Stories and identities

Narratives. They are what defines where you’ve come from and where you want to go.

It is a central part of your identity. Each story that is told by others to you shapes your narrative little by little as you make meaning of their story.

Stories are how you navigate the many paths to get where you are now. They are how you connect with people who might have taken a similar path or those who simply want to understand you.

Stories are what makes teachers who they are. Get a teacher to tell you a story of a class they taught, then you glimpse a summary of who they are.

Stories will tell you the hopes, fears and beliefs of the storyteller. We make meaning out of life through stories.

One of my uni tasks this week was to reflect on our own teacher’s identity, our own narrative. Sitting in a classroom, with people whose narrative seem to have been created quite easily, I felt myself asking – “What is my story? What’s my teacher’s identity?”

When my professional identities include a communications professional, a journalist by training, and an economist.

How do you melt these professional identities into a teacher’s identity?

I find myself asking myself in dark moments: “Can I call myself an economics teacher? A media teacher? A teacher?”

But this morning, I had a realisation.

Yes. Yes, I can call myself a teacher.

Because I’ve always been a teacher. It’s always been hidden in my personal narrative.

I remember being young, sitting next to mum as she was marking assignments and essays. Being allowed to spellcheck her PhD drafts as a child. Making my scribble marks in red pen as a toddler on mum and dad’s postgraduate work. (Unconsciously marking their work perhaps?)

I remember being 13 and teaching my baby sister how to say words. I remember helping her with her homework during primary school.

I remember teaching media relation workshops during university.

So I can say I’m a teacher because I’ve always been one.

What my teacher’s identity is, what my narrative is, is something I’m discovering more and more as I embark on my DipEd.

I don’t have a fully formed “this is my narrative” yet, and I don’t know (yet) what it encapsulates but I do know this:

I am an economics and a media teacher. I am a teacher because I want to teach kids something I’m passionate in. I am a teacher because I always want to encourage learning in our kids.

Sophia x

(Feature Image taken by Steven Chew Photography.)


Dear study

Dear study,

Today I went back to study, back to late nights revising theory and expanding on it through written essays. Today I went back to learning, back to listening to copious information, analysing the data and churning back out my critical analysis of it.

I’d have thought that I would not want to enter back into the tertiary system so soon after 5 years of my undergraduate degree, but here I am. The first day of my postgraduate degree.

Today as I sat in a class learning (briefly) about instructional strategies, as I heard anecdotes from our lecturer’s own teaching experience, I was remembering my own schooling.

Remembering the teachers that made an impression, the teachers I didn’t like and the moments during class that I still remember.

I remembered how engaged I was in the subject because the teacher valued my opinion and encouraged it.

I remember the laughs and smiles in my English Lit class as we reenacted scenes to explore a topic.

I remember how frustrated I got when teachers ignored our feedback on the class, and how we felt like we were back on square zero despite months of hard work.

I remember feeling overwhelmed because I was taking longer to understand concepts. Yet I remember teachers encouraging me to keep on going.

As I sat on the train on the way back from my first class, I became determined to be the teachers that encouraged me, that valued my opinion and made learning fun. To be those type of teachers for the kids I teach.

To be a teacher that encourages them to be interested in economics and media beyond the classroom.

Sophia x


Dear today

Today is a travel day. Today is the day of saying goodbye to one world and then saying hello to another.

Today is the start of feeling that slight bit of nostalgia in my heart as I leave one homeland, to arrive in another.

It is having to accept that your time is over, that it’s time to say your goodbyes, time to say until next time, it was fun spending time with you.

Today I’m heading home, but with a suitcase filled more than just clothes, books, and presents.

Today I’m heading home, heart full of memories. Memories of my mum’s laughter as we’re having a snowball fight, of gingerbread men and mulled wine, of the cold seeping through into my bones. Memories of the smell of oranges, cinnamon, and cloves, memories of the taste of homemade potato dumplings.

Memories of the smell of my grandmother’s cooking, of dinners shared with friends, both old and new.

Today I’m heading home with a heart full of love.

Sophia x

Dear 2017

Last year was a tough one for me personally.

It was a year of vulnerability, a year of losing things, a year of change. It was a year where I was diagnosed with depression, a year where my self-worth and self-confidence plummeting so low it became a year of wearing masks.

A year where it was easiest to believe in negative voices than in myself. Easiest to convince myself that because things outside my control were completely and irreversibly changed, I was worth nothing.

A year where I felt alone.
A year of darkness.

But in all that darkness, I found things again.

I found love.
I found my self-worth. I found my self-belief again.
I found light, just when I resigned myself to darkness.
I found my strength again.
I found my strength in my vulnerability.
I found strength in my words and most importantly, I found the strength within myself.

So, dear 2017, this year I am going to be vulnerable, I am going to be strong and brave.

This year, I’m going to surround myself and loved ones with love. This year, I’m going to walk a different road and grow into the person that I am. Be the storyteller that I am.

Sophia x


Dear Stockholm

I was sitting in my hotel room talking to my boyfriend about cities. Or rather, whether or not a city could be understood via its architecture.

About how I thought I knew Stockholm, but I came to the realisation that maybe I actually don’t. You see before I set off for Stockholm, I had this plan: visit Stockholm, reacquaint myself with the city and come out with a story. After all, I’m a writer and stories are my trade. It shouldn’t be that hard? Wrong.

The more I explored Stockholm, the more the story I thought I had changed shape.

I started out with this story of minimalism, of implacably dressed Swedes in clean, sharp gray, white, black or blue tones. Of Advent candles in the windows. Of quiet, reserved Swedes. Of a cultural history shaped by a monarchy, military and powerful elite.

But then I started to get to know them. I started to look at the architecture of high ceilings filled with laughter, chatter and Christmas cheer. I started to explore the Swedish nature and fell in love with the views, openness, and freedom that it offered. I started to explore the different suburbs and discovered the different cultural, historical and economic heartbeats that all blended and colour the story I was building in my head.

When I started my visit, I thought my previous visit and the stories I heard from friends and family have a good grasp on Stockholm. But at the end of my stay, I’ve realized that I’m still learning.

That’s the story I found in Stockholm.


Sophia x

Merry Christmas

It’s Christmas, I’m snuggled up in an armchair at my grandmothers reflecting on what to write about Christmas. Celebrating Christmas with my mother’s family in Erfurt is pretty rare, so it’s something I’m treasuring this year.

Yet despite creating memories strolling through the Erfurter Christmas market, despite creating Christmas memories with family over mulled wine and cards, I am struggling to write because my head is conflicted. My head is full dichotomies, full of different Christmas stories unlived and untold. Of moments missed, and of moments lived.

My head is full of dichotomies of those who have a lot and those who have little. Those whose Christmases are full and those whose Christmases are empty.

Of those who’ve lost their homes and those who have homes. Those who are miles away from loved ones and those whose loved ones are within an arm’s reach away.

Of Christmases filled with joy, and of Christmases void of love.

This Christmas season I’m surrounded by my mother’s family. A family that celebrates Advent, of Christmas celebrated with family.

So whilst I am surrounded by my mother’s family, I’ve been thinking a little bit about Christmas and family.

In a world where it’s easy to see the meaning of Christmas swallowed by consumerism, of having one more present than last year, I see a family stopping for a few days and enjoying the moment with themselves, loved ones, and friends.

I never quite understood why deep down I loved Christmas, until this year. Until talking about Christmas traditions with my boyfriend. I loved (and still love) Christmas because it was the loving environment my parents, my grandparents, my family created for us kids, and now it’s an environment I want to continue to create for myself, loved ones and for others.

But my head is conflicted. I see the happiness and joy in my Christmas celebrations, but I know this isn’t the case for everyone.

So in this Christmas season, I just wanted to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and I hope that your Christmas is filled with love and happiness. I hope that you can cherish your family that little bit more this season.

Sophia x


Bravery, not perfection

Dear Reshna,

I watched your TED talk after a particular tough day at work. Someone had shared it on Facebook, and as you do, I clicked the link and watched it.

I’ve identified as a perfectionist for most of my life – things had to be done the right way, in a particular manner and had to look like perfect.

How many times have I sat in front of the computer, starting a blog post in a word document but then erasing the work because it wasn’t perfect?

How many times have I not applied for the job because I don’t match 100% of the criteria? Or simply because I gave into the negative voice that nagged me saying “you’re not brave enough to apply for that job despite having no qualification”?

Far too many times.

How many times have I set unrealistic goals and expectations when I’ve applied my perfectionistic mindset to how I relate to the world and then been disappointed?

How many times have I let the mantra “perfection or bust” guide my life?

Far too many times.

Part of it stemmed from a childish need for validation, and if I got perfect marks than, according to my perfectionist logic, I’d get the validation I was hoping for.

Part of it stemmed from the comfort of being able to control something when I felt unsettled and it looking perfect.

But most of it stemmed from my doubts and insecurities, hoping that if things were done perfectly, I led the perfect life and things look perfect, I could hide my doubts and not have to deal with them.

But the more I deal with my doubts and insecurities, and the more I make sure that I am not letting them rule my life, the more I realise I need to be more brave, and be less perfect.

I need to be comfortable with imperfection. But most of all I need to be brave. Brave enough to trust myself, my abilities and to trust that I am good enough. I am confident enough.

So thank you Reshna for the timely reminder to be brave, and to be comfortable with imperfection.