I was looking at my stack of folded t-shirts and going out t-shirts one day, and it dawned on me. This stack of t-shirts i've accumulated over the years, when laid out all together, speaks volumes about who I am, and the things I love.
From class t-shirts, school t-shirts, to t-shirts I buy because I love the design or message on it.
They as a collective tell a story.
A story can be told through the simplest, most common clothing item.
It is a story that everyone's (fashionista or not) closet can tell.
Here is a tribute to the T-Shirt.
7 March 2017
As of late, i have been finding myself reading more and more autobiographies, more specifically, books written by powerful women. From #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso to Wildflower by Drew Barrymore. Latest edition to this list? Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg - a book every women (aspiring to have a kick-ass career or not) should read.
There is something intriguing about autobiographies and learning about life through someone else's unique experiences. Maybe its a sign of growing up and having less desire to live in a fantasy/non-fiction world, or maybe i'm just interested by people's life experiences as it's the closest way of experiencing something I otherwise would never have.
In Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg talks about women in the work place, citing her own experiences and that of her colleagues (think Marissa Mayer), how to deal with increasing personal success in the work place, the prejudice that comes with it and how we can all collectively go about aspiring for equality in the working world.
I never thought the male and female inequality was extremely apparent. I knew it existed, but, I have never been explicitly denied something because I was female. I'm fortunate enough to have never been put into such an obviously unequal situation. However, listening to Lean In, I realise prejudice still exist, just in more subtle but equally detrimental forms.
Being someone who has "girly" interest and I'm hardly ever taken seriously as an Engineering student (friends who study engineering and share my interest for fashion can attest to this). My classmates who are less interested in "girly things" were always taken more seriously, seen as smarter/better academically, and do not get the same judgement I do. I never thought much about it, I just thought it was probably something wrong with me as a person. Over the last few years in university, I've received countless of snide comments and had to deal with the way people have labelled me because of my more feminine hobbies and interests.
Lean In definitely shed light on certain things I otherwise would not have noticed.
After I got the audiobook on audible, I realised there was a graduate's edition - probably more suitable if you're graduating, or have just started working. Regardless, I throughly enjoyed listening to Lean In. I just wish i had the physical book so I could highlight and annotate, instead of typing on my phone.
Anyway, Lean In, got me thinking so much more about how i've been viewing my career options, so here are 5 lessons I beleive we all can learn from facebook's successful COO!
1 | "SIT AT THE TABLE"
This is one MAJOR lesson from the book.
"Sit at the table" was a recurring statement throughout the book. Sitting at the table means stepping up to the plate and owning your worth.
Sandberg quotes studies that have shown women tend to doubt themselves (more so than men) when given an opportunity, and rarely agree to take up additional responsibilities immediately. It is also less common for women to praise themselves highlight their achievements, ask for a deserving raise, or volunteer themselves for a job they have the skills for.
Generally, women often put themselves down, down play their achievements (some even just NOT highlight it), and question their own abilities, more so than men.
So instead, of thinking about our flaws, and worrying if we're good enough, Sandberg suggests we should ask ourselves what would we do if you weren't afraid.
Basically, "Sit at the table" took me back to a famous quote from a movie my little self loved called A Cinderella Story.
"Do not let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game."
2 | NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO LIKE YOU, AND THAT IS OK.
In her book, Sheryl Sandberg mentioned the difference when it comes to how people judge a successful male and a successful female with the exact same accomplishments. Google: Heidi Howard Case for more details.
"As a man gets more successful, he is better liked by men and women, and as a women gets more successful, she is less liked by men and women." This statement coupled with the Heidi Howard case study pretty much summarised how people typically view an ambitious woman.
This negative association is why, as females, we feel that in order to remain liked, we have to be "not a threat" and to not be seen as a corporate-ladder-climbing-bitch (to put it crudely). Our self doubt (in the case of point 1) becomes self-defence. Self doubt becomes a shield. We put ourselves down so we remained liked, so that we can be "the nice girl".
When I was younger, I use to be pretty straight forward and clear about what I wanted. Basically male counterparts who i've worked with labelled me as "A little bitchy" but "Got work done". Bitchy. Scary. Demanding. Curt. Angsty. "Guys would be afraid to date you", words i've heard all too often because i'm ambitious, straight-forward, or i'm strict when it comes to getting things done. I'm dead sure if I was a male, i'd be seen as determined, confident, efficient, etc. But alas, Im not.
After entering university, I toned down. Tried my hardest to stop being as straight forward and demanding, played (or tried at least) the typical nice girl card to fit in one too many times despite sometimes feeling sick to the stomach for having to do so. What for? Because it made me more well liked (Seriously though, it did much to my dismay). More accepted, more like a stereotypical female.
What I learned from this book is that in order to lean in, it is important we keep that self doubt in check, stop dumbing ourselves down as women just so men would like us.
We should never shortchange ourselves especially when opportunities arise in terms of our career. Take a step out and look at our accomplishments objectively, look at ourselves without the tinted eyes of gender.
Yes, it is important that we are liked. But we can't be liked by everyone. We shouldn't have to be less of who we are just so that our bosses or colleagues would like us.
Another side point, is that it is important NOT to expect women bosses to like you JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE a women. Sandberg mentions, often, as women, we expect greater niceness from other women, and have double standards when it comes to senior women and men. That should not be the case. We can't expect to reduce inequality and at the same time expected to be treated better just because of our gender.
This message of acceptance and equality in the work place clearly resounds throughout the book, and is by far my favourite topic in the book!
3 | EMPOWER OTHER WOMEN.
It is 2016. The era for a "Queen Bee" is long gone. There is no such thing as only 1 woman doing well. We can all do well together.
Don't hate on other women because of their choices.The classic case of working mum vs. non-working mum. In the book, Sheryl Sandberg talks about how women from one side bash the other way too often, because it is how they justify their choices. A working mum and a stay-home mum remind each other of what each one of them is giving up because of the choices they made.
I grew up with 2 working parents. My cousins had parents who were both working full-time as well. My grandparents were too working full time when they were parents. I never for once doubted the fact that i'd be a working mum. That was just the convention for me.
I vaguely, being 14 or 15, and having a discussion with my friends about working full-time whilst raising kids, and that was the first time I experienced the hate/judgement.
One of my friends commented on how mothers should be with their kids full-time when they are younger to increase the mother child bond or to ensure they wouldn't grow up "bad". Whatever bad meant. In Lean In, Sandberg said based on facts and statistics, working full-time does NOT diminish the mother daughter bond.
In fact, as a daughter of a working mum, i'd say my bond with my mum is pretty solid.
The book talks about how the fight between women should not be happening. If one feels the desire to raise her kids, and to nurture them, she should not be judged for her actions. Similarly, if one chooses to work full-time, she too shouldn't be judged or condemned because of her choices. There is no one right way to raise kids, and the more women go against one another, the more we perpetuate prejudice, & this is just one scenario.
Instead of tearing each other down, we should offer other women a helping hand. Highlight their achievements and their value. Encourage different choices, and give younger girls more options in their career choices, their roles in the family, etc. The more women help one another, the more we help ourselves.
"There's a special place in hell for women who don't help other women" - Madeleine Albright
4 | FIND THE RIGHT PARTNER
Sheryl Sandberg wrote:
'Whether you get married, and who?' is the single most important decision an aspiring career women has to make.Having a partner that will support your career decisions and step in to take care and do his/her part for the family is extremely important.
She cites the balance she and her husband has struck when it comes to taking care of their kids.
Basically, as more women sit at the table in the workforce, men have to sit at the kitchen table. Women should encourage men to take more responsibilities at home, and see parenting and an equal contribution between both parties. Finding a partner, male or female, that embraces and supports you going for your career, and willing to take up half the responsibilities at home, or basically "cover for you" when you aren't around is extremely important.
I'm not getting a life partner anytime soon, but I'm sure i've got to keep this in mind for when the time comes, for who I choose to date, or for the conversations that I have to have when with whoever I end up wanting to marry.
5 | DON'T STAY QUIET
You cant just put your head down and ignore the situation. Sandberg said, in the past, she would not be so forthcoming when speaking about feminism and prejudice in the work place (or while she was studying at Harvard), despite having encountered so many situations herself.
She said she thought just by ignoring it, and doing her work well she'd prove those critics and stereotypes wrong.
I have always thought like that.
Instead of highlighting why everyone should support feminism, most of the time, I force myself to halt my statements or just not comment in situations because I didn't want to appear "unlikable" "scary" "angry" or "bitchy" even though I'm feeling NONE of those negative emotions. As a person, I just get excited and passionate about certain subjects (equality and debunking stereotypical insinuations for example) easily, and it sucks that I can't freely express myself in these situations.
By staying quiet or by not calling out on the prejudice, we're actually feeding into the stereotypes and allowing them to propagate.
"You can't please everyone, you can't be liked by everyone. If you do, you're not making a change." - Sheryl Sandberg
I hope when I'm put in or witnessing situations of female stereotype - or any stereotypes - I have the gut to speak up, and point out these errors, even if it means coming across "fierce".
Feminism, equality for the sexes, whatever it is you want to call it, I believe we should all be given opportunities in all arenas equally, regardless of how we look on the outside. It's sad that our world is so visual, and so many of us fall prey to stereotypes, but here's changing the world one step at the time, and i'm starting with the woman in the mirror.
I shall be starting my internship officially next week in a job field i've never really had the experience. Although i'm slightly nervous of what can happen, I'm most definitely extremely excited to learn, and to contribute. Naturally, I decided to note down my excitement (and also to share some photos) in the form of this post!
A New Industry
I've never really done any thing like what i'd be doing and I think many fellow interns face the same situation, where the whole industry is quite foreign to me, I'm honestly happy to have the chance to branch out of my comfort zone and try something different. Something very business and finance centric, something i'd only spend 10 or 20% of my undergraduate education learning about. I guess excitement comes when you're faced with something different!
Feeling Like An Adult
I'm excited to make some money (not much but still) I'm excited to be a part of a big corporation, and I'm both anxious, and thrilled to start working and feeling like an adult. There something about having responsibilities, and being a part of a team, and growing that gives me such a sense of empowerment.
Internships, much like university feels like safe space. A time and space for one to learn and adapt, to absorb as much as one can. The reason why I think internship provides safe learning opportunities is because well, as an intern, you're at the bottom of the chain. Your mistakes though might have consequences, don't parallel that of a full-time employee. Moreover, you'll probably have a ton of guidance from people who have worked in the industry for quite some time. It's indeed exciting to learn and be guided by people who are experts or well versed in their field!
My previous internship in Paris was something I saw as a whole learning living abroad experience, this time round as i'm a couple of months from graduating, doing well at the internship mean securing a job opportunity, and boy that is something. Im sure excited to see if I fit the company, and if i'd love working there in the future!
Meeting New People
I like meeting new people. And call me weird, but a part of me likes the anxiety that comes with being the new girl, and not knowing anyone at a certain place. Sort of like an opportunity for re-invention i'd say, y'know clean slate, ground zero. Its exciting to meet other interns from other schools, to meet the bosses, to experience what it is like to work in such a multi-national corporation.
I wonder if i'd have horror stories like some of my friends. I sure hope not. Nevertheless, I'm excited to see what this summer has for me, and how much I can learn about myself and the company through this internship!
These outfit shots were taken when I filmed my Workwear lookbook with outfit ideas for what to wear to office internship, to work and even for interviews. Check the video out here!
Out of steam. Thats pretty much how i've been feeling of late.
I no longer have the same stamina to study hours and hours like I did in the first 2 years of uni/college. Or the way i'd study day and night for A levels.
Now i'm at the stage where, the problem isn't even procrastination, it's just... the lack of steam. Any body with me?
IS THIS A SIGN OF OLD AGE?
As i'm preparing for my last undergraduate final examinations (I have already taken 2 post-grad papers, and have 1 undergraduate paper left this semester) I realised certain things that have been happening signalling the sign of old age, or maybe that i'm just so done with studying for exams.
1. I feel like my brain stops functioning past 10pm.
I use to study till at least 2am everyday. And my study day begins at 9 am. As of now, although I wake up at 7 or 8am, I pretty much can't stay awake past 10pm. Like clock strikes 10, I think, ok bed time.
2. I can't study for hours at a go.
I never used to need many breaks, I mean, apart from the occasional Instagram checks or youtube checks, but now, damn, I find myself re-reading the same line again and again after hour 2 of studying kicks in.
Is it the distraction or is it... the brain? This is frightening.
3. My back aches from sitting on a chair.
So does my butt. I practically need a cushion chair. What is this.
WHY. WHAT. IM NOT THAT OLD. WAIT AM I? :(
Didn't I use to be able to study in most conditions?
4. I don't accustom to the air-conditioning that well.
I sneeze. I get cold, put on a jacket then get warm. I sneeze again.
Sneezing. I think this only happens to me, I think my nose gets extra sensitive as the years go by. Damn you sinus.
5. I WORRY.
I worry when i'm not studying, i worry when i'm studying. I'm more of a worrier in general. I worry if i'll get employed after my masters, I worry about the job market, I worry if i'll get a job I like. So many worries so little time.
My mum tells me I waste time worrying. She's probably right. But i'm pretty sure this worrying "spirit" stems from me getting older. I never used to worry that much. I worry way more now that graduation is near. Well, the whole what i'm worrying about can be a blog post for another time.
I know this sounds super whiny, like I'm giving myself excuses. But no, this is just some things I've been noticing while preparing for my FINAL undergraduate finals. I'm pretty sure people can relate, especially if you're graduating soon or in your last few semester at university or college.
In all honesty, I believe in hard work, and in finding a way to do well, even if circumstances are less than ideal, so, that being said, I'm done with my short break, and its back to studying for this one last paper.
Liberation is near, and I seriously can't wait!
1 May 2016
O H A N A
Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.
After the passing of my maternal and paternal grandfathers (end of 2014 and mid last year), Lunar new year celebrations took a turn this year.
In the past, we used to visit our grandaunts and granduncles on the first day of the Lunar New Year, and then our cousins on the 2nd. We went together as a family. It was my favourite part of the Lunar New Year celebrations (even more so than the money received in red packets!)
But as my grandaunts, granduncles, and recent grandfathers passed on due to age (may they rest in peace), and moved on to a better place, we probably will no longer do that.
When there is a passing in the family, we don't really go visiting during the festive period as superstitiously, it could mean bringing people bad luck. Still, the Lunar New Year has always been a time where my cousins and I buy new clothes, dress up, take photographs, have meals as a WHOLE BIG FAMILY (think over 20 people in one living room) and visit together as a convoy.
This year, everything changed.
At my paternal side, we visited each others houses, despite not getting to visit anyone outside my immediate family. Of course, we'd never pass up a chance to go to each other's houses since it happens only once a year.
At my maternal side, I got to meet my 2nd cousins after a couple of years (I see them only during this time of the year) and it was nice to get to speak to them even if it was for that couple of minutes. We ended off the 2-day holiday with a nice meal at my oldest aunt's house. ALWAYS A TREAT.
We also got to take photos as my uncle is really REALLY into photography and has a studio in his house. WHATTT?! I KNOW.
On the down side, I quarrelled with my sister and mom. Which was pretty nasty while it lasted but blew over the next day.
I feel like a part of me is being taken away with these changing traditions, my siblings and I all agree. It makes sense that this change hits us hard, I mean, we've been doing these routines every year for our whole lives. We lived for the Lunar New Year! Alas, all good things come to an end. And, a page turns, we're no longer kids, we're becoming the adults now (adults never really liked the Lunar New Year from I sense lol!)
Regardless of the changing traditions, not being able to go visiting and move from house to house like I used to remember as a child, not getting the same Lunar New Year high when it approaches, missing important people that use to make this festive time so memorable, I realised that everyone, is still one big family.
I love seeing my cousins during the new year, spending hours with them going from one house to another, but all these may change. What I know won't change is our love for each other, and that we'll always be family. Because nobody will be forgotten or left behind.
& If you're interested, here are some other things I got up to in January!
15 February 2016
I did a personal post talking about the concept of Impossible, and not letting someone else define your potential, if you need a little motivation.
Today's is probably going to be little bit deeper, a little more closer to my heart, and not all that motivating (you can probably tell from the title).
The Day I Broke (IN PUBLIC)
The other day, I was having a leadership training session in school with the rest of my course mates (I'm in a really small course) and we were talking about our personal vision in life. Before we had to share it with our own group, we had a one to one session with our partners (mine was a good friend who wasn't in my group) and the purpose was to share what we thought our biggest failure in life was. I started telling her about how I feel as though I'm still stuck in my failure.
Long story short, I slogged really hard for my grades and academics since the age of 15. Did well for O levels (GCSEs) and A levels, had always wanted to do something design related, but because of the whole asian society, decided to try out for medicine, didn't get in, got into a couple of good schools for architecture and landscape architecture - locally and abroad, didn't get a scholarship, and got offered this course I am in now with a scholarship. I never wanted to do engineering, but because of the scholarship, and because I had some insane need to accomplish something after doing well for A levels, took up the course and here I am.
For the first 2 years of University/college, I struggled. I refused to hang out with my course mates, because I felt as though they never understood me. And more importantly, I felt inferior whenever I was around them. I still do. Which is ridiculous.
Im in the process of convincing myself that they don't actually think I'm dumb, a bimbo, worthless, or a person that will never succeed.
Here I was, highly interested in the creative industry and arts, and having to slog it out for an engineering and business related degree. I do decently well in uni, but to get the grades I have, I have to put in so much more, obviously, because I have no interest in the things I'm learning. I really dislike engineering, I breathe a sigh of relieve after every semester, dread every engineering class during, and Thank God for every single time I do ok.
No doubt being on a scholarship has saved SO MUCH agony with finance and brought me all around the world, but I was never happy, I was always depressed.
Regardless of my grades. An A+ never made me happy. But a B would ruin me, and i'd think I was going to end up no where. Unsuccessful.
So, back to the leadership session, We were talking about our goals, strengths and weaknesses. I started to share how I wish i was more self assured, and less affected by the fact that I would appear stupid in front of my classmates, because of my interest - you can tell, its fashion, art, creating things, and inspiring people - not something that sits well with an elitist engineering cohort and a room of aspiring corporate high flyers. And at that moment when I said
"sometimes I feel my classmates think I'm stupid",the mentor/facilitator for our group (a successful investment banker) asked "why". And i lost it.
Because that scene, where that group of classmates - who had no clue who I was, no clue of my past, no clue about my life - all staring at me, was exactly the reason why I felt stupid.
I felt stupid for thinking that they thought I was stupid. Why would they? Why should I care? Do they even?!
But I know there will be people who think I wouldn't accomplish much in life because I wasn't interested in the things they were, or because I still had no clue of how to get to where I want to in life. And because I don't have the same goals they do.
A Little Bit About The Past
When I was younger, I had to always deal with being the dumber one. I did the worst in Primary school among my friends, and always had hell from my teachers for sucking at mandarin. My YOUNGER sister was always smarter, she had incredible grades, ALWAYS doing better at every exam, every stage of her life. I was always "the pretty one" and she, "the smart one". My own parents admit / tell me that she is more intelligent, and somehow I accepted it. Of course I don't feel less compared to her now, because of my academic accomplishments post 15 years old. But being told you're "the pretty one" and not "the smart one" does have its repercussions, evidently.
I was never the smart one because I was never really interested in science, and Singapore, was a very science oriented country academic wise - like many other asian societies.
So there I was, after having worked so hard to fit society's idea of smart. To get a first, to try and keep my first (God knows how I'm going to be able to do that, well I have 1 final sem to get through), and yet still feeling as stupid as I was at the age of 13. Except, when I was sketching different dresses at 13 I felt some form of accomplishment.
Anyway, The session ended of well, I had a chat with some other of my closer friends (and then went home to ask my mum if i was gonna be a failure and talked to her for another 2 hours) and basically realised that, being a fish out of water, and not fitting in to the stereotype of an engineering student or a business student or a science student, DOES NOT MAKE ME A DUMB OR STUPID PERSON.
Being a fish out of water is just being in the wrong place, and it does not make you stupid, or any less than those around you.
You just need to find the right place for yourself.
Alas, here I am, with a moderate idea of where I want to head, and realising that a) not all who wander are lost, and b) If you don't know your final destination, you can't possibly be lost (thank you to that senior who shared that).
That does NOT make me unsuccessful.
I should be proud of whatever i've accomplished. I should be proud of sticking it through when the going gets tough. And more importantly I should be proud of (almost) finishing with this degree that I don't like, and doing pretty decent.
Not fitting in does not mean I have nothing to be proud of (thanks for telling me that mum) and not fitting in does not mean i'll end up no where. In fact it means i'll end up somewhere, because when I find the place I'd fit in, i'll thrive even more. And I will keep searching, and keep going until the day I find THAT PLACE. The place where my contributions will be appreciated, the place i'll excel in, the place I'll feel proud for being a part of.
That was one hell of a long post, and i'm pretty sure lot of people out there can relate - if they manage to get through all that text. Regardless, this is a reminder to myself, and to the people who like me, feel stupid or less because they don't fit in.
"If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success."Pictures were from the National Gallery Singapore and more can be found in this video.
- John D. Rockefeller