It is the start of February 2021 and I thought it might be worth sharing an update with you all about my wedding planning journey, since the last time I posted.
In brief, we did not end up having a small ceremony as the city we live in was plunged into further lockdown restrictions for a total of 3 months. Our friends and family sent us beautiful gifts on what would have been our wedding day though, and for a good 2 weeks our house was filled with bouquets of flowers, chocolates, gourmet hampers of wine and cheese and snacks. We also received a video with messages from friends and family, which we watched multiple times.
…and 8 days before what would have been our wedding day, I actually got admitted as a lawyer officially in court! It happened virtually on paper so I did not get to wear my navy suit and Gucci brooch and stand up and nod in front of a judge, and as I recall now, it was a rather long day at work. But at the end of that day, I remember taking a moment to just sit and absorb the fact that I officially became a lawyer, before I got married and before I turned 30. It was truly a milestone.
Anyway, back to the wedding. We have started planning again, and right now we are waiting for the Save-the-Date cards to arrive in the mail so we can start wax stamping and posting these out. I ended up collecting my dress from the bridal store with one of my work friends who also helped me find a veil (and in case you’re wondering, it is fingertip length!). My artificial floral bouquets also arrived and it is sitting safely in the wardrobe along with our wedding rings and other wedding bits and bobs. Our hotel venue opened just before Christmas last year so we managed to stay there and do a venue tour. I also booked our wedding stylist as a planner, so now I have an extra pair of capable hands sharing the planning load which is great.
As for the details, we have changed wedding favours from little red gift bags filled with lollies to mandarin and rose flavoured tea cookies. Our cocktail hour will be in a ballroom (I never thought to have a ballroom wedding). Oh and one of my bridesmaids lost so much weight as part of a health kick that we now need to find her another dress!
So, after all that and with COVID still hanging around like an unwanted visitor who will never seem to leave the house, the wedding planning train is back in motion. This time the whole process feels lighter, maybe because we are less anxious and fearful of the outcome. 7 months to go now, I’ll keep you all updated.
I am writing this in the middle of July in 2020. My bridal store called me today and excitedly left a voicemail saying that my beautiful wedding gown had finally arrived after 5 months in the making.
I didn’t call back. In fact, as I thought about heading into the store to collect my wedding gown post lockdown, I felt a sense of dread in thinking about the uncertainty surrounding the future of all weddings in the COVID-19 environment.
My fiance and I had already made the decision to postpone our September wedding reception back in May, when restrictions were starting to ease and things were looking to be heading back to normal…well whatever “normal” was going to look like post-COVID. Realising that it may not be safe to attempt to plan an indoor gathering of 160 people in the year of COVID, we made the difficult yet practical decision to postpone our wedding reception until 2021. Friends and family were supportive, and many agreed with how sensible the decision was.
In June, with restrictions easing even more and restaurants and gyms starting to open up again, we decided to start planning a small ceremony so that we could still get married in September. Then just as things were starting to look up, so did a new wave of COVID-19 cases. All of a sudden, the entire city was plunged back into lockdown again for 6 whole weeks.
Defeated. Deflated. Disappointed. These were some of the words my Instagram network used to describe how they were feeling with the introduction of Lockdown 2.0. None of us had fathomed that we would be back in lockdown again so soon. It was as though Spring was in the air, and flowers had started to blossom, only for a blistering cold front to blow through, destroy all the flowers and remind us that make no mistake, we are still very much deep in the middle of Winter.
So here we are, 2 of 6 weeks into Lockdown 2.0. The cases are still rising, and there is just as much uncertainty about the future as we have ever tried to cope with (well, to date anyway). Weddings are back to 5 people only, and our venue, a global hotel chain, has still yet to decide whether they want to re-open this year.
There is no book to tell me what will happen next, no syllabus to help me find a way forward. Whilst my legal training has taught me to read widely and consider various points of view in order to map out my own way forward, the situation that we find ourselves in now across the globe is, as they say, “unprecedented”. So much so that we cannot help keep using that word even though it does not help us feel any better. Like many brides out there trying to plan a wedding during a Pandemic, I feel that I am simply blindly hoping that we will make it through Lockdown 2.0 by the end of 6 weeks, and have restrictions ease again to allow for a small wedding ceremony.
I wanted to write today to capture this feeling. This sense of trying to find hope when we simply cannot see what the future holds. Collectively we will survive through this, as the statistics show that majority of people do recover from the virus, and history has shown us that previous Pandemics do stop eventually. But right now we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel, so we may as well be planning a wedding in absolute darkness.
Some of my friends have commented on how calm I seem in the midst of remaining flexible with our wedding plans. Maybe one day I will look back and fully realise how tumultuous this time was for us all, and especially for brides. But for now, all I can do is stay calm, stay hopeful and keep planning.
It is currently day 38 of self-isolation / quarantine life for me, here in Australia. Collectively across the country, we have started to flatten the curve and mentally we are adjusting to a new normal of doing everything around the house.
Yesterday, I read an article talking about survey results of the average Australian during COVID-19. It noted, very broadly, that many of us may continue some of the lifestyle habits formed during this pandemic even when we have reached ‘the other side’. This includes more frequent hand-washing and sanitising the home, having a stockpile of essential items at home and spending less money.
Whether we like it or not, the pandemic has definitely changed the way we think and live our lives, and when normality is restored, that normality will be different to the one we had originally envisioned. This led me to think – does a pandemic stop us from living a life of fantasy and pursuing far-reaching goals? In effect, does it stop us from chasing our dreams?
I pose this question because I am part of the dream-chasing generation. A millennial who grew up believing that I can have anything that I want in life, as long as I am willing to pursue it and work for it. An obstacle, such as a pandemic that originated from the other side of the world, would have never crossed my mind as something that would hinder my ability to chase my dreams. But now, it feels that things will be different.
I will use one of my own dreams as an example to illustrate this difference, and that dream is to be a side-hustle entrepreneur. When I use to think about the possibilities of starting a new side-hustle business, the obstacles I foresaw were things like “which platform should I tap into in order to best reach my target market? Is my market saturated, and is what I want to do enough to stand out from the competition? How much money do I need to start this business and can I do this on the side of my job? What about my career progressions, can I have a side-hustle whilst going for promotion in my job at the same time? Will I have enough time for everything when I also want to start a family in the near future??”
Now with COVID-19, my projected obstacles are more akin to this: “how secure is my job in the foreseeable future and post-pandemic? Can I sustain the lifestyle I have been living? Can I still start a business when there is mass unemployment, and people are not in the mood to buy anything other than the basics and the essential? Should I pause any plans until the world has gotten a handle of how we are all going to collectively move forward? How will I and my loved ones move on from this? What are our lives going to look like post-pandemic? What can I do differently today to enable a somewhat smooth transition out of all this?”
Even from this simple example, I can see that my thought pattern has changed. My questions are more grounded, and my thought process is more about job security and stability in life. I can hear the optimists saying “this will pass, it is just another hurdle that we are navigating in life”, but there is just that small part of me that wants to hold back and think “let’s just pause, and wait and see. Maybe this or that will no longer be possible”.
I am not entirely happy about these thoughts, in fact it feels strangely adult to be so practical about wanting to pursue my goals. But maybe this is how my parents or my grandparents (who grew up in poverty) felt when they were younger – that chasing a dream is not something that can be readily realised, and that many factors beyond your own control will influence your ability to chase your dreams. This is a sobering realisation, for a millennial like me. It feels incredibly strange.
Anyhow, I don’t think the pandemic will fully stop us chasing our dreams, but will our dreams look different after the pandemic? Absolutely. As much as we want to go back to the “normal” that we once had before the pandemic, the reality is we are forever changed, collectively, by this experience. Like the many Australians who will carry-forward some of the habits that we formed during this pandemic, our dreams and the steps we take in pursuit of those dreams, will also be changed.
Who knows, maybe this change will be for the better. Maybe we will take more time to map out our plans, and think through the impact of our actions on our own lives as well as on Mother Earth. Maybe we will be more patient, and prepare more back up plans for when things unexpectedly change due to factors beyond our own control. We will wait and see, and in the meantime, I will keep thinking about how to chase my dreams, post-Pandemic.
*This post was originally published on my previous blog, Kaleidoscope of Fashion
How I became a virtual travel guide in Melbourne
I’m one of those Melbournians who are super proud of our beautiful city. Even though we were recently knocked off our mantel of being the “most liveable city in the world“, there is still so much to love about Melbourne.
So when online community-based travel guide Cool Cousins expanded to Melbourne last year, I signed on to be part of the Cool Cousins community.
What is “Cool Cousin”?
Cool Cousin is basically an online community of locals sharing their individual travel guides for their favourite things to do and places to go to in their home city. The travel guide is designed to feel like you’re travelling through a city with a “cool cousin”, so the guides are casual, fun and a little bit quirky.
Each “cousin” also shares a map of their favourite to-dos which makes it easy for you to follow along and plan your day.
The process of becoming a Cool Cousin took a bit longer than I expected. Why? Because the team at Cool Cousin is super dedicated to offering an insightful experience to the users of the travel guides, so there was a lot of information to be completed upfront in order for the team to create your profile page. Most of the work involved answering questions about what you like to do, where you like to go, what is there to see etc.
Once the profile is up and running, you can also plot your favourite places on your personal map, along with details about food and drink recommendations at your favourite restaurants, and even the best time of day to go to a particular place.
Then comes the best part – a photoshoot with a professional photographer!
The last part in completing your travel guide is a photoshoot around the city. To do this, Cool Cousin paired me up with a local photographer. My photographer was Roberta, a former business analyst at Apple who quit the corporate world to pursue her passions in photography. She now shoots weddings and portraits in Melbourne. You can find more of her work at www.photosbyroberta.com.
The shoot is estimated to take about 1-2 hours but realistically, this timeline is only achievable if you are super prepared. Realistically, I would recommend a 3-4 hour buffer to factor in time for location-planning, outfit changes, food breaks (because posing for photos is surprisingly tiring) and travel between locations.
The travel guide:
My photos were processed pretty quickly but it took a while for the actual travel guide to be up and running. I got an email once the travel guide was live, and it was super exciting to see it all come to fruition!
If you want to check out my travel guide of Melbourne, feel free to head over to Cool Cousin and find me here. I am also updating my guide periodically based on new places that I’m constantly finding around Melbourne.
Here with my photographer Roberta. I’m so grateful to have met her through the Cool Cousin shoot. We had such a great time on the day that we ended up having lunch together and hanging out for the rest of the day! After recently catching up for a double date with our other halves, we are now planning another shoot together (so stay tuned!).
*This post was originally published on my previous blog, Kaleidoscope of Fashion
It is Australia Day long weekend here in Melbourne. Summer is in full swing, the tennis grand finals are on and there is so much to do, see, eat and indulge in.
Of course, a long weekend also means lots of time with my favourite social media app – Instagram. I am unashamedly an avid user of Instagram, tapping the little purple/orange icon about 5-10 times a day, on average. This is a lot more than how much attention I give to Facebook (about 3 x taps a day) and Twitter (about 1 tap a month unless there’s something really big happening like The Bachelor finale).
But lately I have found myself feeling increasingly frustrated with Instagram, especially due to:
1. What it does with the content I post; and
2. What kind of content I get to see on my feed.
The Instagram algorithm – in a nutshell
Many of you have no doubt noticed that Instagram brought out it’s little algorithm feature sometime last year, with the hope of providing users with more “tailored” content. In a nutshell (according to buffer social), the algorithm works off a number of elements, including your hashtags, number of likes and comments, relevance of the content and timing of your post to prioritise and rank your post. The aim is to show content to readers who are more likely to be interested in that content. Thus, a curation of content is already done for you every time you scroll through your feed, and you can spend less time on content that may not be relevant to you, and more time being connected to content that you are actually likely to be interested in. Sounds like a pretty nifty idea!
I think the algorithm hates me as much as I hate it
Perhaps my biggest gripe with Instagram algorithm is that instead of connecting users with relevant content, the algorithm is taking people away from content that they are interested in. To better illustrate this, let me take you through a few numbers.
Before the days of Instagram algorithm, I did a back-of-the-envelope calc on some of my favourite power bloggers and noticed that about 5% of your total number of followers are likely to engage with your post. That is, if you have 100,000 followers, approximately 5,000 of those followers will like/comment on your post, provided that your post is in line with your branding (e.g. a fashion post linked to a fashion account).
A more recent back-of-the-envelope calc performed in January 2018 shows that this % of engagement has dropped to about 1% – 2% per post. That is, out of the 100,000 followers, only 1,000 to 2,000 of those followers are liking/commenting on your post.
Since my Instagram presence is still so tiny, I would be stoked if I had 100,000 followers or even just 1,000 likes on a single post (still yet to hit that record). But the numbers above just seems quite counter-intuitive to me, given that the algorithm was designed to connect readers to content that they are more likely to be interested in. If it was really working, shouldn’t bloggers be seeing an increase in their engagement per post, because their content should be reaching a bigger % of people who are likely to be interested in their content?
Unfortunately, even as a tiny blogger in the Instagram universe I am experiencing this adverse side-effect of the Instagram algorithm. I am finding it difficult to get my content to a broader group, no matter how many strategic hashtags I use. The only thing that seems to help is if I post consecutively for a few days, then suddenly it’s like the Instagram gods have decided to recognise my existence and put my post in front of a few more people. But then when I go back to life/my day job and haven’t produced any content for about a week, the algorithm ignores me again.
It’s almost like a dysfunctional co-dependent relationship, “does it like me today? will it still like me tomorrow? how do I get it to like my content again?!”
But sometimes I do get tired of seeing posts from the same accounts day in day out, because the algorithm works off my “likes” and thinks that if I liked what I saw today, I will like something from the same account tomorrow, or the same for the day after that. But the human mind is a fickle being, and as a millennial with my short attention span, I want variety and lots of it.
So I go to the Explore page, and am then bombarded with really random content like videos of cute puppies, posts from wedding inspo accounts, posts from other fashion bloggers that I’m not following yet and photos of girls showing off in bikinis. Those first 3 categories I’m totally cool with, but that last category often has me pulling a “bleh” face. Some of those posts are very plasti-cky and really the result of nips/tucks rather than mother nature and good old exercise. Other posts can be quite inappropriate. Clearly, Instagram algorithm thinks it has me figured out, when it really hasn’t. There’s still room for improvement!
Some of my favourite Instagram feeds:
Can we outsmart the Instagram algorithm?
The short answer is, YES! But it takes time, or as a seasoned instagrammer describes, a little bit of elbow grease. Actually, until I started researching for this post, I didn’t realise how many other bloggers (big and small) were facing similar frustrations with Instagram algorithm, and the unexpected barrier that it has created for their ability to engage with their audience.
There are plenty of interesting reads from bloggers from various levels sharing their experience (see for example: icingandglitter who used the algorithm as an opportunity to embrace change, chrislovesjulia who offers pragmatic tips for reflecting on your own instagram behaviour and fashionlush who is adopting an edgy attitude towards beating the algorithm).
But if you’re like me, an Instagram hobbyist whose day-job does not include posting on Instagram multiple times a day and engaging with followers around the clock, here are my tips on how you can beat the Instagram algorithm (or at least put yourself on its radar):
1. Establish a frequency for posting
Publishing multiple post per week, especially one each day and establishing a consistent pattern of it is, from my experience, an effective way to get yourself back on the algorithm.
But to do this requires planning. Planning out your content, your posting schedule, captions, hashtags etc.
I find an easy way to do this is to pick a theme for my “grid” and work that theme through my 9 to 12 posts within the “grid”. For example, I’ve been into florals lately because we’ve had really lovely sunny weather, so within my 9 to 12 posts, I want at least a quarter of them to be related to something floral.
Alternatively it might be worth looking at Instagram scheduling apps that help you “post” at certain times, as well as plan out your grid and see which posts lead to most engagement. I’ll be trying out one called Plann this month so I am really excited to see how this will impact on my Instagram.
But most of the time, I’m a bit more spontaneous with my posting habits so that it is reflective of real-time activities (but the spontaneity also means that I sometimes compromise on the layout of my grid). It’s all a bit of a balancing act!
2. Become part of the community
At its core, Instagram is about building a community. So the basic principles of integrating yourself into a community will help get you on the radar.
Learn the social norms, find your niche, and start interacting. Leave comments on posts that you like, respond to questions, and if you find content that really inspires you, share the love and express your appreciation!
3. Produce “worthy” content
In a social media world, content is king. This is the part I struggle with the most, as my day job in consulting + my night classes in law school give me very little instagrammable materials so I can only think about content in my spare time, especially on weekends.
But when I do post, I try to make sure that it is worth the effort for both myself and the audience. There is so much clutter on Instagram that generic posts just don’t cut it anymore. I have been tempted at times to just put up something generic for the sake of posting something, and not only do I feel un-inspired in posting generic content, the engagement is very limited as well.
I know it is anxiety-inducing to watch your Instagram sitting there unchanged because you haven’t had time to produce new content but trust me, in looking at my stats for posts with the most engagement, it does pay off to take time and produce content that is worthy of attention.
So here I am making peace with Instagram algorithm, and in the process, learning about how to produce better content and managing my posting schedule.
What do you think about Instagram algorithm? Love it/hate it?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments box below!
*This post was originally published on my previous blog, Kaleidoscope of Fashion
Lately I find that I have been drawn to this photo from my Europe archives. Snapped almost 5 years ago to the day, it was a shot that I almost didn’t take.
In my mind I just wanted to hurry through the Musée d’Orsay so that I could get through as many of the museums in Paris that day as possible. Having spent an indulgently long time at the Louvre and seeing Monet at the Musée de l’Orangerie, I was now running behind my self-made schedule.
So I glanced at the time in haste, not seeing the beautiful skyline of the Louvre glimpsing through the windows, not realising that this was the historic and iconic clock face that distinguished this museum from the rest. I can still remember that feeling of pushing against time as I swiftly raised my camera to capture this image. It felt like time was always against me, and that this was just a reminder of that.
How often do we find ourselves at odds with time? How often do we think that there’s just not enough of time, and oh how wonderful it would be if we just had a bit more time?
Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had not paused to take this photo that day. What if I had given in to my inner voice and hurried along? Or conversely, what if I had stayed a bit longer, and took my time to observe this view?
I will never know for sure as time is always moving us forward. I cannot turn back time, and return to that day at that place to take this photo again. But in looking back at this photo, I see a beautiful reflection of time, of the entrancing magic of Paris and the wisdom to be grateful that I did pause here with my camera. At that moment, at that time.
This post was inspired by Ariana Huffington’s reflection on time in her book, Thrive
*This post was originally published on my previous blog, Kaleidoscope of Fashion
We all have those days when there is a research paper to write, the due date is looming not as far away as you had hoped, but oh there are just so many other things that you would rather be doing! Even mundane chores such as cleaning one’s room or doing laundry suddenly become the most interesting tasks in the world compared to working on that research paper!
So here are 5 tips to help you stay on track when you’re trying to motivate yourself to get that paper done.
1. Develop a plan and check in with the plan In tackling a research-based assignments, I find it helpful to break down the research topic into several components which then allows you to develop a plan and set a tentative deadline for each of the different parts of the assignment.
This is probably easier said than done, given that a legal research paper often involves piecing together several different issues to then be unpacked by referring to a volume of legislation, case law, journal articles and books. Still, I find that in mapping out a plan at the start, I can at least see how much time I need each week/day until the due date, and figure out what is the biggest portion of the research paper, which topics require more research than others, etc. It also gives me something to refer back to if I get stuck into the research and realise that I might be running out of time, in which case the plan can help me estimate the extension required for the due date.
Plus, I find that drafting a plan of attack before starting the actual research encourages me to start thinking about the topics earlier on.
2. Block out time in 30 mins increments In both work and study, I have been trying to block out my time in 30 minutes increments in an effort to maximise efficiency, improve concentration and most of all, reduce stress. This is based on the Pomodoro technique (which breaks up time in 25 minutes increments) and Gretchen Rubin’s method of squeezing tasks into 15 minutes increments.
Pomodoro is more proactive in that you take a block of time and carve that into 25 minutes blocks using a timer, and in between each block of 25 minutes, you go and take a short break. Then you take a big break after doing 4 x 25 minutes.
Gretchen Rubin’s method, as described in The Happiness Project, is more reactive in that you work through your day, find that there’s 15 minutes to while away before your next task/engagement, so you utilize those 15 minutes in doing some other task.
Personally I find that 30 minutes is the sweet spot, given that legal research involve lots of reading and sometimes it takes half an hour just to read through a case. It might feel annoying at first because you’ll feel like you have just managed to get your mind stuck into something, and then the alarm goes off and you have to go and take a short break. But, having stuck to this technique in both work and study for a few months, I find that overall it helps to improve my concentration over a longer period of time and makes me feel less stressed and tired at the end of the day.
3. Schedule in mini-meditations Meditation is one of my favourite daily activities, usually reserved for the moments when I wake up and just before I go to sleep. It is a beautiful habit for self-care as well as for consolidating your thoughts and finding peace and quiet in an otherwise overactive mind.
I have recently become addicted to a meditation app called Windy, which has beautiful 3D scenery accompanied by the soothing sounds of flowing water, raindrops on a tent, birds and crickets in the woods. The app also comes with a handy timer function that allows you to set how long you would like to meditate for.
In between my 30 minutes increments, I like to set 5 – 10 minutes meditation breaks in which all I do is sit on the ground and simply focus on my breathing. This helps me to go back to the research paper after the break with a somewhat fresher mind.
4. Give yourself time to think through the issues This one sounds more like a “free pass” for procrastinating, but sometimes it helps to give your brain space to process all of the readings and research by doing something physical such as going for a run, walking around the park or even taking a shower. Whatever activity you choose, make sure it is properly timed so that you’re not taking too much time away from working on the assignment.
5. Think of your future self If all other strategies fail, just think about your future self. Would your future self want to be staying up until 2am the night before a research paper is due in a desperate attempt to write those couple of thousand words, with correct referencing and coherent arguments? Would your future self want to cancel out on social plans or consume energy drinks and junk food for the sake of powering through the assignment ahead of the deadline? Most likely not.
In which case, present self, you need to get to work on that research paper right now. Good luck!