Honestly, I’m not quite sure how I should start this article. So I’ll start at the beginning.
January 1: The Beginning
I entered the year mentally and emotionally drained from the personal issues enshrouding my life. They continued to be stray thoughts though, as I had set other audacious goals for myself to meet tight deadlines I had created for the launch of this digital journal.
While the majority of Melbourne recovered from the night before, I was already deep into photoshoots and self-portraits. It was also the first time that I realised that the art of self-portraiture is practically a cardio workout in itself. I still don’t know how I managed to pull all that together (but special shoutout to my good friend Marty from Mollydooker Media for helping me out).
Alas, 2019 began like others in the past. New year. New job. New challenges. But it was the year that I felt most aloof with myself. Disconnected. I wasn’t comfortable with my life and I was tired of living an existence I was no longer content with.
I knew that if nothing changes, nothing changes. So despite that nagging feeling that would follow me wherever I went, I ploughed on and challenged myself hoping that it’ll get me out of my funk.
The first challenge? Finally launching my own digital journal and a place I can create content without limitations.
The second challenge? Expanding my creativity by exploring visual storytelling. Also known as, photography.
Photography: A Year-Long Journey of Self Discovery
This was always something I had wanted to do, but I kept putting it off due to fear of the unknown. I spent many hours researching courses that would give me the essential foundations quick and easy. Of course, nothing of worth is ever handed to you on a silver platter.
After a lot of contemplation, I took the leap and signed up for a photography course at Photography Studies College (PSC) – a commitment that would last an entire year. Knowing what I know now, I can see why so many photography courses take a year or longer to complete. It’s not something you can learn in a day, and I was naive thinking that’s how it could be prior to signing up to the course.
It was an inspiring environment for me and one that I didn’t know how much I needed until I was there.
I was exploring this new medium of storytelling with fresh eyes. While writing is (and always will be) my first love, there was something so refreshing about expanding into a new craft and being an amoeba that absorbs everything.
However, to say that the course was challenging is an understatement. There were many times where I wondered if I was even doing the right thing, especially when I looked at the rest of my class. They are all extremely talented photographers and during feedback sessions, I’d often look at their work in awe. But I can safely say that after spending a whole year on it, my own improvement is there too. Not to mention, making new friends from there.
I’m looking forward to exploring it even further in the new year, without the pressure of assignments and deadlines.
The Launch of A/Manifesto
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts on here, this digital journal was a long time coming. Prior to it, I tried to use other platforms like Medium to write, but it was just never right. Hence the long term project of me launching this site, from scratch, with the help of a design agency I had followed for a very long time (shoutout to Idyllic Creative and Rogue Monday).
A/Manifesto launched on 17th of June 2019, but in the lead up to that date and afterwards, I learned a lot about my own content strategy and how I wanted to move forward with it. Initially, I had this whole ‘hype train’ in place. But I wasn’t getting the results I wanted and I let that disappointment rattle me, especially when it came to such menial metrics like social media.
Distracted by these disappointments, I forgot about the core purpose of this site – a digital journal where I can do what I want and explore themes of style, skin and substance the way I want to. It took me a while to get back to the roots of it.
Because the photography course was taking up a bulk of my creativity, I decided to take a brief pause from writing on here.
Now that the course is over, I’m excited about going back to organically growing it and not getting caught up in all the small little things like social media gratification or setting incredibly tight deadlines.
That’s not what A/Manifesto was created for, after all.
A Quarter of My Life: Turning 25 and Conscious Manifestation
To celebrate this milestone, a close friend and I jetted off to Fiji. We jokingly referred to it as our ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ holiday.
The holiday was everything we had wanted, which was mainly a lot of relaxation. My friend had come from finishing a big legal case, and I was feeling extremely underwhelmed by my job at the time. Thus, I think we both needed to reflect and sit with it all.
I knew 25 wasn’t considered ‘old’ by any means, but it was the idea of having lived a quarter of my life that hit me hard.
The life I had originally envisioned was vastly different to the reality. Back then, I was in two minds about it – equal parts sad that I didn’t achieve what I originally intended by the time I turned 25, but also humbled by the surprising experiences I’ve had along the way.
As I write this post, I’ve come to realise it’s all a moot point. What’s happened has happened, and the grass is always greener on the other side.
Had I known back then what I know now, of course, I would have made different decisions. But the truth is I didn’t know.
I made the decisions I did based on the tools and knowledge I had at the time. I did what I thought was right at the time. I have to keep reminding myself of that – of just going easy on myself rather than beating myself up over it.
It was while I was in Fiji that I also received a new job offer – one that miraculously ticked the right boxes for me and what I wanted in the next role. Before I received the call, I had made the decision that I couldn’t return to the mundaneness of my other job and as such, would leave when I can.
Hence the idea of Conscious Manifestation happened – a concept I never really understood until I experienced it myself. In essence, I wanted a new job and I directed all of my intention to getting one. It just so happened that when I decided this, the universe was listening at the time. Sometimes, things just happen at the exact right moment. This was definitely one of them.
A Year Well Travelled: Hong Kong, China, Tasmania and Fiji
2019 was the year where I did the most travel. Usually I would do maybe one or two big holidays in a year, but this time all of them were tightly squeezed into the third quarter of 2019. I always heard that saying about how travelling makes you more self aware of the world, but I never really believed it until I went on a photography trip to Hong Kong and China.
I went there during the peak of the protests between Hong Kong and China. There were many late nights and early starts during the trip, and I was never without a camera in my hand. Was I exhausted? Definitely. But I was more so exhilarated by thrill, curiosity and the joys of capturing it all on camera. Documenting and experiencing first hand the dynamic contrasts between the two countries – like the freedom in Hong Kong and censorship laws in China – was extremely fascinating to me. Also the people. Cultures. Food. Lifestyle. It was literally like going into another world.
To say the least, it was an eye opener, both in the sense of just how big the world is and just how lucky I have it back in Melbourne (that’s not to say though that Australia isn’t without its own issues, but that’s a topic for another day). When I returned, I definitely felt different. More self-aware.
I took about 4000 photos on that trip. I’m actually still yet to look at all of them, but I’ve shared a few of my favourites thus far and I’ll share more of them in future posts. Both are beautiful cities and I’d love the chance to go back there again.
2020: What Next?
There are a few things in the works. Unfortunately, the job I’m in right now wasn’t what I expected it to be, so there’s a possibility of new things on that front. I have another creative project – a podcast – in mind which I’ll be spending the majority of the new year researching and gathering logistics around it all. I’d like to let it marinate in my head a little more. Similar to this digital journal, I don’t want it to be half-arsed.
And of course, growing this digital baby that I’ve created, more travels and taking more photos for the simple joy of it without worrying about assignments or briefs.
I’m leaving 2019 with a smile on my face, taking gratitude in knowing I’ve been challenged physically, mentally and emotionally and yet, I’m still here standing. I grew a lot in 2019, in ways I never expected to. I’m entering the new year a lot more grounded and comfortable with myself. For that, I’m very thankful.
In the past, I used to be worried about what’s next. I usually had some plan or strategy in place. For the new decade, I’m just going to throw caution to the wind. Let be what will be.
I don’t know what’s next for me. Yet, for the first time in a long time, I’m excited by that vast unknown.