I searched and couldn’t find the perfect love, so I’ll look for everlasting instead…
*image source: Bonnie Tsang
I searched and couldn’t find the perfect love, so I’ll look for everlasting instead…
*image source: Bonnie Tsang
I really truly appreciate and love the friends that are in my life right now – some old and some new ones. Recently, with a chance of (or perhaps it was finally time) releasing an old resentment that took up large part of my inner world, I found myself wide open for new knowledge, discoveries and love. I can’t even explain all the magical things that have been happening to me. Most importantly, through all that, I have a group of friends that allow me to question, to share and to discuss from career to everything spiritual.
Often times, people would ask how I become friends with such amazing group of people. I never really have a clear answer for it, but I am a true believer of being genuine with good intention, have faith, just let things happen naturally and the right people will come along. We are close because we value the idea of helping and supporting each other more than anything and that’s important in order to grow together.
I hope you have a group of friends that are there to support you too!
*image source: my Instagram
It’s been a week since I returned from this year’s SXSW. I had such a wonderful time speaking on a panel with Suzanne Schloot of Kate Spade and Natanya Anderson of Whole Foods Market, hosted by Jean Schneidnes of Neiman Marcus.
Sharing my personal story:
I must admit, public speaking is something I have avoided for most of my life. As an artist, I want my creativity to be heard and seen, but at the same time I want to be away from the spotlight. However, I’m at a stage where I consciously desire to remove old habits and face old fears. So, I said yes to the opportunity. For about a month before the panel date I was struggling so much. I struggled with, of course, fighting the fear of public speaking. I struggled with turning my daily creative process into words (Why do I Instagram my breakfast? I don’t know!). And then I struggled with the urge of self-sabotage (the good old “Oh, I’m not good enough.”). Thankfully, I’m surrounded by friends that understood my fear and they believe in me so much. That alone, knowing you’re loved, gives power to courage. Thanks to Joy, Bri, Jen, Sally, Brett and Joel for being there, means so much. Sorry to sound like I’m making an Oscar speech, but I just have to give hugs to Michael, Joanna and Jacki of The Soil & The Sun as well. As nervous as I was and as crazy as the scenes were, the time spent on those Austin streets with the three of them was magical. And then a chance to have my very first Austin’s breakfast burrito with Tyler of Handsome Coffee Roaster an hour before the panel was just amazing. I mean, you can’t beat eating breakfast, drinking coffee and listening to a successful business owner sharing his personal stories. Last person to thank: Thank you, sis, for secretly being part of the audience! xo
On Visual Voice:
Our panel’s topic was Visual Voice: Branding on Photo Networks. So what is “visual voice”? Here’s a good recap of what we covered and some “live” tweets for little snippets. I was on the panel, but I learned so much about social media from the corporate point of view. Here, I’ll share my point of view as an artist, a personal brand. First of all, with everything you do you should get to know yourself first. You can’t sell yourself without knowing what you’re all about. Have the courage to be your true self, then streamline your work, your personal style, your pins, your Instagram… everything should make sense together. With that, brands and clients with similar esthetic will approach you. Keep in mind though, when you shift your brand you’ll most likely lose some followers, but that’s ok because you’re losing those (sadly) that you can’t connect with anyway. Having a clear identity and personality will help set you apart. Of course, there are other factors too, such as talent and hard work.
I know that social media doesn’t quite work with all personalities, but it works for me. I like to express myself visually, I enjoy documenting life and beautiful people and things, so visual networks are perfect for me. Find something that works for you, if you share your creative outlet people will respond. I think being an artist nowadays is a fortunate thing because we can take advantage of social media and broadcasting our work is a lot easier and faster.
*image source: my Instagram
About two or three years ago, I made a point to always make time for myself. It was difficult in the beginning because 1) the society has conditioned us to think that if we’re not busy then we’re lazy, 2) I’m a workaholic and 3) I didn’t know what to do with myself. At first, I’d take short breaks – leave the desk for lunch, stop by a bookstore or 30 minutes walk by the beach… Now I just pick a day or two out of the week and not work. I’ll be honest, even typing this makes me feel guilty. What would my clients think?! However, I learn to let that negative feeling go fairly quickly because I know, in the end, the break from work will be beneficial to me personally and professionally. It’s good to go out, get some fresh air, see some friends, talk about things that bother you, hear different perspectives and feel energized again. I often tell myself this: Even superheroes feel defeated and need to rest sometimes.
image source: Bonnie Tsang’s Instagram
I’m writing this on my birthday eve. So many thoughts going through my mind that I can’t sleep. I normally don’t care much for my own birthday, but maybe because this year is 12/12/12 and also the last year being in the thirties, I’m a little emotional (?). Looking back, in the past nine years I got married, have a baby, divorced, found the love of my life, took a leap of faith and became a photographer, lost the love of my life, lost myself, then found myself… I must say, as tough as it was, the best time of my life (so far) has to be my thirties.
I got divorced when Miss V was about 2 years old. Being a stay-at-home mom with no income, I got myself in a serious financial situation. Credit card companies were calling and collection agencies were sending threatening letters, it was a frightening. Just as everything seemed to be so bad, something good was happening – I met a person and he became one of the very important persons in my life. While I was at one of my lowest points in life, he was there to guide me and to encourage me. Eventually, I stepped out of my fear and went back to the world to look for a job. Things were slowly back on track, but as a single mom and my parents being close to retire I realized a regular 9-5 admin job wouldn’t be enough to provide for the family. At that time I thought, “Well, I love photography, my friends said I’m good at it, so maybe I can do that on weekends as a side job?” And that’s what I did. My boyfriend at the time was very encouraging, he bought me my first camera bag, a camera strap that I was dying to have (things I didn’t have the money for) and he helped me with several weddings. I had so much drive at that time, I would say yes to every job, I was out meeting and networking with all kinds of people. I looked at other people’s success and I just wanted to be up there with them, not realized heading upward meant some people in my life that I loved dearly weren’t enjoying the ride with me.
I had assumed that the person who was there for me when I was so vulnerable would also be there when I was going after success. Problems started rising, arguments were increasing, and eventually the relationship collapsed. I made a really really tough decision, between Miss V, my career and him, I chose to let go of him. I planted myself so deep into the relationship that when I pulled myself out I had also completely lost myself. I didn’t anticipate such deep depression and so much pain. I started questioning if I did the right thing to let go, if maybe I gave up the fight too soon. I also questioned who I was as a photographer and why I didn’t like my own work. It was a very confusing time. In the morning I’d have to act normal because I had family and a business to tend to, but by night I was drowned in sorrow. The pain… was unbearable. I can honestly say that I fully understand why some people choose to end their lives (not that I ever thought of taking my life) because when the soul is in so much pain, death became nothing.
For many days and months I just let myself fall and broke into pieces. I didn’t fight the pain, I didn’t let go of the thoughts about him, I didn’t stop questioning about what I want to be as an artist, I just kept falling and falling. Just when I felt I was completely hollow, that’s when magical things were happening. Without any intentions, I started meeting new friends that guided me the right way, I’d get jobs in New York that forced me to face the fear of being alone and really learned not to rely on others, I’d be photographing weddings and saw with my own eyes what true love is like. Slowly and slowly, I picked up my broken self. I picked up parts of me that were “positive” and let go of the parts that were “negative”, which means I had to cut off a lot of things and people that were taking my attention away from myself. I had a lot of holes in me (still do), but I had very strong intention to fill them up with positive things. This process took more than two hard years with constant battle between the heart and the ego.
Tonight, on my very special 12/12/12 birthday eve, I am feeling emotional because I know I come a long way to get here. I can’t say I’ve fully rebuilt myself, but I know what I want and where I want to go are getting clearer. I learned so much in the past 2-3 years, which I wish I can share everything I in details. The guidance and teachings from all the people I encountered, with some eventually became my closest friends, will always be with me. To those that wrote and expressed they’re going through tough times, please remember that nothing last. Challenges, difficulties, pain and sorrow… they’ll eventually go away. Don’t give up on yourself.
People often asked me, “How do you balance your life?” To be honest, I don’t think about it. I try my best to be there for my family, my friends and myself, but I don’t think there’s a set formula like 1 + 1 = 2. Sometimes you have to ask yourself, “Do I really want balance? Or is it just another challenge I’m giving myself?” Because when you’re so focus on the “issue” – either to solve it or fix it or get rid of it, you end up not putting focus on the people that are involved, which is your family, friends and *you*.
This past Sunday, I left home for a business trip. I didn’t return home until late last night, my daughter was deep asleep already. This morning, she and I woke up early, we hugged, exchanged gifts and chatted a bit in bed. A short side note about the gifts: I made a suggestion that every time I’m away for work she and I would prepare a gift for each other. She usually would make me drawings or some cute crafts, while I would look for something small that represents the city I’d work at. We got up, I looked over her homework and she told me little stories here and there about school and friends. While she was having breakfast I was reading news, check Twitter and Instagram, quickly went through email, deleted or filed the ones I didn’t need to pay attention to and saved the ones that need my reply for later the day. On some other mornings, I would meditate and stay away from news media and social networks to detox my mind. After kid was dropped off to school, I came home, sat down, put my phone aside, eyes away from the computer and listened to my mom talked about everything she wanted to share. About 30 to 40 some minutes later, she and I made breakfast and by 10am I officially started my work day. For today, most likely I’ll work til 5pm. After that I’ll help my daughter with homework and studying, then dinner, then she goes play and I play too (Pinterest, browsing the internet, read magazines, etc.), then it’s bedtime story and we’ll hit the bed by 9pm.
My days are usually pretty calm, I try not to let stress take over. Of course, there are days when I am in so much stress that I’d have to tell my daughter, “I’m sorry, I have a matter to take care of right now, but give me a moment and I’ll give you my attention.” But that’s normal, that’s life, that’s what makes it fun. The reason I shared with you a typical day of mine is to show you that’s how I balance my life – I give attention to my family first, but in return that’s part of giving myself attention too. We feel unbalanced because we let our ego, our work, fear of business competitors, fear of failing and everything negative get into our lives. If we live consciously everyday by letting go negative feelings, focus on the feelings of your loved ones, focus on what you need (without the egotistic mind), create a schedule that fulfills you (personally and professionally) which includes times with everyone in the family, then things will become easy. I’ve found my balance and I know you can too.
- My daughter’s drawing of a lady warrior. Army strong, my friends! -
Someone once told me this: At the circus, a baby elephant is chained around its leg and the other end of the chain is tied to a metal stake on the ground. The chain and peg are strong enough for the baby elephant. As the baby elephant grows bigger and becomes an adult, it still believes that a simple chain and peg can stop him from running. Even though, the truth is, the elephant is strong enough to break and run free from the chain.
This story taught me a lot – how we chain ourselves to our parent’s believes, our own believes, and even other people’s believes. I recently read a book of an author’s memoir about an Italy road trip he did. It fascinated me! But someone said to me, “Don’t even think about it, you have a kid now and there’s no way you can do such a thing.” Now, I can either believe in what that person said and give up the thought or I can believe in myself that, even with a kid, I can do it.
The story is also a great reminder to myself, as a parent, that what I believe in doesn’t necessarily has to be my daughter’s. Other than teaching her right or wrong, I do my best to let her explore and experience life the way she wants. I wish she can always stay true to herself as she’s growing up.