloggers themselves. It was like some secret club. It was at least half a decade before blogging became a ‘thing’; before blogs could become a brand; before bloggers became The Next Big Thing; and way before anyone could actually fathom that we could all be paid in some way or another to simply wear clothes.
Back then, we didn’t give a shit if our food looked as unphotogenic as heck. There were no Diptyque candles as props, no peonies in brown paper to serve as Instagram-bait. It was all about forging friendships, meaningful conversation, meeting new people and learning more about each other. Fuck, it was like ten years before we even knew what a selfie was.
Back then, I didn’t care who was reading or how many of you were reading. I was blogging my vegemite on toast, my sneaky lunchtime purchases from Sportsgirl, my wedding speech for God’s sake. Because old school blogging was never about creating a Brand. It was never about wearing gifted clothes, sitting front row at fashion week, working for free in exchange for ‘exposure’, or getting invited to events where once you got there, you sorely wish you were sitting on the couch in your PJs eating potato chips. It was never about making a corner of your home all perfectly pretty when in actual Real Life it looked nothing like the 640×640 frame you’ve just spent an hour meticulously editing. And it was never ever about pimping your pet Frenchie or your two-year-old on Instagram just to acquire those three lauded F’s: Free stuff, Followers and Fame.
What happened to just creating beautiful things for the sake of just wanting to create beautiful things?
Yesterday, Jamie and I did something we hadn’t done in years; creating something personal together that wasn’t for ‘work’. I guess anyone who is a photographer (or any creative) would be nodding knowingly at the thought of this – doing something – anything – incredible and inspiring without having to fill a brief. And only doing it for yourself. So yesterday we threw the camera in the car and drove down to our favourite spot to take a few photos of the sunset, the windswept afternoon and my growing bump with my toes in the sand. Stuff that we used to do (minus the bump, of course) that would set our hearts on fire in our own little ways. This makes me happiest and seeing these photos we created together will mean more to me than any ‘work’ we’ve done together.
The thing is, my life also did a 360 this spring. I’ve lost two close family members in the space of less than 10 weeks. I will never understand how some things can suddenly be taken away from you when you least expect it. Life is so quick, and so intense, and sometimes, too short and unfair for me to be able to ever comprehend. My bones can’t stop shaking like trees and every day has been a hurricane since then. It’s been so hard to carry on as normal, to go about my days without feeling guilty about enjoying them; to let that familiar feeling of loss in again so soon. Too soon. Above, all it has become so unfathomably sad that I will never be able to take that time back to have one last conversation with them.
Which brings me to the point of this post. That all good things, I guess, must come to an eventual end.
After almost a decade of sharing my life online, this will be the last blog post I’ll be making on here to make room for new adventures – things that get my heart racing with the people in my life who remind me to be grateful for just being alive. Or just to realise what a big deal being able to live my life offline a bit more really is. It’s hard to walk away from something that has opened the door to so many amazing opportunities, new friends, and ultimately, a place where I share a part of my life but I can’t imagine anything worse than having a phone constantly glued in one hand while I hold my baby in the other. I’ll still be doing the occasional instagram, the odd tumblr and snapchat from time to time. Oh – and I almost forgot to mention, I’ll still be contributing to Vogue Spy Style for the time being. I have quite a few travel and maternity style posts lined up for the next few months, so keep a look out.
My other baby though – A Cup of Chic (and here!) – will be where I’ll be spending all my time now before I spend all my days nursing another baby in three and a half months’ time. I can’t wait.
As for the Real Talk? Well… You can either go out and chase your dreams or stand by and watch other people chase theirs.
Photography by Jamie Lau.
I was waiting at a pedestrian crossing with puffy eyes, a sour taste in my mouth, stuck in a daydream, and drunk in a haze of my own weary thoughts, when I noticed a bearded guy standing across the road from me wearing this black t-shirt. On any ordinary day, it – and he – would have been as non-descript and faceless as anyone else; but today, it was different.
Emblazoned across his chest, in big white scribbled letters, were three of the most powerful but simplest words that, for the past few months, have haunted me.
Let it be.
It only took a second, but I wildly clung onto that moment because all these voices inside my head were becoming the better of me. And it made me less fearful of embracing life and all of its short straws, the cards it deals and how unfair it all may seem at the time. And then there was this guy; unknowingly selling hope to those of us who think the worst things in life come free to us; and those who run from the rain but sit in bathtubs full of water (gracias, Charles Bukowski); those who hope for a better life; and all of us who wage war in our own heads, sweating the small stuff but never thinking that if we just picked up all these pieces, we could put ourselves back together again.
It made me realise that things are what they are; life is what it is; things will be what it will be; and that sometimes it’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.
As the pedestrian light turned green, the guy selling hope hurriedly brushed past me and little did I know that a few weeks later, my life was going to change forever. But, infinitely, for the better.
Ever wake up and feel as if you don’t know what to do with the rest of your life?
Yeah… me too.
It’ll be a year this month that I quit the full-time skirt suit and cubicle life after eight years to go out on my own.
I won’t sugar coat it; 12 months on and I still wonder if I did the right thing. And by that, I mean the right thing by my bank account, the marketing career I’ve built over almost a decade, and my husband, who still wakes up at 6am (sometimes 5) to put in a 13 hour day at work whilst I sleep in ’til 10am. It’s a guilt that paralyses me every morning, even though I’m so grateful to be surrounded by the most incredible support network (and by that, I mean the full-time emotional counsellor that is my husband, who will always be my biggest supporter) and who believes – sometimes more than I – that what I’m doing is exactly what I should be doing right now. Nothing more, nothing less.
The thing is, everyone wants to be successful until they find out what success looks like.
Often, it’s working weekends (if you’ve been following me on Snapchat @agirlnamedmish, you’ll see what a typical, lonely Sunday looks like for me), it’s working every single day when you’re on a two month ‘holiday’, it’s the very fact that you will never, ever, get ‘paid’ to go on leave if freelancing or self-employed (I will not take annual leave for granted ever again). And believe me when I say that you don’t appreciate sick pay – or Saturdays – until it’s taken away from you. It’s ironic that I haven’t had a proper holiday or weekend since I held down a full-time job.
It’s loneliness, deadlines, late nights, no social life, self-doubt, fucking hard work and more mistakes some people make in a lifetime. When I quit my “real job” a year ago, little did I realise that a monthly mental meltdown and lots of ugly crying into my pillow would lay ahead of me. But sometimes the most rewarding thing for me is knowing that every day is a lesson and a challenge – in the best way possible. There are some things I’ll never ever do again (like staying up until 4am in a Paris hotel meeting a deadline for a client, then being told to start over again the next morning); things I’m trying to be better at (not procrastishop on ASOS); and things that I still want to achieve (giving myself two days off in a row). I’ll admit, I’ll look at you all with envy as you make your way each morning to a decent-paying, comfortable job; and I still can’t quite muster up the courage to delete the Seek app on my phone… but it’s true what they say – the grass is greener where you water it. And this is, after all, the lifestyle I’ve chosen for myself.
As entrepreneurs, we are propelled and are driven to create something from nothing. So when success happens (and I stress that ‘success’ has a different definition to all of us), it’s one of the most incredible, exhilarating, rewarding things you will ever experience. And I kinda think I know why: all those late nights, all that self-doubt, all that work no one ever sees save for that pretty picture on Instagram…and all those damn mistakes you swear you’re never gonna make again. Without them, success just doesn’t happen.
If you grab a copy of this month’s Renegade Collective (the June issue is out today), you’ll see me talking about my biggest achievement yet since I took that leap of faith and left the corporate world. I still don’t think what I do is anything out of the ordinary but seeing my story on the pages of a national magazine – and one that I read cover to cover every month – is still very much a pinch-me moment.
As for what’s the biggest lesson I’ve learnt about going out on my own so far?
Oops is better than what if, and if success is always going to be a work in progress, then we are never done. There is no finish line. And that is exactly what should keep us going.
Days go on, months pass us by, and each year turns into birthdays that begin to lose their lustre. It’s been a year since this post and it’s funny how when you turn 30, you think you’ve got everything figured out.
If I’ve learned nothing else, it’s that everything probably figures itself out eventually.
Grand plans, best friends, big dreams under the hum of the streetlights. Maybe sometimes they need to fall apart to fall together again?
photography by Nich Hance McElroy
I’ve had this post sitting in drafts since mid-October so it’s almost a relief that I’ve been able to steal some time this afternoon to share them with you. Finally!
I received these film scans from Natasja a little while ago (the first post was all digital but hey, #filmisnotdead). It’s kind of a continuation from that post but I didn’t quite elaborate on the what, why and how my personal collaboration with Tasj came about. For those new to my blog, Tasj photographed my wedding (almost four years ago, now!) and thanks to Instagram, we’ve been able to keep in touch since then.
One Sunday afternoon, she showed me the way to one of her favourite spots in Perth and we spent the next couple of hours with just each other, her camera and the sunset. We thought it’d be kinda fun if we shot me in my wedding dress again, though this time, it would be different. So I gathered my Church’s boots, a navy Acne blazer and a couple of sweaters, and wore them with my Marnie Skillings dress. I did my own hair and make-up (though probably not very well) and I almost forgot how much I loved this dress, and still do.
It was the most fun I’ve had in such a long time. Her son Harry helped draw chalk on the black drapey background. Then there’s Tasj, who always makes it so easy, so effortless. And for once, it was just really lovely to know we were creating something simply to inspire something beautiful.
I’ve been keeping up to date with the news lately and all of it overcomes me with so much sadness for the world. From everything that’s been happening in Sydney and North Korea to what’s happening right now near Surabaya, I’ve never felt more guilty about worrying about whether or not I’m updating my meaningless blog enough, anxious about getting on an AirAsia flight in 3 months’ time, wishing I didn’t have so much food to eat at Christmas, or getting upset over spilling stuff on shoes that equate to someone’s yearly salary in Vietnam.
Maybe living in Australia means I’ll never appreciate how lucky we really are. And maybe after everything that has happened this year, the one thing I’ve learnt is that happiness and success is merely this: going to bed each night with your soul at peace.
The year of falling: Falling in love and falling apart. Of living earnestly and honestly in sun-dappled everything. The year of letting it flow through me like rain, like honey. Like nothing. The year of memories stored in biscuit tins, office cubicles, and happily ever afters in the half-tones of day. Waiting for the toast to pop as I draw the curtains and throw the covers off. The year of leaving it all behind. Of taking a left turn. Setting my life on fire. And seeking those to fan my flames. The year of letting in pain more than the light. Because if there is one thing my 20s have taught me; it is suffering which gives us the most valuable lessons. The year I discovered I wanted it more than I was afraid of it. Being so content I could cry. Of smiling at people I’ve never spoken to. Coffee with those I’ve never known. Taking the road less travelled. The year of making peace with myself, right here, right now. The year of running ’til we see the sun.
Thank you Natasja. I love them all.