Lack of Privacy

Daily Thoughts

In the digital age, the question of privacy seems to be ever changing, as large corporations have an increasing amount of information on individuals. Reading Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier, was eye opening and makes you ask a lot of questions in regards to privacy, technology and social media. However, Social media is a tool and a platform, and it comes down to how we are using it, and what we are using it for. In a sense, surveillance is not simply the cameras on the street or in the shop, but in our daily spaces.

Direct, personalised and targeted marketing is increasing, as algorithms are able to track what we have viewed, searched, liked, shared and purchased. Someone dear to me mentioned the book 1984, which I am currently reading and find it really interesting. However, at the time it seemed unlikely that it may occur, that Big Brother would be watching a person’s every move, but it seems that it’s the reality today. On one hand, we can decide what we want to share, and on the other hand, whatever information is searched, posted and clicked online is always recorded. The sense of mystery in ones life is not as apparent.

Art by Kate Pugsley

Less is More

Daily Thoughts

The words we speak to ourselves have power. They are like a seed planted in our heart, and the more we water it with good words, the stronger we grow. There is so much beauty in every day. Even when there’s rain pouring down, and the days are cold, there is always something to be grateful for. It’s often those small, simple things that give us the greatest amusement. A sparrow taking a bath, a little snail slowly making its way on the path and the Tui singing on the Kowhai tree. Yet, we live in a fast paced society that encourages to live with the want of more.

Reading the article from Womankind, it really reflects the importance of living slowly. In one excerpt it reads “Happiness has been associated with the commercial – ads telling us that we will be happier if we have lots of nice things, if we are wealthy and powerful.” It continues saying “After 40 years of studying happiness and its causes, Norberg-Hodge is convinced that true human happiness comes from being part of a small, tight-knit community […] So part of the key to happiness is to feel connected to other people and to nature.”

Observing when technology wasn’t so prevalent in our lives, the sense of focus and attention on our surroundings and environment was much more pronounced. Growing up, there was a connection with nature and being out in the grass, trees, rocks, sand and water. Lying on the deck, and watching the milky way and all the stars in the sky. The only kind of clear night you can see in the countryside. There is so much beauty around us. We miss out on a lot of things, if we draw too much of our attention and time on our screens or on superficial things.

Gratitude There is so much to be thankful for every single day. Food, water, sunshine, rain, clothes, family, shelter, books, nature, health. When we are grateful, truly grateful from our heart, we realise there is so much that we have. The lack of gratitude, ties in with the feeling of always needing to fill ourselves up with something. It can create an empty feeling. It can make us compare in ways that are detrimental, rather than helpful or beneficial. Gratitude makes us more calm, kinder and loving.

Relationships Friendships are quality over quantity. We can know a lot of people, but to have those close friends that we can wholeheartedly trust and be ourselves around are precious. The ones where we can be there for one another in times of need, lift each other up, be honest yet non-judgmental, allow one another to grow and enjoy new experiences with. Nurturing our relationships with ourselves and with others can give our lives more purpose. It connects us with one another.

Materials We live in a consumer society, and are encouraged to constantly purchase something new. There is no amount of materials in the world that can buy true happiness. We are sold a lifestyle and an image of happiness, that is said to be attainable through certain products. However, these are all temporary, instant gratifications that are not a guarantee of long-term satisfaction. Our value as a person is not dictated by the type of car we drive, or how big our house is. Many of us have more than we need.

Words The words we speak to ourselves have power, as I previously mentioned. How we talk to ourselves, is the truth we feed our heart and mind. Speaking words of love and kindness, means that you can also spread the love towards those around you. It means thinking before you speak, being wise in what you express and being considerate and empathetic of people. We can so often fill our minds with endless noise and words that serve no purpose, and lies can creep in that try to pull us down. One simple kind affirmation repeated can really be food for the soul.

Phone The moment I leave my phone at home, or make a conscious effort to not check it for a period of time, it creates a space where interruptions and distractions cannot occur. Productivity rises, and there is a more prolonged focus and flow in the task. Phones have become such a prevalent part of our lives, that virtually anywhere we are, there is bound to be a phone present. However, it’s important to minimise, moderate and maintain a balance in our use of technology in order to enjoy other activities, and be present.

Living slowly The Minimalists always share really thoughtful insights, and the article on More is Less? I love the part where they say “Owning less stuff, focusing on fewer tasks, and having less in the way has given us more time, more freedom, and more meaning in our lives. Working less allows us to contribute more, grow more, and pursue our passions much more. Having more time causes less frustration and less stress, more freedom adds less anxiety and less worry, and more meaning in our lives allows us to focus far less on life’s excess in favor of what’s truly important. So, more is less? Yes, more or less.

Life is enjoyed when we are present and we can take a step back to soak in the moment and enjoy the scenery.

Art by Yelena Bryksenkova

How To Live With Less In A Consumer Culture

Daily Thoughts

We are all consumers in one way or another. Whether that may be in materials, books, films, art, food, electricity, water, social media, news, internet, advertisements and so on. However, how much and how often we consume things over another varies depending on our behaviour, habits, lifestyle, interests and so forth. The power of marketing and advertising is immense. When I browse thrift stores in an ocean of clothes, the reality sinks in that there are always clothes being bought and then being given to thrift stores.

I strive to live by the philosophy and mentality that less is more. As we live in a consumer culture, we are encouraged to buy more, even when we have more than enough. Advertising sells us a lifestyle, status, and identity. In terms of clothing, it is one of the top polluters in the world. If we consume less, we also lessen our carbon footprint, and we contribute less waste towards the earth. However, the power of advertising covers it with the glamour of a certain lifestyle. But, the truth is, we don’t need a lot to be happy.

Fill your spaces with love and purpose. Living with less means only having what you will use for many years. Advertising tells us that we are lacking this or that in our lives and that we need to fill spaces with materials that will make us feel better. However, many of us have more than we need.

Buy good quality materials. If you buy good quality clothing, then you give it longevity. Many things can last a long time. As I was mentioning about thrift shopping above, there are many clothes I try on and I feel that they are still very good quality. But, the fast fashion industry is constantly moving in and out with trends that are having a heavy impact on the environment.

Money and materials cannot buy true happiness. I had a conversation with my father a few months ago, and he said 外表不是重點. It means that our outer appearances are not the main part of who we are. Consumer culture means that we spend so much money on appearances.

Borrow more books. I must say that if I had my own house, I’d love to be able to fill it up with shelves of books. However, as someone who is always moving suitcases to somewhere every year or so, the library has been a blessing. I remember having to donate dozens of books over the years as they can take up a significant amount of space.

Thoughts on gifts. In all honesty, I’m the sort of person that prefers not being given a gift, unless it’s something I will really use. Vice versa, I prefer giving a gift that I feel the person is likely to use. I was joking with my sister the other day, that if over the years people just gave me money for the cost of the gift they gave me, I could have bought a new computer. Which sounds bad, but many gifts end up sitting there.

Saving money. If you are saving up for something, whether that be a car or a house, you can save money from the smallest things. For example, if you like to drink a cup of coffee everyday. You could start making your own at home everyday, and perhaps in one year you could save 365 x $3.50 = $1,277.50.

Do it for yourself and for the planet. Consumerism really costs the Earth. The more we buy, the more that is disposed of, and the more rubbish we create in the world. An example would be consuming less meat and dairy. Where we spend our money, is essentially who we are supporting.

Living with less is not only in materials. In a consumer culture, we are told we need more friends, more money, more travel and so on. The focus is on having a better future, but it’s important to embrace the present and be grateful for everything you have. Often, money and materials in advertising focus too much on ourselves. Someone could be wealthy but spends their time and money to help with people, education or the environment. Living with less reminds us of what’s important.

What is my intention for buying this? I used to have handbags that end up only getting worn a few times during the year, whereas my black handbag would be worn every day. My trainers and school backpack are worn almost every single day. I know that minimalism may not be for everyone, but it’s really helped in having a clearer mind and appreciate what I already have.

What are some of your tips for buying less?

I highly recommend reading the article A Helpful Guide to Overcoming Consumerism

Art by Yelena Bryksenkova

What You Focus On Is How You Will Feel

Daily Thoughts

I was reading a book by Dr. Libby, and I feel like she always has so much wisdom to share. It really resonated with me, when she wrote “What we focus on is what we feel.” There is so much truth to this, and it makes me think about how powerful our thoughts are. We manifest our reality through our thoughts, energy, and actions. A Beautiful and powerful article by Dr. Libby here on self love. In the article, Dr. Libby writes:

Remember that what we focus on is what we feel. Which is simply to say that if we constantly focus on our perceived flaws, of course it’s going to stir up feelings of lousiness because we will never measure up to our own expectations. It will also likely drive us to continue patterns of behaviour, such as unresourceful eating, that continue to confirm how we feel about ourselves. 

The excerpt above made me think of when I had such a strong focus on how I didn’t feel good enough in my body. At the time, I felt physically weak and tired as I wasn’t eating enough, and from not getting enough energy from healthy wholesome foods, my thoughts would spiral into a tunnel of negative thoughts about my body image. However, once the focus was on being healthy and enjoying life, I ate healthier and had a positive attitude and a feeling of gratitude towards my body.

Comparison is the thief of joy. We are all beautifully made in our own way. Everyone is walking on their own journey. No one is supposed to be like the person beside them. Social Media is not real in the sense that no one is smiling all the time, and truly no one is perfect no matter what it looks like. We all ride through the roller-coaster of ups and downs in this thing called life. You are truly beautiful, intelligent, smart and kind in your own way. You don’t need anyone to tell you that, because you just are. You are enough.

Art by Rachael Dean

Social Media And Seeing The World Through Filters

Daily Thoughts

friends_3When you think back to when you were a child, what do you remember? I think of the moments where I could crouch down and stare at a snail with so much curiosity, and it would be exciting and intriguing. The trail of ants as they strongly lift food back home or the hours spent outdoors reading on the grass, lying under the trees, sinking my toes into the sand and going for bushwalks. There are days where I feel that Social Media, particularly Instagram, can be toxic rather than beneficial. I like sharing moments that made me feel happy, but I do think Instagram can be superficial at times, and I think it’s because photos tend to be more carefully taken, rather than the spontaneous childhood photos. I’ve felt the desire to delete my Instagram many times this year.

Privacy. Too much of anything is not healthy. It’s finding a sense of balance. As someone who cherishes their privacy, it’s important in finding that balance on what one chooses to share. I was reading an article from the National Geographic February 2018 Issue on surveillance. Now that we all hold a camera in the palm of our hands, and we are surrounded by cameras around us, on the street, in the store and perhaps in moments, we don’t realise. It may be a person watching us, or a camera we are not aware of. The frequency we use apps and post and share content, the more data we are giving away about ourselves.

Numbers. Our self-worth does not come from a number. This is something I struggled with for a very long time in regards to my weight. It doesn’t matter how tall, how much you earn, how many followers you have, how many likes, how many views, how many friends you have, how much you weigh… Your value in life comes from within. There is no external factor that can take over what is in your heart and mind. If we put our value and self-worth through others validation, we will never be happy. Your happiness ultimately comes from within. A person could be poor but be abundantly happy because they live a rich life through their relationships. A person could be rich in materials, but lack meaningful relationships in their life.

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Family and friends. The truth is, the majority of the time, I mostly share photos with my close friends and family. They are the ones I’ll be talking to on the phone and spending time messaging. When I think about Instagram, I think about how it’s not necessary for me to share certain aspects, but I think it’s having the ability to choose what we post. Which is why Instagram is ultimately just a snapshot, and we cannot judge a person solely from a snapshot. However, it’s interesting how with family, we don’t really need to think twice about what we send. At least I know I don’t.

Perfection, mental health, and body image. Social Media is not a reality. I think this is important to remember. I think what I want to express is that it is only a snapshot, a second of a moment, a glimpse and sometimes a filter to be perceived a certain way. Many feeds on Instagram can look perfect and I’ve found one of the most damaging aspects is the admiration of people solely for their appearances, rather than their personality and their abilities. I really want to put it bluntly, because I think Instagram has been one of the apps that often causes many people to put physical appearances more highly, rather than intelligence, abilities, talents and so forth.

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Focusing on what’s important. I read a profound sentence the other day, which said: “What you focus on is how you will feel”. These words resonated so strongly because I think about any time I start feeling those emotions of anxiety, worry, and fear, it often comes from where my focus is. It may be to do with something in the future or something out of my control. Whereas, when the focus is on what I can change and I’m present, then that’s where feelings of motivation, positivity, and creativity come. I think the sentence also relates to how you spend your time is essentially the life that you create for yourself.

The good and the bad. Social Media is great for keeping in touch with family and friends. Messenger, Wechat, Line, and Whatsapp are the apps that I use for messaging, as well as the occasional emailing and texting. I remember when MSN chat was also popular. You can share moments, read the news, stay updated and keep in touch no matter where you are in the world. The online world can be very noisy at times, and it’s good to spend time offline with the phone switched off and out of reach. There have been many times I’ve almost shared something, and even written the caption, but then I realized, I just want to keep that special memory to myself.

Art by Eri Kamei

Opening Up About Not Feeling Skinny Enough

Personal

I feel a little scared to write this. I was around twelve when I started weighing myself on the scales. I ran in the morning before school, and straight after school when I got home. I drank a lot of water and I ate as much as I liked because my metabolism was a skyrocket. When I left home at sixteen, I developed signs of an eating disorder. I would skip meals, exercise a lot, eat slowly, document what I was eating, weigh myself several times a day, obsess over my BMI and drink a lot of water to feel full. I had depression, anxiety and a fear of gaining weight.

When you grow up with people telling you that you’re skinny and that it’s said as a compliment, there is this pressure that stays inside your mind to maintain that body image. However, now that I’m in my twenties, my body is naturally changing. My metabolism isn’t what it used to be, and I feel more aware of eating healthy and having an active lifestyle. The beauty standard in Asia is to be very petite, but our bodies are all made differently. After many years of struggling with my weight, I feel the healthiest and happiest now. Surround yourself with people who love and support you, do the things that you enjoy and feed your mind with positive words.

There are days where I still struggle, but I know it’s not my true self. The true voice in myself says that your self-worth comes from who you are as a person, and it has nothing to do with the number on the scales. I don’t want to be defined by my weight, but by what I can bring into the world. The title really speaks about my teenage years. In the past, I went through a period where I was feeling a lot of hatred towards myself. I felt not worthy, and there was an overwhelming amount of worry and fear taking over my life. I felt like even though I was stressed, I could control my weight and what I ate. It’s not healthy, because then you end up neglecting your body.

I was 18 when I was living in Sydney in 2015, and it was a time where I really struggled with my body image. I remember gymming more and watching what I was eating. There was fear and insecurity during that period of my life. I felt incredibly lost. My anxiety was crippling at that time, and I really isolated myself. I was regularly going to the doctor and the hospital, and had a lot of health issues. When it comes to eating, I used to feel quite conscious at times when eating a meal in front of people, unless it’s those I’m very close to.

Our bodies are beautiful, sacred, precious and wonderful things that keep us moving, breathing and living life. I do think that it can be damaging if one compliments too much on a persons body size. When you grow up from a child being told that you’re so skinny and that it’s said as a compliment, it’s something that can really stay entrenched in your mind as you grow older. I know that my value lies in my heart, yet there are days where I stare in the mirror and feel a sudden fear of gaining any weight. It all starts in the mind. A persons weight can fluctuate when dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression.

Everyone has insecurities. We all have something inside and out that we’re conscious of. When I think about where I was previously, it was during a period where I was unhappy, and I felt like I wasn’t skinny enough (which was when I was the lightest). I rarely ate in the dining area in a previous flat a few years ago, because I literally didn’t want my flatmates to see me eating. It’s really been this year, where I’ve felt safe in eating in the dining area. It seems like something so small, but it’s a huge change. Since leaving home, there have been periods where I didn’t eat well. When I had feelings of stress, I felt like I didn’t have any appetite.

We often don’t emphasize it enough, but your health is truly your wealth. Without your health, you wouldn’t be able to wake up and conquer the day. You wouldn’t be able to experience this beautiful life. When I didn’t have a healthy mind, it started to affect my body and I felt weak, unmotivated and a loss of energy. It was during that time where I suffered from panic attacks and had very deep depression. Our thoughts are so powerful. When I started being more present, thinking positively and accepting myself as I am, I really felt set free from the cage I’d built inside my mind.

I’ve read so many stories about those who showed warning signs of anorexia, and during those periods where they were the lowest weight, was when they were the unhappiest. Being skinny won’t make you happy. It’s embracing where you are, right here, right now. Accepting yourself as you are. Being grateful for everything that your body has done for you. Being thankful for good health and waking up to a new day. Treating yourself with kindness, love and positive self-talk. I am at the healthiest weight this year. I feel the most energy and happiness this year.

There were feelings of not being good enough. After really surrounding myself with amazing people and being kinder to myself, I feel an overwhelming sense of peace. If you can’t love yourself first, how will you attract the right people into your life? Our life experiences can affect us deeply in how we see the world. But, I really think that we can all heal from hurt, even when it seems impossible. It’s really the simple things in life that give us the greatest joy. We have to come from a place of not judging others because everyone has and is going through something. It’s easy to see things on the surface and believe what we see. The most healing comes from the periods of silence. I really believe that time heals.

One of the biggest blessings is surrounding yourself with people who are uplifting, encouraging, motivating, positive and caring. They bring the best out of you. The people we surround ourselves with are important. Our bodies are a blessing. It’s important to refrain from commenting on someone’s body. I can’t emphasize how much it can have an impact on them. I really believe we have to remind ourselves that we are enough as we are. We truly live in such a visual world. People will constantly judge others based on their appearances, and it’s inescapable that the first impression we have of someone often comes from their physical appearances. But, we have to go beyond the surface and remember that every person we care about, we couldn’t care less about what they look like. I really hope if you are on a journey of healing and having a healthy relationship with your body, that you will realize how beautifully made you are.

When you go through a stressful period in your life or a hard season, know that there are people who care about you. I know that when I went through depression, I often felt like nobody cared and that there wasn’t a way out. But, there are so many people who love you, and often the first step is reaching out to others. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to talk about these things. Those who matter in our lives, are the ones who won’t judge you for your experiences. When I’m reminding myself of what’s important in life, I like to think of the words from The Little Prince: Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. If you are reading this and going through a hard time, know that wherever you are in your life you are enough.

Articles:

Why it’s not Always Smart to Lead with a Physical Compliment

What an eating disorder IS and ISN’T

Top 4 Things Recovery Has Taught Me

We Are Afraid Of Showing Vulnerability

Daily Thoughts

I was sitting in a tutorial last week, and my dear friend said something that was so gold and rang with so much truth. We were supposed to be having a class discussion about social media dating, but it somehow led to social media, friendship and uni life. I raised my hand and said, “I feel like it’s hard to make friends at uni sometimes because I’ve had experiences of introducing myself to other people, just being friendly and I get the feeling that they’re not interested, that they think they’re too cool for this.” It raises the thoughts about how we make friends now, how we interact with people and self-presentation of having everything ‘together’ online. The people I’ve got to know more and felt blessed to meet at uni, have been the ones where we weren’t afraid to be vulnerable and weren’t afraid to open up. Friendship is about being able to open ourselves up, and show that we don’t have it all together, and that’s okay.

My friend said that there are a lot of people who are scared to be vulnerable. There are lots of people who are trying to show that they don’t need to make new friends because they’re not lonely and they’ve got their own group of friends already. The idea of appearing cool and seeming like you have it all together is so much more common than we know. When I used to read the UOA meaningful confession page, there were so many people that talked about feeling lonely, talked about feeling lost and talked about the difficulty of making friends at uni. Showing sensitivity, vulnerability, and emotions are strangely often thought of as weaknesses. Ultimately, they give us the greatest connection and strength with people. However, we live in a society that hides behind a wall of expressing our emotions. I truly think this is why mental health, from anxiety and depression, are affecting more and more young people.

Growing up, I rarely said ‘I love you’ to my parents. An aspect that may play in part to this, is that generally speaking, in Chinese culture, we don’t tend to express those feelings. The love tends to be shown through one’s actions. It wasn’t until my parents separated, and after I left home that I would always make sure to say ‘I love you’ before saying goodbye. I read here, that Any strength that lies outside of vulnerability is a façade built by fear. There is so much truth to that because the true strength one expresses comes from the heart. It is honest and doesn’t hide behind a wall. What we think in our mind, is the reality we create and the world that we see. Every person is a sensitive being.

There is this gentle reminder, that everyone is going through or has been through their own hurt, their own battles, their own weaknesses and their own seasons of ups and downs. Coming back to Social Media, I do find that it’s easy to build an image of happiness. However, in reality, we all have things that we need the courage and faith to open up about. Nobody is perfect, no matter what it seems. More than ever, I think Social Media can sometimes be a reflection of the fears that we have. The feeling of not belonging, the fear of rejection and the need to be accepted. We may deny it, but this goes back to when I said about it being hard sometimes to make friends at uni. When my dear friend sat beside me, she was plucking up the courage, even if that meant the risk of rejection. I’m grateful because she’s one of my closest friends.

I think we always have to take a risk because it could lead to something great. If it doesn’t, at least you tried and didn’t wonder what if? You have to know in your heart, that you are good enough, you are beautiful enough, you are intelligent enough without the need for external validation. As sensitive souls, we are constantly interacting with people every day, and the thing that divides us from others is if we think they are against us. If we fear judgment then we may end up judging the person, or closing ourselves off from them. It can be hard, but if we learn to gradually open up our hearts, that is when we build true connections.

When you are vulnerable, you are embracing the ability to be your true self.

Art by Yelena Bryksenkova

Adventures In Wellington

Daily Thoughts

helenI arrived back from Wellington last night, and I felt an overwhelming sense of love and happiness. I don’t get to see my family often, and so I feel very grateful when I can. My sister and I were watching this short video that talked about how one sustains longevity and good health. The three things they said were important include: healthy social life, active lifestyle and eating a predominantly vegetarian diet. They also mentioned having some red wine. Relationships are so important in our lives. They are ultimately what give our lives purpose and meaning, as the connection we build with one another feeds our heart.

Auckland and Wellington / Growing up in Auckland and after living in Sydney, there are definitely some similarities and naturally differences. However, whenever I’ve visited Wellington, I always feel like it has a homely feeling, a place to embrace your creativity and the ease of meeting people and making new friends. Whereas in Auckland, I’ve found that there isn’t a sense of that openness, although it may also be because it’s a big city with many people. Perhaps it’s the corporate feeling that Auckland and Sydney give, but then again that’s why it’s good to explore the secret corners of cities and realise that every city has its own special touch.

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Acceptance and Stories / It’s not easy to talk about certain topics with people in our everyday lives, and that’s why having those close to you where you can talk about anything is so valuable. I think the reason why it’s not always easy, is because we live in a time where people are always going to disagree on some things. I watched a Netflix video called Nanette with Hannah Gadsby, and it nearly made me cry. It was touching, emotional and eye-opening. The stories we all hold are what ultimately connects us together. She talks about mental health, LGBTQ issues, gender and art history.

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Media representation / After watching Crazy Rich Asians my head was filled with so many thoughts and I may or may not have shed some tears. I feel like when you grew up as an Asian in a Western country, you’re never quite completely seen as one or the other. When I’m in Taiwan, most people will sense that I’m a foreigner in my mannerisms and the way I speak. When I’m in New Zealand, I will always be questioned about my ethnicity through my physical identity. I hope in ten years time that the word ‘Asian’ and ‘Black’ won’t need to be in the title of films and that it would just be a natural and normal thing to have an all Asian or an all Black cast.

In an article from Variety, it says “It’s an experience many Asian-Americans, like myself, know well. Like Rachel in the film, I’ve been accused of being a “banana” — yellow on the outside, white on the inside — a pejorative assigned to Asian-Americans who have lost touch with their roots.” I was often called a banana growing up, and when I think back to it, sadly I wasn’t fully in touch with my Chinese culture. When I was younger and went back to Taiwan, there were some things that gave me a culture shock or I didn’t quite understand why it’s done this or that way. The term banana makes me think of the term assimilation. Yet, I think it’s simply important to embrace yourself for who you are, regardless of what your accent sounds like or what you look like.

In Chinese culture, there is a desire to have harmony. This is why a lot of racism is tolerated and hidden under the covers. But, we have to speak up when it’s most crucial and we must educate and tell people when they are prejudicing, being hurtful, making assumptions and falling for stereotypes. I know that many parents who moved to New Zealand, have had to work really hard to build the path and raise their children in a new country. When I look at New Zealand’s media, it’s still predominantly white, even though we live in a multicultural society. I really hope that there will be more and more diversity in the media and that we can hear from all kinds of voices.

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Growing up as a Kiwi Asian / I was reading this article here while waiting at the boarding area at the Wellington airport. I say this often, but when we don’t experience something ourselves, we can often not see or understand the other person completely. If we open our hearts and learn to hear others stories, we can judge less and realise that every person is going through their own journey. I grew up eating Chinese food, with the occasional pasta or roast. I grew up reading Chinese books, going to Saturday Chinese classes, watching Chinese cartoons and when I first learned English as a child, it took a while to fully grasp the definition of certain words. This opened my love for reading because I became curious about learning new words.

Growing up in the countryside meant that there weren’t many Asians. In the article Rose writes “It provokes strange reactions in us, to be almost invisible in the stories we read.” This is incredibly true in the sense that growing up I rarely was exposed to literature that made me feel I could relate to completely. Like Rose, I grew up reading Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah. However, there always felt a lack of writing that was relatable to one’s own experience. When Rose talked about being at school, she says “At school I manufactured a clear divide between me and Chinese students in the International Students Block…I took this as a sign of my successful integration. I was Chinese, but I wasn’t Chinese Chinese.”

I made friends with others Kiwis and didn’t have any close Asian friends growing up. When I was in college, there was this feeling of not being able to completely relate to being a Taiwanese. Which was perhaps why I didn’t make friends with any of the Chinese international students at the time. Now that I’m older, I embrace my Chinese culture after neglecting it as a child and as a teenager. When I go back to Taiwan, I feel this deep appreciation for Chinese culture. The beautiful language, the rich history, the traditions and the stories people have to share. Rose writes “Before I spent time in China, I had never missed it. I hadn’t known what to miss … As I understood what being Chinese meant to me, I cast off a shame that had started so young that I never realised I was carrying it around.” 

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I relate to this article in many ways, and how as I am older, I feel proud of my background. Sadly, growing up being bullied for being Asian influenced my neglect of the culture. We change mindsets when we have conversations and raise awareness. The last excerpt I want to share by Rose reads “I want more narratives that don’t come from Pākehā-centric worldviews. I want to hear about the different experiences of being Asian in Auckland, Invercargill and Hawera. I want to know where the model minority stereotype falls flat, I want to know how East Asian privilege affects brown Asians. And most importantly, I want to read about things that I don’t know the existence of yet.” I think that the more we share out stories through conversations, the more we can all be understanding of one another.

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Bridging the gap / This audio clip from 95bfm talks about bridging the gap between New Zealand and Chinese international students. It’s a topic that’s incredibly important because often culture and language can create a divide, that stops international students and New Zealanders from being able to connect and become friends. I’ve been going to the Wednesday meet up that is mentioned, and it’s been a really great experience. It’s good to be encouraging and help others with their English. I think of my parents and other parents that moved to New Zealand from China and Taiwan, and how they had to build their path while learning English. Language can make us feel a sense of belonging, and ultimately a sense of connection.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BnTRoc0B03c/?taken-by=katiekuo96

Azure’s Cat Helen

Growing Up As An Asian In New Zealand

Daily Thoughts

Everyone has different experiences growing up, and we have a diverse mixture of cultures in New Zealand. A little background about me is that I was born and raised in New Zealand, and spent most of my life living by the beach, on the farm and now in the city. I consider Auckland a country town, which means that it is still considered a small city (or I like to call it a big little city) with a diverse amount of people and cultures. This is more of a ramble of spontaneous thoughts.

I have had funny experiences of being mistaken for another Asian person. Last year, I had a lovely coworker who worked different shifts. A customer came in and said “You made my coffee yesterday,” and I was a bit confused, and said that I hadn’t worked that day. Then I realised it was my other coworker, who happens to be Asian even though we don’t look alike. This was amusing. This used to happen regularly in my high school Maths class, when the teacher would call me by the Japanese boy’s name who was in the same class.

When I was interviewed by a Fine Arts student for her project, I was asked if I felt more Taiwanese or Kiwi. At first, it was a difficult question to answer on the spot. We had an interesting discussion about living in New Zealand as an Asian, and the experiences that can come with it. I feel a mixture of both. Growing up in New Zealand I never saw many Asians in advertising or media. It was mostly when I watched Taiwanese television or Chinese films. I do feel that this is gradually changing more now, and it’s good that there are more brands that are reaching a wider audience, but I do hope there will be even more increasing diversity in the media.

Growing up, there was the occasional casual racism and stereotypes about Asians. Most of the time, it simply comes from a place of ignorance and not understanding different cultures. Although, most of the time they were expressed in a joking way, and I used to just laugh a long at school, even though it’d get quite repetitive from hearing the same thing. Growing up, most of my friends were Caucasian, as there weren’t as many Asians in the small town I grew up in. There isn’t as many people who love cute things, at least not so common for those who are in their 20’s. It’s so normal in Asia.

There are times where I like to let people guess what my background is, as it always tends to come with a lot of interesting guesses. Everything from Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Singaporean, Japanese, Korean, Laos, Filipino, Malaysian, Chinese and Indonesian. I feel extremely grateful to have grown up eating a lot of delicious Chinese and Taiwanese dishes, as well as Western food. It’s amazing how much food can bring so much nostalgia.

It’s far more relaxed in New Zealand, and I’m grateful for it when I think about my experience of education. In Asia, studying and working can become stressful and the lifestyle is not like the one in New Zealand. An important advice is to retain your mother tongue, never lose it, because English can be taught at school and picked up, so there really isn’t any need to teach it at home. From personal experience, I only speak Mandarin at home, and when I started going to primary school I picked up English very quickly. Language is an important part of your culture, and if you are an Asian Kiwi, embracing your mother tongue and the English language can really strengthen that bond.

I went through a period of my teenage years where I didn’t fully embrace my Asian side, and it’s something that at the time was a form of conformity in a way. However, I really embrace my Taiwanese/Chinese side now. I grew up learning Mandarin first, and was very quiet when I started going to school. We would go to Chinese school every Saturday. When I was younger, my lunch box food would be filled with red bean buns, fried rice, dumplings and other asian foods with different smells. You will always (inescapably) be asked the question “Where are you from?” although I don’t get asked very often now.

I was placed into ESOL (English for Speakers Of Other Languages), when I was 8 or 9. Thinking back, I can understand it because I was extremely shy and quiet, which can be a quick assumption that I didn’t know any English. Being one of the only Asians at school, I faced my first lessons looking at images of animals. I was no longer in ESOL after that first lesson haha. As an Asian brought up in a Western country, I didn’t feel fully Asian for a significant part of my teen years. It’s difficult to express that feeling.

When I visited guest’s homes, I was surprised as a young girl that some people wore shoes inside the house. It’s a custom in Taiwan (and many other Asian cultures) to provide slippers for guests. In many Asian cultures, we call our elders Auntie or Uncle as a sign of respect. It is extremely rare to call an elder by their first name. Respecting the elders is heavily taught from a young age. Another thing I learned was how high my tolerance for spicy food was. I grew up in a household where at least one or two dishes each night would have spices in them.

Having subtitles on was a huge habit from a young age. It was because my parents did it ever since they arrived in New Zealand, and that was one of the ways they learned English. I remember sleeping over at a friends house, and before bed time she would always say “I love you” to her Mum. As a teenager, it felt strange to me, because (as some people may be able to relate), in Asian culture many people are less likely to say I love you to their parents. However, after being long distance from my parents for so many years now, I always say it!

One thing I wish to tell people is to treat everyone how you’d like to be treated. Also, the importance of not making assumptions. Be respectful of different cultures, even if you cannot understand why people do things a certain way. Travelling is important, because seeing different parts of the world and absorbing different cultures allows you to open your eyes. I truly feel so grateful to be able to grow up with two cultures, that have intertwined in a way in my life that has made it colourful and exciting. We are all people who live in this beautiful country. A New Zealander is someone who lives here and feels at home. That’s the most simple way I can put it.

My Journey And Relationship With Food

Personal

I was watching the video below by It’s Jcanana. I could relate to what she was saying, and it made me think of my own journey with food. As it’s something so personal, it’s easy for other’s to think from the outside “Why should you be self conscious, you’re quite slim.” I really wanted to write this for a long time, and over the years I’d written a few drafts and always ended up not posting them. However, I feel that it’s the right time to write it out. Growing up, I often heard the similar words of, you should eat more and you’re so skinny. I feel that it’s not a compliment, and shouldn’t be, and sometimes it was said that way and other time’s it was said unkindly. It gave me a certain pressure to sustain the weight I was, even though I was in my early teens.

I remember going to markets or clothing stores, and older ladies telling me that the clothes are more likely to fit me than them. I ate very healthily growing up while I was at home, but at the same time I exercised a lot. I woke up every morning before school to go for a run, and every afternoon after school. I drank a lot of water, and generally lived a healthy lifestyle. However, in that aspect I was wanting to be fitter, but I was also wanting to maintain my weight, while still eating as much as I wanted to. It was when I left home at 16 when I became more preoccupied with my weight and body image. I went through a difficult time during 2013 where I hit rock bottom, and I fell into depression. I rarely ate a lot at the uni hall I lived at, and often didn’t have dinner.

When I lived at the hall, I’d buy cereal from the supermarket, and just eat those. I was going to the gym and exercising more, but following my second year, I was eating more, but I ate a lot of oats and often just had that for dinner. When I moved to Sydney for two years, I lost the most weight that I had since my first year at uni. I’d always eaten mostly vegetarian, but it was during this time I decided to go fully vegetarian. However, it made me lose a lot of energy and affected my mood. Now, after doing a lot of research over the years, I eat mainly vegetarian. Last year I cooked a lot for myself, but I really do think the environment we’re in can greatly affect our mood. At the time I wasn’t so happy where I was, but this year is definitely the most happiest I’ve felt in my environment and in my lifestyle.

Last year I went through a period of time where I ate far too much sweets, as I was going through a period of time where I felt stressed. I think it’s so important to eat when you’re hungry, and never deprive yourself. Be in a positive environment, live a healthy lifestyle and gradually change your mindset towards your body through self talk. Self love allows us to nourish our mind, body and soul. It can be frustrating when people assume you aren’t healthy if you’re slim, if you happen to have a small meal you can be judged from it and being pointed out about certain body parts. One of the best changes I’ve made is being with people who are uplifting, and those who don’t focus on the outward appearances.

When you eat a healthy filling breakfast, it can really set the start of the day with a burst of energy. Don’t limit what you eat, but just eat until you are 80% full. We should try to judge less what someone’s body image is, and most of all ourselves. Most of us would never tell a friend that they should be skinnier, because we’d only wish that they are happy and healthy. That is why it’s important to be kinder, because often we can be the most hardest on ourselves. When I went through a period of time where my focus was so set on being at a certain weight, it was an unhealthy pattern and the cycle would continue, but I wouldn’t be truly happy.

Being skinny doesn’t make you happy. It’s the life you choose to live, making a delicious meal, surrounding yourself with positive people and the simple things that give us the greatest joy. We live in a judgmental and superficial society, and so there will always be people who will point out other’s appearances, compare themselves or judge them from the way they look. Our most beautiful self is in our mind and soul, and that kind of beauty takes time to discover from a person. The best that we can do is to be the best person we can be, and focus on living a good life. What is your relationship like with food? How has it changed over the years?