It's been a while, hasn’t it? I remember how much I used to fear the feeling of endlessly talking into a void. Incessant yapping. Empty and dark. Not even an echo. The thought kind of makes me chuckle now ‘cause isn’t it so funny how everything is so straightforward? Our hyper-aware, overthinking brains get so complicated but surprise, surprise; the solution to the void I feared was by filling it with me. I’ve moved beyond the thought of “oh, perhaps one day someone might come across my website!” and have grown comfortable with the thought, “I’ve made this website for me to look back on, to like, to dislike, to criticize, to edit, and to create!” I’ve begun to create for myself, and that’s essentially what I’m here to talk some more about.
I’m about a semester away from graduating and getting my Master’s, which will hopefully be the last diploma in a while. The idea of leaving school is great…it’s wonderful, even. But that means I’m about a semester away from figuring out what I want to do with “the rest of my life.” The rest of my life is, in retrospect, a bit of a far stretch. But when I’ve only ever known school and school and school, the prospect of looking at my own career outside of academia suddenly seemed very real—like, gaping canyon real. Empty, dark void real.
So, I started in a place I knew best; YouTube. Upon watching Damon Dominic’s video on self-help books, I thought, why not try it out? I’ve always been into self-improvement, and although YouTube is a great place to learn, my track record says I learn so much more when I’m immersed in a book. By chance, the only book on his list that I could find for free was The Art of Nonconformity by Chris Guillebeau. I’m still making my way through it as I write. The book is meant to be a light-hearted approach to the big life questions (what is my true purpose? What am I meant to do with my life? What kind of impact could I leave on the world?) And yet, despite the approachable stories and language, it is still a heavy world to step into. There is, of course, the underpinning annoyance with the fact that most of these self-help books are often told in a very masculine and privileged voice, but that’s a huge story for another time. Regardless, it’s heavy ‘cause it meant I was making a promise to step into a realm I had never really fully been to before, at least not like this.
On top of reading, I am also heavily driven by spirituality. Since I had been doing my shadow work, my spirituality has taken the front seat, which hasn’t always been the case. I used to make decisions based on my pragmatic (overthinking) brain and adjust based on intuition later, once discomfort starts trickling in through conflict, tension, and ominous dreams. But my recent tarot readings had all been loud and clear, providing a unified message; I need to let my spirituality lead my decisions because I am at the turn of a new chapter. And it makes absolute sense once you think it through rationally. As I finally leave school, I can no longer remain on autopilot and rely on dreams and aspirations I had built in the midst of puberty and the convoluted process called growing up. I had goals and manifestations before this whole thing started, but I had never actually sat down with myself and fully confronted why I’ve wanted the things I’ve told myself I wanted for so long. Essentially, my brain was on sleepwalking mode, filled with fog that I and others have put in there, so I was going to have to trust a different sense this time around.
It surprised me that most of the things I wanted were merely vague outlines of culminated internalised indoctrinations and expectations of others. When was the last time you did something for yourself, without the advice from or company of others? When was the last time you bought or did something because you simply wanted to, not because it’s a good investment for the future? When was the last time you actually asked yourself what you want to do with the rest of your life, instead of listening to what others tell you you should do? When was the last time you did something just for the sake of doing it, and not to get “better” at something?
I knew that so many of what I thought I wanted were actually just automated responses to fears people instilled in me. I think at my core, I am a creative, a community-helper, a healer, and learner. I want to make art, I want to write, I want to become connected to the people in my communities, I want to travel and learn about other people’s ways of connecting and creating, and I want to grow and reflect for the rest of my life. Yet, when it came to manifesting my “dream life,” I was playing a game of chicken with myself, running around in circles. I would start to get obsessed with numbers, manifesting a certain amount of following so I could get the audience and community I wanted. I started manifesting awards and acknowledgements within the artistic and creative fields I was interested in. But who is it all for? If it is for the “fame” and “fortune” that society tells you to want, I was on the right track. For me? There was not an ounce of me in my manifestations. I was manifesting based on the fears that had been instilled me; not having enough money, not being successful enough to live a comfortable life, not being recognised enough to have my ego satisfied, etc etc etc. Once I locked myself in my room for the whole weekend and wrote everything down with pen and paper, I realised I didn’t want any of the things I had been manifesting at all. In fact, when I am musing outside of societal fear, I actually don’t want many material things at all. Not that material things are bad either. If you want a million dollar mansion then manifest and work towards it! It just wasn’t what I wanted. So why was I manifesting and working towards it?
Then I watched the Social Dilemma on Netflix. Yep, this is where it all goes down hill. I knew it gave everyone an existential crisis, but I doubted this millennial obsession with being “unplugged.” I considered myself to be a curatorial online consumer. I had followed the “rules,” so to speak. I only followed people who inspired me, empowered me, motivated me, and allowed me to learn the knowledge I wasn’t getting in my syllabi. I followed artists, activists, teachers, healers, psychologists, and friends and family that I actually care about. I barely spent over an hour on Instagram everyday. And yet, when I deleted Instagram for the first time, I felt like a piece of my life was retreating back to me. I suddenly felt a little less stress about not having enough time in the day to do my thesis. I felt like I was falling asleep when I was telling myself to fall asleep. I gravitated towards books more often than my phone. And even then, with the little dependency I thought I had, I was still fighting this urge to scratch an itch beneath the skin. Every time I saw a pretty sunset I instantly wanted to put it on my story. I took a nice selfie and immediately started editing the colours of the photo for a post. I worried that one of my friends had been waiting on a DM to be answered while I was away. I began growing nervous about not keeping up to date with recent political events. At some point, I even thought, “well what’s gonna’ happen if I decide that I want to make money off of Instagram?” when I had literally no intention of being an Instagram influencer. Clearly, I was a little more dependent than I thought. And I redownloaded Instagram…like five times. And then I deleted it again. I even noticed that once I deleted Instagram, I started getting lost in other apps just for the sake of scrolling, just as The Social Dilemma had predicted. Suddenly I was back on Tumblr for an hour straight as if I was fourteen again, or I would watch TikToks until over midnight, which I hadn’t done in almost a year. It was grim. At some point, I was refreshing my emails every hour just to find something to do on my phone. Who does that?! It’s no wonder so many of us are sleepwalking, there’s too much noise!
The last straw was watching a video on this guy who deleted social media for a month and began to explore nostalgia through traveling across Portugal without wi-fi and capturing the moments through an analog camera. I had never watched a single video from his channel, but it popped up in my recommended page and it brought me a feeling I hadn’t felt in a very long time. The video instantly brought me back to summer and winter holidays in my oma’s home in Bali while I was growing up. Spending months in a house without internet or a working laptop other than the old PC set up in her office, dedicating a whole week to sitting on the patio with a really thick fantasy book, and only having access to an old Blackberry and a nice polaroid camera to capture my moments with. The guy said something about how, due to technology and the information overload it has caused, we no longer have the space to remember. Because we have so much space to capture things with our phones and social media, our memories are fleeting. They are encapsulated in a few seconds and a few thousand pictures we never filter through anymore. But when we don’t have the ability to capture that many moments at once, it forces us to stay in the moment so that we can engrave it in our minds. His theory is true to my experience with my vacations in Bali. I don’t have many pictures other than the ones my mother took on the family digital camera, but I vividly remember the sound of the birds flying around my grandmother’s home at two in the afternoon, I remember the feeling of hot sand under my feet with the sun throbbing on my shoulders, I remember the smell of sunscreen and chlorinated pools and grilled fish near the ocean. I can conjure these memories and they come to me so quickly and deeply, I’m always a little disoriented when I come back to my present surroundings.
So…what does this have to do with confronting my current self? Intentional living. That’s what’s securing me on my path towards my Higher Self. Kloee Taylor, one of my favourite spiritualists on YouTube talks about how you are always on your path. Even if you somehow find yourself driving down a different road, you were meant to go through it so you can get back on the road you need to be on. Thus, you never actually go “off” your path. Despite some insecurities back in high school, social media has done immense things for me, my growth, and my learning. It had always been a part of my path, and it did great things for it. But now, I’m deleting all of my social media apps not to “focus on being more productive,” I do it so that I can have as much space in my mind to do the things I actually want to do with my life; figuring it out, being reflective, creating, trying, failing, and doing those things with mindful intention to ensure that I am making the most of every single day I get. It’s fine if I re-download the apps six hundred times, but now I have the awareness and sensitivity towards them taking way more space in my brain than I can afford. And it’s also not revolutionary. Growing up traveling, I spent so many months away from my own country, without a local number to get constant wi-fi with. I know this deep reflection and being present on a day to day basis. I do it almost every year. I think it’s also probably why traveling with my family while growing up was always extra magical. So what’s a little more intentional living everyday?
In conclusion, I leave you with these questions:
Another corner for me to journal in? What a surprise! Basically, I wanted to document my journey with YouTube for myself. I've wanted to be a Youtuber since I was maybe 11 years old, maybe younger. I started watching older girls go through they acrylic makeup organisers and high schoolers unrealistically decorate their lockers (funfact: the only time I decorated my locker was when I stuck a sticker-photobooth-picture of my friends and I doing embarrassing poses with the words "unicorn" drawn all over them and it stuck so well that it never came off. That picture is probably still on the #15 locker in my old middle school).
In 2013, I found the courage to make a YouTube channel. I called it SelWantsNutella because I was 14 and I grew up writing things like "unicorn" all over my pictures, so go figure. Junior year of high school I posted my first makeup tutorial where I tried to mask my awkwardness by dancing to Drake songs as I applied $3 e.l.f makeup on my face at 9 pm. In 2018, I posted my first sit-down video where I answered questions about university people had sent to me in my DMs. That Q&A now has over 44,000 views. It's an embarrassing video because you can tell I was nervous, and it was the first time strangers started picking apart at me on the internet. Now, in 2020, I've posted a controversial video where I get hate in the comment section almost everyday for speaking up about racism, I've posted a video that's only 1 minute long, and I had no issue with posting a 30 minute video of me just talking.
The growth has been slow because of my insecurities when it came to YouTube. I don't really curate my Instagram and I have countless hilarious pictures of myself on Facebook, but something always hurt my self-esteem when I imagined myself in my videos. It was always too much or not enough, no personality or too much weirdness, over-explaining or not talking at all. It honestly took people like Emma Chamberlain who weren't afraid to go bare-faced and make jokes about being yucky for me to realise that no one cares. Or, maybe they did when I was growing up, but they really don't anymore.
Right now, I actually am so close to being able to finally monetise my videos. I need 60 more public watch hours and there has been a shift in my energy towards it. I've always wanted YouTube to be a side hustle and a passion, but these last months it's been growing the way a job opportunity might. I've been doing more research, I've been getting into abundant meditation, I've been surrounded by people who are starting their own journeys, and I've only been wanting to edit and write down ideas. I don't like writing about stuff like this beforehand because my insecurities believe these daydreams are too far-fetched and my attitude is too self-congratulatory, but like, that's exactly what manifesting is! You're supposed to act like you already got it. And why not? If you're going to be boastful, at least do it about something you're fully passionate and have put your honest hard work into, no?
Even though I'm cringing as I'm typing this, I believe I can get big on YouTube. I think I have a lot of interesting ideas for a market that is still niche enough. I think I'm getting better at speaking in front of a camera, and that will grow (no pressure). I think I have all the skills necessary: internet lingo, videography, and editing. The last piece to this puzzle is my ego getting out of the way and allowing my spirit to shine so that it can connect to people. I won't lie and say that thinking of having a million, or even more, subscribes isn't scary...it's mortifying. But I know that I have the ability to get there if I'm willing to put in the work.
Wish me luck.
I’ve been spending the last half hour watching my own vlogs. Sometimes I watch my vlogs back, or scroll through my own Instagram, or even read my old blog posts. Call it Gen Z narcism, call it being a Leo, but I wanted to shed light on being more honest and vulnerable online. I think i’ve always done my best with being honest to my small group of viewers. I don’t like to glamourise, and I think that’s pretty obvious from the fact that I don’t blur things out or cut out the embarrassing shots of me, like crying or pimple-creamed faces or mid-sneeze noses. But I’ve been watching these videos of me living in my house, back in the Netherlands, and I can’t help but feel the loneliness coming off of them.
In my comment section and DMs, I often get younger people coming up to me and asking me how I do it. How are you always so productive? How do you find the time to keep up with your hobbies? How are you doing it all? Whereas in reality, I always feel lazy, like I’m not doing enough, like I’m running out of time (write day and night…if you know, you know). It’s definitely this weird blend of being a Type A + Impostor Syndrome (yeah, I just Googled ‘impersonator syndrome’) that = a mess. My view of myself as a student and basically employee of this capitalist system is always very warped and I feel both like an overachiever and a failure at all times.
More importantly, I feel lonely. It’s important to talk about the impostor syndrome stuff, I feel like I talk about my weird relationship with being productive all the time. In high school, when I took the International Baccalaureate (will she ever shut up about this? No, call this mental health reparations), I threw myself into my work. I was underweight, my cheeks were sullen, I never dressed up for myself beyond a shirt and jeans and I was a new girl in a new town filled with gorgeous and rich Instagram models. I was insecure and had no real self-confidence. I loved myself, sure (to be clear, I still do). Sometimes I felt good, but then I doubted myself and a person is so subjective, so abstract that it was hard for me to ground my opinions about myself—or anyone, really. But who can say I wasn’t a good, hard-working student if I was studying 24/7? If I really did ate, breathed and slept school, who could invalidate me then?
That changed, thankfully. In University, I learned the value of going out, of having dinner with friends and spending the weekends having fun instead of doing homework. I learned that professors have lives to live too and these experiences were going to go by quicker than I’d ever think. I learned the value of people, of moments, of living. I moved past the worst of my impostor syndrome freshman year of college when I took mindfulness courses and opened up about my mental health to the people around me, but I couldn’t seem to shake the feeling of not fully knowing myself.
Sure, I’ve just started my 20s. Who knows themselves at this age? Who knows themselves at any age? But my god, did it get lonely. I had built a life of being in the moment and of honesty that it felt hard to admit when it was difficult to be alone. My friends and family were more than gracious, constantly checking up on me and asking me if I needed company, but I hadn’t even come clean to myself, so I certainly wasn’t able to share with others what I didn’t yet consciously know. Somewhere along the last moments of my second year, I moved to a house my parents bought for their retirement (and for the rest of the family). It’s in a small village; a beautiful place where young families and perfect newborn babies live. The house is beautiful, with a backyard and three comfy rooms for me to choose from. But it was huge for someone who was living in a 15 meter-square room for two years. Too huge.
Like the Virgo Moon I am, I did a great job; I decorated the space, made it mine, cooked what I wanted, blasted music when I felt like I needed it, hosted lunches and sleepovers for my friends, had cleaning days on the weekends, took bubble baths when I felt like spoiling myself, listened to podcasts when I felt low. I did all the things I was supposed to do. And I loved it. I love having my own space. I love the quiet and the freedom.
But sometimes the quiet gets deafening, and when it’s bad, it gets real bad. Like, I have to make sure I’m on the phone with people at all times, or I start binge watching people’s vlogs on YouTube just so the house can feel full with human noise. Even now, it’s hard to admit these things because I’m quarantined with my family of five loud people (including the voice in my head) in a little apartment and sometimes I think, “I wouldn’t have to read while listening to the sound of my siblings slurping cereal if I was at home alone.” But come to think of it, I would probably start to lose myself if I had to be quarantined alone at home, paranoid and just hoping for someone else to start a conversation with me.
This isn’t a sob-story post, just so you know. Or rather, just so I know. It’s half an admittance, and half an act of honouring my feelings. I’m trying to learn how to do that more often. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written posts like these, only to draft them or delete them altogether, lest I felt like an oversharer. But I can’t imagine what others must go through, going abroad or living alone for the first time, confused and lost and just friggen’ tired of making their third bowl of pasta that week, but too afraid to try anything else. Smiling at their family on video call when they ask because it costs so much just to be breathing in this country. Awkward and stiff in a dorm with strangers, crying from the sheer frustration of not being able to do the laundry in peace. Or worse, living in a mess that isn’t caused by you but they’re not family so you have to figure out how to live with it. Learning how to be a good student, even at university, is a hard thing to do. It’s mentally draining for some. So, consider this a solidarity post.
I know that my loneliness is rooted in my need to grow up, to learn how to love myself enough to be okay with the radio silence - the same thing we’re supposed to do in meditation, right? To know myself enough to be the only reassurance I need, to feel whole enough that I don’t feel the need to fill my space with other people’s energies...but that’s a lifelong journey, and that stuff is not easy, no matter how much we oversimplify it with our “move in day!” vlogs and dorm Insta-stories.
So, next time you’re being a little harsh about this whole adulting thing, ask yourself if you can be kinder. Chances are, you should definitely be kinder to yourself.
When I think of 2017, blurry organised chaos filled with emotions comes to my mind. Anyone can tell you that trying to find a theme amongst this chaos is just as meaningless as life itself, but if not for the human condition, then why not at least try?
My cheesy self would choose ‘introspection’ as one of the biggest themes of 2017. Despite my dissociation clouding how I perceive memories, I can pick out major events in the past year where I sat down with myself and thought hard about what I wanted and needed. Of course knowing what you need and actually doing it are quite different, but I was finally able to close the gap between the two. In terms of The Self, 2017 was a great year. All the energy, time, and thought I put into me has caused Me to be a priority.
Of course, logic says that everything needs to be balanced and I can say I lacked it quite a bit last year. The high school-themed nightmares slowly became university-themed and now I dream of meeting my friends that I haven’t talked to in a while. It’s hard for me to admit this (partially because this will be shown on the internet for the whole world to see, but also because I’m way more prideful than I’d like to say), but spending so much time on myself has lead me to become somewhat lonely. Of course, I can’t entirely blame it on myself. I moved halfway through high school and now I’ve moved to another country for university. I also need to be more gentle with myself (a resolution for 2018, if you will), and to cut myself some slack since I made so many new friends in my first semester of uni.
There’s also no point in being caught-up in it. I’ve wasted so much time micro-analysing and criticising myself for every small mistake. Life’s too short!!!!!!! Time is a human construct but it’s a new year, I have been reborn, and I will preserver with more knowledge and wisdom than ever (wow I can not get any cheesier).
I’m not really in to listing all of my resolutions, but I like to speak things into existence, plant the seed, and see the harvest (shoutout to you if you know where that’s from).
Which is why, 2018 is going to be the year where I become more open. I will reach out to people, and give them an actual chance before judging them and overthink myself an exit from the not-yet-existent relationship. I will make an effort to ask people about how they're doing, how their days are going. I will call people more. I will make more plans to hang out with people and actually follow through.
I will become more open to art, both in terms of creating and discovering. I will let myself be surrounded by new content all the time. I will not scare myself into not making art before I even start (a very bad habit of mine). Who cares if it turns out bad? Who cares if it's mediocre? Who cares if it's good? Post it. Share it. Tell people about it. Read it aloud. Sing it aloud.
I will be softer, to people and myself. I will allow myself to make mistakes and to continuously try to better myself. I always get super productive in the beginning of the year and kind of wither into a disorganised mess towards the end, but who's to say it can't be mental spring all year round, right?
It's never good to be stagnant. We're allowed to constantly reinvent ourselves. I think I have an innate worry that I do not completely know 'myself' and what that means. But like a painting, or a song, or even a book, I wasn't born 'me'. My identity is an ever-changing, ever-evolving thing and that should not terrify me as much as it does. I am not 'me', I am becoming me. Prepare yourself for another cringe-worthy quote: life is the story/process/adventure of becoming yourself and that has its own beauty when you think about it (or romanticise/glorify like I do, but hey, it works).
So, here's to 2018! May we continuously better ourselves, each other, and Mother Earth.
P.s. 2018 is also gonna’ be the year where we uplift each other. So, if you didn’t know, this is where that harvest quote is from:
You’re welcome. Now you know. Therefore, you deserve a shoutout. This is me shouting you out, you great reader, you. Boom.