What Meeting My Favourite Author Taught Me About Comparison.

We all have that “one person” who opened our eyes to what’s truly possible for our lives. Your person may be the 6th-grade teacher who showed you how an encouraging word can stick with someone for years. Or it could be the doctor with the kind eyes who helped you realize that treating people with modern medicine is what you’re called to do.

My person was a blogger-turned-author from New York. Years ago, I’d stumbled onto her page and found solace in her words. Her stories soothed an ache in me I didn’t know I had, and her words were a lifeline out of my pit of depression. We were a whole world apart, but through her stories, she became my friend, mentor, and biggest cheerleader. I devoured every post she wrote and paid an arm and a leg to ship her books to Australia.

“This is exactly what I want to do,” I told myself after reading yet another one of her beautiful blog posts. “I want to spend my life writing words that make people feel seen and heard in their mess.”

Two years later, I followed her footsteps and pressed publish on my humble blog. It was the most courageous move I’d ever made up to that point in my life and led to me becoming a creative copywriter for visionary business owners. The dream I had was rapidly turning into a reality, and with every opportunity that came my way, I felt indebted to this writer for helping me overcome my fear.

Then, the inevitable happened.

I got caught in the trap that writers who rely on their work for a living fall into. I focused less on the joy of writing, and more on how I could make it work for me. I wanted to grow and earn a substantial living. I was hungry for more validation, money, and readers. I wanted to be known for my beautiful prose and stories, just like the author whose words I’d stumbled on.

‘I wish I could be as cool as her,’ was the first thought that cropped up as I watched her life play out on her Instagram stories: a life where her words spread like wildfire across social media and every post received dozens of adoring comments.

But then, the thought started to take a life of its own:

“Why is she making more of an impact than I am?”

“Why is she more successful than I am?”

“Why can’t I be more like her?”

Like soldiers on a battlefield, I lined up every single one of our traits and began comparing them to figure out how she had achieved success at such a young age. She’d received her first book deal at the same age I am now. What was she doing that was making her so much better than me? I believed her path was the only one to success, and I was hell-bent on following in her footsteps.

My uncontrollable urge to compare myself to her, and my frustration at not being where I wanted to be, mixed together to become a poisonous concoction of pain and anger. Instead of being inspired by her, I was filled with resentment.

Like weeds, comparison begins its lifespan so small and seemingly harmless that we’re initially dismissive of its existence. It starts off with a tiny twinge here, and a throbbing ache there. It’s birthed from a small question, “Why doesn’t my life look like theirs?” and grows into a nutrient sucking force that wails, “Why aren’t I enough?”

Distrust and bitterness grow rampant when we continue to water the seeds of comparison. Left unrooted, it can entangle us in a never-ending cycle of wondering why other people have it better than we do. It can choke the life out of the dreams we’ve planted for ourselves and make us question if it’s worth tending to our garden if someone else’s is just going to look better. It can be the driving force that compels us to keep striving to prove we’re worthy — only to leave us burnt out in the end.

I let the weeds of comparison grow for so long that it wrapped around my creativity and strangled the life out of it. I no longer created; I consumed. I couldn’t sit at the blank page without berating myself for not being as good as her. Any story I produced was dull and lacked the flair that made it truly unique.

It was the devastating loss of my voice that finally prompted me to take action and deal with my comparison issues once and for all. With the money I’d set aside for a rainy day, I hopped online, booked a two-hour coaching session with the author, and mulled over what I would say.

How do you tell someone their words are both a blessing and a curse?

When we met over Skype, she sat and listened attentively while I revealed how her words had impacted my life and how I’d “lost” my voice.

“I fear I’m trying to become too much like you and it’s manifesting itself in the way I write,” I told her.

She smiled before taking a deep breath and saying:

“You’re not me and you never will be. You have your own voice to craft and stories to tell that are yours and only yours. Focus on being you.”


Two years on, I now know that we were never created to be like anyone else. Once I could separate myself from the vicious thoughts that were clouding my mind, I could see that I had my own way of stringing words together and telling stories. And it was just as valid as hers.

I didn’t conquer comparison that day. I don’t think it’s something we triumph over once and never measure ourselves again. Rather, it’s something we must continuously acknowledge. We must intentionally uproot the lies every time it strikes our most vulnerable areas.

The world doesn’t need you to become a carbon copy of someone else — no matter how incredible you think they are. It needs you to be someone who isn’t afraid to blaze your own trail, live out your own experiences, and then come boldly to the page to write about it in a voice that’s truly yours.

The irony is that, while you’re over here looking at another person’s life, someone else is probably wondering why they aren’t more like you.

And how heartbreaking would it be if you never discovered your voice because you were too busy trying to imitate someone else’s.


I put words to emotions, tell stories for visionary business owners, and write love letters every Wednesday. To get your weekly dose of love, encouragement, and confetti in your inbox, drop your email below.

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The Truth About Closure

Two years ago, I published a piece on Closure. 

I wrote about how closure begins once we know our worth and we start acting like we deserve better.

But I’m not so sure that’s true anymore.

Since writing that piece, I’ve experienced ‘better.’ I’m now in a healthy, long-term relationship with someone who makes me feel wholly and fully loved. He buys me flowers on the way home from work, sends funny texts throughout the day, and makes me a playlist of songs he thinks I’ll love. He makes me feel safe to be myself; flaws and all. He is everything my single, heartbroken self has always hoped for.

But two months ago, I was haunted by flashbacks and memories of someone I once had a short-lived fling with. I met him at towards the end of high school, back when I confused adolescent infatuation with true love. He ticked all the boxes on my superficial list of requirements, and I was addicted to the rollercoaster of emotions I felt when I was with him: deliriously high one moment, miserably low the next.

But in the end, I was more emotionally invested in the idea of ‘us’ than he ever was. We were teenagers who didn’t enjoy having hard conversations, so we parted ways with an awkward text message. He appeared relatively unscathed while I carried the sting of rejection with me. 

It had been years since I last spared him a thought. He’d become as irrelevant to me as the platform, Vine: something we occasionally bring up as a case study on why things fail but don’t linger on for too long.

Yet, this time my thoughts were different. I would sit down at my desk to work, only to wonder what he’d think about the fact that I was now a writer. When I got take-away from the restaurant we used to frequent, I’d remember that he was an especially picky eater. Dozens of questions began to swirl around my mind.

Does he ever think about me?

Would we have lasted if we’d been older, better, wiser?

What would I ever say if we ever crossed paths again?


The fascinating thing about memories is how they don’t stay fixed forever. Each time we recall a memory, we inadvertently start to alter them. Since we can’t possibly remember every single, tiny detail from our past, our brain fills in the gaps by borrowing pieces from our imagination and our emotions until suddenly, you end up with a slightly skewed version of events. It’s why eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. Or why you and your best friend can go to the same event and remember vastly different things. 

Often, nostalgia likes to creep in and add its own two cents into the mix. Nostalgia is like those filters on Snapchat that gives you flawless skin and makes you look lit from within. It presents a picture of perfection you wish you could emulate every day.

Every time the memory of my past fling cropped up in my mind, I continued to add the filter over and over again. I inadvertently wove in details I wished had happened and glossed over the parts that made me cringe. Before I knew it, my glossy, filtered version of events became the new memory, and I started to feel a longing for the ‘good old days’ with him.

It was at this point when I became certain something was dreadfully wrong with me. I called my boyfriend to tell him I should be crowned the world’s most ungrateful and terrible girlfriend. Then, I called my therapist to psychoanalyse why I was such a terrible girlfriend.

After listening to me regurgitate my fears, my therapist told me about her own flashbacks. She and her high school sweetheart were inseparable for years, but after graduation, the idea of dating other people in college was like a siren call. She fell into the trap so many of us do: she believed the grass would be greener on the other side. When she realised college flings weren’t as good as what she once had, she tried desperately to get back with her high school boyfriend.

“The memory of me calling and begging him to give us another chance still haunts me to this very day,” she sighed. “It’s been twenty years since then and I’m happily married with kids. But sometimes I still wonder about him and what would have happened if we never broke up.”

Then, she laughed. “It’s so funny you’re bringing this up. Just yesterday, one of my friends also started freaking out over the same thing. She’s married to her best friend, but she’s also been thinking about someone from her past.”

Why do we do that?

Why do we fantasise over the things that aren’t good for us?

Why do we devote our energy to prying open closed doors when we know they were shut for a reason?


I have multiple theories over why I keep flashing back to him. 

Number one: It started when we were in the thick of the pandemic when there was nothing to do but work and overthink. My boyfriend and I isolated in different homes and I was separated from my group of friends who usually keep me in check. Because I couldn’t make plans to go outside or anticipate what was going to happen in the future, my idle mind wandered to a place where it could freely roam: the past.

Number two is a theory best summed up by John Green: 

We accept the love we think we deserve.

Is it possible these trips down memory lane are a form of self-sabotage? Deep down, I must believe that my current relationship is too good to be true, and I only deserve to be with someone who doesn’t respect me. 

My therapist offered up another theory. She believes I’m still thinking about him because our relationship didn’t end the way I wanted it to. All of us like to think of ourselves as the heroes of our own stories, and heroes always come out on top. The story I’d told myself since the day we ended was that I was the one who was left and rejected. Perhaps this is a story my mind has been trying to fight against ever since. 

Or, perhaps there are no accurate theories. This could once again be a classic case of me desperately seeking the unattainable; forever chasing after greener pastures. 


As I write this, the memories have (thankfully) begun to fade. After multiple sessions with my therapist and honest conversations with my boyfriend, I recognise that I wasn’t pining over my old fling; I was more heartbroken over my bruised ego. As someone who lives to tell stories, it hurt that it didn’t unfold the way I wanted. But it ultimately led me to where I’m supposed to be.

I don’t think my original definition of closure is wrong, per se. I just don’t think it’s as simple as deciding to stop thinking about our exes. It’s normal to think about the past and the people who shaped us into who we are today. I fact, it’s necessary so we can learn to make better choices. 

Now I know closure is not a destination to be reached, it’s a habit. Just like how love is a daily decision to choose the other person, closure is an action we must rinse and repeat, like eating our vitamins daily or going to the gym. If memories from the past are going to float their way into the present, then closure is choosing to remove the glossy filter and accepting how the events really unfolded; cringy imperfections and all. 


I put words to emotions, write stories for visionary business owners, and send love letters like this one ^ every Wednesday. Join the club for your weekly dose of encouragement and confetti.

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The Best Things Are Ahead

Momentum.

It’s a funny word that I’ve been throwing around a lot lately whenever anyone asks me how my writing is going. When I look up its definition, dozens of Physics websites pop up and talk about mass and velocity. Basically, it’s all about motion and movement. Like a snowball that grows bigger as it barrels down a hill.

I had slowly started to gain momentum when it came to writing. Last month, I started waking up early, sitting diligently at my desk, and prioritising my craft instead of answering emails. The first few days were torturous as I racked my brain for original ideas. But, slowly, the words began to spill out onto the page. The more I made myself sit in front of the blank page, the easier it became.

Then, I fell sick.

I think my body knew it was going to be a long weekend, so on Friday, it decided to crash. I felt fatigued, foggy, and frustrated because I knew I had to cancel all my plans with my friends. With a head that felt like it was stuffed full of cotton wool, I lay in bed and could barely lift my head off the pillow, let alone write.

Thankfully, my head cleared just in time for me to start working. But when I sat down to write for myself, my head was as blank as the page in front of me. I felt the same way you do when you’re just about to win a game of Snakes & Ladders, and one wrong roll of the dice causes you to slide back to the Start.  You almost feel like throwing up your hands and calling it a day.

In true form, when things don’t go my way, I sit and berate myself: why do I suck?

Turns out, I’m not the first person (or the last) to feel paralysed and deflated when I lose momentum with my craft or when I feel like I’m going backwards.

Elizabeth Gilbert talks about how some artists lose the ability to create freely after producing one great piece of work. When their craft receives widespread praise and accolades, they believe they’ve reached the ‘top,’ and once there, there’s no where else to go but down, down, down. It’s why Harper Lee didn’t publish anything substantial after To Kill a Mockingbird – she was scared.

Last week, I published two pieces on Medium. Both were accepted in big publications and were ‘curated,’ which is a fancy way of saying an editor thought it was good enough to actively promote across the platform. I was over the moon when I first found out, and I felt driven to create more.

But since then, I’m finding it hard to write something new. Something worthy that will replicate its success.  I’ve tasted the ‘high’ and now I’m scared of falling short.

But I’m learning that’s not the point.

Natalie Goldberg says we should give ourselves permission to fail. After she had published her wildly successful book, Writing Down the Bones, she signed a contract to write a second book about creativity. She entertained worries that she wasn’t going to live up to everyone’s expectations – but so what? She decided not to be intimidated by her success and allow herself to fail. Only then could she keep on writing.

It’s a lie to think my best work is behind us or I was ‘better off’ in the past. I’m always going to learn and grow as a person, and that’s naturally going to flow through to my writing.

All that to say, your best is not behind you; they’re ahead. Every opportunity and ‘win’ you’ve had so far is a jumping off platform for your next big win. You’ll continue to land promotions that match your expertise. You’ll get better at perfecting your craft and your work will land in front of the right audience. The more you keep daring to roll the dice, the further ahead you’ll progress along the board. There will be some dips and lows along the way (success isn’t linear, after all) but it’ll make the destination worth it.

This week, dare to keep stepping forward. Don’t be afraid to shoot high and miss. Give yourself permission to fail and keep creating anyways. Your future self will thank you.  

On Overcoming Resistance & Doing Hard Things

I’m currently reading a book called The War of Art.

It explores this idea of ‘Resistance’ and how a negative energy exists to push us back whenever we try to improve ourselves.

For some, ‘improving ourselves’ means achieving a long-held fitness goal. For others, it could be learning to be better with money, or putting more effort into studying. For me, it’s the act of writing.

Even though I say I love stringing words together and creating beautiful sentences, most of the time, it’s hard. Like, really hard. With every blog post that hits your screen, it’s taken me hours of agonising and stressing to get the words exactly right. A typical writing session involves me berating myself over being a bad storyteller and tearing myself apart over whether I should add a comma or a semi-colon. There are tears and panicked phone calls to friends before I can finally produce a post that’s worthy of being published.

Knowing all this, it’s borderline painful to pull up a blank page each week and put myself through the same torture creative process each week. All I want to do is duck under the covers and hide.

According to the book, running and hiding is exactly what we do when we encounter ‘resistance.’ Our immediate response is to procrastinate.  

I’m the self-proclaimed queen of procrastination. I’d rather watch all 4 seasons of Queer Eye on Netflix or dance solo in my living room instead of sitting in front of the blank page. I was exactly the same in uni. I’d start my assignments weeks in advance – not because I was hyper organised, but because I knew I had to give myself enough buffer time to procrastinate.  

As I dived more into the pages of the book, the author states that we feel the most ‘resistance’ when we’re working on a project we know is worth pursuing. We know deep down how pivotal this goal, so our natural reaction is to fear it and put it off.

I have pages and pages of unfinished drafts sitting on my computer because I’m too scared to finish them off. These drafts are on topics I know I need to share, but it’ll also require me to relive painful memories and face harsh truths. I’m scared my pieces will receive negative reactions that’ll make me want to curl up in a ball and never write again. Even worse, I’m scared it’ll actually receive brilliant reactions and I’ll have to keep producing the same calibre of work in order to meet people’s expectations.  

Does anyone else feel like a bundle of walking contradictions?

But I digress.

I haven’t finished the book yet.

In fact, I’m feeling a huge weight of resistance towards finishing the book (ha). It’s probably because I know that once I’ve read it from cover to cover, I’ll have to commit to doing the work and overcoming my resistance.

I write this today because I know there are so many of you out there who have been putting things off for way too long. You needed to start studying for exams two weeks ago.  You told yourself you would start running more but your runners are still sitting in the box it came in. You need to call out the guy who’s trying to brush you off and demand an explanation.

If the author of the book is right, then you’re putting it off because it’s hard and you’re scared of the aftermath. You’re scared to find out that you know less about the subject than you thought or you’re more unfit than you realise. You’re petrified that the guy you’re calling out is going to tell all his friends that you’re crazy.  

But sooner or later, we have to put our foot down and just do the damn thing. We have to make a decision to leave behind the things that hold us back and push forward.

This week, commit to one miniscule step that will help you overcome resistance and move towards your goal. Download the lecture recoding. Take your runners out of the box. Draft the text message that calls him out for his bad behaviour.

Then, commit to another miniscule task right after that. Listen to the half of the lecture. Move your runners besides your front door. Send your draft text to a friend and ask if they think you should send it (Spoiler alert: yes, you should).

After that, rinse and repeat.

By committing to one small action at a time, we’re slowly dismantling resistance and reducing it to a wisp.

At least, I think that’s what’s supposed to happen.

Are There Good Things Ahead For Me?

“Are there good things ahead for me?” she texted me, late one night.

I drew in a tight breath as I read her message. A dozen responses flooded my mind, but none felt good enough to support the weight of her question. Everything I wanted to say felt glib and wouldn’t begin to scratch the surface of everything she was feeling in that moment. 

How do you talk someone out of their existential crisis in less than 300 characters? 

Her question is one that I’m intimately familiar with. And I bet you are too.

It’s a thought that creeps slowly into your mind when you’re struggling to fall asleep after a bad day. It flares up when you’re in the throes of another heartbreak, or when you listen to a friend gush about the incredible things happening in their life. It’s an innocent question that can rapidly spiral out of control: are there good things ahead?

The evidence piling up in your mind confirms the answer is no. You’re stuck in a mind-numbing job with no fulfilment in sight. Good, healthy people you love get sick. You’re in a rut with no clue how to get out. You’re ghosted by someone who doesn’t have the courtesy to say “thanks, but no thanks” to your face.

The jury in your mind lays down the verdict: there are no good things here.

Then, it gets worse.

You cast a furtive glance to other people beside you and it turns into full blown gawking when you see them get all the things you’ve secretly been longing for. A high-paying job with the freedom to travel. An Instagram-worthy relationship. A seemingly care-free life. Gawking turns into resentment: why is this person getting all the blessings you’ve ever wanted?

You ask yourself again: are there good things ahead for me?

Sometimes, you have enough willpower to cast the thought aside. Your to-do list calls out your name, you turn to Netflix to numb your thoughts, or slumber finally overtakes you. But, often, when the day is long and you’re feeling weary, you give in. 

In an angry, hurt state, you text someone you know you can unload your emotions on.  

You repeat the question, ‘Are there good things coming my way? When is it my turn?’

You want the other person to validate you; to say yes, your life is crap. You secretly want the pity.  But you also want reassurance that good things are coming your way. You don’t want clichés shoved down your throat or a generic statement like, “Yes, of course there are.” You want an explanation for why life has fallen vastly short of your expectations.  

Having repeated this cycle multiple times before, I was hesitant to respond to her text. 

What do you mean by good things, anyway?

During my own spiral, friends would often turn this question back around on me. What are you waiting for?

I’d get frustrated and want to scream at them, ‘Good things. Ordinary things. The things that appear to come effortlessly to others.’

I wanted a job I loved and more direction in my life. I wanted to stop feeling the perpetual heaviness of depression and sadness on my chest. I wanted love to come as easily to me as it did for everyone else. I wanted to feel normal and have the same beautiful things as everyone else.

I thought my life would be ‘good’ when every area of my life – love, work, friendships – was running smoothly. But work and friendships would be thriving, while my heart broke. Or I’d be surrounded by a loving community but feel unfulfilled about my job and my finances.

It’s like I was living life on a treadmill: forever sprinting after happiness, while never moving from the one spot. I’d feel winded, with legs like jelly, wondering why I wasn’t where I wanted to be.

***

Late last year, I caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. We sat perched on stools in the corner of a cosy cafe, and we listened to each other regurgitate all the events that’d unfolded since we last spoke. 

While sipping on my latte, I listened to her recap everything about her life, from the guy she wasn’t sure she was dating to the woes of her full-time job. 

As she spoke, I remember thinking: there are amazing things coming for this person. I can’t wait to see what her life looks like in six-month’s time.

Although she was battling her own frustrations and discontent, I knew she would find a way through it. She always did. From where I sat, I could see all the good things that had unfolded in her life, and I knew in my bones that more incredible things were coming her way – even if she couldn’t see it herself. 

I couldn’t help but wonder: Why is it so easy to see goodness destined for other people and not for myself?

It’s hard to believe things will get better when we’re knee-deep in the middle of a storm and surrounded by the wreckage of our unfulfilled dreams and broken expectations. We can’t see the clear skies ahead or the dark clouds slowly starting to dissipate. All we can see are our flaws and the way we don’t measure up. Surely, no good thing can find its way to me, we tell ourselves. 

But as I looked at my friend and saw the presence of goodness throughout her life, it made me think about my life, and what people must see when they look at me. 

Just like how you look at someone and see only the most wonderful things, someone else is looking at you and thinking exactly the same thing. 

***

My definition of ‘good things’ is slowly evolving. I no longer set perfection in every area of my life as the goal to attain. By doing so, I was breaking my own heart unnecessarily. I knew even when I did reach the job promotion, relationship, and peace I strived for, all I wanted was more. We humans are insatiable like that.

Now, I like to think that ‘good things’ are drip-fed into our lives. If we were to get everything we wanted all at once, we’d take it for granted.

At the start of my writing journey, I remember telling my mentor about the exciting opportunities that had come my way. People who weren’t my mum had told me they liked my words and wanted me to write for their publications. My friends were rallying around me, and the person I was dating at the time had yet to throw up any red flags. Things were good. 

Almost too good. 

“I keep waiting for the other shoe drop,” I told my mentor. “I’m scared that as soon as I let my guard down, it’s all going to fall apart.” 

Although I had everything I wanted at the time, I couldn’t enjoy it at all. I spent the whole time eyeing my blessings sceptically and trying not to get too attached to the feeling of contentment because I didn’t want to feel crushed when it was yanked away from me. 

But when small blessings crop up in unexpected ways, I find myself appreciating them a lot more. A random text message from a friend in the middle of a dreary day makes me smile. Finding the right word after struggling for days to write a blog post, feels like a victory worthy of being shared on Facebook. 

I don’t remember the exact words I used to respond to my friend. But I understand why she asked the question. 

When all you can see is your mess, you often need to hear someone else point out the things you’ve been missing. Even though we may not believe it ourselves, hearing someone’s deep conviction that there are good things coming our way may be what we need to start believing it too. 

If you were to ask me the same question then here’s what I’d say:

Yes. It’s inevitable, just like how the sun rises and sets every day. There’s a fulfilling job with your name on it. A love story in the process of being written. You’ll meet strangers who’ll turn into lifelong friends, and friends who turn into something more. The obstacles that are tripping you up today will soon be nothing more than a minor inconvenience. The sharp ache you feel because he rejected you will eventually be a distant memory. 

But there are also good things happening, right here, right now. They’re buried beneath the carnage of crappy things. But look closely enough, and you’ll see them. Someone thinks the way you tell stories is utterly hilarious. Someone needed to hear how you faced your fears and came out on the other side. Another person made a decision to keep moving forward because of you. You have so much impact running through your veins and you don’t even know it. You’re discovering the things that light you up, and steering clear from the things that drain your energy. With every step forward you take, you’re inching closer and closer to where you want to be. 

Hold out for the good things. I promise you’ll see them soon. 


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The Rear View Mirror

A string of messages flooded my phone on Friday night.

“I’ve made a decision about the future of this page,” said the message. “I think we should move on.”

‘The page’ the message was referring to was the health & wellbeing platform I helped bring to life during my uni days. 

Two years ago, I signed up to be part of an extracurricular program within the Law faculty. The application for the program had dropped into my inbox while I was trying to write a paper on Australian Consumer Law. I was about seven hours into the essay, and my vision had begun to blur from staring at the same sentence, so the application was a welcome distraction. I filled it out quickly and sent it off without a second thought. 

The chosen applicants were asked to kickstart a project that would add value to the Law faculty. While other groups buzzed with the idea of creating apps and networking programs, the only thing I knew how to do was create a website and write. Together, my group turned that website into a platform where students could share their personal trials and triumphs in order to encourage others. A place where people could come, read stories, and say ‘me too.’ 

It’s been a while since I thought about that platform. Now that I’ve graduated from uni, I’ve kept my eyes firmly focused on the future. Life nowadays looks like juggling the needs of my clients, researching new projects, and brainstorming how I was going to grow my creative copywriting business.

But seeing my co-founder’s messages brought me back to those early days when the idea of creating something felt so foreign to me. I always thought that people who co-founded initiatives or platforms were old men over 30. So, when it was my group’s turn to start something, I was anxiety-ridden over how to start and what people would think about the project. 

While lost in my memories, I opened the chat bubble to read the rest of his messages. Another group of law students were interested in taking ownership of the page; to revive it and reshape its future.

“I think we should give it to them,” my co-founder wrote. “This way, all the work we’ve put in will continue to carry on.”

I agreed.

While we sorted out the details of the handover process, I opened the page once again and was hit by a wave of nostalgia. I couldn’t see it back then while I was plagued with self-doubt and fear, but my group and I had invested so much work into the platform. It was now home to dozens of articles and stories that other students had boldly stepped out to share. 

But beyond that, I remembered just how instrumental this tiny page was in getting me to where I am today. 

What had started out as an obligatory uni project, ended up becoming the first step on my creative journey. While tinkering with the website and writing articles to be published, I recognised that I had a knack for writing for the internet. In fact, I thrived on it. Writing stories was something that came as naturally to me as eating and breathing. While it would take me days of agonising to wrangle a legal essay together, putting words to emotions felt effortless and purposeful.

At the time, my graduation was looming and I could feel the chokehold of adulthood tightening around my neck. Before I resigned myself to a life of writing vague emails and conducting mind-numbing research, I wanted to do something I felt naturally good at. Perhaps starting my very own space to share my stories is the outlet I need, I remember thinking to myself.

And so, one random afternoon, I created a website, slapped my name at the top, and started writing. That one decision to publish my first blog post and actually tell people about it pushed me to be more courageous than I’d ever been. It challenged me to accept a part of myself that I had spent years trying to repress. 

A month later, that very same blog post landed in front of a CEO who decided to take her own leap of faith and hired me to write for her. It opened my eyes to a world where I could get paid to play with words. It’s led to friendships in different corners of the world, new opportunities, and new discoveries.

It’s been two years since entering the program and launching the platform. Despite everything I’ve achieved, I still feel woefully inadequate at times. I experience waves of self-doubt when I read other people’s words, and I have no clue if I’ll ever scale my business to where I want it to be. 

But when those messages flooded my phone, I remembered just how far I’ve come. 

Back then, I never would have imagined that one split-second decision to sign up for an extracurricular program would result in me discarding my law degree in favour of a creative career. I never would have imagined that one post, when read by the right person, would result in me learning about the world of business and entrepreneurship. 

But it did. 

All that to say, don’t discount the place you’re in right now or the path you’re on. 

When we’re in the thick of the journey, it’s easy to write off the good things that happen to us, like how much we’ve grown as a person or how much our skills have improved. The finish line can feel non-existent. All we can see are the roadblocks we have yet to overcome, the challenges of today, and the chasm that exists in between where we are now and where we hope to be.

But it’s only when we look back that we can see just how far we’ve come. Things that once felt terrifying barely shake us anymore. The tasks that once felt insurmountable are now a piece of chocolate frosted cake. 

And while I think it’s important to keep our eyes looking forward through the windshield to the destination up ahead, every so often, a glance in the rearview mirror shows us just how far we’ve come. 


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The Story of Us

I celebrated my one-year anniversary with Ben two weeks ago.

As someone who once thought I wouldn’t last 1-month with anyone, 12 months feels a little surreal.

It made me think back to the time before we started dating and how uncertain I felt about commitment, feelings, and relationships. I used to go around asking all my coupled-up friends about their story. All I wanted to know was: how did they know they were with the right person?

90% of the time, they would sigh and give some version of the answer: when you know, you know. 100% of the time, I’d be left feeling utterly perplexed and still wondering: but how?

Now that I’m the one fielding this question, I understand why people rely on cliches. It’s hard to condense your rollercoaster of emotions for one person into a few pithy sentences.  

I don’t think I’m qualified to speak in-depth about relationships. But wrestling over whether someone is right for me is something I’m more than familiar with.  

***

Before Ben, I was hopeful I was going to meet my person in a café or a bookstore. Or, even better, a bookstore with a café. I would be sitting on one side of the room with my nose buried in a book, and he would be seated at the table across from me. Whatever the location, I always expected to look up at him and just know.

The night I met Ben, nothing special happened. He sat next to me at a dinner party three years ago and I introduced myself with an awkward handshake. We said a total of five sentences to each other the entire night. The whole thing was so uneventful that I’ve forgotten most of the details.  All I remember thinking was that Ben was someone I would never date.  

Over time, as our friendship circles started to mix, I started to appreciate that he was actually kinda funny. Soon, tentative small talk evolved into quality banter in real life and on our screens. Until, finally, at the night of a conference, Ben approached me and asked if I needed help cleaning up. As a paying guest of the event, he had no obligation to stay behind and collect the 200 leftover flyers that were strewn across the auditorium. But he did. I remember thinking that maybe saying yes to a date with this guy wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world…And two days before we rang in the new year, he finally asked.

This is where the story usually ends.

People like to gasp, swoon, and tell me I’m lucky. Everybody adores a good cute-meet story. Rarely anyone speaks about the limbo that exists in between the first date and the day they became official.  

Our limbo lasted for 6-months before we decided to be in a relationship.

Correction – it took me six-months to be sure if I wanted to be with him.

One thing you should know is that Ben is six years older than me. That’s 6 more years of life experience than I had. To me, it looked like he had his life sorted out. He had a grown-up job and was close to putting down a deposit for a house. He had reached a stage where he wasn’t wildly flinging his feelings around or texting a string of girls. He was ready for something serious. And that terrified me.

While Ben knew what he wanted from day dot, I was deep in the throes of uncertainty. Fear. Lots and lots of worrying. Scared I was going to make the wrong decision and hurt the both of us. Massively unsure if he was right for me. If I was right was for him. What ‘right’ even meant.

It also stemmed from the fact that I was surrounded by dozens of couples who said they knew they were supposed to be together straight away. They had gotten their sign: this was the only person they had been with and this would be the only person they would ever be with.  

My dating history, on the other hand, wasn’t as clean cut. I’ve lost count of the number of false starts, rejections, and boys I’ve kissed and ghosted before I met Ben.

So when it came to us, I wanted to be 110% sure that we would work out before I put a label on anything. I liked him, but I wanted a guarantee that he wouldn’t be someone else I was going to cry about over brunch with my girlfriends. I wanted to anticipate every complication that could arise in the future so we would avoid getting hurt. Above all, I wanted a feeling or some sort of sign that he was the right person.

“There are some things you can only find out after you’re in the relationship,” Ben would say whenever I’d try to stall defining what we were.  He would ask me daily if I was ready, and I’d tell him to ask me again another time. The fact that he didn’t give up on me while I was flip flopping in all my feelings is a testament to his patience.

Now, we’ve hit 1 year.

We think.

There was so much stalling that we can’t remember exactly when we got into a relationship. All we know is that it must have happened sometime after Easter and before Mother’s Day.  

In the end, there was no voice in the sky telling me this was the right decision. No huge sign or an overwhelming feeling that told me he was the one. But even though I wasn’t 100% sure back then if we were going to work out, there was one thing that made me want to take the risk anyway.

I was sure of his character.

When Ben and I were just friends, I saw how he would always go out of his way to make others feel seen and included. He treats everybody the same: with respect, kindness, and, occasionally, as a potential victim of a lighthearted prank.

I saw the way he consistently showed up to serve. He is the type of guy who stays behind to stack the chairs and collects the flyers without needing to be asked. I read somewhere that we’re trained to believe that great leaders are the ones in the spotlight or on the stage. But it takes a special kind of leadership to work silently in the background without ever needing credit.

I liked the way he looked out for others, even when he wasn’t obligated to. One night, long before we started dating, we were at a friend’s place for dinner. Afterwards, when he saw me drive off and take a wrong turn, he called to make sure I knew the way home. I liked that he cared.

The more we got to know each other, the more I knew that he wasn’t someone who scares easily. He doesn’t run when things get hard. He is faithful, steadfast, and intentional in everything he does. When I thought of the path I wanted to forge and the things I wanted to accomplish, I knew it would be the biggest challenge of my life. But when I thought about going on that journey with Ben, I was certain that he would be the best support system I could ever hope for. I’d lean on him and he’d lean on me.

***

When it comes to dating, there is no shortage of advice you’ll receive. Everyone and their dog will leap at the chance to tell you who they think is right for you, and when they think it’s the right time for you to be in a relationship.

If you’re like me, the conflicting opinions and contradictory advice may make you feel torn between what you should or shouldn’t do. What rules to follow. What feelings to pursue.  

And I get it.

When your heart has already been through the wringer and back, you want to be extra, extra careful before you dip your toe back into the dating pool. Dating in the modern age is like a tug-of-war between putting yourself out there and being the first to pull back so you don’t get hurt.

I don’t want to add to the thousands of voices out there. But if you’re wondering how you’ll ever know if someone is right for you, here’s what I’d say:

Circumstances change. Character shouldn’t. You don’t have to be 100% certain at the beginning if this person is your end game. But you do need to know if they’re going to treat you consistently well when life throws a curveball or an unprecedented global health crisis your way.

You don’t have to be perfect before you meet your person. It’s ok if your dating history is a little cringey and if there are moments in your past that you’re not proud of. A lot of people would tell me I needed to be living my best freaking life first, so I spent a lot of time trying to get my ducks in a row. But, truthfully, when Ben came along at the conference, I wasn’t feeling like my best self. I was knee deep in an existential crisis and spent most of the night holding back tears. It just goes to show that good things can happen in the background of your messiest moments.

You don’t have to know straight away. For a long time, I used to think I had to have all the right feelings instantly. I would meet guys who set off all the sparks and fireworks, and things between us would progress so rapidly that I thought surely, this must be it. But, ultimately, it would end as quickly as it had started. Now I know that fireworks fizzle out and sparks fade, but a gentle, slow burn promises to endure no matter how dark it gets.  

Above all, know that your story will be different from mine. It’ll look different from your best friend’s relationship and the couple you look up to on Instagram. I don’t write our story as a template for you to mimic,  but an encouragement that right means different things for different people.

Maybe the right person is the one you want standing in your corner when things get hard. They’re the person who cheers you on when you’re feeling low, and the one who makes you feel safe to truly be yourself – no filter added. They’re the person who chooses you, again and again. And you choose them right back.

In the last year, Ben and I have tried our best to show up and commit to being the right person for each other. We back up our words with actions. We choose to give each other grace when the other person is being difficult. We take turns rallying each other on. We argue, then listen, then argue about listening. We make the choice to love the other person well. Above all, we promise to always, always fight for the other person.  

 And that’s how I know it’s right.  


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Reflections After Graduating Law School

It’s official – after 5 (long) years, I can now say that I’ve graduated from law school.  

When I saw the notification telling me I had completed my course, I felt elated.

But only for a brief moment. The euphoria lasted two minutes before I threw myself back into my work meetings with clients and fulfilling deadlines.

In my mind, I was already done with uni in February. I had firmly closed that chapter of my life and moved onto the next one. Having to log back into my student email felt like I was moving backwards when all I wanted to do was charge forward.

But then a friend reminded me to reflect on what I had been through. 5 years, after all, is a really long time to spend in one place. The person I am now is completely different to the bright eyed 18 year old who was once filled with hopes and dreams of being a lawyer.  

So, looking back, here’s what I would tell my first year self.

______________________________________________________________________________

Hey you,

Many people will tell you that university will be the best days of your life.

This is the grand expectation you carry with you into your first year of uni. You truly believe that if there was ever a place to fall in love, make friends, and build a thriving career, it’s here – a random campus in the middle of Clayton.

You’re bright-eyed, innocent, and ready to throw yourself into anything and everything. If there was a party to attend, you were there in a flash. If you sat next to someone cool in your lecture, you asked them out to lunch. If there was a competition to participate in, your name was the first on the list.

Hold on to this energy as long as you can. After a while, you’ll find that uni has a way of sucking joy and enthusiasm out of its students. Eventually, other people’s cynicism will rub off on you. So for now, really savour it.

For the first semester, uni really does feel like the best year of your life. Everything is shiny and new.  People are overly friendly and are probably carrying the same grand expectations you have. You make friends who you firmly believe will be your ride or die. You exude confidence you didn’t have in high school. You are well and truly peaking.

But where there’s a peak, there’s inevitably a fall.

By the time you hit semester 2, the gloss has well and truly worn off. Now, you realise there’s actually work to be done. People are sick of each other. Parties start to feel the same. You get caught up in endless bouts of other people’s dramas – which was almost always about boys.

“I thought everything would be different when I started uni,” someone tells you. “I thought my life was going to change.”

You don’t know how to respond because you feel the same way: you thought your life would be better.

Then comes the breaking point: 2nd year. If you had a bird’s eye view of your life, this would be the point where you see a black line separating who you were before and who you are after.

You learn that people will come and go from your life with no explanation. You now know that that’s just how life works: we don’t get to keep people in our lives forever. But at the time, it feels demoralising. Like something must be inherently wrong with you that turns people off. Left unchecked, these lies start to invade every part of your life until you truly feel there’s no way up from here.  

But where there’s darkness, there’s always light.

Light comes in the form of two friends who help you navigate the darkest time of your life. For the first time, you learn what ride-or-die truly looks like: showing up for the other person even when things aren’t pretty. You find out that you’re deeply loved by your Creator. For the first time, you feel joy.

In your third year, you re-enter with a newfound sense of confidence. You are given a golden opportunity to travel across the world to damp and rainy England. Your flat mates are all energetic first years and you get a chance to relive your first year all over again.  Except this time, you know your limits and you stick firmly to them.  Your flat mates embrace the freedom that comes from living away from home, and you watch as they make the same youthful mistakes you once did. Now, you get to offer the comfort you always wish you had.

When fourth year comes along, you’ll sign up to a program for the purpose of padding your legal resume. That program will push you to start a blog for law students and it’ll re-spark the creativity you once buried. That spark will become the catalyst for you to start publishing your stories on this corner of the internet, and you’ll realise that you were never ever meant to be a lawyer. That program is also where you end up meeting your future client, friend, and mentor. She’ll be the first person to invest serious dollars in your words and she’ll push you onto a path where you can truly do work that fulfils you.  

When you try something new, support will be limited. Know that it’s because people love you and want to protect you. But anything worth pursuing will often means that you have to run in the opposite direction from safety.

Fifth year is truly your best year – but not for the reasons you think. You worry less about what other people think and focus more on the friends who have consistently shown you support. You won’t ever find love within the different levels of the library or continue with a career in law, but as it turns out, you were never meant to find those things in Clayton anyway.

You’ll notice that there’s no mention of study. That’s for a reason. The friendships you make and break, the coffee catch-ups you initiate, and the boys that kiss & ghost you, will teach you far more than what your lecturers ever will.  For that reason, don’t be afraid to throw yourself out there. Even if it does lead to tears at the time.

Above all, know that none of it was a waste of time. You complain endlessly that it is, but without it, you wouldn’t have had the chance to meet the people that have shaped you into who you are today.

Encouraging you always,

Ash x

A Letter On Creativity & Comparison

The following email was reposted with permission.

Dear Ash,

A large part of why I create is because I don’t know who I am without it. I especially love that through creating I’m able to make people feel like themselves. Because for so long, that’s what creating has meant for me. It’s been both a dream and a promise.

Then I made the mistake of playing the comparison game. I spent way too many hours looking at Instagram posts and blog posts and views and comments. I’m almost entirely certain I had at least sixteen different tabs open on my laptop at one point just so I could see where I was going ‘wrong’. Why I had less views, fewer comments.

I was a few hours into the comparison game when I took a look at every hurdle I’d overcome. And I thought to myself :

‘My struggles will forever mean I’ll always have to work twice as hard to be successful. And because of that, I will never succeed as a creative. Everything will come easier to everyone than it will to me.’

But now I’m exhausted. I’ve spent so much time hating on everything that’s brought me joy over the past few years to want to do any of the things that genuinely make me excited about life. The comparison game has mentally and creatively drained me and for the first time in a long time, I’m not excited to create.

Has this ever happened to you? Any ideas on how to solve it?

All my love,

A


Dear A,

When I first started writing, I declared that I was going to publish a blog post every week. I was going to show up, be consistent, and see that commitment through. For a while, I kept that promise. I would pull up a blank page every week and write all the stories and words I wished I could have read when I was younger. I had pent up my creativity for so long that when I finally had the chance to write, it all came flowing out. When my blog was shiny and new, I was so grateful to have just one person read my words. Any more than that was the cherry on top.

Have you ever noticed that as soon as you become aware of something, you start to see it everywhere? It’s like when you get a new pair of boots, and you suddenly notice it on the feet of everyone your cross paths with. That phenomenon is known as ‘frequency illusion.’ Now that I had carved out my own corner of the internet, it felt like every man, woman, and dog was trying to establish themselves online. As I consumed more of their content, I started to feel a twinge of envy here and an ache over there. There were so many brilliant creatives out there with a huge audience. Why would anyone care about me? How was I to succeed? These writers were so much better than me so what was the point?

Like you, I started to play the comparison game. I became torn up over the numbers and I agonised over why other people were getting a better return on investment than I was.

So, I stopped writing.

I justified to myself that I was merely giving myself space to focus on my clients and prioritise the writing that was going to get me paid. But the truth was: my inspiration had dried up. My willpower had deserted me. Writing had become a chore and the joy I once felt for creating was stifled by the thoughts that I wasn’t enough.

You and I are very similar, A. We attach so much of ourselves to our work. We bare the most vulnerable part of our souls and we feel crushed when it seems like nobody cares. Left unchecked, that crushing feeling is what drives so many people to give up on blogs halfway, close up businesses, and deactivate Instagram accounts.

Here’s what I know about the comparison game: there are no winners. While you’re comparing yourself to that writer, they’re probably comparing themselves to someone else. The result is two individuals who feel deflated and less-than.

Comparison also gives you an incomplete picture. It’s a flawed view of someone else’s life. It’s easy to look at other people’s creations and see all the things they’re doing better than you.

But you literally have no idea what’s happening behind the scenes.

This could be their 3rd attempt at creating a blog. They could have been honing their craft behind the scenes for years and only choosing to share it with the world now. They could have messaged all their friends and asked them to leave likes and comments. For every successful blog post you see, there are pages and pages of drafts that never got to see the light of day.

It’s normal as a creative in 2020 to get caught up in social media and the numbers. But here’s some tough love: there will always be someone out there with better metrics than you. Even if you were to reach a goal of 10,000 readers, there will be someone else out there who has 20,000. Chasing metrics is a race you will never win. The magic lies in going deeper with the readers you already have, not wider.

That being said, you can’t create from a burnt out place, A. It’ll only turn you bitter and cynical. Take the time to have a break from the pressure to create for others and just rest. Use the ‘mute’ button and pull yourself away from the comparison game. Take heart in the fact that even if other people have a bigger audience, there are people that only you will be able to reach.

The ability to create is a privilege. Focus on the joy that creating used to bring you. Perhaps you can try exercising your creativity using a different medium, like through cooking, music, or pottery. Don’t do it for the purpose of uploading it to Instagram and gaining views & likes– create just for yourself.

There will come a time when you’ll be ready to come back and start publishing your words again. When you do, remember that you’re not ‘going wrong.’ There isn’t something inherently wrong with you that makes you unlikely to succeed. The obstacles and struggles that you think disqualify you from succeeding as a creative is actually the secret sauce that sets you apart. No one else will live your story and tell it in the raw and honest way that you do. Someone, somewhere is going to need to hear how you held firmly to your courage and made it through to the other side.

Before you get lost in a sea of numbers, views, and likes, remember why you set out to create in the first place.

Encouraging you always,

Ash


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When You’re Too Scared to Start Something New

Not many people know this about me, but I once co-founded a mental health blog for law students. As part of a program in my penultimate year of law school, I was tasked to create a project that would add value to the law faculty. I knew immediately that I wanted to create a platform where students could share their personal trials and triumphs in order to encourage others. A place where people could come, read stories, and say ‘me too.’ I didn’t know it back then, but starting that project was the catalyst that sparked my entire writing journey.  

Before it launched, I was plagued with fear. I’m talking thick, heavy, ready-to-throw-up fear. Mental illness is a sensitive topic and I was worried about ruffling feathers and offending people; sick to my stomach about what people would say if they saw my name attached to the project with the label ‘co-founder.’

But deep down, I felt an incredibly strong pull to start this blog. From my own personal battle with mental illness, I knew that reading the stories and fight songs from people who had come through the other side would act as a healing balm over the most painful of wounds. Yet, I was constantly torn between my desire to contribute something meaningful to the community and my paranoia over what people would think.

While still wrestling with my fear, I caught up with an old friend who was knee deep in the media and creative world. Someone who understood the terrifying reality that once words and art are published on the internet, it takes on a life of its own, giving you absolutely no control over how people will react to it.

He stayed silent and remarkably calm the entire time I word-vomited all my worst insecurities. Then, he said this:

“There are two circles of people who will read your words. The first will resonate with it and will throw their support behind you. The second will raise their guard at your words because it strikes a nerve deep down inside them. They may lash out and criticise you. Either way, it doesn’t matter; they’re still reading.”

It’s been a long time since I’ve thought about this friend and our catch up. But his sage advice has always stuck with me – especially now.

As I write this, everyone is confined inside and waiting for the pandemic to blow over. The isolation has been confronting, but it has also freed up space for many of us to tap into our creativity once again. To replace the mundane and distract ourselves from our anxiety, we’ve dusted off old projects, rekindled our love for books and art, and committed ourselves to new hobbies.

I’m willing to bet that now, more than ever, you’ve been longing to create something of your own. As the external distractions fade and you stare at the same four walls in your room, you can feel the deep pull inside of you that’s begging you to share your craft with the world. You feel elated as you imagine all the possibilities – the art you will create, the words you’ll share, the business you’ll build – before the thought of that second circle, the one made up of critics and bullies from high school, brings your excitement to a screeching halt.  

When an idea plants itself in your head, it’s natural to be fearful of this group of people. It’s instinct to let potential criticism paralyse you and make you second guess yourself. You’ve likely conjured up a vision of someone saying something snarky about your creation behind your back or rolling their eyes. No one is immune to this, least of all me.

It’s been a year and a half since I’ve started publishing words online and in that time I like to think I’ve learnt a thing or two about that second circle of people. I can only speak about writing, but here’s what I know to be true: whatever you seek to create will evoke a reaction – good and bad.

Words are powerful. It ruffles feathers, draws out repressed emotions, and riles up the beast inside that wants to stay hidden. Words have the power to unlock memories, transport us to faraway places, and evoke intense, visceral reactions. It makes us laugh, cry, and feel everything in-between.

To avoid sharing our words because we’re scared of how people will react is to strip it of the very thing that gives it its power.

There may be times when you don’t get the praise and support you crave. You may even have yourself a critic or two who would love to see you fall.

But that’s not where our focus should be.

When fear crowds our hearts and minds, we become narrow minded. We forget the real reason we want to start a blog, a business, or a portfolio of artwork to begin with: to satisfy the deep longing in our soul to create and to add value to other people’s lives.

More importantly, we neglect the fact that there’s an entire circle of people who will read and resonate with what we have to offer.

When I find myself paralysed and confined by a prison of my own insecurities and fears, I like to think about the writers, artists, and musicians who came before me. I think about how stumbling upon a blog from a lady in Atlanta carried me through the darkest period of my life; how certain songs and paintings remind me of people and places I adore.

Then, I think about how I wouldn’t be the same person I am today if it wasn’t for them and their radical decision to share their craft.

I may never get the chance to shake the creators’ hand in real life and explain how their art left an imprint on my heart. They may never know how their labour of love shaped me into the person I am today. But that doesn’t lessen the impact of their art. 

All that to say, you may never know exactly who is reading your work or admiring your art. You may never know who screenshots your words for a rainy day, clicks the link in bio, or even bothers to read your whole caption. Your posts may never go viral, attract 100 likes, or be re-shared. Your work may never be on a bestseller’s list, hung in the Louvre, or on Spotify’s Top List.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not impacting someone. It doesn’t mean it’s not sowing the seeds of hope in someone’s heart or causing a shift in perspective.  Perhaps the person your craft is supposed to have the deepest impact on is yourself. Everything else is just extra.

Remember this, friends. Your duty is to the people you want to serve and to yourself. Focus less on the potential naysayers, and more on the ones who may be forever changed by the things you have to say.

So, if you’re currently wrestling over whether to press publish on your blog post, announce your side-hustle, or share your art, let this be your permission slip: just do it.

Encouraging you always,

Ash


If you’ve recently bitten the bullet and launched a new blog, side-hustle, comment/reply below and let me know. I would love to support and cheer you on during this time.