If you’ve been around since the new year, you know I’ve been ill for practically the whole month of January. All I’ve heard from others as I lie on my bed was, “How are you feeling?” “How does it feel?” “Are you feeling better?” Nobody asks what I think about this or that or what’s on my mind.
It made me realize how much I tend to overthink things when I’m well and alive. We all do this. Confucius was way ahead of his time when he said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” When we got well-functioning pairs of eyes, ears and sides of our brain, we like to disregard our feelings and prioritize our “shoulds” and “coulds” to prevent the “would’ves”. It’s understandable, because in this day and age, we’re always short on time.
That is why ight now, I feel like it’s a good time to take my sabbatical from the blog to focus on something else for a month. I also plan to do this annually. Back in January, I published a blog post that revealed how I’ve been working to dive in to business and take my blogging content to meld with the said boutique. And then from there the blog will become a form of content marketing to drive the business. But, honestly, I’ve been having this temptation to just stop blogging once and for all and just work on the boutique, because then I won’t have planned blogging content to prepare constantly and all the time in the world to focus on every stage from the product development to marketing. With what Stillwater has become today1, you might not be surprised that so far, I’ve only got time to explore different vendors, and I haven’t moved as fast on my feet as I’d like to to the actual launching process.
Most people don’t get how much work it takes to maintain a blog, much less a blog that isn’t in the niche market. Once in a while I do get the “But bloggers don’t have vacations, right?” comment, which is such a relief. But for the majority of the population, blogging looks like a 4-hour-workweek kind of job and not exactly a “real” job. So here’s for the untrained eye: Just to produce content, you have at least 5 different process – brainstorm, photoshoot, write, edit, and publish. Also, there are roughly a dozen unfinished/unedited/non-revisited drafts lying on my agenda. For the backend side of things, you pitch, network, research, expose yourself to opportunities, consider your opportunities, write around e-mails, respond to press invitations, create presence, collaborate, engage readers who contact you personally, engage the online world in general, update social media platforms, tweak your web design, fix plugin errors, optimize blog posts, etc etc etc. Yes, you only see the 20% part of blogging. 80% of the work isn’t visible to the naked eye.
That said, this month-long break will be for me to get out of this constant. It’s an unsustainable schedule if I want to throw in a side business into the mix.
During my senior year in college, the life-changing project that made me realize my spirit animal is a pig was when the assignment demanded us to pick an animal and a) draw them realistically, then b) anthropomorphize them. But 5 years (5 years!!!) of creative labor without much mental stimulation ended up making me resent drawing, and if there’s one thing that felt effortless and expressive for me, it was drawing pigs. There’s no reason behind it other than they’re cute. People don’t see the snout like I do, and drawing them cutely comes as naturally as a breeze. How do I know it’s love? Well, I’m willing to draw humans and flowers and other props just for said pigs, and I really don’t like drawing humans. When I was 11, my elder brother gave me a testimonial on Friendster that described me as someone who “doesn’t like to use her brain but when she does, fear her |ntellig3nc3!!!!”. Now that I think about it, I guess I went to art school and not to journalism/literature/English for that reason, that aesthetic pleasures are closer to my heart, even though I enjoy the brainwork that writing demands.
Up to this day, my mini-breaks from blogging consist of countless hours shrieking at pet piggies on Instagram. Like, how on earth are they so cute?! It doesn’t take an iota of energy to push myself to share the way I see pigs, or at least, pig. In fact, it felt almost as if it’s my responsibility to show the world how cute and lovely and endearing they are as I see them, like an undoing of cute aggression. This piggy love has even manifested itself into a whole, tangible character that I got its copyrights reserved. It all just takes time … time I have to *sigh* spend on the blog.
I mean, I never run out of ideas for posts. It’s the quality of these posts that had me this worked up all the time, and quality is super important to me, no matter how many times quantity (3-5 posts/week) gets the spotlight when it comes to chasing traffic.2 It’s just that it takes a lot of energy for me to get up, carry my DSLR-containing camera everywhere, turn on the camera, hold my breath, get the shots, pose awkwardly till I get the shot right, delete the bad ones, explore other angles, and start editing those darn photos. In addition to the photo-taking fuss, I never write one blog post without opening multiple tabs simultaneously; for research, Dictionary.com, fact-checking and all that jazz. I was never a greatest multi-tasker to begin with. Plus, don’t forget that all this is just 20% of the workload. Altogether it’s increasingly becoming burdensome (with a capital B) when in fact, ALL I intend to do is just getting the word out – like when you clear your throat and speak a full sentence. I don’t regard this as doing anything original in every sense of the word (unlike drawing pigs cutely), just original content in SEO-speak.
So this brought me back to the fresh start I made last year in May, the time when I basically diverted every aspect of my blogging into a more professional direction.3
I gotta be honest. At that point, I still wasn’t quite sure why I wanted to blog. I do have specific intentions behind each blog post, but the big picture still looks nebulous – the big “why”. Perhaps because I actively stimulate my mind everyday and needed an outlet to record the things I’ve learned? Perhaps because I want to connect with like-minded people? Perhaps because I want to share my joy and all my passions in life? Or perhaps because some part of me wanted to make money of of it? Perhaps one day, I want to look back and remember the most grateful moments of my life? Maybe all of the above, because Stillwater was never meant to be in the niche market.4 It’s frustrating for me that after all these months, I still can’t quite put it into sentence with a full stop – like if there’s a form in front of me asking me to fill the ‘Mission Statement: __________.’ part, I wouldn’t be able to complete a proper sentence.
But there is one good thing since May though: I’m starting to discover more and more of what it’s not. It’s like a master filtering system to cut out all the things I don’t need to do. Some things it’s not:
my primary income source
100% hobby blog (I want to profit from it)
a 100% compromised medium (for maximum profits without sacrificing integrity)
Judging from the 6 resolutions in May, I can check all of the boxes off and consider the past 10 months an accomplishment:
☑Stop creating content for content’s sake ☑Minimize dilution ☑Leverage offline engagement ☑Invest in social media presence ☑Be of service
Now, the issue lies in evolving Stillwater to supplement my boutique as opposed to the other way round, and from then on, sustaining it without having me go crazy.
It sounds like a lot will change … But!! I’m sure if I step away from virtually all blogging responsibilities for a whole month – you know, get out of my head, see things outside of the box, go do non-“mental” activity like pig-drawing and creating products out of them and other things that feels right for me for a while – I know I’ll come back with more clarity.
I don’t know how else to conclude this but saying thank you so, so, so, so much for reading this up to this point and for understanding. Be back soon.
Note: Nope, I’m not gonna tell you what color I think the darn dress is. Not going to risk losing readers just because we have a different amount of rods and cons in our eyes. The shortest month of the year may be over, but there sure as heck nothing short of Internet sensations around. First came a fan-fic based on Twilight that became a movie, then came #TheDress. I feel like there’s more memes to come, but we’ll see. We’ll never ever get enough of the Internet, do we?
In honor of birthdays, I’m making a list of life lessons I’ve learned at 24. Please note that this is a note-to-self, as with most etc posts on the blog. Hopefully I’ll keep these in mind at 25 and beyond.
1. When in doubt, take a step back and ask yourself “why”. Don’t resort to momentary retreats (cookies, crack, one-night stands, etc) and decide the “how” of life later. It’s the “why” of things that matters.
2. DON’T compare yourself to others. Every soul ever walked on earth is a separate, individual entity and therefore different. So it’s pointless to compare one soul with another. It’s like comparing a bouquet of fruits and a bouquet of pigs – totally different existence, totally different purpose.
3. DO compare to others to get motivated to improve yourself. How do you compare with the people who have similar goals as you? It’s always a great idea to know where you stand in your circle/pool – not to be better than some other person, but to push yourself to the next level. Remember: You are your own yardstick of success.
4. Limit social media time. Did you know that all that time you spent scrolling through your Instagram feed in the toilet could’ve been spent on a million other things? You could’ve been the one feeding others with inspiring thoughts, moments, and snapshots of your authentic and inspiring life. Realize that all you see are highlight reels of people’s lives – not the entire film. Nobody uploads the negatives, so don’t think their lives are perfect just yet when you can’t see past those filters and photoshopped images.
5. That said, everybody‘s hurting right now. Just because that friend of yours is a generous smiler doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t have a problem in the world.
6. Likewise, people who judge you before they know you (or even spoken a word with you) are better off ignored. But remember, that doesn’t give you the license to be unkind.
7. Sip tea.Tea cures everything. Add extra trashy novels to your liking.
8. Stay original. It’s one thing to copy celebrity style and/or regard Carrie Bradshaw as life inspiration – it’s another thing to aspire becoming a carbon copy of someone else. When you do, you will always be one step behind.
9. Think of shopping as an investment portfolio, so it’s almost always wiser go with the classics. Yes, there’s strappy heels, cutout skorts, and neon Valentino shoes that everybody seems to own these days, but simplicity never goes out of style. So does black.
10. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Warren Buffett’s advice doesn’t just apply in the financial context. When you’re invested in one guy, it’ll be harder for you to move on if he ends up with some other girl.
11. Wait (for a bit). It can be a good thing. Just because the world seems to spin faster by the minute doesn’t mean you have to follow the world in that sense. Just don’t wait for a guy for 10 years to decide whether he likes you or not – no girl should give away that much control over their own life decisions to someone else, especially to jerks who don’t give as much crap about you. For more, read Wait: The Art and Science of Delay by Frank Partnoy.
12. You don’t owe anyone an apology for being yourself. Stop apologizing for wearing heels when others are wearing flip-flops, or apologizing for being polite with your boss and colleagues, for having enough with your meal because you’re full, for sharing your engagement story on your blog, for being happy with yourself, your sexuality, your life … the more you ramble on about how sorry you are for being insensitive to others, the more you insulate yourself from your aspirations. #unapologetic #sorrynotsorry #nobodycares
13. Accept compliments. Lady, don’t you dare laugh it off and forget about it later. It’s like you’re flipping the table when someone’s left you a gift on top of it. Next time someone gives you a compliment, no matter how simple, look at that person in the eye and say “thank you”. You’re welcome.
14. Work it out. The treadmill is not a fat-burning machine. It’s a sweaty way to release stress, achieve mental clarity, push past your fears and shake things off like Taylor Swift. P.S. Don’t let these guys intimidate you.
15. Keep a journal. Yes, friends and family are great accountability partners. They encourage you to achieve your goals because they love you and care about you. However, you’ll see that a year later, it’s your journal that’s brutally, unflinchingly, matter-of-fact honest with you. And that’s a good thing.
16 Eat real foods and limit ones that come in a package. It bears no repeating to say this, but you really are what you eat – so don’t be fast, cheap, easy, or fake.
17. Make the best of what you have. Most of our standards have increased in conjunction with society’s increasing expectations of the ideal woman. You want a big-time career, a beautiful family, a star-studded circle, and a closet decked with Manolos. Well guess what. Even if you’ve got them all, you still won’t be happy.
18. It’s okay not to have it all together. No one has it all. In fact, those who seem like they do on the surface usually go on living their lives carrying a big and hollow hole inside. They might as well go on searching what’s missing in their lives till they tire themselves out, and you don’t want that. Look at what’s already on your plate, and you’ll realize that you have more than enough. The surface is just the tip of the iceberg.
19. Happiness is simply when you’re not making yourself un-happy. If you’ve got a roof over your head, plenty of food on the table, and people who’ll be there for you in times of need, you’re far better off than at least a couple million other lives in this world. 14% of the world’s population lives in Africa, and about 1 in 8 people in the continent lives next to nothing every day.1.
20. Get back up right away when you fall. If you must, crawl. Cry all you want and pour your heart out all over your journal if it makes the hurt go away ASAP. But you’ve got to bounce back up once you’re done weeping. Getting up, dressing up, and showing up no matter how you feel is the only way to get yourself forward in life.
21. Stop the self-pity. If you can’t help it, set an actual schedule for sitting down and worrying. I’m serious. There are other things to attend to and people to care for. Don’t feel sorry for yourself at a time when things oughta get done. #coldhardtruth
22. Better yet, replace those “poor me” hours with a prayer. Confide in God when you feel even the slightest bit of self-doubt. Talk to him like he’s your BFF, because he is. There’s no one else who can give you as much confidence as you need to go on other than your Creator.
23. You’ll always have something to learn. Doesn’t matter if you’re 24 or 94. The paradox is that the more you know about the world, the more you realize you don’t know sh*t.
24. And finally, no one on their deathbed says they wished they could work more. Dying people will always say they regret spending more time on people, places, and things they took for granted. So stop beating yourself up, and take every day as it comes. Schedule more hours in your day living fuller and loving harder: Do more of what makes you happy, free up time for unexpected trips and adventures, and be more available for the people you love.
1. NYX Butter Gloss in Peach Cobbler (BLG06), a red-orange lippie that turned out amazing as I was hunting for something peachy-pink. The YSL Rouge Pur Couture in Rosy Coral (52) is still out of stock. Thanks, Gianna.
2. Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask, a recent addition to my all-natural nighttime routine, just because I feel my skin needs a little switching up. Favorite ingredients: extracts of tea (camellia sinensis), panax ginseng, licorice, and mulberry. It’s got a ton more. Bought it because of Kerry’s excellent review.
3. The Sacred History: How Angels, Mystics, and Higher Intelligence Made Our World by Jonathan Black, who’s actually Mark Booth, the same author of The Secret History of the WorldthatI’ve kept for years on my shelf. This is also one of the books on my list. A great break for when you’re reading a serious novel (I’m re-reading Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki by Haruki Murakami right now), and major inspiration to store in your subconscious for writing fiction. Believe me – you learn a lot from folklore.
4. Vogue March Power issue 2015 – How can I not have this?! Been waiting for a week for it to arrive in Indonesia.
5. An acoustic guitar that’s smaller than me. Got it as a birthday present from my fiance :) The one I’ve been playing (which you might’ve seen on Instagram) is my elder brother’s. My wrist hurts every time I play it for longer than an hour.
6. Doraemon plushie in pig costume. Too cute T_T Part of the Chinese horoscope set of plushies available at the Doraemon Secret Gadgets Expo.
Turns out the bestselling item of the brand is its argan oil, which I didn’t grab because I figured 3 is a good number, whereas grabbing 4 oils at once would make me a crazy oil lady. I could see why women opted for Russell Organics to get their argan fix, as it’s 100% vegan and cruelty-free. You can be sure the company’s responsible for every step of the way from the manufacturing of their products to the end-user. They even have a checklist of toxic ingredients they can be sure none of their products contain, most of which are the same 9 ingredients I tend to avoid in cosmetic products.
Quality assured, what first made Russell Organics stood out over other natural skincare lines was the fact that they carry a couple of hard-to-find oils I’ve been wanting to try since forever (namely: marula, kukui nut, sea buckthorn). The 2 I picked along with my rosehip oil might just be the next best thing for the skin, since they haven’t really gone mainstream. All of these (including rosehip) are base/fixed/carrier oils (read more on 2 types of of oils here), so you don’t have to worry about diluting them. Just slather a couple of drops directly on your face and you’re good to go:
Ever heard of Camellia sinensis? Yup, it’s where you get your green, black, and white teas. So it comes as no surprise for me to learn that this oil has got some serious naturally-occurring antioxidants, making it a great item in your anti-aging arsenal. Since it’s extracted from the real tea plant, sometimes people simply call it the “tea oil”.
Note that this variety from Russell Organics is the Camellia oleifera and not the Camellia sinensis one (people use this most for cooking). Though the nutritional profiles don’t vary much, camellias come in several varieties. One variety you might have heard of that’s long used for beauty is the Camellia japonica, or tsubaki in Japan. Japanese women swear by tsubaki oil as a leave-in to achieve that glossy and lustrous hair geishas always have1.
Due to its exceptionally high oleic acid content (the same type of fats found abundant in coconut oil), camellia oil is great as a moisturizer for dry, cracked skin, as women in China would testify. It absorbs quickly and thoroughly into the skin because structurally, camellia is an almost identical match for the human skin2. Camellia is also rich in vitamin E, so you can expect extra soft, silky smooth skin after slathering this on your face (camellia oil is non-comedogenic).
I’ve gone without it for about 6 months now. My complexion’s so much duller than it was when I was dabbing rosehip on top of my jojoba oil every night (see my 100% natural nighttime routine). Learn more about rosehip oil and why I started using it here.
Kukui nut oil
Once upon a time, Oscar-winning starlet Lupita Nyong’o shared with Glamour that she slathers this oil along with avocado oil on her face. And in case you haven’t noticed, her skin is Ah-maaaze-ing – probably the best I’ve ever seen. Turns out, this oil has been Polynesian’s best-kept beauty secret all along3.
Traditionally, Polynesians use kukui nut oil to massage over aches and pains of the body, even for soothing burns (incuding sunburn), irritations, and for healing wounds as well, whereas in Hawaii, the emollient (see the 3 different types of moisturizers) has been used as a baby oil up to this day4. What’s behind this universally beneficial oil? Well, it contains antioxidants, essential skin-beautifying A, C, and E, and that it’s rich in essential fatty acids (linoleic + alpha-linoleic). Its fat profile roughly looks like this5:
9% palmitic acid (saturated fat)
20% oleic acid (omega-9)
42% linoleic acid (omega-6)
29% alpha-linoleic acid (omega-3)
Kukui nut oil, or candlenut oil, is said to reverse damaged skin, which sounds too good to be true (the researchers are on it). Yet those who suffer ailments such as eczema and psoariasis have claimed that it’s effective in reducing symptoms. Because it’s highly penetrable, it travels deep into the layers of the skin, so it soothes, hydrates, and heals skin from within.
The only downside? It goes rancid pretty quickly like flaxseed oil does, so make sure you finish your bottle of candlenut within 6-8 months.
Have you tried any of these oils before? If so, which brand did you opted for? We’ll see what wonders Russell Organics will do on my skin this year.
I was invited to join the Bio-Oil talkshow on the last day of Beauty Blogger Meetup last week. The theme was Happy Skin, Beautiful Inside Out, and I discovered the versatility of the product aside from treating your peskiest scars and pregnancy stretch marks … plus many more.
But a brief warning before you read on: You will encounter mild gore content. I know I’ll close my eyes when I see open blood in the movies. But this comes in pictures … so be sure you’re going to be okay reading this.
” … I do know you shouldn’t make decisions based on what makes you feel safe. Make your decisions on what makes you feel alive. Life might be too short for regrets – but it’s far too long to live with a compromise.”
Tess Brookes was the girl with a plan. Now she’s the girl with a choice.
Should she stay in London and start her own advertising agency with her best friend and potential boyfriend Charlie? Or should she head to exciting Milan to pursue both a new career as a photographer and a new man, the enigmatic and elusive (and highly irritating) Nick?
For the first time, Tess has to choose between the life she always dreamed of and a future she never imagined possible. With her heart and her head pulling her in different directions, Tess has to make a life-changing decision about What a Girl Wants.