#INSTAGRAM

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Photos by Bryant Lee.

I've never considered myself as a photographer but I love taking photos and have been doing so for a long time. A small number of them make it to Instagram and more here, on the blog. To say that I 'curate' what I put out there is not untrue. My life looks fantastic. But it's definitely not all fun and games. To look at it differently, it is also a more positive way of documenting. You don't want me to be writing about how I spent my day wallowing in self-pity because I had a bad day. Or posting sad, depressing photos, right?

This week I hit 20,000 followers on Instagram. I've actually been wanting to write this post for a long time but it's been a real struggle putting out accurately what I really feel. Then of course, Henry, had to write about it here and I feel like, maybe I understand how I feel better. Then the big 2-0 happened and so now, I'm writing this.

 Henry and I have spent hours over Skype face to face talking about how social media has both made us, and ruined us. It's been my life for many years simply because...I enjoy it. He wanted to quit, but I encouraged him not to. Because I've seen how it's brought me opportunities and connected me with people and how it CAN be a great platform for creativity and self-expression. Henry definitely lives up to this, the content he posts are thought-provoking, hilarious and so original, it's time he got his own hashtag and copyrighted everything.

 Because I've been on social media for SO long (7 years is no joke), when 'fame' very slowly creeps up on me, it sometimes feels like a milestone I've reached. That was how I felt a couple of months ago when I hit 10k followers, I did a little fist pump and screamed from my hotel room. So yes! Instant gratification. I was enjoying it too much. It is the perfect hobby. Before I knew it, I was concerned about time differences, when I was posting in real-time...and I needed my ten minutes before I sleep and when I wake up to look through my feed, to make sure it looks nice. It was also time for me to see what everyone else was up to and I slowly found myself needing more and more 'likes' to validate myself and it affected me. Every special moment in life now needed to be summed up in a photo. I was taking ages to think of a caption that would represent my feelings or the entire experience. Photos my friends were posting made me feel awful and jealous and it made me strive to take better photos, to gain more likes, to get more followers. But in a very silent, discreet way. It wasn't something I have ever admitted to because I never realised how subconsciously I was being driven to everything bigger and better. Sometimes, the kind of photos I wanted to take would come with a template for instant success. Natural light, maybe a white background? Some personal touches.. It was becoming too much.

 I had a fight about this with my good friend Hazel awhile ago. She felt that I was obsessed with curating my 'fake' life on Instagram. I only knew how to make it look good. I already said my point in the beginning of this post and still believe in every bit of what I meant. I don't believe in making my life look better than it really is because what you see is what you get from me. I don't fake it. I just...make it look nice! Is that a crime? I've met people where even the word 'obsessed' feels like an understatement. It scares me till this day. I still wonder if they have ever lived in the moment or if they were too busy documenting it. I've been guilty of this several times but thankfully realised quickly enough to look forward and start appreciating what's in front of me. I'm not saying I'm great but when Hazel said what she said, I felt like she was accusing me for being one of those people even though she really wasn't. That was a wake up call. I've sworn never to be like that because I feel it really can take life away from you. It's not only exhausting but so unfulfilling. Think about it. You caption a photo saying this was the best day of your life when everyone else who were with you knows it really wasn't. So really??? Are likes EVERYTHING?? Is what people perceive of you everything?

 I've been through the time where I was so obsessed with social media, mainly blogging that I had to bring my DSLR literally everywhere and take a gazillion photos so I could blog. If I had to photograph myself, I had to make sure I was wearing something I had never worn before, and that we were going to a nice place to shoot it. It was an exhausting time in my life and I really wasn't happy with anything I posted. But I kept posting, until slowly I took a break and went away from it all. Then came the power of Instagram. I wasn't blogging so much anymore but I still has to make sure I took the best photos to post on-the-go. Forget my iPhone, I needed my DSLR once again for the best picture quality. It was a never ending cycle. All of this is a never-ending cycle. Lets face it.

One thing I appreciate about the London Underground is that there is no service. It has allowed me to actually 'think' or take a breather before going about my day. I even read books on the tube now! It's also made me a lot less active on Instagram recently, especially with the time difference. Social media does not define us. It is competitive. But who really are we competing with? Ourselves. It wrecks self esteem, causes us to covet what others have, makes us completely judgemental human beings.. And at the end of the day, different people are going to perceive us differently. You will never please everyone. As Henry puts it, we all need some kind of balance in our lives. I am extremely flattered by 20,000 followers and the comments. I still love documenting, I still love taking photos with my big ass camera. I LOVE sharing about my life. But life requires balance. And this has been a timely reminder to do that. Take a break. Breathe. Enjoy what's being presented in front of you.

 We're gonna get insecure all the time but don't let it get to you and never let it affect what your credibility online. It's not about going to a certain cafe to Instagram the shit out of it because it's cute. It's not about who you're hanging out with and how many followers he or she has. It's about the fact that you probably had a really nice brunch with someone you now call a friend, maybe in a cute place, and you guys had a great conversation over some really yummy food. I no longer believe in real-time posting, I enjoy every bit of the moment and honestly, it simply feels great to just not care that much anymore.

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"When our entire well-being is subject to the success of one area in life, we're entering turbulent waters. Let's make it a little easier to be in control and steer our lives. Maintain that #balance. "
- Henry 

 Love you, Henry, thank you.

WANDERING/WONDERING

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This weekend, I celebrated my first month being in London. Threw a party at my house on Friday night and had a ball of a time. But really, watching my friends having so much fun, even though many of them were meeting each other for the first time, made me very happy. All of this despite the obligatory waking up the next day, hungover, aching, entering a kitchen full of dirty dishes and empty wine bottles scattered all over.

 People don't really know what exactly I'm doing in London. So I will just clarify things: I'm here doing a full time post-graduate course and (supposedly) looking for opportunities. I go to class twice a week but I'm always mentally drained by the time class ends, on top of the additional work we have to do when we have on average 3 presentations a week. I've been really lucky since being here. I never like saying lucky but here I am using the word. Simply because I cannot emphasise how much I wasn't expecting to be enjoying my time here in London that quickly even though I have friends here and I've always loved this city. I came here with suitcases full of clothes, emotional baggage and fear. And right now to be honest, I feel too comfortable here. And it is worrying me. Not that being comfortable or happy is a bad thing. But I need to make the best out of my best time rather than just having too much fun. That Friday night at my house party made me realise how little I have done in the one month I've been here, not in the sense of 'exploring' but in 'connecting' and making opportunities for myself. It also made me realise how quickly time passed and how we are already (?!) at March. Oh my god, slow down 2015! Going into the unknown is never easy. I finished my BA at school last May and it's been about 10 months. These past 10 months, I chose not to get a job, or to start looking. I chose to take a break, enjoy myself and see where life would take me. It was an undefined time of questions and emotional roller coaster rides but I am so glad I did it. My time here in London is the same. I may be at school but I know that my main purpose of being here is about where my future, or my entire life will go on from here so everyday still feels like going into the unknown. During these past 10 months, I've been through the whole thing where my family and friends were constantly putting a lot of pressure on me to do something. But guess what, it was also one of the best times of my life. I travelled a lot, and engaged myself with a lot of projects, caught up with so many friends and honestly just gave myself a good break. I've been getting a lot of emails about this lately, so this post couldn't have come at more perfect timing.

 I believe we should all take breaks in life. So while you take this time to wander/wonder, you'll be asking yourself a lot of questions like I did. And you'll start defining this time of uncertainty with your current circumstances. It's a lot of ups and downs so I thought I would share how I got by during this 'in-between'.

 Be your own best friend- A lot of people see this time of the unknown as unworthiness, good for nothing, time wasting..but it's really a time to take a break, and reflect on the chapter you've just closed and the one you are about to begin. Use this time to realise who you are and what you want. Start by being your own best friend. You have nothing to lose.

 Pick yourself up and start over- A day without plans can make you feel like a complete failure at times. Even for me when I was seeking opportunities last year, email after email without any reply. It was extremely hard to pick myself up again and have the courage to continue sending more emails, to constantly have to put myself out there... but I did it and managed to get myself some work experience during my holiday in London last September. Instead of swimming in fear and feeling discouraged, invest your time in doing more research, talking to your peers or mentors, and most importantly, spending your time in things that matter to you like your friends or family. This could mean spending the day working your ass off in the kitchen to cook your them a meal. Allow yourself time to take a break even when you're working on the next steps. Then you start over. There is no use in worrying. It only encourages more negativity and makes you not want to do anything.

You are blessed to be stressed- I went through plenty of days feeling like crap and a total failure but also days where I felt like I was doing a lot of things. I like planning my week with goals of what I hope to achieve for the week. I would also engage myself in small projects like helping friends out with freelance design work. Or keeping myself busy working on a couple of things for the blog. I also make the effort to do things I never usually do like planning a trip to the zoo just for fun. It also made me work harder on Eat.Plate.Love so that was how I supported myself during this time. We all become a lot more sensitive to our surroundings during this time of what I like to call, going on a life safari. So it is the best time to take note of things about yourself you never noticed before. What do you want to improve? Where do you want to be 5 years from now? Also, never take your days for granted. See each day as a new opportunity to do something, even if it is nothing. If you feel like you didn't have a productive one, look out for the small things that are blessings in disguise. At the end of the day, just feel grateful to be alive.

Always be your best- Use this time to go crazy and DREAM. I loved taking long naps but what it was I enjoyed the most was lying in bed, closing my eyes and visualising everything I wanted and manifesting in those feelings. I also constantly went on long walks by myself with my favourite feel-good music plugged in. It made me feel energised, empowered and ready for new beginnings. London is a brand new beginning for me and everyday is a step to making some of these dreams happen. 'We may be afraid of the uncertainties the future holds but we must never let our fear to be as strong as our courage to start again.' (Quote I got from I am Malala in her book) Writing this has been a timely reminder to start getting myself out there and making things happen rather than being so comfortable in my circle of friends and my weekly routines.

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I've been wanting to do a post like this in awhile as part of the new directions I hoped for Missingavenue. Let me know what you think and I would love to share more. The purpose of this blog is not only for me to just document but also, I would love for it to be a platform that would make an impact on the people reading this. Let's start a conversation and make this something! I hope this post will encourage you to wonder and wander. Thanks for reading.

 Photos shot by Franz Navarrete, wearing Free People.

NEW BEGINNINGS

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There are so many times in my life where I'm overwhemled with all the good that has been going on to a point where I never feel like I deserve any of it. 2014 passed on too quickly and while it was probably the best one yet, it was also a whirlwind of emotions for me. Both ups and downs. This 2015, I'm starting anew again and I feel immensely blessed for the opportunity to be able to do so. I've gotten way too many second chances in my life time and everyday is a journey for me to continue to create, to live fully and to be a better version of myself. I'm writing this to encourage anyone who reads this to never stop pushing yourself forward to be that better version of yourself. I still feel like I don't deserve all the good I get in my life but I make sure these opportunities that come my way are not taken for granted and that I constantly live in an attitude of gratitude. I think this is so important in today's day and age as sometimes we really just forget about the things we do have and keep comparing ourselves with others and what we don't. Especially when we expose ourselves to the lives of other people on social media channels like Facebook and Instagram. I've been through it all, felt inferior, jealous and just lousy in general but one of the things I've set for myself this year in 2015 is to live in the moment and appreciate what we do have. Only then can we truly take in whatever is being presented in front of us. 

I'm off to London for a couple of months to experience things, to meet people and get connected, to learn, to see this part of the world better and to be independent.  And I'm excited to share my new adventure with everyone. You already know I've been as candid as I possibly can about many things over here so things will stay this way or just gradually become even better. I will keep documenting for myself and hopefully you guys will enjoy this journey with me. Content here is going to be slowly pushed a lot towards empowerment and independence, content with a purpose that would be able to leave some kind of impact to my readers on top of my daily musings and photo documentation. Let me know what you would like to see more of around here, or get connected with me if you're in London!