Eat, Pray, Love & a 1 am Facebook Post

I never posted this. I was meant to before boarding the plane to New Zealand, but I ran out of time. And then all this chaos happened, and all this adventure stuff happened on Contiki. So here it is…2 months later. It’s ready.Eat Pray Love Movie Cover

If there is such thing as a second quarter life crisis, then I’m having one right now. At the beginning of the summer break, I met a Sydney Uni lecturer at work. She was well spoken, well educated (probably well off as well) and polite. We talked about life. She was there with her nephew, who had just finished his first year of Engineering. He had a whole apartment to himself across the UNSW Kensington campus where he studied at and as a reward, he was told he could buy a new laptop for getting his first High Distinction. “Are you for real?” I remember silently yelling in my mind. I’ve worked since I was 15-years-old.  I can’t even remember a weekend where I haven’t been obliged to work or take off leave because I have an event to attend. “Give yourself a little break before uni starts again,” I remember the lecturer telling me. It resonated with me. It stuck to my thoughts. Perhaps because I knew I really needed it.

So here I am writing this as I sit on the train, on my way to the airport. There are four Asian women sitting across me, all wearing sun hats. Two of them are looking at photographs. One of them is carrying one of those wheely (yes, new word) Asian shopping trolleys. You know the type you usually see on a weekend when you’re still young enough to be bribed by your Asian parents to head to Cabramatta to get some fresh produce. I remember the best thing about that place was being able to point to a piece of fruit and the stall keeper would let you taste it. These women are loud, but they are happy. My main goal in life is to be happy. Lately though, I’ve been feeling quite run down, especially when my mind is running at a thousand thoughts per second. A train with no brakes. Too busy chasing my dreams. Too exhausted because I just want to get so much done. Too fearful that I’ll waste my 20s on ‘default setting’ tasks. One day, 8 years from now when I’m 30-years-old, I’ll have a chat with an old friend. I’ll look them straight in the eye and tell them, “I lived my twenties. I lived my youth. I lived it to the fullest, and the best is yet to come.”

In the memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, there is a moment Elizabeth Gilbert realises she doesn’t want to be married anymore. It’s not the first time she’s felt this way, but I think in that one moment, she felt absolutely certain. Sometimes women need constant reassurance (men might argue differently). Some need it more than others. Reassurance can be found in many forms – compliments, jokes, heart to hearts and those ‘light bulb’ moments when you see yourself in someone else. I thought I’d just concisely describe ‘the moment’ Elizabeth Gilbert had, but I’ve decided to extract the whole thing from her memoir to let you draw a picture for yourself and develop your own interpretation.

“I don’t want to be married anymore. My husband was sleeping in the other room, in our bed. I equal parts loved him and could not stand him. I couldn’t wake him to share in my distress—what would be the point? He’d already been watching me fall apart for months now, watching me behave like a madwoman (we both agreed on that word), and I only exhausted him. We both knew there was something wrong with me, and he’d been losing patience with it. We’d been fighting and crying and we were weary in that way that only a couple whose marriage is collapsing can be weary. We had the eyes of refugees.

From that point, Elizabeth Gilbert knew exactly what she needed to do. And so one woman’s search for everything across Italy, India and Indonesia began. In some way, I think we can all relate. It’s that moment when you are furiously angry; that moment when you don’t know why your angry. Then when the rips have vanished and the waves are gently caressing the soft sand, you realise it is because you are angry at yourself. Expectations, shortcomings and the desire to be in a significantly different and better circumstance than the one you are currently in. The truth is, you are usually doing better than you think.

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So yeah after all that, I think what I’m trying to say, is that I’m having an Eat, Pray, Love moment, but in a different context, an I-want-to-find-myself context. We all have a story, and I wouldn’t do mine justice if I compressed it all in a sentence or two. Like yours, it’s full of colour, laughter, victory, but also insecurities, frustrations and sleepless nights. Let’s just say my Eat, Pray, Love moment was when somebody called me beautiful, but I didn’t believe them. Then it happened again, and I still felt the same. One hundred people can tell you your beautiful, but when you inside don’t believe it yourself, then none of those one hundred compliments mean a thing. This is probably over-share, but who cares. Only God can judge me. Let the vulnerable be vulnerable, and the healing begin. This is just part of my journey. New Zealand here I come…

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Pre-Contiki & the Famous Bourke Street Bakery

IMG_5087IMG_5097choc cake and hot chocSo here I am sitting on a dark brown rustic wooden chair at the famous Bourke Street Bakery, wearing my favourite cobalt blue and powder pink Alice McCall Peridot dress. A No Smoking sign, a newspaper, a half eaten slice of flourless chocolate cake and an empty short glass that was 60 seconds ago filled with Belgian hot chocolate sits on the table in front of me. What can I say I’m a very happy camper right now. I used to intern close to here in Waterloo, but I never made the trip to go out of my way and come here. I’m finally here! Yes! As I take in the smell of melting butter and hot pastry dough, I think to myself there’s something about Surry Hills that I really like. Maybe it’s the fact that they have a bicycle path (though I did get verbally abused just a moment ago by a cyclist because I stopped and took a photo on ‘the path’. Anything, for a great photo, is what a true photographer would say). I like how you can just walk down to the street of the share house you’re living in, and relax at the corner street bakery. You may want to read the daily paper, talk with a friend about everything and anything, or simply enjoy your own solitude in peace. You might want to add a few hair flicks as well because there is a pleasantly nice summer breeze stirring the air and some Van-wearing cute nerdy boy, with a Herschel bag next to him on the stool, is giving you subtle attention across the cafe [that’s actually not happening. It’s just my wild imagination going off into a tangent again].

Ok, so the point of this post, is to write a pre-Contiki spill – a description of where my life is at before this adrenaline-junkie-I-just-want-to-forget-about-the-world-and-live-in-moment trip that I will be embarking on in 3 days with a group of strangers. Strangers who I’ll most likely share my life story with, laugh with, cry with, and get tipsy with. As I watch a couple walk past hand-in-hand, oh God, I’m suddenly reminded of how fast Valentine’s Day is approaching. I have one thing to say about this I-just-can’t-get-enough-of-you-day that couples celebrate: FML. You know what, you can be miserable single and you can be miserable in a relationship. I think the important thing is to…just be happy. You have to love yourself entirely before you give your whole heart to someone else. I think things just feel this way because in 2013, I told myself right from the get-go that this is going to be my no-boyfriend year. “You’re only 21 once”, I recall telling myself. I wanted last year to be a year I’d always remember (with positive energy and spirit fingers). I just wanted to focus on myself. To not need someone to fill the void. A void that I couldn’t quite figure out myself. After my Thailand Island Hopping West Contiki tour last year in February, I came back knowing exactly what I needed to do. I had a plan – to do all the things I had been making excuses for. I came back a new woman (yes, woman), with new dreams, hopes and aspirations. At the time, I was very unhappy with my weight (I just didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin). I wanted to drop out of my degree. I was disinterested, bored, found it difficult and just hating Science and Nursing. It just wasn’t for me, and it was a feeling I had been ignoring for quite some time. I also fell into the trap of societal pressure, peer pressure, all the types of pressure you can think of, basically – to be thin, happy and in a relationship.

A year later, I have a list of 2013 achievements, including dropping 2 dress sizes; competing at Australian Uni Games for taekwondo; accepting that the future will always hold uncertainty; realising that life is already hard without a degree, so why not just get one; acknowledging that “you can’t hurry love” just like that Diana Ross song; and just coming out of my shell as an individual. I can definitely say that I’m in a better head space now. I’ve embraced life a lot more. As cliche as it sounds, there’s this quote that I keep close to my heart: Fall seven times and stand up eightWhen you start feeling unhappy over your job, your relationship/s, your degree, or perhaps just your life in general, the key is to, embrace change. Do something about the way you feel – voice it, express it, throw rocks in the ocean if it helps. But make some sort of change. At least you know you tried, and if things don’t work out the first time, well there’s always tomorrow (and your parents to fall back on as my good friend, Roberta puts it).

Right now, despite all my achievements, I tell myself, that was last year. It’s 2014 and I haven’t worked out a 2014 plan. Currently, I’m just going with the flow. Winging each day as it comes because it’s semester break. I may have taken on too much this summer – working 2 jobs, and doing the usual 20-something activities like excessive partying, going out almost every day, catching up with old friends, and shopping because it’s Christmas and ‘everything’ is supposedly on sale. Then when my Christmas Casual job finished, I took up a fashion internship because I wanted to make this summer as productive as possible. I got burnt out. Recently, I’ve been feeling confused like I’ve been living with a cloud above my head. Am I meant to know what I want to do with my life at 22, or is it ok to be a total mess up? It’s frustrating. Is this part of being a 20-something? Where are my new goals and ambitions for 2014? Where do I want to be a year from now?

I’ve decided to jot down a few goals for my New Zealand trip:

1. Understand myself a little better (i.e. get a brief of what’s going on in my insane 20-something mind)

2. Meet someone who is in the same boat as me and talk the whole night without sleeping

3. Get pissed drunk because I’m in a different country and away from my parents

4. Completely relax and let go

5. Be in the moment. Take in the scenery. Breath in the fresh air. Take beautiful photographs. Enjoy the company of others.

I was reading through my old profile on My Contiki from a year ago. It read:

Donna, 21-year-old Female. Fun. Adventurous. I find peace when floating on water and just drowning out the noise. I like discovering new places. I like to laugh. And most of all, I’m doing this Contiki tour for myself. I hope that it is the liberating experience I envision it to be, only better.

I want to find that brave soul again. A rebel without a cause. A wide-eyed girl with big dreams. Someone who wasn’t so hard on herself as she is now. I’ll end this post with with the question, what would you do if you weren’t afraid? To be addressed post-Contiki.

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(pre-Contiki me posing with a Benefit Lollitint lollipop and wearing a lemon yellow top that I got from Vinnies today – love op shopping)

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Vintage & the Beginning of Something

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The inspiration behind this blog post is a long Celia Ryan evening dress that buttons all the way to the top, with a long slip on the side (above). I don’t know about you, but just like love, I think you can apply fate to many things. Love doesn’t always have to be applied in a romantic context, for you can fall in love with your career, your pet/s, or your Grandmother’s old wedding dress. Last December I worked 2 jobs. I figured, it’s uni break and I wanted to gain some valuable experience in the beauty industry, while rolling in the dough. So I took up a second job as a beauty advisor at Crabtree & Evelyn. I got so used to going into the City pretty much every day for work, that one day when I actually had no work, I caught the train going there. Realising I wasn’t actually working, I decided to just stroll down the streets of Sydney without a care in the world, visit the Museum of Contemporary Art down in The Rocks, and buy a ferry ticket to Manly. That’s where I found the dress.  This dress symbolises the start of my vintage collecting. I’m telling you now, it’s the beginning of something great. The Northern Beaches is one of the best place to go op shopping because it’s where upper class, glove-wearing, hair-pinned nicely, and face done up with expensive Dior make-up women, give away their ‘old stuff’ to charity. Most of the time it’s all in perfect condition. Win! Anyway, so I found this dress in Lifeline on the 2nd floor, the vintage section. It was really awkward getting it of the mannequin because no one was on the 2nd floor and it felt like I was trying to nick it. Of course I was going to buy it (it was $16 believe it or not). I had to make it mine. Last Wednesday, I interviewed Wendy Doughty, the owner of a vintage fashion boutique in Rozelle called Mint Condition. To her, “What’s special about vintage is that if you find a vintage dress and it fits you like a glove, nothing looks better.”

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In this day and age, op shopping/thrifting/vintage collecting is creating a cultural shift in the way we perceive and buy clothes. ‘Old’ has become new again. A lot of the time designer clothes are made in replicates – we do live in a consumerist world after all and everyone wants to make a penny. That’s how we survive. I once volunteered as a backstage dresser for a fashion show one time. At the end of the night, one pair of designer sunglasses went missing. The 2 guys who had just started off their first collection of sunglasses, laughed it off, saying “At least we know someone wants them”. I remember one of them telling me, “When people buy designer clothes, what they are really buying is confidence.” I couldn’t agree more. I think clothes are about how they make you feel. To some fashion is all about trends – specific colours, cuts and patterns. And so what do they do? They follow the crowd. For me, I simply buy what I love. But of course, at this point in time, being 22 and a struggling uni student, I can’t exactly buy a strapless haute couture evening gown embellished with Swarovski crystals when I walk past it in a glass window display and it’s calling my name.

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Coco Chanel once said, The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud. I think clothing is a creative avenue for self-expression. You don’t need expensive clothes to look and feel fab. You just need to know what you like and what suits your body shape. Growing up in a strict (and conservative) Filipino household, my mother would always comment on what I was wearing (even to this day unfortunately). Her favourite (repetitive) comment is, “That’s too short.” But what can I do, I’m 5’9 and all the typical 20-something clothing labels such as All About Eve and Lulu and Rose make generic sizes, which are a few centre metres too less. Funny story – my mum has size 11 feet and when she was growing up in the Philippines, she had to get customised shoes because none of the shoes there fit her (you’d think she’d understand, right? Yeah, no).

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Carefully rummaging through the racks at Mint Condition, not only were the vintage pieces in excellent condition, but they had a certain mystery about them, that made them so appealing. Who did they belong to in a previous life? Were they loved dearly or abandoned in a closet for years? As Wendy put it, “You can keep the mystery. You can create a new life for a piece. A new beginning for an old dress. Who cares what the history is. Love it for what it is and that it did have a history and it’s even more appealing when you don’t know what the history is. It’s a mystery.” She reminded me a bit of myself, the I’m-too-free-spirited-to-be-caged-in me. “1980. I was 16 and had my first stall at Paddington. I made $100 dollars. I’ll never forget it because it was just from cleaning out my bedroom to make room for more. And I just never looked back. I had the dealing bug, and so once I sold everything out of my room. I started looking for more elsewhere to sell.” Wendy was a regular market stall holder at the Rozelle markets for 10-12 years. She was there dealing legit stuff of course i.e. vintage treasures she had found, every Sunday. “I started in the early ’90s.” When her youngest son started school in 2006, the birth of her new love child, Mint Condition happened. Mint Condition is distinctly feminine, very retro and somewhat mystic. Perhaps because the store just has so much life in it. You can just feel the energy (or maybe because I just get so excited when I know I’ll find something I’ll instantly fallen in love with whilst op shopping). I picked up a few things there, including a ’70s yellow printed Japanese silk dress, a ’60s green and pink floral playsuit, a ’90s Portofino A-line skirt, and a midnight black patent leather gold-chained purse. When I asked Wendy what the inspiration is behind her store, her first answer was her mother. “My mother was born one month before Marilyn Monroe and she is more beautiful.” Hence, the Marilyn Monroe photos in the store. I like Marilyn Monroe. Beautiful, yet insecure. That’s how I’d describe her.

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Alexandria Park & My Sweet Summer Love Playlist

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Today I decided to take a breather and randomly sit on a bench in Alexandria Park, after I finished at my fashion internship for the day. Something about the way the people were taking their kids for an evening stroll, or their dogs for a little ball game on the green turf, just made me want to stay for a little while. I walk to my internship in Alexandria from the station. It’s not too far of a walk, but enough time to just enjoy whatever playlist I recently created on Spotify. Right now, I’ve got my Sweet Summer Love playlist going. It’s an old-school fusion of Stephen Speaks, Howie Day and Westlife. It reminds me of my old high school days when I used to put my earphones on, bop my head to the music as I walked home every day from school. There was no rush to get home, so sometimes I’d take the long way home because I liked a particular song and just wanted to listen to it on repeat. Those were the days, right? Simple. Carefree. But at the time, you hate life because you have braces, acne, “He doesn’t like me back” dramas, teenage angst and self-esteem issues. When I look back on those days, I throw my head back and laugh. I was like a cute, nerdy, sporty, shy kid. Or in short, someone who didn’t know herself yet and was just going with the flow.

If I was a tree,

I’d grow pretty leaves,

And I’d sway in the summer breeze.

(From the song, Always on My Mind by Mandi Mapes)

Time to get Wet ‘n’ Wild!

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I haven’t had this much fun in a long time! Beautiful weather, adrenaline-fueled rides and feeling chill like a smoothie. It felt like I was away from the world, even just for a bit. My advice for someone planning to go:

1. Go early

2. Go with somebody who’s company you enjoy for the lines do take 30 min. of waiting on average

3. Drop everything and just be a kid for a day. Run to each ride (they say don’t run, but just do it), splash water because it’s fun & eat ice-cream (though it is expensive there, but who cares. It tastes good and makes you feel happy)

4. Relax. Enjoy the moment. 🙂