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 to 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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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
    But turns out, plot twists do exist in real life. Depression sneaks up on you. The people you thought would be by your side forever, leave. You spend sleepless night staring at the ceiling wondering if this is all there is. Suddenly the career you’ve spent a decade working towards no longer drives you. So you decide maybe you want to explore something new.
  • Mind Your Business
    You could spend hours swiping through other people’s stories instead of putting the work into building your own. You could spend your whole life following other people’s lives. Or you could just devote your energy to living your own life- unafraid and uninhibited.
  • 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 saying about you. Whatever their opinion is, you most certainly don’t have to let it influence your life.

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.