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:

C001971-R1-04-5C001971-R1-11-12C001971-R1-07-8

Why it’s important to listen

Sitting in the back of a car, drinking tea out of my passenger camping mug, I sit reflecting on life, and this guilt that accompanies taking time out to plug off and enjoy life.

I wonder if our lives are consumed by this need to work. That our identities are defined by our work.

I wonder if we’ve lost our natural curiosity for our lives around us. I wonder, that in my teaching, how I can get teenagers and young people to be curious about the world and the people around them.

I wonder if we can get empathetic communication back between all of us, and then I wonder did we ever have empathetic communication?

Then I wonder how do we develop and learn empathetic communication? Then I realise that it’s all about accepting the person as they are, with their life experiences and treating them as a human being.

Because we have a lot to learn from each other and we can make the world a better place by learning from each other.

Yours,

Sophia

x

Being okay to say “I’m afraid”

Learning to be comfortable and okay with being vulnerable on a daily basis has been a challenging journey this year.

I needed to learn to be comfortable with acknowledging my fears. In doing so, I needed to move beyond my comfort zone to face those fears.

Yet the most challenging thing this year has been letting go in order to grow. Letting go of fear, of insecurities, letting go of worries and learning to trust me in the face of the unknown. I haven’t been good at that recently, and it’s not going to be an easy road ahead.

They say that growth comes from reflection and vulnerability. They say that perfectionism blocks us from self-acceptance. I’ll be honest – acknowledging and seeing these barriers that my scarred and hurt heart has put up has been the scariest.

There’s this episode in Doctor Who, where the 12th Doctor is stuck in a tower within a time loop, and he is forced to find his way out. The only way he can get out is by punching his way through a solid wall of diamond, all whilst retelling the story of a bird who sharpened his beak in a mountain of diamonds. By the end of the episode, it took him over 51 million years until he finally broke through.

Whilst my barriers aren’t as thick as the barrier in the Doctor Who episode, nor do I have a time guardian monster chasing me, but fighting those fears, insecurities that are these barriers, feels a lot like that episode. At times it feels like no matter what I’m doing, the punches to break the barriers seem ineffective.

Yet I’m determined to continue to let go of my perfectionist nature, and simply grow, no matter how bumpy the road gets. Because this year is about growth, and I need to make some tough decisions ahead if I want to get where I want to be.

Love,

Sophia
x

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. – Rumi

Holidays + Routines

December rolls around every year, and accompanying December is the process to reflect, and if necessary, change or modify any personal goals. You know, that end of year routine common to many people.

We, humans, are creatures of habit and we seem to really like our routines. Routines let us understand what is coming up and can act as a comparison stick in case anything out of the ordinary arises. Just like in a maths equation, once we know the variables, we can solve the equation. Routines help us figure out the variables.

The lead up to the holidays often means that our routines get interrupted, with all the planning, cooking, that last minute rush to sort out presents and fitting in as many social events before the year ends getting in the way. We are so busy looking out for everyone else, we forget to look after ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong, looking after others is an important part of our lives because it builds empathy. It helps us connect with people, and we learn from each other. Yet empathy can’t be developed on an empty tank. One really important part of building empathy is self-awareness, the ability to distinguish between our feelings and thoughts with the feelings and thoughts of others. As such, we need to connect with our own thoughts and feelings, not neglect them.

One thing 2017 has taught me is that it is okay to take a step back from the chaos of life, all the competing pressures in your life and to look after oneself. It is okay to take that 10-minute break enjoying the seaside, or that 10-minute meditation practice or simply to sit down with a cup of tea enjoying the nature around you.

Because in looking after everyone else over the holiday season, we also need to connect with ourselves. So over the next 19 days left in 2017, and in the 12 days up until Christmas, schedule some time with yourself on a daily basis.

Yours,
Sophia
x

Sea breezes and home

Something I’ve realised, now that the craziness of the Graduate Diploma of Education pressure has eased for the year, is how important the salty sea breeze is for me.

It has anchored me, letting a wave of healing flow through me. It calms me.

Over the past year, whenever I took the train to uni, I’d look up and see the ocean, and I would feel calmer, more anchored to meet the challenges of the day.

I have different places where I feel truly at home, and the ocean is one of them.

So, here’s to the places that make up your home.

Love,

Sophia

x

Books, art and love

 “The best love is the kind that awakens the soul; that makes us reach for more, that plants a fire in our souls and brings peace to our minds. That’s what I hope to give you forever.”
– Nicolas Sparks

I’m often silent on social media when it comes to my affection, my feelings for my significant other. My partner, my boyfriend.

He is the one more likely to take a photo of us than I would. He is more likely to be able to describe us with metaphors, despite him being the artist, and I the writer.

It is not because I want to hide him and the part he plays in my life; quite the opposite, I want to share that with the world.

But I am often silent because I could never find the words appropriate enough to describe how important he is to me. He once asked me if I could ever describe the way I think who he is, and I replied that I wasn’t sure – and if I could, it might not be for years.

Because how do you start explaining how you feel to the man you never expected to fall in love with?

I never expected to fall in love with a man I enjoy having philosophical discussions at 8 o’clock in the morning on the way to uni. I never expected to fall in love with a man, whose imagination colours his story so that I get lost in them.

A man who, when I doubted myself, reminded me to believe in myself. When I’ve been down, he’s made me laugh.

A man who willingly sat through my brokenness and darkness, and helped me become a little bit more whole. A man who challenges me to be a better person.

A man who without judgement or negativity, and with such large patience, holds onto me when my anxiety causes a breakdown.

A man who loves me for who I am.

Last year, in a year surrounded by darkness, I found a man I never expected to fall in love with. Yet fall in love with him I did, and it’s made me a better person for it.

Yours,
Sophia
x

Dear life.

Dear life,

It’s been a while since I last wrote. I’ve had my head down to the grindstone, as the saying goes, making sure I meet deadlines. So my life has become all about the routine. Getting up at the same time, having a morning tea, making a tea in my keep cup to drink on my way to prac. So, nothing at all exciting. Nothing adventurous. (Yes, I know you’ll be saying – that’s just a matter of perspective.)

By the time you get this letter (ha, such a cliché saying in a letter), I’ll be finished with prac. In fact, I’ll have slept the weekend away – that’s how exhausted I feel right now. I’m trying to keep perspective on my uni workload, but I’m finding that hard to do right now. A small part of me is questioning whether I’m doing self-mental-health-care right if I feel this exhausted, and that’s just one of many questions I have for you.

So, next time we meet up I’ll ask you all of them. They’re too many for this letter. But one question I’ll ask now – am I doing okay? I know it’s a funny question, but I need an outsider’s perspective – I get so caught up with the what ifs, that my perspective gets blinded most times.

You asked me in your last letter, if I am loving uni, and the answer is yes, I am loving uni right now, I travel down by train every day and see the beach every day. Although that part of the trip is always accompanied by a pang of longing – I’d rather be soaking up the salty air and the sand between my toes than be sitting in an 8:30-morning lecture. I’ve never been a morning lecture person.

I’ve got several assignments coming up in quick succession, something that I’m not terribly looking forward to because it means the same-old routine of long hours studying, early starts and the creeping exhaustion.

Although, I’m also not looking forward to that same-old routine because I’d rather be enjoying the nice weather we have right now. You can tell summer is slowly coming to an end – days aren’t boiling hot anymore, instead, the weather is more commonly the warm temperatures mixed with the endless blue skies. So I’m trying to make the most of it by walking or running most days.

Talking about running, I ran the other day after months of not running. Ran a 1km! Hurrah! (Walked 800m though, so win some, lose some.) This is the part where I write the same old promise I make every year – “I’ll try to run more regularly, and it’s the perfect weather to start this.”

We’ll see how well that works out this year.

Anyway, I am writing whilst I’ve got food in the oven, so I have to finish here. I’ll try to write soon.

Lots of love,

Yours,
Sophia x

 

Home, Rain and Soil.

 

Over the past weeks, I’ve been re-reading Frank Herbert’s Dune. It is considered the godfather of the sci-fi realm, despite its storyline (a disinherited prince reclaiming his land and restoring honor to his befallen house) almost being as old as time.

As I’m reading about the world of Arrakis – a harsh, unforgiven planet where there is nothing but sand and water is a luxury – I’ve been thinking about my home. About growing up in a country where summer water restrictions exist, where summers stretch to almost 6 months.

As I’m following the journeys the characters take forced to move homes in a large game of politics, I’m thinking about what makes a home and how home is a funny concept.

It’s a building with walls, floors, doors and a roof to keep you sheltered from the weather, and yet the concept is so much more.

I’m asking myself, what makes a home, a home?

Does a building make a home? Or do you make a home out of a building?

People say home is where the heart is. Home is where I feel safe, with the people that I love, a place where I can put my roots in the soil. It is where the smell of coffee, mixed with homemade dishes, mixed with the sound of German rising and falling in the background.

Home is the place where my roots have found themselves a place where they can grow.

It’s the feeling of sea breeze over the Indian Ocean. It’s the late night cuddles and talks about life with my man. Home is the smell just after it rained. It’s the soil of my plant pot that I’m trying to nurture.

Home is what I’ve made in the four walls of my rented apartment. Home is the feeling of lying in the hammock, with the sun shining through the leaves in the garden of my childhood home.

Home is where I am safe, surrounded by those whom I love.

As I’m thinking about all this, I’m reminded of a passage in Dune. I’m reminded how interconnected we are all are, how people can make up what “home” means for us.

There stand I, [Thufir] Hawat thought.
‘Thufir, what’re you thinking?’ Paul asked.
Hawat looked at the boy. ‘I was thinking we’ll all be out of here soon and likely never see the place again.’
‘Does that make you sad?’
‘Sad? Nonsense! Parting with friends is a sadness. A place is only a place.’ He glanced at the charts on the table. ‘And Arrakis is just a place.'”
Dune, Frank Herbert, p42

So next time someone asks me how I’d define what a home is, I’d answer like this:

“A place is a place, a home is what you make out of that place and the people you meet.”

Yours,
Sophia x

 

Sunsets and pastels

Dream your dreams, dearest child, as you paint the sky with your colours.

See, you can be anything. You can paint and create anything your heart desires, dearest one.

You may not draw the picture with paint, crayons or pencils, but you draw with words.

You see the world, and you see pictures of love. Of hope. Of joy.

Dearest one, tell those stories with the hope, love, and joy that you feel. So paint the sky with your words, paint each and every cloud with love.

Paint the sky. Draw hope in the stars. Draw the smiles and laughter of loved ones in the sunshine.

Draw the joy you feel, the anchoring feeling of digging your toes in the sand when you watch sunsets.

Because those are the stories that come alive every time you see a sunset whenever you look out a window, dearest one.

Yours,
Sophia x

Dear Berlin

“You are crazy my child, you need to go to Berlin.” – Franz von Suppé

Dear Berlin,

It’s been a while since I’ve last visited you, but I’ve been thinking of you recently.

Thinking about the memories I’ve made over the years surrounding by the grey concrete, the red symbols from the communist age and the dirty snow covered pavement.

A cityscape where nowadays you see more greenery is poking its head around the corner, between the tall grey buildings, as if to say “Hello”. No matter what season it is.

Memories made in a place with its history deeply seeped into the buildings, oozing through the cracks.

Thinking about whenever you take a walk through Berlin, and you’ll find something in every corner. Where the soundtrack to your walk is the many different languages being spoken. Where each suburb has its own little idea of what Berlin is about.

The rough edges juxtaposed with the smooth architecture of better times. Where the eccentric and crazy live alongside the ordinary. The loud sits with the quiet.

Where you have the possibility to quickly escape into the countryside, surrounded by the never-ending possibilities.

Where at the same time, you’re a city where you could quickly find where everything is happening.

Where independence runs through the city’s vein, that quiet restlessness against the feeling of being constrained by barriers. That quiet beating of an independent heart that saw a wall torn down.

Memories made in a city that shaped you. A city with all its quirks that somehow finds it’s way under your skin.

So until we meet again Berlin, I’ll keep those impressions close to my heart.

Yours,
Sophia x

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.

Yours,
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.

Yours,
Sophia x