In the mood for…

Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

…pink flowers, fallen leaves, and road trips with the family. Today is officially the first day of our holidays. Rick is taking his annual break, which means we’ll have him all to ourselves for three whole weeks. This is the time of year that I live for. No commitments. No appointments. Just time together as a family. We will be heading down South again soon, and I can already feel that crisp, cold country air on my face.

I can’t wait.

p.s. Have you made any plans for the school holidays?

(Linking up with Em.)

As of this moment…

Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

…I am writing in my closet.

…I am listening to Norah Jones and basking in the warm afternoon sun streaming through the window.

…I am busy planning and prepping blog posts for the week that we are away.

…I am grateful for all your kind thoughts the other night. I am feeling much better today. I have to keep remembering that even when things are out of my control, God has it all under His control.

…I am already counting down the days to the next episode of Offspring.

…I am looking forward to cooking tonight. Usually, Rick is the one who prepares dinner, but this evening, I feel like cooking up my favourite meal: chicken wings.

…I am sensing that many of you want me to write more about The Happy Closet. I hear you! Watch this space.

…I am excited for next month. My birthday. Our wedding anniversary. And our family holiday…

…I am already picturing the long winding roads, the rolling hills, the country air, the stormy clouds, and all that freedom to do whatever we want as a family.

…I am hoping like mad that I won’t get sick like last year. Vitamic C, check. Garlic tablets, check. Zinc lozenges, check.

…I would love to go on a date sometime soon with my husband. It’s been a while since our last one.

…I can’t wait to welcome the older boys home from school and preschool. It’s the last day of term, which definitely calls for a tiny celebration. I’m so very proud of them all, and so thankful that I get to be their mum.

…I can hear Bear stirring from his nap.

…I am thinking that a cup of tea and a couple of Anzac biscuits would hit the spot right about now. The perfect afternoon tea, in my opinion.

Happy Friday, everyone! What plans do you have for the weekend?

The Happy Closet, a blog series by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)The Happy Closet, a blog series by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)The Happy Closet, a blog series by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

So after the biggest purge in the history of my closet, I got my entire original wardrobe – including clothes, bags, jewellery, shoes (literally everything) – down to 78 items.

As hard as that was, it turned out to be the easy part.

Deciding what I wanted my wardrobe to look like going forward was much, much harder. As I said in my last post, I wanted a wardrobe that reflected my age, I wanted a wardrobe that embraced the type of body I had, and I wanted my wardrobe to be as minimalist as possible – made up of a handful of well-chosen garments that I would wear over and over again over the next four to five years. From the outset, it seemed overwhelming, considering the billion items of clothing there are out there. I was also apprehensive about falling back into old habits of buying clothes compulsively and developing yet again an insatiable appetite for wanting more and more and more.

Despite my apprehension, I started acquiring items as mindfully as I could, and over the course of about six months, I’ve slowly but surely built a closet that I’m extremely happy (and content) with.

Here are some reflections on my experience:

With the exception of one item, I stuck to my core colours of black, grey, white and blue. There were a few items which I was quite tempted to buy but in the end, I’m glad I resisted because I just know that when it comes to putting clothes on in the morning, my natural inclination is to steer away from those ‘secondary’ colours. Why bother adding something to my closet which I’m not going to embrace wholeheartedly? I wanted every item in my closet to be my first choice.

After a couple of unfortunate blunders, I decided not to buy anything that was mass manufactured. Instead, I would stick to independent designers and handmade items. This has been such a good decision. Not only has this meant high quality clothes that are likely to last and last, but each item feels special to me. This is such a nice thing, because when you don’t own that many items overall, it’s good to make every piece count.

I opted not to create a moodboard a la Pinterest to work out my personal ‘style.’
I know this is the common thing to do, but something held me back. In the past, I used to happily pin my favourite outfits from my favourite bloggers. However, the problem was that I would become obsessed with tracking down items so that I could replicate the entire outfit. In other words, I ended up buying things which I would only ever wear the one time, simply for the purposes of that one outfit. I decided from the outset that this was not what I wanted for my new minimalist wardrobe, so no moodboard!

I let go of what had been my ‘uniform’ for the last five to six years. Let’s just say I got tired of muffin tops. Enough said. (Bye bye, jeans.)

I disregarded every ‘essentials’ list that I’d ever come across. I’ve written about this in the past, but it’s worth reiterating. No matter what anybody else claims is an ‘essential’ piece of clothing, it doesn’t have to be an ‘essential’ piece of clothing for you. My new wardrobe has none of the stuff that magazines are always telling me I ‘must’ have: blazers, trench coats, fitted coats, tailored pants, leather jackets, or bright accessories. I’ve even ditched jeans. Practically speaking, I erased every preconceived idea I had about wardrobe staples, and decided to write my own rules from scratch.

I knew what I didn’t want to wear anymore, and that helpfully cut down my options by about ninety percent. I didn’t want to wear jeans. I didn’t want to wear skinny pants. I didn’t want any pants with a button-up top in fact. I didn’t want t-shirts. I didn’t want tight sweaters. I didn’t want tunics. I didn’t want blazers. I didn’t want fitted coats. I didn’t want tight sweaters. I didn’t want earrings or bracelets. I didn’t want any new shoes. By knowing what I didn’t want, my work was reduced substantially.

I opened up my mind to embracing new silhouettes. I considered things which I had never thought of wearing before. As a result of this, I ended up with a few amazing pieces which I know I’ll wear over and over again for the next five years or so. They are items which I would never have worn in my twenties but which feel perfectly suitable now that I’m in my mid-thirties.

I was happy to repeat my favourite silhouettes once or twice. But no more than that. Obviously if something works well for you, then it’s common sense to get something similar. However, in building a minimalist wardrobe, I didn’t want too many versions of the one sort of item because I know from the past that when you have too much of something, it becomes a bit less special. Walking into my wardrobe, thinking to myself ‘I want to wear this sort of outfit today’, and then having only a couple of options has actually been really good for me.

With every item I considered buying, I tried to picture myself wearing it in real-life scenarios. When you browse through look books, clothes always look amazing on the model and against the backdrop of the chosen setting. But the thing is – are you really going to wear it in your everyday life, and wear it often? For example, my everyday life consists of going to school to do drop-offs and pick-ups, spending time at home with the boys, going to cafes, going on drives with the family, going to church, having people over at our place, and visiting the seaside. My clothes actually need to be appropriate for those contexts and scenarios. For example, as much as I love how high heeled boots and sandals look on Instagram, I’m never going to wear them in real life.

I realised that over time, my wardrobe would continue to evolve. This took a lot of the pressure off. What works for me in the next five years might not work in the ten years’ time, and that’s okay. I’m not trying to build a wardrobe to last me for the next two decades – simply for the next foreseeable stage of life.

I bought everything online and didn’t walk into a single store. This meant that I could take as long as I needed to make my purchasing decisions, rather than being forced to decide ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ because the children are getting restless. Whilst I didn’t have a pinboard for outfits per se, I did open up a private Dropmark board and I posted potential items that I liked to this board. This allowed me to see at a glance everything that I liked, and then I was easily able to keep editing it down until I was completely happy with what I wanted to acquire.

When I was in the midst of buying things, I wanted to buy so many things, but once I’d told myself to stop, contentment seeped back into my heart and mind. This was always my biggest fear – that I would fall back into old habits of constantly wanting to buy a few things more. I’m so relieved to learn that it is possible to return to being content.

The end result is that I have under 35 items hanging in my closet. And I have under 100 items overall. This includes all my jewellery, all my shoes, all my bags and even things like socks, stockings, gloves, swimsuit, singlets, pyjamas, and exercise clothes. (It excludes undergarments and my maternity clothes.) And yet, even with so few items, I honestly feel like my closet is complete. I am so very happy with it. And so very content with it.

Later in this series, I’ll talk about some of the things I consider now to be on my personal essentials list, which I’ll combine with my tips for dressing the post-baby body. I’ll also share why I think having under 100 items in my closest is the best thing ever and how I plan to regulate my purchasing from here on.

(Goodness, who knew I would have so much to write about in this series?)

* * *

Other posts you might be interested in reading:
The Happy Closet, Part 7 (the biggest purge in the history of my closet)
The Happy Closet, Part 6 (on contentment and two years of no purchases)
The Happy Closet, Part 5 (some thoughts on my recent purge)
The Happy Closet, Part 4 (on not buying anything for a year)
The Happy Closet, Part 3 (my tips on buying less)
The Happy Closet, Part 2 (the basic principles)

You can read all of The Happy Closet posts here.

Wordless

Tonight, I am feeling overwhelmed by things happening in our lives that are completely beyond my control. I have already sat on the stairs and cried. Tonight, therefore, I have no words. Instead, I offer up these images which convey somewhat the heaviness that’s weighing me down…

Thinking of you all on this cold, winter’s night.

Our Story Right Now, a memory keeping concept by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

Today’s post is about the third part to my memory keeping concept, Our Story Right Now, a photo/story book (printed by Artifact Uprising) that documents our daily and weekly rituals as a family. You can read about the second part here, the first part here, and the introductory post here. (You can click on each of the images below for a larger version.)

Our Story Right Now, a memory keeping concept by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

The third part of this book is a record of A Day in the Life (DITL) of our family. The text was taken from this blog post. I just spent some time re-reading it, and there are so many precious details in there that I’d completely forgotten. I’m so thankful to Ali Edwards for the Day in the Life idea. In the past, I included my DITL journaling in inserts as part of our Project Life album, but when I was in the process of working out the contents of this book, I decided it would be extremely fitting to include it in here. Whilst The Daily Rituals section records our daily routines in a general ‘birds eye view’ sense, the DITL journaling provides a glimpse into one particular day, with all its hilarities, frustrations, laughs, stresses, and other nuances unique to those twenty-four hours alone.

Our Story Right Now, a memory keeping concept by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Our Story Right Now, a memory keeping concept by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Our Story Right Now, a memory keeping concept by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Our Story Right Now, a memory keeping concept by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

This third part of the book began with a lovely double-page spread like the first two sections. The title at the top of the text was simply the date of the day in question. The text was then broken down by hour, and each hour had a simple header (e.g. 7.00AM, 8.00AM, etc) preceding the text. I used the same fonts for the headings and body copy as the earlier sections, and I made sure that each page of text was paired with a full-page image so that the spreads would look balanced. Easy peasy.

And that’s it. That’s the entire story book.

If you have any questions, do let me know. Also, thanks for all your kind words about this project of mine. I’m so encouraged to know that some of you have been inspired to create something similar for your family.

Like I said, it was a lot of work the first time around, but I’m confident that I’ll get quicker and more efficient at creating each subsequent edition. I look forward to having a stack of these to read through in ten years time.

* * *

Other posts you might be interested in reading:
Our Story Right Now: Part 2 – Our daily rituals
Our Story Right Now: Part 1 – Our weekly rhythm
Our Story Right Now: A documentation of our family rituals
Mini story books: a collection of their sweetest photos & funniest quotes
Our winter holiday story book
My maternity series story book: Documenting my pregnancy with Bear

Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

These last two weeks, I have been so focused on the development of our new site that I don’t think I’ve taken a proper breath in days. I’ve let all my good habits fall by the wayside: things like going to bed before midnight, waking up early, reading my bible, and eating healthy meals have become almost a distant memory. Instead, I’ve been turning to takeaway meals, drinking endless cups of coffee, indulging in sweet treats, avoiding my exercise classes, and waking up every morning feeling dishevelled, exhausted and more stressed than the day before. And all in the name of meeting a self-imposed deadline.

Last night, I went to bed feeling pretty crap (is there a more eloquent expression for that?), and this morning I woke up with a new plan.

I shall give myself an extra month to work on the LIFE:CAPTURED site.

I shall switch off when we go away next month.

I shall embrace the present once more.

I shall cherish time with Rick and the boys.

I shall re-adopt my good habits.

And I shall return to journaling and documenting the everyday to remind myself to be thankful for what I have every day.

Don’t you just love Plan Bs? They’re often so much better than my Plan As.

So there you have it.

I am pausing. I am regrouping. And I am exhaling.

How are you going?

Around here

Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

Around here, I baked my first Anzac Biscuits for the first time ever since doing Food Technology in high school (I’m terrible, I know). I used this recipe and they were amazing. Like, seriously amazing. The boys (and Rick) kept wanting more (as did I) and it proved quite the struggle to stretch the biscuits over three days. I sense another baking craving coming on this weekend…

Around here, I’ve been enjoying these chats with you guys. Thanks for joining in!

Around here, our little Bear is becoming quite the little man. Oh, you know, he’s just walking around the house, climbing up the stairs, pointing to things that he wants, shouting at the top of his lungs when his mum is a bit slow with the lunch order, laughing at his own antics, and generally having the best time ever hanging out with his brothers when they’re around. He only started walking about three weeks, so Rick and I are still endlessly amused when we see him trailing behind the others with his hands in the air for balance. Where has my little baby boy gone…?

Around here, Jamie and I are re-connecting for the first time since he started preschool a few months ago. I’ve mourned the loss of my Wednesdays with this little guy, and I’m endeavouring to create something new with him. Even though extended periods of one-on-one time are still hard to come by (especially now that Bear is only napping once in the middle of the day), I’m making the most of those little pockets of time we do have together. A few minutes here and there – to hug, to kiss, to make eye contact, to laugh, to ask him how he’s feeling, and to tell him how much I love him and how proud I am of him.

Around here, we have just submitted Pete’s enrolment forms for school next year. My tummy feels funny as I type this, as I haven’t yet had the time to process this on an emotional level. After all, it was only just five days ago that I was bawling on the footpath about Angus, and now my Pete is growing up too? What? Why? How…?

Around here, Angus is going to his first ever school disco…

Around here, my heart is in my mouth as I struggle to keep up with how fast my boys are growing up. Will time please just slow down a fraction for this weepy mama?

Around here, I’m looking forward to my parents coming over for dinner. It’s strange to think what separate lives we lead these days. I always feel slightly teary when I watch them drive away. Not that I would swap what I have now for anything in the world, but that time of growing up as their daughter is utterly precious to me.

Around here, I have been using my first-ever journaling app, and I promise to share my thoughts on it once I’ve given it a good run.

Around here, I’m running behind on documenting our rituals. I’m hoping to make a start this weekend, and would love you to join me. Life is so very fleeting, and ten years from now, I want to remember what life looked like today.

Around here, I have been pouring all my energy into creating a site for LIFE:CAPTURED. This has been both exhausting and invigorating. It’s been a long time since I’ve built a website from scratch, and my brain is just buzzing from the excitement of it all. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I have a feeling it will be completed in the two weeks and it will be simply lovely to share it with you guys. The site won’t just be about our LIFE:CAPTURED workshops – it will also include our new masterclasses, our online courses, and my InDesign templates. I’ve been hinting at all this for so long now, so it’s exciting to finally bring it everything to fruition.

Around here, winter has finally settled in. My hands feel cold all day, and I find myself drinking cup after cup after cup of tea. Not hot tea, mind you, as that would just be a miracle, but lukewarm tea is good enough for me. I am wearing slippers around the house (daggy as that may be), and I’m constantly putting extra layers on the boys. In the evenings, we turn on our electric blankets before showering, as there’s nothing quite like cuddling in a toasty, warm bed…

Happy Friday, my friends. What have you been up to this week?

Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

Shall we continue that chat we were having over a pretend cup of coffee at a pretend cafe?

Growing up as an only child, I spent a lot of time alone. When my parents went out, I was happy to stay behind at home to tidy my room, re-organise my folders, and muck around on my DOS computer (remember those?). Being alone never bothered me. In fact, I liked it in a strange sort of way.

When I started high school some twenty (or more) years ago, I made a conscious decision to be more outgoing in order to help with making friends. I don’t recall in detail what my thought process was exactly or how I actually made myself more outgoing, but it sort of worked. I wasn’t exactly the life of the party, but I was happy to chat, talk, laugh (loudly), and poke fun at myself whenever the social situation called for it. In fact, my laugh is probably one of those things that my friends will remember well from our school years. As a little kid, my mum would often tell me to laugh more quietly (or with more dignity – one or the other), but when I got to high school and I was free to interact without those parental boundaries, I let it all out. It’s ironic now that I’m often startled by how loud our own boys can be. I guess the apple truly doesn’t fall that far from the tree.

When Rick and I started dating, we began the process of attending many social, family, and church gatherings together. It was a wonderful way for us to get to know each other’s families as well as our circle of friends. When we got married and Rick started in full-time ministry, it felt like we were going to even more social events than ever before. I loved meeting and getting to know people, but over time, it became rather emotionally draining and I started to actually dread having to attend yet another party, engagement, wedding, church event, or family function.

For some time, this confused me – was I not as outgoing or as much of a ‘people person’ as I’d thought I was? It also caused some strain to our marriage because obviously Rick needed to be present at many of these events as part of his work, and I naturally wanted to go along and support him and be a part of his ministry. At the same time, I would often feel terribly down by the end of the evening and we would end up staying up late into the night as we worked through my tears and frustration.

Over time, we eventually worked out that I was actually an introvert. I needed time away from people to rest. I need time away from people to recharge. I needed time away from people to gather my thoughts, process my feelings, and regroup. I needed time away from people to just do my own thing.

It was so liberating to realise this. No longer did I have to feel guilty about not wanting to be around people after being around people. No longer did I have to feel frustrated – with Rick, with other people, and with myself. Instead, we started making sure that in between different events, we would make time to just hang out by ourselves. We also came up with a simple signal that I could give Rick if I ever started to feel overwhelmed when we were out. Having this safety net made a world of difference as it meant that I never again had to feel like I was trapped anywhere. And of course, we made sure that I had time at home to do my thing: de-cluttering, tidying, and de-cluttering some more.

Honestly, knowing that I’m an introvert helps immensely even today. I’m more than happy and able to chat to people for hours at church on a Sunday morning, as long as I then have a couple of quiet hours at home while the boys are down to just potter about. And I know to never commit myself to too many things in the one week, so that there’s time for me to rest and recharge.

In hindsight, it should’ve been so obvious considering how I’d spent my childhood. I can’t help but smile at the fact that I’m still the same girl who likes to tidy her room.

And so, in conclusion, I guess I’m what you might call an outgoing introvert.

(Yes, we do exist.)

What about you? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How does it impact on your life?

(Photos above taken at North Head on a recent long weekend.)

On heartache and the stuff of life, by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)On heartache and the stuff of life, by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)On heartache and the stuff of life, by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

This morning, I watched Angus receive an award at his weekly school assembly. I smiled at him as he stood up the front, nervously holding onto his certificate alongside his fellow award recipients. When the assembly ended and his class began to file out of the hall, he and I locked eyes and we waved at each other from across the hall. Once I was outside, we saw each other again as his class lined up to walk back to their room. I waved, then he waved. I blew him a kiss and waved again. He gave me another small wave. My throat was tight as I turned around to walk out of the school gate, and before I even managed to cross the road, I could hear myself sobbing.

I dialled Rick’s number on my phone.

“Hello…” I stammered, as I stood there on the footpath beside a parked car, with tears streaking down my cheeks.

“What’s wrong?” The alarm in his voice was pulpible.

“Nothing, nothing’s wrong. I just, I just… I just can’t believe how grown up he is now.”

I was struggling to speak, as I could hardly catch my breath between my sobs. My glasses had completely misted over, and as I picked up my pace to walk back to my car, I wondered at my five-month delayed reaction to my son starting school.

That’s the thing about heartache: you never really know when it will take hold.

I expected to leave the school hall feeling happy and proud. Instead, I walked out completely overwhelmed by the fact that Angus was now a boy in his own right. He was no longer my baby. He was a school kid. He had school friends. He had teachers. He was even getting awards. Oh my goodness, he was no longer my baby…

As I wept, I thought also of Cameron, and how we never got to see him grow up. What would he have been like? How would he have adjusted to school? Which teacher would he have had? Which house would he have been in? Who would’ve been his friends? Such things I will never know.

The thing is, I am okay with heartache.

I am okay with tears.

I am okay with crying for my firstborn.

I am okay with shedding tears for my son starting school.

I am okay with grief and continuing to grieve.

I am okay with feeling overwhelmed.

I am okay with mourning the transience of childhood and the childhood that never was.

Indifference is what I’m afraid of. Heartache, I happily embrace.

I once wrote, “We weep because we love. We love because we are.”

There is so much truth in those ten simple words.

My heartache reminds me that I love fiercely.

My heartache reminds me that life is precious.

My heartache reminds me to cherish the here and now.

My heartache reminds me that I am made in God’s image – to love and be loved.

And my heartache reminds me that I am blessed beyond measure.

* * *

As Cameron’s anniversary draws near, I know that tears will flow more easily and my heartache will grow more constant. Reflections on life, love and loss will no doubt fill my mind in the coming months and, as they do, I intend to share some of them here.

Thank you for allowing me to write what is true to my heart.

Thank you, all of you, for reading.

How I studied at three universities, graduated, got the job that I wanted, and learnt everything about marketing from the ground up. By Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

And so the story of (one aspect of) my life continues.

To backtrack, that email from my father truly changed my life. I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done had he disapproved of my desire to bail out of the path that he and mum had so purposefully set me upon. Growing up in a Chinese family, my parents’ approval was something that crucially important to me. I don’t necessarily think this was a good or bad thing – it simply was what it was.

Anyway, after I received that amazing email from my dad, I went straight ahead and enrolled in a Graduate Diploma in Marketing at the University of Technology, Sydney. My intention was still to complete my law degree, and because the graduate Diploma was aimed at working professionals, they offered primarily night-time classes which meant that I was able to go to tutorials at the law school in the day time and go to the marketing lectures in the evenings. Just to make things extra fun, I had also enrolled in a Diploma of Asian Languages at another university the previous year and so there I was in my last year of law, cheerfully cruising amongst three different universities to study three different degrees. Clearly, I am a crazy lady and I don’t like to do anything by halves.

As far-fetched as it may sound, I truly enjoyed that crazy last year of university. When I was in high school, I used to whinge about having to study and my mum (and my aunty) would tell me (over and over again) what a precious time it was and how it will all fly by and how one day I would look back on my school days and yearn for them once more. Naturally, I didn’t believe them one single bit back then. But now, with twenty years of hindsight, their words ring so true in my heart and mind. There is something priceless about studying and learning; to be absorbing knowledge day in, day out.

Truly, I remember that last year of my tertiary studies with great fondness. It was such a carefree stage of life. I was single. I didn’t have children. I had no real responsibilities in life except to pass my exams. I have memories of buying lattes at coffee carts, endless study sessions at the library, ordering chicken and rice noodles for lunch, making new friends, chatting with lecturers (had to earn my class participation marks somehow), buying pearl milk tea before evening classes. and endless meals with my friend Rachanee at our favourite Chinatown cafe as we debriefed about class and… guys. Once I even stayed overnight in the computer laboratory as I made the final edits to my 90,000 word thesis – it was the craziest experience and yet so exhilarating at the same time.

However many assignments, set readings, group projects, take home exams and ridiculously long theses later, I finally graduated from my commerce degree, my law degree, my marketing diploma, and my Asian languages diploma. I attended four separate graduations, and they are all etched deeply into my memory. I remember the different friends who came along to celebrate the occasion with me. At each of the graduations, my parents stood proudly by my side, and with each of the graduations, I felt that a big chapter of my life was coming to a close. I was sad, yes, but I was also excited for the future. Who knew what it would bring?

Halfway through that hectic last year before graduation, I started scouring the online job boards across the three universities. I was looking for an admin sort of role in a marketing department. I hit the jackpot when I stumbled across a job advertisement for a part-time marketing assistant at a multinational company called Tyco, which specialised in fire protection. In my application, I emphasised my eagerness to learn, alongside my sales experience at eBay, the numerous events that I’d organised at university as well as all the administrative roles I’d held previously. I also added a bit of design flair to my cover letter using Microsoft Word (yes, it is possible!), and later, my boss Nicki told me that that that is why she called me in for an interview.

I remember not feeling nervous about the interview, as I was confident that I would be able to do the job. Nicki and I instantly connected. She had not been in the company long herself, and she was in the process of setting up the marketing department from scratch. We shared a similar dry sense of humour, and I remember leaving the interview feeling rather light-hearted and very hopeful. A couple of days later, I got the phonecall. I’d gotten the job, and I was welcome to start immediately. Thankfully, I’d had the foresight to squeeze all my lectures and tutorials into three days which meant I had two days free to work with Nicki and learn first hand what it was like to be a part of an in-house marketing department.

In the beginning, I did a lot of admin work. I honestly didn’t mind this at all, because the sad truth about me is that I like admin. I enjoy paper work, and I enjoy organising paper work. I love setting up systems from scratch, and that is exactly what the role entailed. Nicki and I got on really well and she was always happy and willing to give me her honest feedback. She was a generous mentor and taught me everything I needed to know.

When I graduated, my part-time role became a full-time one, and eventually it became a permanent one as well. I was stoked! On one hand, fire extinguishers and fire protection systems didn’t exactly fill me with deep-seated excitement, but I knew that I needed to gain commercial marketing experience somewhere, and being able to do so in a small marketing team with a mentor like Nicki seemed like a good way to go.

I wasn’t wrong. I learnt so much from the ground up.

I learnt that marketing departments have to fight for their budgets, and I learnt that marketing departments have to spend their budgets to ensure that they get given at least the same budget for the following year.

I learnt that everything the marketing department does requires the approval of someone outside of the department. Which means that everything takes an extra long time, and you need to factor that into the time it takes to complete any single project.

I learnt that it’s good to admit you’ve made a mistake as soon as you realise you’ve made it, rather than trying to cover it up. I certainly made a number of stuff-ups in my time and Nicki always dealt with them well. Once, I forgot to send the pop-up banners along to a trade show which Nicki was attending (she discovered they were missing upon her arrival). Instead of yelling at me over the phone (which, given the circumstances, I think she was fully entitled to do), she helped me figure out a way to still get them there on time. I certainly learnt to triple-check everything from that point forth.

I learnt that diligent record-keeping (both paper and digital) can save your butt. Which is why I never, ever delete emails or discard paperwork, and I always file everything in its proper place.

I learnt that marketing is one-part planning/budgeting and four-parts execution. Which means you want to get the first part right, otherwise you’re majorly stuffed (for want of a better phrase).

I learnt that being organised is essential when it comes to managing a dozen projects at once. If you know exactly what needs to be done for every single project you’re responsible for, you’re already halfway there even before you’ve begun doing anything.

I learnt that being warm and friendly to people goes a long way. You never know when you might need to ask someone for help, and if they already like you, it can make all the difference.

I learnt the importance of consistent branding, and how beneficial it is when it’s done right and how detrimental it can be when the opposite applies.

I learnt that change can be a good thing, and that re-branding is not something to be avoided. In fact, re-branding can re-invigorate a business that’s become stale and can help a business enter new markets and acquire new customers.

Like I said, I learnt so much.

Eventually, as our marketing team grew and I took on more branding and creative responsibilities, I learnt that what I enjoyed the most was graphic design and I also learnt that I was relatively good at it.

And so a new path began to forge itself…

Happy Friday, everyone! How was your week been?

(You can read the rest of the series here.)