Are you okay?

It’s R U Okay? Day today.

You will probably see people talking about whether or not they’re okay on social media. Having conversations about whether or not we’re okay is important. It starts a conversation, a moment of time to help people feel that they belong.

Let’s start conversations about mental health, let’s build connections with each other.

I once read somewhere that a problem shared is a problem halved. Sharing a problem starts with a conversation, a question, “Are you okay?”, that we shouldn’t be afraid to ask every day.

I know it’s hard to open up – sometimes it is because we don’t want to burden anyone with our troubles, other times it’s because we aren’t ready to communicate what is wrong.

In the murky days of my depression, that was how I felt. But my journey dealing with depression, and now anxiety, taught me this: I would never know what to say until I started to say “I’m not okay”.

Because I didn’t know all the answers, but by having conversations with people, letting them in, that’s when I started to have answers for dealing with what was wrong.

So, let people know you’re there for them. You may not need to say “are you okay?” It might be a simple “let me know if you need anything. I’m here for you”.

Let’s build a world, a community where a connection is strong among us. Let’s start conversations about how we truly are.

We are not alone in fighting our fights.

Yours,

Sophia

X

PS: Project Rockit released a really got resource in how to start a conversation. I will add it below, but before I do, I just wanted to say:

If you are struggling, feeling down or alone, know that you can just leave me a message and that I am here for you. You can also contact Lifeline (13 11 14), Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636) or Headspace (1800 650 890).

Please open up to people. You are valuable, you are loved, and you are important.

To my grandparents,

 

It is hard to count the number of life lessons I’ve learnt from my grandparents on a single hand. Both my maternal and paternal grandparents taught me the value and importance of family, as well as the benefits of a good work ethic. My grandmothers instilled in me a love of the craft (regardless of how terrible I am) and an appreciation for strong matriarchs.

My grandfathers instilled in me a quiet love of family history. My maternal grandfather shared his love of pear schnapps, the comedian Loriot and the joy of a simple Kartoffelsalat with me. My paternal grandfather taught me the joy of words, how to play chess and instilled in me a quiet pride in my Dutch heritage and where I’ve come from.

My maternal grandmother and I share a love of cooking and baking. My paternal grandmother taught me how to knit, and how to create a warm and loving home filled with happy memories. She taught me how to love others in all their eccentricities.

Today’s “National Grandparents Day” is tinged with slight bittersweetness as I’ve had to say goodbye to my maternal grandfather 7 years ago. But amongst the bittersweetness, lies a fierce pride and love for my grandparents, who have taught me so much.

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To my grandparents,

Thank you for making me smile and laugh, and passing on your wisdom and knowledge. 

Thank you for being the quiet, loving support whenever I’ve needed it. Thank you for the words of advice over countless cups of tea and biscuits. But most of all, thank you for loving me.

Yours,

Sophia
x

 

The Pilgrimage

“We always have a tendency to see those things that do not exist and to be blind to the great lessons that are right there before our eyes.” – Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage

I recently (re)read Paulo Coelho’s The Pilgrimage and, just like the time I read it for the first time when I was 17, Coelho’s writing – the depth, the colour, the honesty – blew me away (again). Unlike the time I read it at 17, the book’s message resonated a lot deeper this time. Even the way Coelho structured the book, basing each chapter on a single theme or message, impacted me in terms of my writing. I can feel how this book has inspired to write each letter based on a singular theme or lesson.

What impacted me the most was Coelho’s infusion of small wisdom about life, his insights on living a meaningful life, all the whilst weaving an adventure story. Put simply, The Pilgrimage is about Coelho’s trials as he journeys along the Camino de Santiago alongside his mentor, Petrus. Yet, Coelho’s writing provokes a compelling, deep tale of the search for meaning, and for a broader view on life.

The book taught me that every little encounter has a purpose, a meaning. The book taught me that we all yearn to find a truth, a meaning, a purpose. We think that it is all individually centred, but I’ve come to the conclusion that our purpose and meaning are all interconnected. People always arrive at the right time where someone awaits them.

“We always know which is the best road to follow, but we follow only the road that we have become accustomed to.”  ― Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage.

“The ship is safest when it’s in port, but that’s not what ships were built for.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage.

Sprinkled throughout the book were gentle reminders to take the step past the comfort zone and meet the challenge. Just like the quote above, ships weren’t built for staying in port. They were made for exploring and travelling in the unpredictable ocean. We all know the path we should take, yet we stay on the path that we are used to.

“When in doubt, just take the next small step.” – Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage.

In reflecting on The Pilgrimage, I can feel myself being more confident in simply taking the next step, even when I am surrounded in this quagmire of doubt about where I want this blog to go, what I want to write about. I don’t know where this blog will go, but I do know that the best thing for me to do, is to simply take a step. Focus on the path around me, because it is often the path that teaches us what we need to know and in doing so, enriching our lives.

But before I sign off, I want to leave with one quote that has resonated the most with me whilst I was reading this book.

“Why be fearful of saying no to someone or of leaving something undone when the most important thing of all was to enjoy life fully?” ― Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage.

Yours,
Sophia
x

 

PS: In writing this blog post, I have since realised that Paulo Coelho has become one of my favourite authors and that I have been remiss in not reading more of his work. Do you have a Paulo Coelho book I should read? Let me know in a comment below xx

Why learn a language?

They often say that if you want to learn something new and be engaged in the learning process, then you got to know the answer to the “why” question. For many, their answer to the question “Why learn a language?” is that by learning languages, more doors will open to you, and they are not wrong. For me, learning a language is a process of falling in love with that country’s culture. Sometimes it’s the musical lilt and the emotions within the spoken language that first captures my interest in the language.

For example, Swedish has this gentle, musical lilt to it, that I catch myself quite often getting distracted by when I swear Swedish being spoken. Same case for Swiss-German.

Dutch has an honest, blunt quality to it if you get past the guttural sounds. Every time I have heard Persian and Arabic, it’s the passion and the range of emotions that colour the language that captures me.

Learning languages not only open doors to new opportunities, it also opens doors into understanding not only the culture of that country in a more deeper manner but it also allows you to understand yourself better too. Since undergoing the journey to become a languages teacher, I’ve had to re-evaluate my own language learning journey, and in many ways, understand what makes me so passionate about learning languages.

Yes, it comes from growing up in a multi-lingual family, but it also comes from an openness to explore life, and in a small way, humanity. Being open to learning different languages, I have learnt to be open to understanding different people, and in the process, learn to be a more empathetic and better teacher.

So, for me, learning languages has never been about ticking a box to achieve better things, but rather it’s about the introspective, philosophical understanding of humanity.

That is why I learn languages.

Yours,

Sophia
xx

 

Dear baking

Today I did something I rarely ever do – I baked for the sake of baking. Not baking for a friends birthday, or for a class, but baking because I wanted to. So with the rain in the background, I decided on baking something I hadn’t done in a long while – an apple crumble.

I could go on a massive tangent about the recipe, and write a long post about its amazingness and how yummy it was, but I won’t. I’ll just share the recipe below, and let you jump on board on the Äppelsmulpaj train.

I grew up in a family that bakes. My maternal grandma bakes ALL the time, and the cellar (especially in holiday seasons) often has cakes resting in the pantry. I think it annoyed and amused (in equal amounts) my grandma whenever the grandkids (and often son) were around because there would be pieces of cake going randomly missing. I inherited Dutch baking recipes from my Oma from she used to bake and inherited her sense of quiet happiness seeing the kids enjoy the baked goods.

Despite my mum being those “bake-from-packets” type of baker (much to the dismay of her mother), I inherited her love of Scandinavian baking. So this morning, I opened up my favourite Nordic Cook Book, flipped it to deserts and found the Äppelsmulpaj recipe.

Once it’s finished, I’ll take the Äppelsmulpaj over to some mates for afternoon tea … because that’s something I’ve grown up with, and something I try to do often.

It’s cultural tradition from where I come from, that if people are over around afternoon tea time, you offer them coffee and cake. If you don’t have cake, then you scramble a platter of biscuits together.

I’ve often asked mum and my grandmas why they put so much effort into afternoon tea and sprinkled amongst the “Because it’s nice to do something like this!” and “It’s what you do!” answers, was the real reason – you do it because you love them. Afternoon tea gatherings are moments of time where we all sat down together, being present in the presence of the people that we love.

Bonding over shared food allows us to break down barriers, share our heritage and culture with others and provides an opportunity to build stronger relationships. Bonding over shared foods, be it afternoon tea or mealtimes, reminds us of our own humanity and for me, that it includes the values of neighbourliness, hospitality and welcoming diversity.

We all need reminders of our common humanity, so bake a cake, put the kettle on and invite friends and family over for afternoon tea.

… just make sure you have a sneaky piece or two before everyone gobbles the Äppelsmulpaj up.

Yours,

Sophia
x

PS: Because I love this recipe for Äppelsmulpaj, I decided to share it with you. The recipe is originally from Magnus Nilsson’s The Nordic Cook Book.

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Love, over hate.

This letter has been sitting in my drafts since October 2017. I wrote in the evening after I was verbally harassed because I didn’t give someone my attention as I was walking down some stairs on the way home

It sat in my drafts because I wasn’t sure if I should post it, and had several doubts about it. But I’ve decided to post it because I don’t want to let a single post control my doubts.

So without further ado, here is the letter:

Today, I was yelled at for simply walking downstairs at the train station. Words like “b*tch”, “c*nt” and “I’ll kill you” were lobbed at me. All because I walked down the stairs with earphones in my ears, listening to Paul Kelly.

Did it make me scared? Did it make me feel vulnerable? Yes, it did. It made me assess where I could sit on the train, where I should stand on the station for protection because I did not know if the person would follow through on their threat or whether the person (like I suspected) was all bark, no bite.

Yet what makes me mad, is that this is not a one-off moment, but rather a common occurrence for women. Far too many nights have I walked home in the dark, or walked through Northbridge alone with keys in my hand as a self-defensive measure, being aware of everyone around me.

I don’t get harassed, name-called often to my face, but I know that I am privileged and that for my sisters of colour, it is a common occurrence.

We all need a bit more love in the world, less hate and more acceptance of who we are as humans.

So I didn’t dwell on today’s occurrence for long because I don’t need that negativity. I’m only posting this because I need to see written proof that I’m not at fault, nor should yelling at a person for choosing not to give your their attention be acceptable.

But I wanted to leave these words here – let’s share the love more than the hate. Because we all are important and valued, no matter our gender, sexuality, or background.

Love,
Sophia
X

Analogue photography’s magic

When I was 13, my sister was just a wee-baby wobbling around as she got used to walking. But that wasn’t the only thing in my life then – my family still enjoyed vinyl and a very old grammar phone. Digital cameras were only starting to appear in the photography scene, and my family were still resisting – we still loved the analogue Canon camera. By “we”, I should really mean “my parents”.

They were capturing family life on the camera and printed off copies to send to family members across the world. Every now and then, I would be allowed to take photos and it was these moments that laid the foundation for the love of analogue photography that I still have.

When I was 18, the Canon camera reached the end of its life, which gave room to this beautiful, heavy East German Praktika camera that I found in this wonderful camera shop on the Krämerbrücke in Erfurt.

I fell in love with that camera and would take it with me everywhere. Then my dad’s old Pentax camera (alongside several lenses) joined my small camera family. My heart became bigger and I’d take analogue photos whenever I could.

But, then all of a sudden, I fell out of love. I lost confidence in my analogue photography skills. It didn’t help that, for some reason, two film canisters came back blank – no photos were captured. So I gave up. I couldn’t bring myself to part with these cameras, so they just collected dust on my mantelpiece.

For years I stared at the cameras, longing to pick them up and take photos (and for it to work). But I never dared to. I was a student, I couldn’t justify the cost. So I left them on the mantelpiece collecting dust.

Then, several years later, I walked past the Red Cross op-shop in Fremantle. In the shelves laid a point-and-shoot Kodak analogue camera. It couldn’t hurt to try again? I thought. So I bought it, walked to the camera shop a few blocks down and bought a film.

I started to take photos again, albeit haphazardly as if I was gingerly testing the waters, of the various moments in my life. Today I picked up the photos I got developed. Needless to say, I fell back in love with analogue photography – and I learnt something.

It’s okay to fail, it’s okay for things to not work – but the important thing is to keep trying because you won’t get anywhere if you just give up if things do not work – there will always be a solution to your problem. Just keep trying, and don’t give up on things that you love.

Yours,

Sophia
x

PS: Because I’m that proud of these photos – here are some of them:

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