Dear Stevo…

This time last year, I was struggling really hard to figure out what to write. I would start writing and press delete. I have a folder labelled ‘Homeless’ for all my half-written documents that don’t have a place on this page yet. Anne Lamott, wrote that whenever she struggled with writer’s block, she would open a new document and write a letter to her brother called Stevo. Just addressing your words to one person can make all the difference, so I tried writing a letter to Stevo as well.

I’ve attached my letter below because a) reading back, I think it’s funny and b) for the aspiring writers that follow me, I think it’s important to reveal that the writing process isn’t linear or pretty. We often need a guy called Stevo to prompt us into action. This letter eventually turned into this official post about my birthday last year.

Whether you’re a writer, student, or it’s the first time you’ve come across my words, I hope you’re inspired to start writing letters, and that you know you are so worth celebrating.

Dear Stevo,

I’m struggling to write the words on the page because I don’t know what to write about. That’s a lie – I do know what I want to write about, but the words aren’t flowing. Anne Lamott told me to write a letter to you whenever I’m stuck, so here we are.

Perfectionism is my big thing. I’m still not sure what my voice is. And I still have to scroll through the words of someone else to get my inspiration. I wonder if I’m really going to make it and if this will be worth it. But damm it- I have to try!

There are two pieces I want to write for this week. One is for the girl who doesn’t feel like she’s worth being celebrated. Who doesn’t feel like she’s worth people rallying around her and celebrating her. Why does she feel that way? Probably because people didn’t really show up for her in the past. Or maybe birthday’s weren’t a big thing in the family. Plus she doesn’t believe very good things about herself. What I would say to her is that her birthday is special, irrespective of who is or isn’t showing up. It’s the day she came into the world with fists raised, ready to leave a mark on the world. On the day she opened her eyes, lives changed. I would tell her that there are some years that may not feel like a big deal- like at 15. You’ll wait in anticipation for the big ones like 18 or 21 only to wonder why nothing special is happening. But some years you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

You don’t need the big party to feel loved. I woke up on my 21st wishing I had my community around me. But the flat pulled through for you. The night ended and you’ll learn that things pull together at the last minute. The right people will pull through.

I’d tell her that every inch of her is worth celebrating. That even if it feels like the world doesn’t care she’s still worth celebrating. There are years where it’ll feel eventful and everyone is gathered round waiting for the glitz, glam and sparkle. And there’ll be years where you’ll have to be the sparkle. You’ll have to be your own cheerleader and learn to celebrate yourself. You’re going to have to figure out how to love on and celebrate yourself before you can invite anyone else to do it for you.

I remember when people didn’t want to make the effort to show up. I remember when people showed up and made the day about them. Irrespective of who does or doesn’t show up, it doesn’t lower your capacity to be celebrated.

A year ago, in the days leading up to 21, Slumpy took up residence in my heart and telling me that there wouldn’t be anything special this year either, and left me feeling heavy. I was miles away from my community back home, we were caught up in the rush to submit assignments, forgotten.  21 is placed on a pedestal yet nothing felt special.

You’re allowed to be sentimental on your birthday and be all up in your feelings like a Drake song.

The flat pulled together to rally around me at the last minute. The guys made an emergency trip to Tesco to buy a decadent cake topped with Maltesers. We used cigarette lighters as makeshift candles, and a single balloon found at the bottom of a show bag was inflated to celebrate the first year into my 20s. Afterwards, we caught the bus into the city where I rode my first mechanic bull and danced the night away as fake snow rained down on our heads.  It was a rushed, last minute, affair, but it was enough. 

All this to say that if a single shred of you has ever wondered whether you are worthy of being celebrated, hear me when I say you are, you are, you are.

‘You’re Better Than You Think’ and Other Mantras

If I can be honest, the last few weeks have felt very heavy recently. My mind and my heart are caught in a constant tug-of-war over where I want to be and where I am now.

Perhaps you often feel this way. You have a vision for what you want your life to look like. You have the dream, the calling, the book or business on your heart. But you just have no clue how you’re going to get there.

The heaviness sinks in and you start to hear the same thoughts on repeat:

‘I’m not good enough.’

‘I’m never going to get to where I want to go.’

‘Other people are better are doing better than me.’

‘I freaking suck.’

You know this cesspool of negativity isn’t going to help you get anywhere, but sometimes you just want to wallow.

As an Enneagram 4, wallowing in my feelings is my favourite past time. All I’ve felt like doing is feel everything, stay in bed, and binge watch everything on Disney+.

But yesterday, my mentor and work wife took me out for the day and gave me the pep talk to end all pep talks. It helped spark a glimmer of hope that was lying dormant under all the heaviness. It forced me to confront some lies I’d been believing and start the process of re-writing the stories I often tell myself.

There’s a time to feel the feelings, and there’s a time to buck up and get moving. It’s not my place to tell you when it’s the right time to do either of them. If you’re anything like me, you’d probably hate anyone who tells you to ‘cheer up’ when you’re still marinating in your feelings.

But when you feel ready to stop listening to your feelings and start taking action instead, this pep talk will always be here to help get you back on your feet.

I think we should always pass on the wisdom that’s been bestowed onto us. So here are some of the words I want to pass onto you, sweet reader.

001. You’re better than you think

Chances are, you don’t suck. There’s probably someone who’s looking at you from afar and wishing they’ve accomplished half the things you have. You may not be the best, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the skills, gifts, and talents you have to contribute to the world. Give yourself credit for the things you’ve done and remember that there’s always someone who’s ready to receive what you have to offer.

002. Own the person you want to become

If you want to be a writer, own it. If you want to be known for empowering other women to love their bodies, own the heck out of that. It’s easy to get discouraged when other people raise their eyebrows skeptically when you tell them what you want to do. I feel like bursting into tears anytime someone questions what I’m going to do now that I’m so close to finishing my law degree. But honestly, it shouldn’t matter what other people think about you or your craft.

“If you believe you can make it happen, it will. If you’re plagued with self-doubt and keep telling yourself you suck…then I’m sorry but it probably won’t happen,” said my mentor.

003. You’re doing ok

Even though you’re not where you want to be, you’re ok.

Even though it feels like everyone else is running laps around you, you’re ok.

There’s nothing wrong with you that’s stopping you from reaching your goals. You’re not missing vital pieces. Other people weren’t giving a page of a guidebook that you feel like you’ve lost.

You’re on your own path and kicking your own goals that were uniquely created for you. Other people may be called to lead and inspire and encourage over there. But you’re meant to lead, serve, and inspire just where you are. It doesn’t feel like a gift in this very moment. But I can promise you, it is.

Keep going, sweet reader. I see you, I believe in you, and I’m always fiercely cheering on for you.

The Art of Losing People

I still remember the first time I entered an ‘official’ relationship.

The day another 6-year-old handed me the other half to her BFFs 4EVA necklace, I knew I had a friend for life. To me, that half of the necklace was a commitment more important than a wedding ring and I was proud to show off the colourful heart on my chest.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. A simple playground squabble the next day meant that I was demoted from Head BFF to just F. This sparked a chain reaction where our necklaces would switch necks with other girls every time we became the slightest bit annoyed at each other.

By the time I entered High School, those necklaces were long gone but the struggle to cultivate genuine friendships still lingered over my life. I became close to people who looked sparkly on the outside but whose values clashed painfully with mine, and I was forever nursing the wounds of a broken heart.

In college, I became fast friends with groups of people who I felt were ‘it,’ only to be left with the pieces of a fractured relationship after a misunderstanding. This repeated cycle of making friends and being abandoned caused me to endlessly doubt myself and my worth. I would stay up all night wondering what about me was so unlovable? What was it about me that made it easy for people to leave and not care?  It felt like loss was more prevalent in my life than love ever was.

 No matter how many people told me to move on and make new friends, I couldn’t help but believe the lie that I wasn’t worth staying for. Left unchecked and unrefuted, these thoughts and perceived abandonment was enough to drive me over the edge.

Whether it’s a friendship, a romantic partner, or a family member, you’re going to feel the sting when they leave. Losing people hurts so much because it’s a loss of the love and trust that you’ve poured into someone else. Suddenly, someone who once knew every inch of you is gone and you’re left with an agonisingly vacant space in your heart.

I want to pause and say that it’s a good thing that you let other people in. Someone, somewhere, is beating themselves up and calling themselves weak because they opened up their heart. But, it’s the vulnerable ones who are the strongest. It’s the people who dare to care, that open themselves up to a greater love. Letting people take up space in your heart will forever be the most courageous and graceful thing you can do.

The danger is when you rely too much on people to validate your worth. I used to entwine my self-worth around the hands of my friends and use them as a measuring stick for whether I was good enough. The number and type of friends I had by my side was my safety blanket and a confirmation that I was worth loving.

But the problem with putting your worth in other people’s hands is that they inevitably take it with them when they leave. All you’re left with is a damaged perception of how you see yourself and a belief that you’re worthless. In the aftermath of these broken friendships, I used to carry all the blame. Like boulders in a backpack, I would lug the shame around wherever I went and let it reduce me to a wisp.

Now I know that we were never meant to give away our power to other people to hold. We can love them, and we can open ourselves up to them, but we must never believe that our worth is found in the hands of others. Losing my friends gave me the strength to take back my worth and look to the God that loved me unconditionally. It taught me my value and that no matter how many friends I had, I’m so worth loving just as I am.

People will come and go from your life for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with you. All relationships involve the coming together of two flawed human beings with different interests, values and life journeys. New jobs carry loved ones to different cities. Others may be going through a season where they have to re-evaluate their values and their choices. As hard as it is, some people just aren’t good at prioritising certain relationships.

I’m now learning that every friend I have is a blessing, not an entitlement.

People aren’t possessions that we can hoard and keep in our treasure chest forever.  They aren’t a measure of our worth or made to carry the burden of our expectations.

Now, when people leave, I let them go knowing that while they’ve been a blessing to my life, it’s now time for them to impact somebody else’s.

I heard someone say that the people in our Pilot episode may not always be there in our Season Finale. And I think that’s the most accurate metaphor for the people that come into our lives. You need only look at tv shows like Grey’s Anatomy to see that no matter how many characters leave, the show always goes on for dear Meredith Grey. Sometimes the loss of certain people opens up the space for others to come in and speak love and truth over your life. Not everyone will have the privilege of accompanying you on your journey, but it doesn’t mean it’s the end of your story. Sometimes it signifies a new beginning.  

So how do you master the art of losing people?

You let them go with a blessing that they were yours for a season, and not it’s their turn to bless somebody else.

You accept that people aren’t possessions for you to hoard, but beautiful souls with their own journey to embark on.  

You see the loss as the creation of space for kinder, bolder people to come into your life.

You acknowledge that irrespective of who comes and who goes, you are good enough just as you are and you are worth staying for.  

That’s how you create something beautiful.

That’s how you create a masterpiece.


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  • Why I’m ditching the life plan
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  • Mind Your Business Pt II
    Someone will always have something to say about what you’re doing- and they’re absolutely allowed to have their opinions. But that doesn’t mean you have to know what it is. You don’t have to poke and pry or ask your friends to be your spy network to find out exactly what it is people are … Read more

Notes On Nostalgia

I studied Psychology briefly while I was in high school.

 There, I learnt how our brain stores memories like jigsaw puzzles dumped on the floor. Every time we try to remember something, our brain searches for the relevant pieces and binds them together to form a memory.

What’s fascinating is how our memories don’t stay fixed forever. Instead, each time a memory reassembles, we inadvertently start to alter them. Since we can’t possibly remember every single, tiny detail of 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 you and your best friend can experience the same event and remember vastly different things. Or why eyewitness testimonies often contradict each other.

This psych lesson floated back into my mind recently when a reader asked me to write about loss and nostalgia. As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about the past, I understand the longing we feel when memories of old friends and relationships resurface.

All of us have experienced the loss of friends, estranged family members, and people who no longer fit into our lives. But, thanks to social media, we’re still connected to every single one of them. We see their updates pop up on our feed. We can type their name into the search bar and get lost scrolling through the highlight of their lives. After a while, we may even begin to wonder: what if they were still in my life?

Last year, memories of a past relationship would occasionally crop up during random, quiet moments. I would sit down at my desk to work only to wonder what they’d think about how much I’ve grown. If I ever visited places that we used to hang out, I would think back to the times we spent together or the stories we used to share. Dozens of questions would swirl around my mind. Did they ever think about me? Would we have lasted if we’d been better people? What would I ever say if I saw them again?

You’d think I was talking about someone I’d known for years. In reality, it was a short-lived fling and ended like most of my previous dalliances: crashing and burning.

That’s the funny thing about nostalgia. It’s like those filters on Snapchat that gives you flawless skin and makes you look lit from within; a picture of perfection you wish you could emulate every day. Every time I recalled those memories, I continued to add the filter over and over again. While my brain was reconstructing the pieces, I inadvertently wove in details I wished had happened. I repressed the cringey moments and glossed over the crashing and burning. I focused on the emotionally high parts of our relationship blurred out the lows. Before I knew it, my glossy, filtered version of events became the new memory and I started to feel the longing for those ‘good old days.’

When I confided these thoughts to someone else, they challenged me to remember the event exactly as it transpired; no filter added. Without the gloss, the reality was bleak, cringey and made me remember why we never worked in the first place. I had been longing for a fantasy that never actually existed.

My favourite author describes it like this: “I’m in awe of the way we romanticise the things we willingly left behind when the present moment starts testing us.”

I think that’s the most accurate depiction of how we operate. When things start to get hard, we seek solace in our memories by adding a filter and creating a picture-perfect past.  

Be honest, how often have you thought back to an ex while you were in the thick of singleness?

Or, how about when you start to miss your old job because your new boss is turning up the pressure?

Perhaps you’ve thought about going back to old friends because the loneliness of the present moment is just too stifling.

Suddenly, we believe we were better off settling for the things we left behind.

I’ve definitely been guilty of letting my memories of the past hurt my ability to be present. I’ve let the ‘what if’s’ distract me from my current blessings and feel anxious from discontentment.

I think we have to be careful how much nostalgia we feel over the people and events in our past. When we’re the ones who walked away, we have to draw a balance between forgiving people who’ve hurt us and recognising there’s a reason they aren’t in our lives anymore. If we’re not careful, we may force open doors that God intended to stay close.

Don’t get me wrong; you’re allowed to look back at your past and marvel over how much you’ve grown. You can recall old memories and reminisce about the relationships that were near and dear to you. You can wonder how people are and wish them well no matter what they did to you.

But, at the end of the day, we have to be careful how much weight we put on our memories. We can either spend your days caught up in a fantasy or we can say ‘I’m going to make the most out of the present.’

Encouraging you always,

Ash x

How To Meet People As a Solo Traveller

This was the very first piece I published on the internet last year. I was so anxious to share it with the world, but it’s opened so many doors and is a testament to the face that good things happen when you put yourself out there.

In a bid to prove I could be independent, I committed to spending a whole month travelling around Eastern Europe by myself. This was something I decided not to tell my mum about until I was already on the plane as she would have ‘Asian-mum’ scolded me and forced me to watch the movie ‘Taken’ over and over until I changed my mind.

Riding solo as a single female can be one of the most liberating, scariest and bravest thing you ever do. You are free to do whatever you want without having to compromise with another person’s agenda. But you also don’t have the security of companionship when you arrive at a new place, or a decent photographer to take candids of you.

Before embarking on my travels, I was super anxious about initiating conversations with strangers. “What do I even say to people? I’m so awkward,” I wailed to my friend Jessie, who had just completed her own solo journey.

“You’ll be fine,” she said, “Just smile and laugh heaps!”

And so, with that one piece of advice under my belt, I left the security of my friends in Belgium and headed to Budapest to start the solo leg of my trip. Thankfully, I didn’t need Liam Neeson to save me from any sex-trafficking rings. I did, however, get myself into a ton of cringe-worthy, hilarious and messy moments in my attempts to get along with other travellers.

Here are some of the things I picked up about making friends in other countries.

Make the first move

Every time I arrived in a new country, my anxiety levels would shoot through the roof as I had to put myself out there and make friends from scratch. Not everyone is going to approach you first, it’s up to you to initiate conversation.

For all the introverts, you have to fake it till you make it. I had to squash down all the anxiety and give myself pep talks before approaching groups of people who were already friends and just say “Hey, how’s it going? Mind if I join you?” There will be the initial awkwardness as you all try to get to know each other, but if you push through that, you can end up with really great friends.

Anytime a new person checks into your hostel room, strike up a conversation by asking them basic questions like what country they’ve just travelled from or what destinations they’re heading to next. If you get along well, and they’re heading to the same places you are, offer to exchange numbers and meet up. Then at least you’ll know one person at the next destination.

If my roommates weren’t so friendly, I had to try my luck in the hostel common room, meeting tourists on walking tours or just talking to random people on the street. Remember that everyone is in the same boat and are just as keen to meet people as you are, so you don’t have to worry about looking awkward or sounding like an idiot. I had one person attempt to make conversation with me during a walking tour by saying “You must be a dancer because you have really long legs.” I declined his invitation to hang out afterward.

The beauty of flying solo is you are more approachable as a party of one. And if you do make a wrong move on someone or have a really awkward conversation, you’ll never have to see them again!

Say yes to most things…

Commit to being a ‘Yes’ person who isn’t afraid to accept invitations to anything and everything. If your roommates invite you to explore a tourist attraction with them, say yes. If someone asks if you’d be keen to check out an underground jazz bar with them, say yes. By always being open to invitations, you’ll get to experience things you normally wouldn’t have if you’d let fear hold you back.

Whilst in Budapest, I got along famously with a trio of Germans who were staying at my hostel over the New Year’s Eve period. When I told them Vienna was my next stop, they offered to give me a lift there on their way back home to Germany! There was no way I was saying no to that, so I cashed in my bus ticket and off I went on a European road trip!

In saying that, I had spent the last five days getting to know them, so I knew they were legit and weren’t going to kidnap me. Ladies, trust your female intuition. If someone creeps you out, don’t hang out with them and update your family with your travel plans at all times.

…but not to everything

Don’t agree to things if you already know you’re not going to enjoy it.

In Vienna, I was pressured into accompanying one of the hostel volunteers to the famous Albertina art museum. I figured it would only be a two-hour excursion at the most so I naively said yes. We were there for seven hours. The guy was a massive art geek so we literally stopped in front of every painting so he could show off his knowledge on the different paint strokes, colour variations and textures. I was dead exhausted from having to feign interest while looking at what was essentially the same painting of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus over and over again. It was the most tedious day of my life!

Remember, the whole point of the solo thing is that you get to do the things you enjoy.

Accept that you’ll feel lonely

I made the best of friends in some countries and barely said two words to other people in others. It’s ok if you don’t feel like you’re clicking with anyone. You can’t force a connection if there isn’t one. Sometimes I desperately needed my own space so I would deliberately wake up earlier (or sleep in later) than anyone else in my room so no one would join me while I did my own thing.

One of the best things about being alone is not having to make tedious conversations and the opportunity to self-reflect. You can also sleep whenever you want! Out of the two days I scheduled in Romania, I spent a whole day sleeping off the horrendous 18-hour bus journey I took to get there. You can’t do that if you have people counting on you to explore with them.

Travelling alone can be super hard so it’s normal if you don’t feel like you’re living your best life 100% of the time. There will be nights where you’ll wonder why you thought this was a good idea. You’ll miss having your friends who understand all your inside jokes. By the end of my trip, I was so fed up with not having people to do stuff with that I latched onto two design students in my hostel room and practically begged “Can I please hang out with you guys tomorrow? I’m so lonely!” They were the funniest pair of friends ever and I had the best time hanging out with them.

If you’re about to embark on your own solo adventure, I’m so jealous and happy for you. Remember that just deciding to go off on your own is a pretty badass decision and you deserve a medal for not having to depend on other people.

Learning to Stay When You Just Want to Run Away

Originally published on Grit & Virtue.

On a chilly weekend in August, I was roped into volunteering for a Tree Planting project in the countryside. As a designated ‘Planter,’ I had to get on my hands and knees in the wet soil to dig a hole that wasn’t too deep or too wide. In the process of digging, I was unearthing the homes of all the critters that live underground so with every scoop of dirt, spiders and other large insects would scuttle out of the ground in frantic panic.

I’ll be the first to put my hand up and say I’m the queen of running away from mess. That’s my gut instinct – to flee when life becomes confusing instead of clear-cut and simple. Anxiety will always tell me the easiest option is to abandon my commitments halfway, leave difficult people behind, and make a fresh start at a new school, a new church or even a new country.

Earlier that year, a familiar itch was making me anxious to leave again. Fear and anger were speaking lies into my situation and convinced me the place God had led me to was always going to be a mess. That I would always feel out of place. That there was no seat for me at the table.  My relationship with God felt strained and distant, and so I made plans to figuratively pack my bags and bolt.

But as I was on my hands and knees planting the seedlings that were destined to grow into strong, mighty trees, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if these plants were to grow legs. My imagination ran wild and I started to imagine what it would look like if these saplings could think and had my tendency to run away. When the weather forecast changed from sunny to cloudy, and from cloudy to torrential rains, I imagined them saying ‘Nope it’s cold and wet and this sucks. Time to move somewhere sunny, like Mexico.’

We know this is insane. Plants aren’t going to sprout legs and move to another country. They grow roots that penetrate deep into the ground and flourish where they’re planted. If you were to just yank a plant out, you would ruin its growing process and they would never become the mighty oaks they were supposed to be.  So I just had to ask, if I was constantly uprooting myself, how was I ever going to grow? If I was constantly getting restless and running away from places and difficult people, how was I ever going to mature into who God wanted me to be? 

God knows we’re fickle creatures who likes to use the silent treatment. He knows that we like to live with one foot out the door, bags packed, and ready to leave the moment things get scary.  He knows that we like to ditch when the seasons change and the going gets tough. I think that’s why Jesus makes it clear in John 15:4 (NIV) that we’re to remain in him just as he remains in us. No branch can bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine. Neither can we bear fruit unless we remain in Him.”

When we make a commitment to God and choose to remain in Him, He’ll give us the strength, perseverance and grace to commit to people and places even in difficult circumstances. God is constantly teaching me to plant down roots even when the soil around me is tough. When every fibre in my being is begging me to run away from my problems, He gently nudges me to stay.

Planting roots can look like different things for different people. It might look like investing in community even when you’re tempted to flake out. It might look like being the first one to extend the invitation. It looks like staying even when you can’t see Him moving. When I was tempted to run away, I had to go below the surface with people and tell them my fears and anxieties. They helped me weed out the lies and sow truth instead. You have to decide you’re in this for the long-haul and show up consistently These roots will keep you grounded when the storm comes and threatens to spiral out of control. Your community will keep you accountable and help you pick up the pieces when you’re down.

You’ll miss out on all the magic people and places have to offer if you always run away when fear comes around. And trust me, fear will always come around.

Commitment is sexy. Sticking it out even when the soil is tough, is even sexier. When you already have clarity that God has specifically led you to this place or this season, you owe it to yourself to stay there and wait on Him. You might not always see the ways you’re growing, but rest assured, all your roots are being planted under the soil.  So girl, unpack your bag, put away your running shoes and just stay.


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The Comeback

It’s been more than a hot minute since I’ve showed up in your inbox or on your screen.

When I first started publishing my words, I made a huge promise that I wasn’t going to flake out and ghost this corner of the internet. But life has a way of interrupting and tossing aside our best laid plans.

A break that was intended to only last a week turned into two. Two weeks turned into two months, and soon, I wasn’t even thinking about writing for myself anymore.   

I love to think of every single one of you as my friends. People that I’d love to have coffee with, shake off the façade, and just talk about anything and everything. So, for new and old readers, it’s only fair I give you a brief life update.

In the time I’ve been away, I’ve become one half of a couple and am still learning to get used to the title of ‘girlfriend.’

I interned at an amazing creative agency which solidified my desire to continue working in the creative world.

I learnt how to be a better copywriter and manage a group of creative freelancers.

But in all the hustle and excitement, my creativity was suffering.

As much as I love writing about how we should kick fear’s butt or just keep going, I find it incredibly hard to listen to my own advice.

Every time I sat in front of a blank page and tried to write, fear would wrap his icy grip around my heart and tell me to stop.

 Mental blocks would come crashing down any time I tried to string two sentences together.

I stressed that people found it annoying whenever I spoke about my writing on social media.

I started to feel ‘silly’ whenever I thought about prospective employers or clients reading my work.  

I’m willing to bet that maybe you’ve felt this way too. Like, nothing you do will ever be as good as you want it to be. Like, maybe it’s pointless to keep sharing your craft with the world. Or perhaps your voice isn’t strong enough to cut through the noise.

***

I saw one of my favourite artist-writers in the flesh six months ago.

My creativity was at an all-time low. I could barely stand to look at a blank page or even think about what to write next, let alone show up on a weekly basis.

So, when this Brooklyn artist posted that he was giving a talk on my side of the world, I bucked up, scraped together the money for admission, and went off in pursuit of inspiration.

His talk was even better than I’d imagined.

Beneath his inappropriate jokes and crazy anecdotes, was a guy who truly understood what it meant to create. That it wasn’t necessarily about validation or being the best but doing it because we can. In this day and age, we have the power to express ourselves however we want and we shouldn’t waste it.

I realised I had been creating content solely to please other people and live up to their expectations of me. I’d let the fear of other people’s opinions dictate how I was writing and whether I chose to share it with the world.  Playing by other people’s rules may push you forward in the short term. But doing things for yourself because it truly brings you joy? Now that’s the golden ticket, babe.

After 90 minutes of dropping convicting truth bombs, the artist ended with this: “You are a tool, so you better get to work.”

It slammed into me and reminded me that I had been gifted with this platform. I’d been gifted an affinity to string words together and tell stories in a way only I can. And what a pity it would be if I let it all stay buried under my fear and insecurity of not being good enough.

So now, I’m passing this pep talk onto you, sweet reader.

You can either worry about what people are saying, or you can put your head down and create anyway.

You can either stress about the lack of inspiration, or you can try to find it in the people you meet, the movies you watch, or the books you read.

You can either be anxious about the fact that not everyone will like the things you create, or you can realise that there’s a unique group of people who need your talents.

You are a tool, so focus on your craft and just keep on going.

You never know who needs your gifts…


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Your Words Matter (even when it doesn’t look or feel like it)

There are days where I literally can’t stop the words from flowing out, and there are weeks when they all dry up. At times like these, I like to turn to my crazy talented friends to fill in the gaps for me. A few months ago, I sent an email to a dear Instagram friend asking for hope and encouragement. This is what she sent back to me. I hope it inspires you just as much as it has inspired me.

Originally published on Feb 6th 2019 on www.rachelmariekang.com


I’d toss my iPhone into the ocean and live off of handwritten letters and emails typed on computers for the rest of my life if I could.

There is something about communication that is lengthy and takes a long time. Drawn out response time, carefully chosen words and phrases. The waiting. The anticipation. The angst. The trust. The thrill.

Why, yes, email—you have my heart.

The following is my response to a dear friend and follower. I thought I’d take what I shared with her and share it with other as well. I love it when questions like hers come through in email.

May the sentiments sink in deep, deep, deep.

PS: Feel free to comment below or email me with your questions on writing or being a want-to-be writer.

A,

Girl. Thank you for giving me some time to wrap back around to this email.

I stinking love emails. I love getting them and sending them. And I love emails like this one. I love sitting on them…ruminating a bit. Gathering my thoughts and sharing them full.

First of all, thank you. Thank you for taking your honest heart and bringing it here. Thank you for trusting me…for feeling safe to share what you did. But also for trusting that I might have something worthwhile to say. I’m humbled. Honored. Encouraged. Spurred on. The list goes on. Adore you, truly.

If the stars aligned and you and I were in breathing distance from each other, latte in hand and all, I’d be pretty happy too—swaping stories and talking life.

Until then, here’s this. Your question:

I was wondering if you could pass on one bit of advice to a novice writer. The you five or ten years ago who was just venturing out in this uncertain world of creativity. What do you do when you put something you created out there, and it doesn’t get the response you want? How do you deal with the disappointment and the shame after being vulnerable and then getting no reception? I know my worth doesn’t hinge on the views, the likes or the comments I get. But it’s still anxiety-inducing and disappointing nonetheless.

A,

I read an Instagram post by writer and author Ally Fallon. I love what she said about the younger version of herself.

“Watching all the #10yearchallenge posts has made me feel a little defensive of these younger versions of us—these extra rosy-cheeked human beings who were misguided in some ways, sure, but also trying and failing and so [explicit] brave to get up and do it all again, and again and again. There are a lot of things I could say about 25-year-old Allison. She was naive and hurting and didn’t know how to talk about what she needed or who she was. But she was also sweet and funny and loyal as hell and a fighter of the best variety. The kind of friend you want on your side. Not all that much has changed, when I think about it.”

And so, I want to start off by saying that this is exactly how I feel about me from ten years ago. I was a stumbling mess trying to figure out life and figure out myself. And I was writing my way through the mess. Maybe I was brave for sharing the words that came from that season. Brave, or crazy. But I did it anyway.

And I’m so glad that I did.

To be honest, me from ten years ago remembers when writing Facebook notes was all the rage. It was a momentary fad that is reminiscent of Instagram, sans the carefully curated graphics and pretty photos.

I had written a couple of notes and, really, I wrote them for the sake of creative expression and not so much to be read by others. But when I saw that others enjoyed reading them, it began to change the way I thought and felt about writing and sharing my writing.

Through it all, there is one thing I did, without fail, every time I wrote.

I prayed before I hit publish.

Not because I’m some super saint. But because I knew I needed to. I knew how deep the root of insecurity was wrapped within me—how wide it spread in thought throughout my brain.

Through all of the many changes that Facebook has brought throughout the years, one thing has remained the same—the tiny red notification alert that flashes on your homepage when someone likes or comments on something you’ve posted.

I hated how my worth became attached to the number of likes and comments that I got. So I prayed before hitting publish. And when I say that I prayed, I mean that I prayed.

I didn’t just whisper under my breath high hopes for God to bless me.

I got on my actual hands and knees and I put my forehead to the floor. And I wailed. And I cried. And sobbed. And I pleaded. I pleaded, not because God needed to hear me begging, but because I….me…I needed to cry it out. I needed to pour until the burden and the brokenness in me released from within. I wrestled there, on the ground, confessing the ugly in me…listing every insecurity, every time. Listing every lie and every haughty dream that was born from thoughts other than those that might glorify Him.

I asked God to take my ugly eyes off of the numbers. I asked him to kill the part of me that fed ravishly off of the words of others. And, instead, I asked for him to fill me with every confidence so that who I was in Him, before Him, with Him, because of Him would always be all that I’d need.

I dared not hit publish until I could trust that I had fully relinquished every part of my writing heart into His hands.

When the comments came, and the notifications flooded my feed, and even when they didn’t, I no longer saw it as the result of me doing or not doing something right. I saw it as God using words, written by my hand, to move and work in the hearts and lives of real people with real souls behind real computer screens.

Because of this, my writing became less about showcasing myself and more about serving others.

I don’t think that prayer is the end all when it comes to writing—there is obviously much more to say when it comes to learning and perfecting the art, craft, discipline, and (dare I say) business of writing.

But, perhaps, prayer isn’t such a bad place to start?

Even still, beyond just telling you what to do, like pray or be patient or just hold on tight—I want to share a deeper truth in hopes that it will change the way you think, not merely change the things you do.How do we handle quiet moments when the shares and the likes and the comments are slim to none?

Your answer is in the unseen. We plant the seeds and God is faithful to do the rest. Sometimes that looks like us sticking around to see the fruit. And sometimes, it doesn’t. And when we know this—truly know and believe this. We can work and write and sing and be and serve and teach and sell and create and lead and weld and sculpt and calculate knowing that the result does not make or break us.It was never meant to, and it never will.
As a writer, there will come a lesson. It might look like a long walk up a high hill. Or a hard wrestle with self and with worth. But when you do finally emerge—a light, in even the darkest and loneliest places within you, will turn on and illuminate the truth that your words are enough.

You words—every dripping syllable in ink or sound—matter.

So right now, A, right now this very second. The dreaming you, the caring you, the creative you, the earnest you, the you that longs to connect and cultivate conversations and community. The you that dares to lead with written words—Let the small moments matter. If that looks like your mom being the only person sharing your words, then that matter. If it looks like the same 23 likes from the same 23 people, then you thank God for those 23 people—and you say a prayer for them. If this looks like only one person commenting and opening to respond to something you’ve written and posted, then you find a chair and make some time to pour out your heart and respond to that one person. You do not give them a one-liner like, “Wow, thanks so much for your thoughts.” You do not give them 5 emojis and 10 exclamation points. You sit down and you write to them. Heart to heart. For, when you do this, it is your heart that will expand. Your lungs that will fill with breath and air; your heart that will fill with grief and the hurt and the need that is so prevalent in our word.And as you are filled with these things, whisper an honest and humble prayer. Ask that God might fill you with the words and vulnerability to speak with savage courage to these very things.And He will.

And you will overflow.

And you will write.

And the world around you, be it little or large, will hear those words.

And respond.

A comment here, an email there.

In time, you will see that this journey doesn’t disappoint.

Let the small moments matter. Stick with it and don’t give up. Write words that speak to the hurt and need in the world. Pray before you hit publish. And if all else fails—

It’s okay if your words only matter to only you.

Crazy proud of you and excited and all kinds of teary-eyed for the adventure that you are about to embark on. Embrace and enjoy it.

All,
Rachel


Rachel Kang is a writer and editor. She is the creator of Indelible Ink, an online community for writers and want-to-be writers. She has written for (in)courageThe Daily Grace Co., and Charlotte Magazine, and is unapologetically passionate about words, stories, the creative process, deep cups of tea, and you. Hellos always welcome at Instagram.

rachelmariekang.com

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How to Kick Fear’s Butt When Starting Something New

The first time I thought about publicly sharing my words online, I immediately squashed it down and wrote it off as ‘too hard’ and ‘too vulnerable.’

That was 3 years ago.

Last year, when the idea to publish my writing started knocking on my heart again, the same thoughts swarmed into my mind. Only this time, it brought buddies.

‘Who do you think you are?’

‘What if you fail?’

‘What will people think?’

‘Worst- what if no one cares?’

Like an army, these enemy soldiers invaded my mind and set up base camp with the sole purpose of killing off any ideas to share my words of encouragement with the world.

Maybe you’ve experienced something similar just as you were about to try something new. Whether that be setting up your own Etsy shop, becoming a small business owner or even as simple as posting a picture on Instagram.

If you’ve never identified if before, let me formally introduce you to Fear. Fear is the voice behind all of these self-deprecating thoughts. Although he may put on various disguises such as Anxiety, Imposter Syndrome and Self-Doubt, it’s really just Fear pulling the strings.

Fear’s main mission is to keep you small. To keep you believing that you’d never amount to much, so you probably shouldn’t try at all. Fear doesn’t want you putting yourself in situations where you’d be more exposed.

Put your words online where people may criticise it? No thank you.

Set up a shop when you may get no sales? Heck no.

Become a female business owner when female CEO’s already have a dozen harder obstacles? Just stay in bed, hun.

Fear has infinite excuses in his bag of tricks to keep you in one spot.

The difference between me last year, and me three years ago, was that I changed fear’s direction. Fear will always be there on our journey. There’s no getting rid of him. He is a guaranteed travel companion. But amongst all the scary scenarios of failure and criticism emerged an even more terrifying thought- the fear that it would break my heart if I never even tried.  

It was this horrifying scenario that finally kicked me into action. The thought that I would stay ‘ordinary’ forever because I was too scared to try something different. The thought that so many people may never benefit from the message I wanted to share because I was scared of what ‘haters’ would think.

When I finally published my words online, my first piece was about – you guessed it- fear. That article landed in front of the eyes of a female CEO who ended up hiring me to be her writer even though I had zero experience. Every time I share my experiences with fear, I hear the chimes of ‘me too’ and ‘I feel the same way.’ I only say this to show you that no one is immune from fear. Not a CEO. Not the influencer on Instagram or the businesswoman who made it onto the Forbes 30 under 30 list. Everyone – no matter how well they hide it- is scared sh*tless of something. 

You may think that because I’m writing about this, it means I’ve conquered it and become the Master of Fear. Heck no. I still deal with Fear daily. Even hourly. I feel it whenever I’m about to press publish on another blog post. It creeps up when I think about sharing my words on Instagram or when I don’t know whether I should introduce myself as a student or a writer.

I have to make an intentional choice every day- do I want to be fearful or do I want to be bold?

So how do you kick fear in the butt?

You acknowledge that for better or worse, it’ll always be there.

You recognise that out of the bazillion things that out of your control, this is actually something you get to call the shots on. You  get to choose whether fear keeps you in the one spot OR if it pushes you to be the best version of yourself.

You pair up with him and say, ‘Hey, I can’t beat you. But maybe I can use your energy for a good purpose. Every time you come into the picture, I know it’s just a sign that I’m being pushed out of my comfort zone and it’s my time to grow.’

That’s how you kick fear’s butt.

That’s how you become what you always were- a winner.


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On Other People’s Opinions

This was originally published on Windrose Magazine Blog. I felt all sorts of angsty after I published my last piece and got caught up in what other people were thinking that I completely missed the point of this page in the first place. So here’s a reminder that we shouldn’t worship other people’s

Last year, I was given the opportunity to co-start a mental health initiative and grow its influence. This one small project birthed in me a greater passion to create my own platform and share my own messy stories to help others know their worth. I wish I could say I immediately started hustling to bring this vision to life. Instead, I spent hours upon hours lying in bed watching ‘Worst X-Factor Auditions.’

You see, I knew I had the potential to create something impactful. I’ve fought through my own darkness and have sat with enough friends in the thick of their mess to know that there is a whole army of people who need to know they are not hopeless. But whenever I took any steps to bring it to reality, I would get shut down by fear and sent back to the depths of YouTube.

Fear crops up all over our lives wearing different disguises to keep us distracted and stuck in one place. He showed up when I contemplated setting up the website. He banged on my door when I wanted to publish my first words to the world. He came and knocked me over when it was time to be vulnerable and tell more people about my craft. Sometimes he appeared as a fear of failure and other times as fear of rejection. But his favourite way to stop me in my tracks is to breed in me the fear of what other people think.

I’ve legitimately been paralysed from moving forward because of the things people have said about me. I’ve kept passions and desires to myself because others might say it’s ‘silly’ or I wasn’t ‘qualified.’ There have been days when I’ve been too afraid to speak up because of potential ‘backlash,’ and months where I’ve ended up alone because I’d stood up for my values. There are stories I’ve held tightly to my chest, and opportunities I’ve turned down because it would mean exposing more of my life to the public and what ‘they’ think. I could spend hours writing about the loss of support and all the heaviness I’ve felt from carrying around the things people have said about me like stones in a backpack.  

It wasn’t until I was listening to my friend share her story that it all clicked for me. With steaming mugs of chai in our hands and a half-eaten brownie sitting between us, she told me how people used to mock her on the bus because she didn’t fit in. How her teacher’s ‘advice’ was not to bother re- taking her exams because she probably get better. How no one thought she would ever clean up her act enough to get a decent job and out of the mess she was stuck in.  

“But you know what?” she told me, a smile spreading across her face. “Two years ago, I was awarded a prize for being the number one student in Journalism. I’m launching, not one, but two businesses in the summer. And I’m getting married in three months. I didn’t let other people’s opinions define me, and now look where I am.”

***

Maybe you have a history of people putting you down. Maybe your story is full of characters who treat gossiping like an Olympic sport. Maybe you’ve let other people convince you to stay small. Perhaps you received one snarky comment and ever since then you’ve been too afraid to tell the world about your craft.

Here’s the kicker: you get to choose who influences your life. You choose whose voice you listen to and whose opinions carry the most weight. Everyone will have something to say. Some people will declare it with love. Others will speak in hushed whispers intending to keep you small. Either way, you decide if you’ll let it hold you back.

The beautiful yet frustrating thing about us humans is how inconsistent we can be. Our opinions are malleable and can change from one day to the next. I can know someone for years and not feel any spark, but one day I can look up and it all changes. Because people only have a one-dimensional view of who you are. They see you through the lens of whatever experiences they’ve had and whatever baggage they’re holding on to. We’d forever be running a losing race if we tried to stay ahead of other people’s thoughts. You could do everything ‘right’ and say everything ‘right,’ and someone will still find a reason to have a problem with you.

But here’s what will never change:

You – beautifully complex you – are not defined by people’s negative opinions.

You – who are worth more than diamonds and called to be a light- are not meant to stay small.

You- who are sometimes a little messy and hasn’t got life figured out yet-  are more than the one-dimensional perspective others have of you.

Irrespective of who thinks you’re ‘good enough,’ or ‘smart enough’ or only a solid ‘6/10,’ it shouldn’t stop you from going after what you want.

It would be a great disservice to the world and to the God who created you if you hid parts of yourself away because you were scared of what people think.

So pursue your calling. Apply for the job. Post the photo. Tell your story. Don’t let the fear of other people’s judgement rob you from doing what you love. We only get this short little life to live. It would break your heart if you never stood up and moved forward because you were worried of what other people would say.

We don’t get to control many things in life. But we do get to control this.